Sean at Reflections of a Rational Republican threw down the gauntlet asking people to put their psychic and analytical predictive powers on the line by trying to figure out what technology will be like 100 years from now. So here are my 12 technology predictions, followed by four essentially soci0-cultural predictions (though I mix those into the technology predictions as well!)
1. The electric grid as we know it will be a thing of the past. Most homes will be self-sustaining, generating their own electricity. Even urban centers that now suck up energy like there’s no tomorrow will only use the electricity they can generate, augmenting with high efficiency batteries when necessary.
2. Homes will be heated and cooled by systems built into the house. At various points the wall to the outside will be a heat exchange system that will operate much like a refrigerator, cooling the house in summer, reversing that in winter to heat the house. These systems will be smart to maximize efficiency.
3. The array of satellites now circling the globe will be replaced by a smaller number of extremely efficient satellites that bundle their functions so as to the work now done by many diverse satellites. There will be satellite maintanence crews on orbiting space stations that can work to fix any glitches, as well as maintain efficiency.
4. The term “wifi” will be as obsolete as “the wireless” is to talk about radio. Like radio, ‘wifi’ connectivity will be ubiquitous, free (paid for via advertising and subsidies), and taken for granted. It will also be universal; a penthouse in New York and a village in Guinea Bissau will have the same access.
5. After evidence about human caused global warming became undeniable even to the skeptics in the early 21st Century, a vast program of planting trees and creating efficient oxygen generation zones first on land and then in oceans will help to turn back the tide of global climate change and create the capacity for continued sustainable development.
6. The most impressive technological advances will come in the cost and scope of water desalinization and even water creation. This will be driven by intense water shortages in the mid-21st Century when global climate change becomes extreme and the new oxygen generation programs will not yet have had much of an impact. The goal will become to have clean, fresh water for everyone by 2100, and will be achieved ahead of time.
7. A nutrition revolution will occur in the mid 21st Century as it becomes clear that the chemical supplements used in food and food packaging had been causing massive problems, especially children. This includes an alarming increase in ADHD like symptoms, autism, other mental problems, obesity and the weakening of immune systems. Calling this the equivalent to how Rome drank leaded water and wine without realizing they were poisoning themselves, chemists, farmers and the food industry will become determined to turn around the “barbaric practices” of the 20th Century (which started in the 1980s). Aided by a new global regulatory scheme, an array of ‘safe’ foods will take over. These will range from ‘natural organics,’ grown on farms in ways similar to the early 1900s and “Repli-food,” which literally will manufacture food out of a mix of natural materials much like the ‘replicators’ on Star Trek. That food will be much cheaper than the ‘natural organics.’
8. The same technology that opens the door to Repli-food will also create the capacity to construct complex materials and objects out of basic molecular raw materials. The most important benefit of this will be the ability to manufacture synthetic minerals (compounds able to serve the same function) and other materials that will run low due to over mining (copper, zinc, etc.)
9. Global monetary union leads to the obsolescence of cash. Information on ones’ wealth will be kept on central banking computers and payment made through recognition software (similar to what we have as retinal or fingerprint recognition, but less invasive and more precise).
10. Throughout the century traditional war will be replaced by what we’d call cyberwar, as a cat and mouse game will rage for decades between those wanting to disrupt the technological systems underlying civilization and those protecting them. Actual hot war will limited to third world regions and the terror onslaught of 2030. That wave of terrorism will not be driven by religious fundamentalism but anger about relative deprivation and the impact of global warming on Sub-Saharan Africa. This will motivate major developments in the ability to scan for potential nuclear, chemical or biological devices. By 2050 this technology, combined with an economic rebirth of Africa and growing prosperity, will end the great terror wave.
11. Medical technology will advance to the point that invasive surgery will become obsolete. A mix of genetic screening and proactive care will make most illnesses and major diseases a thing of the past. Cancer, heart disease, flu, the common cold, and infections like strep throat will be the stuff of history books. Back pain, head aches, migraines, and even sore muscles will be easily cured. The elderly will talk about how painful and difficult existence had been back before medical science came of age. This will be done almost completely without what we now call pharmaceuticals. Using powerful drugs to address minor symptoms will be seen as one of the major errors of early medical science. Life expectancy will rise to well over 100, though efforts to halt aging or implant brains into robotic bodies will fail completely. Philosophers will say that the technological barrier to overcoming age and death is so immense that it seems humans are not meant to be able to cheat death.
12. Modern physics will unify all forms of energy into one force, thereby solving the space-time paradox and uniting relativity with quantum mechanics. This will be done via the holographic principle, meaning that all of what we see and experience is a projection of some sort. This information will be key to the technologies mentioned above (especially replicating food and minerals, as well as medical science). The question of what it means to be human and spirituality will rise in importance. Religions will adapt to these developments, but weaken in the face of a ‘new spirituality’ that defies dogma.
1. The sovereign state as we know it will disappear. Old state borders will still be known, but mostly as historical trivia. Most of the decision making will be local/regional. The Global Union (GU) will govern transnational issues such as money, trade, security (assuring local and regional conflicts don’t lead to war) and policies necessitating cooperation across regions. The GU will have limited powers and full transparency will be demanded — all meetings, documents, and discussions are available in what we would call “on line.”
2. The new discoveries in physics and the emergence of a holographic principle theory of reality will lead to a growth of non-religious spirituality which many religious people will view as an attempt to use science to create a world religion. This will bring about a series of protests by various faiths and ultimately an agreement within the GU charter that freedom of and tolerance of diverse religious belief is a core human right. By 2112 religious conflict will be at an historical low, though practitioners of the “traditional” religions will bemoan the weakness of their faiths.
3. Neither capitalism nor socialism will survive the 21st Century. In part this is because technological progress will make work as traditionally defined all but irrelevant. So much work will be done by machine that humans will not be near as important for producing stuff (though some will guide the automated factories, develop new software, support the global infrastructure, etc.). At first this will lead to a large maldistribution of wealth as those who own the machinery amass large profits while human workers become severely underpaid since they will not be in demand.
Over time demands for change will grow, and as power is localized an agreement will be reached to guarantee everyone certain core basics (education, shelter, food, health care, equal protection, access to clean water, etc.)
With the localization of power, people then either work on infrastructure or within the robotic productivity realm, or on tasks within their community to earn Taurins (the global currency unit) for doing things that increase the quality of life. Communities also reach agreement with industries to share ownership. The wealthy remain wealthier than the rest (and those working to maintain the infrastructure and robotic industries earn the most), but competition will become less for wealth and things (since things will be abundant) and more for improving the quality of life and learning.
4. In the US, families and communities will have a comeback with the localization of power and the shift of emphasis away from materialism and consumption. The 21st Century will be rough, but we’ll make it to a much better 22nd Century!