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World Economic Forum's summit in Davos, Switzerland, full of bold predictions

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 5:24 p.m.
 

DAVOS, Switzerland — Forget the endless debates about the euro or government debts. What does the future hold?

The World Economic Forum at Davos is always a showcase for new research, trends and ideas. And those at the annual gathering of the world's elite don't shy away from making predictions.

Here are some predictions from this year's participants:

Weather and water

Oxford University physicist Tim Palmer — who said as a scientist he preferred probabilities to prediction — noted there is a 10 to 15 percent chance that the Earth will warm by 6 degrees Celsius within a century, leading to “catastrophic consequences for humanity” ranging from extreme weather to rising seas.

Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said many countries will start running out of water in the coming years.

Obsolete employment

Laura Tyson, a business professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said one of the great concerns should be “the employment effects of technology,” with so many jobs being rendered obsolete by scientific or technological advances.

Keys to mental illness

Edward Boyden, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who directs a neural engineering research group, says new technologies for analyzing the brain will produce significant advances in fighting mental illness.

If scientists can develop new technologies to image the brain and control the brain's cells, he said “over the next half-century or so we should be able to really understand how these networks” generate emotion.

Then, in the case of mental illness, “we can insert information into the cells in order to re-sculpt their dynamics and fix what's broken,” Boyden said.

Global youth unity

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now the U.N. special envoy for global education, said huge advances in the Internet and technology are enabling young people to connect with each other and “this is opening up the world in a way that has never happened before.”

“Young people are beginning to see that the gap between the opportunities and rights they have been promised and the opportunities and rights that are delivered to them is wholly unacceptable,” he said at a session on the forum's sidelines.

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