But I will argue with Marco instead...
Think of any technology that has been usefully applied - It has only happened where the entity paying for this technology is expecting a return.
Yes, but this expected return has not always been financial.
Great ideas in themselves are almost completely useless without funding and an expectation that the idea is in the long run unsustainable if it cannot get a financial return.
Firstly, this expectation is a characteristic of our current society, not of human societies generally. Secondly, there is no idea so stupid that someone cannot be persuaded that they can expect a financial return from it. The supermarkets and cyberemporia are awash with such things.
What use is technology to extend people's post retirement life.
None whatsoever. Technology to extend people’s pre-retirement life, on the other hand, is dead useful. ‘Retirement’ is a dying concept and our grandchildren will be amazed that such a thing ever happened.
People will save up to extend it for as long as they can afford, but the simple truth is, eventually they will run out of money.
The complex truth is, if they invest it wisely and keep their needs simple (I am sure a brain in a tank can be kept happy for dollars a day, especially when economies of scale are factored in), there is no reason for them ever to run out of money.
Technology also necessarily builds on previous technologies given the social, economic and legal structures of the time. An understanding of the links between economy, society, laws and technology will give us a glimpse of what is feasible within our lifetimes and what isn't.
Firstly, I am not particularly concerned with what is feasible in my lifetime. I don’t think very many problems are ever solved in such a short period of time. Secondly, on the basis of the success of historical attempts to predict what is ‘feasible within our lifetimes’, this glimpse would be of less value than a small grey piece of triangular plastic marked with the letter ‘W’.
Also, some of what drives technology is pure luck. One cannot count on discoveries and insights to go in any particular direction.
One certainly can count on discoveries and insights to go in a particular direction, if that is the direction one chooses to look in. One cannot determine the rate of progress, but one can certainly decide where one wants to go, and go there. For example, the Manhattan Project. The biological engineering things I have in mind are based one vaguely plausible existing science and it is expected that some successes could be had by working in that direction.
Portable and high energy density power sources like nuclear, have a capacity both to improve our society and to risk it going backwards with calamity. Any disaster that causes world wide chaos can make some or most of recent technological advances useless.
Yes, which is why one world is not enough.