On The Horizon – Part Six

This is Part Six of a six [actually seven] part mini series on Predicting the Future. It’s taken five weeks to get here, and lots of thinking. Have a read through all of our somewhat likely and somewhat terrible predictions by following the links! Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five (Side A), and Part Five (Side B). This is the conclusion to the mini series, so thanks for sticking with us thus far and happy reading!


100 years into the future. A century. 10 decades. 5,214 weeks. 36,500 days… you get my point. 100 years is a long time. Let’s illustrate by rewinding the last century to find ourselves in the spring of 1916.

worldwar1somme-tl
Oh dear, we’ve gone too far. And where’s all the colour? Source

Several things stand out:

  • Great Britain, France, Russia, and other nations are locked in a brutal war of attrition with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and others, as World War One has been raging on for just under two years. The U.S.A. had not entered the conflict at this point.
  • The phenomenon of man-made flight is starting to literally take off and show people what’s in store for its military, business, and civilian applications in the future.
  • The world has yet to experience the humbling power released by splitting the atom.
  • Now regarded as “the worlds first affordable car”, the Ford Model T has been enjoying commercial success for nearly a decade.
  • Electrical power grids are now beginning to be installed in the cities that have the population and finances to accommodate them, changing the world forever.
  • The most common form of communication, besides physical conversation, is through the written word or telegraph. The first wireless transmission across the Atlantic is made only just over a decade earlier (in Newfoundland no less), but Radio has yet to be harnessed in its modern state.
  • An average human lifespan was 50 for a man, and 54 for a woman¹.
  • The second and third leading causes of death were the flu and tuberculosis².
  • Television had yet to be invented, even in crude experimental form.

In other words, it was a world that’s almost unrecognizable when compared side-by-side with ours.

As it stands, a century is just longer than the average human lifespan. I hope that science produces more miracles that extend it, because if we continue to progress as a species, the 22nd century holds untold wonders and magical technologies the likes of which humanity has never seen before. It’s something I’d like to stick around to see. And who knows? Based on the numbers, the medical sciences have proved able to extend an average life by over 30 years. Remember that exponential progress graph I drew a week ago? Now let’s extend it to the next 100 years:

Stuff Happening
I hope I managed to make that look exponential.

Maybe we’ll all live to see the 22nd century if we’re lucky enough.

With Part Six serving as the conclusion to our little mini series, and how it’s set so far into the future, we thought we’d do away with the typical approach of picking any one topic for our predictions and instead make a whole bunch. Let’s face it, there’s a pretty good chance that the world in 2116 will be as much, if not way more unrecognizable to us than today’s world would be to someone from 1916. This leads us to believe that any prediction we could make may not only be possible in some way, but that totally bizarre, unbelievable, and unpredictable things are bound to happen.

Alright, now let’s go ahead and make fools of ourselves by thinking we could make any meaningful predictions for the 22nd century.


THE WORLD ONE HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW (2116)

Mr. Hematite – In 100 years I’ll be 127, and quite possibly not amongst the realm of the living. But who’s to say I won’t be around? A lot can happen in 100 years. With that in mind, I’ll be making my best uneducated guesses based on a future where the Singularity does not happen. Such an eventuality is impossible to see beyond in any meaningful way I think. With that in mind here are my five predictions for 2116:

  1. Not only will we have gone to the Moon and Mars, but there will be cities on both. I’m borrowing from my little bro here, but the point stands. I believe there will be two reasons that propel humanity to our nearest celestial neighbours. For one, human beings are curious and adventurous; there are enough of us now that at least a small percentage of us would leap at the chance to live on the Moon or Mars. Also, there will be a drive by the smartest among us to expand our chances of survival as a species by any means necessary. Making humanity a multi-planetary species might be the easiest way to achieve that. I mean “city” in the most basic way, though. Space travel and space colonization is very expensive.

