The future is bleak
It’s always been fun to look ahead into the future, and guess how it all might be. I remember reading a kid’s magazine called “TV21” back in the 1960s, which looked at the world around a century into the future. It was inspired by the big blockbusting TV shows of the time like “Thunderbirds”. Those of my age, do you remember Brains having a video conversation with Jeff Tracy, talking into his watch? I remember us all saying “That will never happen in our lifetime……..” But guess what…..
Everything, at that time, looked like it would be ever-more wonderful a hundred years on.
Now, I am not so sure.
Yes, our gadgets will be incredibly sophisticated, compared to today, and I know that computer and AI power will continue to increase exponentially, and make a huge difference in all areas of life. I’m hoping that education systems and skills training will radically change so people will be taught to do things that computers still cannot. Science, as it always has done, will continue to show us what is right, disprove what was not right, and will generally point us in the right direction. And us human beings, whilst we can be the most awful creatures sometimes, we do have a history of working it all out, and surviving.
I really do worry about our planet – it is really struggling with pollution, climate change, and an ever-increasing population. And an ever-increasing elderly population as well. Britain has already just appointed a Minister of Loneliness. So that’s already a current problem, and with more people living alone, especially in the western world, this problem will also get worse over the next decades. And that could lead to an even more worrying future – many thinkers think this will become a breeding ground for totalitarianism. Lonely people, with no sense of belonging or direction, are a target for ideological leaders.
The health of the planet is of huge concern to me. Global Warming, the whole Climate Change scenario, is real, and the outlook for curbing it is looks bleak. Even the ozone layer in our stratosphere has not repaired like scientists predicted it would, (following the banning of CFCs in aerosol canisters.) No reason has yet been given, though global warming could be a factor.
Even if these fundamentals are sorted, where is everyone going to live? Yes, we have huge areas like the Sahara and other deserts, but they are only going to get even more uninhabitable, and anyway, who would want to live there? There’s plenty of space on all the ice both up north and down south, but again, who would want to live there, even assuming it won’t all melt………
I suppose we could utilise the ocean, and somehow build inhabitable places actually in or on the water….. maybe go up even higher in the cities, and, heaven forbid, I’ve even heard that skyscrapers will also burrow down into the earth for 20 or 25 storeys.
The idea of colonising the moon and Mars is not something that will happen in the next century. Well, the moon maybe. I reckon it will be at least thirty years before we could even contemplate getting to Mars, let alone colonising it. The sheer costs involved, excuse the pun, are astronomical. And no-one seems to have any money these days.
The future is bleak unless we can sort out the very planet on which we are living. There is no point having technology that will keep each of us alive for over a hundred years unless we can protect the infrastructure on which it is all based.
And at the moment, we are pretty crap at that.
Over the distant horizon…
In 1979 ABBA, famous Swedish pop band, recorded a beautiful song called ‘Happy New Year’. And there was a line about the future that struck me:
Seems to me no
That the dreams we had before
Are all dead, nothing more
Than confetti on the floor
It’s the end of a decade
In another ten years time
Who can say what we’ll find
What lies waiting down the line
In the end of eighty-nine
So… 1989 really turned out to be a very different year comparing to 1979. In a good way. There was much more difference than comparing, say, 1979 to 1969. The Cold War was effectively over or about to end with the ‘new world order’ coming to change it (for a very short time, though). By the end of 1989 the Eastern European countries broke free from the Communist rule and the Soviet Union was rapidly changing. There was a feel of excitement in the air…
To make a long story short, 1989, comparing to 1979, was a much better time and place. And that’s great.
I am not so sure making predictions when thinking about a 100-year perspective.
So I would just divide my expectations for ‘pros’ and ‘contras’ or positives and negatives.
much more technologically advanced world with all the good things that come up with it like robots helping us have a fancy lifestyle;
- less poverty in general with wealth spread out all over the world more evenly;
- space breakthroughs like colonies on the Moon, Mars and the asteroid belt;
- alien life discovery (on Mars, Europe or Titan or even altogether but we’re talking about very different life forms existing in these locations);
- not so sure about some more distant aliens being introduced to the world (UFO and stuff);
- many now lethal diseases effectively under control such as cancer.
- Russia finally joining the West in some kind of a broad coalition (including India) against China and the Muslim world.
- various wars and military conflicts will go on: business as usual here, people killing people as this thing is in our blood and veins;
- 50 per cent probability of the world-scale confrontation between America and China (or ‘the next Pacific war’): it might only be possible if Russia takes China’s side and I truly hope we, the Russians, won’t be such idiots, this is why it is a fifty-fifty chance – see the last ‘pros’ point above;
- more lethal diseases would come up with no treatment at the time;
- Most of the Islamic world would continue to decay in agony becoming a gigantic black hole of the world (but not all Muslim territories) – something that happened with the Communist ideology / Soviet bloc a century before;
Thus, it would be a slightly better world, but definitely not Heaven on Earth.
Dear Francis, I have your answer.
There is a field of study known as SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and a fellow named Francis “Frank” Drake made a famous calculation used to estimate how many advanced civilizations may exist in the Galaxy today. Of course, there is the expected parade of letters of various sizes separated by numbers and maths signs. I really hated it when the alphabet got involved with maths.
You may be curious why I’m talking about SETI and maths; it’s because we are also an emerging civilization in our Galaxy. And we are interested in the last of that string of letters “L”. See, the L stands for the length of time a society releases detectable signals into space – aka broadcasting. In other words, the length of time our civilization may exist. This is assuming that we could destroy ourselves after a while.
While we have sincerely tried several times, we have gone around a century of releasing signals into space without killing ourselves. So the question becomes: can we go another century without nuking ourselves into a lovely orange glow?
I believe the answer is yes. I don’t believe that there will be all-out nuclear war in the short or mid-term. The political cost is simply too high and these leaders will not keep what they cherish most: power. If we don’t nuke ourselves I see little to keep us from moving into a better future.
Here is my list of major trends to support the above:
- Moving away from carbon based energy
- Energy independence for many nations
- Increased growth of trade & international partnerships
- Higher educational levels for most
Of course, the major factor fighting the above is climate change. Climate change may bring super mass migration and population shifts that citizens of higher latitude countries (read richer) will simply not tolerate. But this should not lead to the extinction of humanity or the end of advanced technology.
So, I argue that in 100 years we will not fall prey to the Drake Equation. Then there is only one issue I should address: how far will we progress? If we use the past as a prologue, the answer is: a hell’va long way. Consider this; in World War One, one way to move heavy equipment was with horses, the airplane was little more than a kite, and the light bulb was near the edge of technology.
We will still be here 100 years from now, moreover, most of the people reading this will still be alive. Yes, I believe a cure for aging will be found in the next twenty years or so. While I’m sometimes the pessimist of our little band of three, not in this case. We will have a bright, space based future and I want to be here to see it.