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Sunday, 8 April 2012

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A hundred years hence

If one were to go to sleep today and wake up in 2112, planet earth would be a mindboggling place.

For a habitant of that time, it would be as ordinary a place as we find it today. Accustomisation breeds familiarity. Within a hundred years, man would live to a hundred years. Machines will be Master, machinery masterful. Labour will be by Robots. Robots would straddle the planets, and man would roam space. Honeymoon could be on colony moon, if so desired. Flying saucers would be our normal mode of transport. Energy would be clean, cheap, and sourced from nature and nuclear. Food plentiful and meats would be the product of labs, and not animal. Animal meat abhorred.

Technology, science, and inventions would have progressed at an accelerated rate during the hundred years of the 21st century, more so than any other century, and the 22nd century will be a century of gadgets galore. Knowledge and information will be at fingertips.

Pleasure

Mundane chores will be by machines, and man would devote more time to leisure and pleasure, the concept of pleasure having changed.

The wise will rule. Machines will contrive, while most of humanity will roam about, in and as, machines. The world would most probably be watched over by a League of Nations, or even a Solar Federation, with authority to interfere and intervene, if and when necessary.

Tin pot rulers of nations, presently witnessed, will be a thing of the past. Laws will be same for all, except those that have evolved through, and conditioned by culture, custom, and region. The right to life, human rights, welfare, and wellbeing of every individual will be condition sine qua non. Man will be citizen of planet Earth, Moon, or Mars, as his birth would determine; and not of this or that country. Individual countries, regions, or states would be governed in accordance with international laws, the deviations of law being as afore mentioned.

Micromanage

Great computers will micromanage every aspect of life on earth and its colonies.

Every thing will be taken care of everything by the rulers - from the words you read to the songs you sing. You will never need to wonder how or why asserting a "Brotherhood of Man" requires such intrusions into individual lives. In the name of "equality", man would become a mere number in a super computer. However, this "equality" is illusory.

Those who control all available information will have little tolerance for individuality, or creativity that does not conform. Societies that are driven by "the pure spirit of man", in which creativity and individuality flourish, will not be looked upon with favour. Some people would realise that without creativity and individuality, life has become meaningless. Man would become a second class citizen, second to machines.

With the large human population of around ten billion dominating many of Earth's ecosystems, the large scale loss of species, caused by human influence will continue, and within the next hundred years thirty percent of other species will be at risk of extinction.

The risks that humanity could pose to itself include the misuse of nanotechnology, a nuclear holocaust, warfare with a

programmed super-intelligence, a genetically engineered disease, or perhaps a disaster caused by a physics experiment.

Inspired by ten 100-year predictions made by American civil engineer John Elfreth Watkins in 1900, whose "strange, and almost impossible" predictions came true, the BBC News Magazine asked readers for their predictions of life in 100 years time.

Many wrote in with their vision for 2112. I have selected, randomly, some of the envisaged visions of the readers (shown in bold); and what futurologists Ian Pearson (IP) and Patrick Tucker (PT) think of these ideas: Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish: IP: Likelihood 10/10. We will need to feed 10 billion people and nature can't keep up with demand, so we will need much more ocean farming for fish.

Farming

But algae farming is also on the way for renewable energy, and maybe even for growth of feedstock (raw materials) or resource extraction via GM seaweed or algae. PT: Good chance.

According to Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center, saltwater algae that's been genetically modified to absorb more nitrogen from the air than conventional algae could free up to 68% of the fresh water that is now tied up in conventional agriculture. This water could go to thirsty populations. We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission: IP: Likelihood 10/10.

Transmission will be just as easy as other forms of brain augmentation. Picking up thoughts and relaying them to another brain will not be much harder than storing them on the net. PT: Good chance. Synthetic telepathy sounds like something out of Hollywood, but it is certainly possible, so long as "communication" is understood to be electrical signals rather than words.

Thanks to DNA and robotic engineering, we will have created incredibly intelligent humans who are immortal: IP: Likelihood 9/10.

It is more likely that direct brain links using electronics will achieve this, but GM will help a lot by increasing longevity - keeping people alive until electronic immortality technology is freely available at reasonable cost. PT: Good chance.

The idea that breakthroughs in the field of genetics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence will expand human intelligence and allow our species to essentially defeat death is sometimes called the Singularity.

We will be able to control the weather: IP: Likelihood 8/10. There is already some weather control technology for mediating tornadoes, making it rain and so on, and thanks to climate change concerns, a huge amount of knowledge is being gleaned on how weather works.

We will probably have technology to be able to control weather when we need to. It won't necessarily be cheap enough to use routinely and is more likely to be used to avoid severe damage in key areas. PT: Good chance.

We will certainly attempt to. A majority of scientists in the US support a federal program to explore methods for engineering the Earth's climate (otherwise known as geoengineering). These technologies aim to protect against the worst effects of manmade climate change.

One single worldwide currency: IP: Likelihood 8/10. This is very plausible. We are already seeing electronic currency that can be used anywhere, and this trend will continue.

Currencies

It is quite likely that there will be only a few regional currencies by the middle of the century and worldwide acceptance of a global electronic currency.

This will gradually mean the others fall out of use and only one will be left by the end of the century. PT: Great try! The trend on this is actually more in the opposite direction.

The internet is enabling new forms of bartering and value exchange. Local currencies are also now used by several hundred communities across the US and Europe.

In other words, look for many more types of currency and exchange not fewer, in the coming decades.

There will only be three languages in the world - English, Spanish and Mandarin: IP: Likelihood 8/10. This does look like a powerful trend, other languages don't stand a lot of chance. Minor languages are dying at a huge rate already and the other major ones are mostly in areas where everyone educated speaks at least one of the other three.

Time frame could be this century.

Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract: IP: Likelihood 6/10. I think we will certainly see some weaker forms of marriage that are designed to last a decade or two rather than a whole lifetime, but traditional marriage will still be an option.

Increasing longevity is the key - if you marry at 20 and live to well over 100, that is far too long a commitment. People may want marriages that aren't necessarily forever, but don't bankrupt them when they end.

We will have nuclear fusion: IP: Likelihood 10/10. This is likely by 2045-2050 and almost certain by 2100. It's widely predicted that we will achieve this.

What difference it makes will depend on what other energy technologies we have. We might also see a growth in shale gas or massive solar energy facilities.

I don't think that wind power will be around. Well readers, I am sure you too would have your own ideas for 2112.

But for now, see you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking; keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities.

For views, reviews, encomiums, and brickbats: t_arjuna@yahoo.com
 

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