    red-dragon
    Elon Musk has announced plans for Space X to put its Red Dragon capsule on Mars by as early as 2018. Wow. Source
  2. Between 50-100 years from now, the worst effects of climate change will have been directly observed by everyone around the world. Sea level rise causing emergency migrations of populations from coastal areas, global temperature increases by an average of 3-4 degrees celsius, and a higher number of stronger superstorms will ravage our planet, coupled with the destruction of air quality, rainforests, and countless plant and animal species. The sixth great extinction event – one entirely manmade – will have run its course, leaving a badly damaged ecosystem behind. The kids going to school in 100 years time will learn about our generation in History class as those that let lies, profits, and laziness win out over humility and environmental action.
  3. On the other hand, in 100 years our society will have the raw technological capability to manipulate and control the climate. Climate scientists, planners, and engineers will have a deep understanding of climate from particle-level computer simulations. They’ll be able to direct wind patterns, create high and low pressure systems, bring rain to drought-ridden areas, and bring clear skies where people want them. Carbon and other particulate capture systems will have been deployed, bringing their levels down to pre-industrial norms. The temperature will stabilize and eventually decrease on average, allowing the polar ice caps to regenerate. Advanced biological engineering will cause a dramatic rebirth to environmentally extinguished areas, re-growing the rainforests, with cloning aiding the repopulation of extinct and endangered species worldwide. This will be the first step towards an ultimate goal of terraforming Mars. Beyond this, all power generation will be from a combination of safe fusion, high-efficiency solar, wind, wave, and hydro sources. Kids in 100 years will look back at us in bewilderment as to why we’d ever “burn” things to power their world while at the same time wilfully destroying it.

    brazil-promotes-first-wave-power-generator
    Wave power technology is already around. Now imagine what it looks like after a century of R&D. Source
  4. Scientists will fully understand the human system and be able to enhance any part of the human body at will. This is something that scares a lot of people, and rightfully so. If you enhance one human through genetic engineering, are we all then beneath him or her? Physiologically I would have to say yes, by default. Based on history, transitioning from one school of thought to another usually takes a generation or two, and there will be a cultural and philosophical schism within the peoples of humanity. But, one thing is for certain: when the richest of the rich will have the option of altering their offspring to be faster, stronger, smarter, and longer lived, they’ll do it without thinking twice. Also based on history, it takes some time for a fledgling technology to drop in price to where it can be widely adopted. Perhaps the first enhanced humans will be around in 30-40 years, and in about 100 years it’ll be available to almost everyone who can save up for it. Kind of like a spa day now. Think about it, if it cost you $100-200 to get night vision, breathe underwater, add 20 years to your lifespan, or lift twice as much instantly, would you do it? I probably would.
  5. Finally, I think most food will be grown in labs or factories rather than harvested or raised. In 100 years, and barring our extinction by any means, there’s almost no way I can’t see near-complete mastery of all biological systems. Cloning will be commonplace. GMO fear will have long-since disappeared. Scientists will be able to grow whatever type of food we want, in whatever configuration we’d like, to whatever taste we prefer, and do it all for insanely low costs. They’ll take a base formula consisting of engineered stem cells and program them to become whatever food they can imagine. It will be an socio-agricultrual revolution, and never again will anyone debate whether their food was produced by humane means. The same will happen for fresh water. Consensus points towards water consumption reaching a peak in the next 20-30 years, resulting in worldwide water wars. In 100 years, we’ll simply be able to create fresh water from salt water, either with nanotechnology or some cheap large-scale method.

    Professor Mark Post holds the world's first lab-grown beef burger during a launch event in west London
    “I only eat the best, non-range, completely artificial meat products.” – the Hipsters of tomorrow. Source

Theses are all mostly good predictions, although I do think the Technological Singularity is bound to happen, in which case all these predictions will either happen much, much sooner than I think, or not at all.


Mr. Magnetite – So, throughout this mini series my predictions have focused on humanity expanding out into space. Looking forward 100 years, however, I started looking inwards at how our culture will change and evolve with our advancing technology over the next century. Here’s my two cents on 2116:

  1. In 100 years, as the people become less-rooted to where they live and the world’s population becomes fluid, the English language will change a lot, and the development of a unified world language will begin. Just 400 years ago William Shakespeare made up a whole bunch of words that we use today. Words, and indeed language, are fluid. They change over time. Now as the world is a truly interconnected place, language is poised to change faster than ever, and we’re seeing people learn more languages to conduct business and live in foreign places. This leads me to one conclusion, if the fluid nature of humanity advances, eventually we’ll begin to develop one standardized world language, spoken everywhere, on top of the established languages we already speak. The book series Ringworld called it “interspeak”, and it was spoken all over the world by everyone besides their native tongue. Furthermore, it’s entirely possible that every language will be processed and translated on the fly by a neural implant which will allow fluid conversation, no matter your background, slang, or culture.
  2. Future medicine will enter the home in the shape of booths or beds that can scan you, diagnose you, and treat you for any ailment, injury, or disease. This one is pretty straightforward. I’ll use the chamber as seen in the movie Elysium as the inspiration for this prediction. Simply put, it would be a bed, chair, or chamber that could fit in a small room. It would have the sum total of all human medical knowledge and have the resources and capability to analyze, diagnose, and treat 99.9% of all human ailments, from broken bones to cancer. Obviously this machine would make use of advanced nano technology to achieve its function.

