Critical care medicine is a relatively young but rapidly evolving specialty. On the occasion of the 30th International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, we put together some thoughts from a few of the leaders in critical care who have been actively involved in this field over the years. Looking back over the last 30 years, we reflect on areas in which, despite large amounts of research and technological and scientific advances, no major therapeutic breakthroughs have been made. We then look at the process of care and realize that, here, huge progress has been made. Lastly, we suggest how critical care medicine will continue to evolve for the better over the next 30 years.