Recently was discussing with my brother - what is the next big thing in the world of technology and we felt it was cognitive science. Earlier it was Internet and Computer Science - a wave that our parent's generations witnessed, next someone speculated genetic engineering - the progress there is slow and steady and once we make one big breakthrough then there will be no looking back. It can be used to solve lots of diseases and will revolutionize medical sciences, change our life spans. Also as my uncle says - we might start having genetically engineered children - which will initially face lots of moral opposition but over generations would gain acceptance much like (and much faster than) we started accepting gays.
The other big area where we see lots of work happening is cognitive science (cognition means "to know", common used form is recognition) where millions of dollars are being spend on making machine intelligent like humans. A very interesting quote I read somewhere that "An average general intelligence is much difficult to program than programming chess expert". It referred to the computer program that defeated the Chess champion Gary Kaspurov and having dabbled in machine learning myself, I can vouch for that statement. When I was in IIT doing my masters, in the second semester, majority of my courses were around machine learning - 3 out of 4 in the second semester- we had knowledge discovery and machine learning and computation brain. The small projects we did - like programming neural nets and genetic algorithms were very alluring and lots of fun. I still remember my favorite code being "Game of Kalah" that I did way back in my engg. days for a software competition where the computer could play smarter than me even though I wrote that code, the computer could beat me, the creator of the code.
I think in the area of cognitive science we have whetted our appetite enough and there are lots of people very very keen to know how much artificial intelligence will evolve in our lifetime. This is again something that will revolutionize our lives.
My short fiction(http://anandpai.blogspot.com/) had a concept of iWife - customized wife coming from this fascination. And a number of people asked me - shouldn't there be iHusbands too :).
So on one hand we will have genetic engineering which will have customized human beings and on other hand we will have development in cognitive sciences where machines will be more free-spirited and human like.
It will be interesting to see who will end where. I hope we survive 2012 to witness this ;).