    1012629_530168177051187_256691910_n-540x303
    I probably wouldn’t put it in the dining room, though. Source
  3. Spacecraft in 100 years will get from Earth, to the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else, by using fuel-less propulsion. Say that out loud. You just realized, like I did, that it doesn’t make any sense. But it’s possible in at least one way, maybe more. The first way is by creating a gigantic sail in space (with a spacecraft in the middle), that catches the solar wind and uses photons to propel it to its destination through a transfer of momentum. These have already been tested (the Planetary Society’s LightSail). You could also do this with an enormously powerful laser, stationed on the moon perhaps (the principle is the same). There’s also the possibility of harnessing microwaves for non-propellant thrust in a spacecraft. The EM Drive, as it’s being called, is being developed at NASA’s Eagleworks Lab and uses microwaves that bounce back and forth in a conical chamber that somehow produce apparent thrust (although a small amount). This is insanely cool, not only because it would enable astronauts to get to Mars in under 10 weeks with zero fuel if it’s proven, but also because it apparently defies the law of conservation of momentum. The law states that you need to expel something out the back of a thruster in order to go somewhere (push to move), and this engine apparently doesn’t do that. Who knows where that will take us in a century. We could be venturing out into the local galactic neighbourhood by then.

    nexis_web_1024
    Star Trek: Just around the corner? Source
  4. Capitalism has created a world in which 62 people control 50% of the world’s wealth. In the next 100 years I see the number of people dropping to ~5-10, and the amount of wealth jumping to 90% of the global total. This is akin to a global oligarchy, and as you can imagine, this is bad. In this future, a handful of people and families will amass more influence than the entirety of Earth’s governments. They’ll be able to buy and sell politicians, corporations, resources, weapons, armies, and even countries at will. I don’t know about you, but that does not bode well for 99.999% of humanity. I see this as being the end of the line for capitalism, if it is even possible, as this would generate dangerous levels of unrest amongst the middle-class general population. Perhaps they’d attempt to rise up against the rich and overthrow them?
  5. With production of human needs and wants hitting amazing levels of efficiency at the nano scale, the world economy will change forever. Picture a world in which you have no money, but want for nothing? I think that’s where we’re heading. Imagine that the raw materials needed to make your house are so easy to procure and assemble (possibly through advanced 3D printing), that they’re extremely cheap compared to today. In a world of automation, your house will be built for you by machines, either on the macro or micro scale. Now, once you have your home, it would contain all the requisite materials and technologies to produce whatever furniture, wardrobes, and food you could ever want. Surely those materials would cost something. But what? When resource development isn’t a concern of men, and we could literally print bars of gold at home, how does the modern economy even function? Perhaps we’d switch to an entertainment-based economy, where the goods to be made, traded, and valued are purely creative in source. I’m not sure if that’s possible, but I also know that a monetary-based economy wouldn’t work in a world where nothing is scarce.
    house21
    The most valuable parts of this home are hanging from its walls. Source

Mr. Wüstite – I’m going to continue the trend and try to make as sane predictions as I can while also trying to think way outside the box. Here are my five 100 year predictions:

  1. In 100 years, when you want to text or call someone, all you’ll have to do is think about them. This is the ultimate evolution of the cell phone. Eventually, as computer processors become so small and our understanding of neural wiring becomes so sophisticated, we’ll be able to safely implant microchips into and wire them to our brains. These chips, while doubling as expandable memory storage for our minds, will serve as our passports, bank accounts, and wireless communication platforms. To get a hold of someone, we’ll simply think about them and reach out to them through our minds. This will spawn a brand new era of human interaction and also make playing poker impossible. It can also be incredibly scary if used for the wrong reasons.

    brain-to-brain-communication-1098410-twobyone
    X-Men: First Class was the best X-Men movie of all time.” … “Who is this? You got the wrong number, buddy.” Source
  2. As the world continues to “shrink” thanks to technology and an increasingly fluid workforce, a unified world currency will be created. The Euro is the first iteration of this seemingly inevitable evolution of money. The concept of a unified currency has been around for 70 or so years, but it’s remained just that ever since – an idea. The pro’s would include an end to pesky currency conversions and nation-level financial crises like in Zimbabwe today. The con’s would have to be worked on before this ever became a reality, however. Amalgamating all world currencies eliminates competition and an individual nation’s buying power against other nations. Furthermore, a single world currency would be subject to change by interest rates alone, which could be a problem depending on who controls those rates³.
  3. Smart general artificial intelligence systems will surround us all invisibly and automate most of our lives for us. This is already happening. Digital assistants like Siri sets up your music, calls your friends, and helps you navigate. Soon these systems will learn so much from your behaviour that they’ll make changes to your environment subtly on the fly. Your home is set to your preferred temperature, light level, music, and television programs just before you arrive; stores display product advertisements that you’d be more-likely to engage with; your travel destinations will be adapted to your idea of a perfect vacation. One down-side of this technology is that it could lead us to become dangerously lazy or complacent. Imagine living in a world where you have difficulty using your day-to-day items because you didn’t know how.
  4. As sea levels rise and people are displaced from coastal regions, some will endeavour to create underwater communities and cities. This one is a little off the deep-end (hehe), but I think the more intrepid future humans will look for extreme living conditions. What we imagine to be an evil undersea lair could become a dream home for future denizens. The cost would be high, but perhaps dramatic increases in efficiency couple with equally dramatic decreases in cost and difficulty will make this possible for rich of tomorrow. Let’s face it, in 100 years coastal real estate will be redefined, so perhaps this will be an attractive option.

    futuristic-city-under-the-sea
    You do not want to see the list price of these condos. Source
  5. Nanotechnology will allow us to create and alter matter and reality on demand. This one has me really excited. Once we can engineer on the atomic scale we’ll unlock the building blocks of reality itself. Imagine molecular-sized machines that have many opposable limbs which can manipulate and construct matter on the same scale. Now imagine millions of them in fog-like clouds working together to achieve one goal. These machines could float inert through the air until they’re needed to, say, become a bridge, form a floating display, or make a shelter. They could even exist in your body, keeping your veins clear of blockages, attacking viruses and cancers, and replenishing your blood with much-needed oxygen as you swim, run, or play sports. It wouldn’t be good, however, if someone managed to hack one of these clouds with the intent of reducing all nearby humans to their constituent building blocks.
    thermal-ember-fi
    I was blind and now I see. Source

We didn’t bother to make any plots on the Future Prediction Spectrum, mainly because it would have been cluttered and messy. It’s safe to say that any predictions made at the 100 year scale are in the yellow zone at least, but more than likely in the red. We think our predictions are fairly conservative, but you can never tell what’s coming just past the horizon. Hopefully this blog with these predictions lasts for the next 100 years and historians can look back on it. They’ll probably have a good laugh.

To end off we’re all going to make a broad prediction for the ultimate fate of humanity. By that I mean, where are we headed in the grand scheme of things?

  • Mr. Hematite – Ultimately I see our progress leading us to a technological Singularity, after which we’re presented with a choice of merging with our technology and become a post-human, post-physical civilization that shoots outwards into the universe and eventually out-lives the universe itself.
  • Mr. Magnetite – We’ll expand up and outward into the local solar system, prosper for a while, then fracture and fight each other, like we’ve always done. We won’t leave the solar system, and eventually we’ll vanish.
  • Mr. Wüstite – After much ethical and moral debate, we’ll merge with our technology to form the next step in our evolution: a human/AI superorganism. This being will care for all other types of life on Earth and throughout the galaxy, and we’ll develop peacefully along with all other forms of life in the universe. The being(s) will evolve into the fabric of the universe itself and transcend it altogether.

If you have a prediction of your own or have a better idea for the fate of humanity, please share it with us in a comment below! With that I’d like to thank you for joining us as we tried to see into the future. Hopefully it gave you all something to think about. And remember, the future is what you make it.

Cheers.

Featured image: The future, in the palm of our hands. – Source


¹ – Average life expectancy for humans (1900 – 1998) – Berkeley. Source

² – The CDC’s record of causes of death (1900-1998). Source

³ – A brief summary of a potential unified world currency. Source


{the hematite blog} is a very new blog by a very regular guy that wants to learn and write about all sorts of stuff. I’m a little rusty, and this blog is about my journey to shake some of that rust off, get better at stuff, learn, and try new things. Maybe we can all learn something along the way. Thanks for stopping by!

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