“Politics is not just the battle for today, it is also the war for tomorrow.”
Welcome to Futurist Friday, where tomorrow intersects with politics, policy and prediction. The point of this exercise is to describe the likely future based on current analysis of trends, curves and activity occurring today. The hope is to encourage discussion and debate on what needs to be changed, what actions can be taken and; why should Alan Boyle have all the fun?
The format of this article will cover five year increments to the year 2100, however since this is 2013, our first Friday will cover one year, 2014. Next week, 2015 will be covered. Afterwards, the series will continue in five year increments. A word of caution, some of this will seem rather dystopic, however as history has shown, it is always within peoples’ nature to change. I must give credit to FutureTimeline.net as an invaluable source for the speculations presented.
Welcome to the Future-2014
The IPCC releases its Fifth Assessment Report.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases the final part of the Fifth Assessment Report, which discusses the possible future impacts of climate change. As each report since 1990 has been released, further computing technology enhancements and both increased and more refined data point reporting has led to greater and greater refinements and accuracy of global climate computer modeling. One of the most interesting aspects of this has been to run retrospective historical climate analysis through weather models to allow refinements of the climate modeling programs and thusly create more accurate models for future prediction. This is important as little known or understood factors such as permafrost methane enhancements and the rising industrialization of China and India are now taken into consideration.
Each report since 1990 has been bleak in its assessment of future trends and the Fifth Assessment is no different. By 2014, newer Earth System Models have produced petabytes of new climate data, making available far more information than in previous reports. This massive data processing allows scientists to narrow down temperature increases and sea level rises. More information is understood about the dynamics of atmospheric changes and how this impacts the global climate far into the future.
The basic summary of the Fifth Assessment Report is that the human species will destroy itself and the rest of the biosphere without making immediate changes. Despite the 95 % certainty of the reports data and a broad scientific consensus, entrenched economic and political forces will ensure that skepticism abounds regarding these important conclusions.
The European Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) is operational.
A new central banking authority is created within the EuroZone, which gives the European Central Bank the power to intervene in any bank within the EuroZone. A new permanent rescue fund, called the European Stability Mechanism allows failing banks to be recapitalized without adding to a countries sovereign debt. The biggest contributors will be Germany, France and Italy. While hailed as a needed regulatory response to the 2008 banking crisis, many feel that this is a path to the loss of national sovereignty and the creation of a federated European state. This is especially true in Great Britain, which has dominated Europe’s financial market and whose currency (the pound sterling) lies outside the new mechanisms but within the EU as a whole. Fears of Britain’s marginalization lead to further calls for a referendum on EU membership.
Internet as a media format surpasses television.
People in developed countries now rely more on the Internet than television (or other media) for news and information. While this trend became apparent in the year 2000, as the Internet surpassed radio, the rapid impact of this shift begins to affect all media (print especially) as television and the Internet begin to converge due to the widespread availability of smart phones, tablets, laptops and high speed broadband. In 2014, current trends such as narrowcasting, binge watching, time shifting and source aggregation pose major challenges for media based enterprises as they struggle to monetize the shifting habits of more tech savvy consumers. The higher degree of user interactivity is posited as one of the main reasons for this change.
Google Glass publicly available.
The augmented reality head-ware Google Glass becomes widely available. It’s ability to render internet information through voice commands or eye movement , as well as record audio and video reveals the first step in the coming evolution of human/technological interface and integration.
Smart watches are the latest popular technology.
The worldwide market for smart watches increases from 500,000 in 2013 to 5 million in 2014. High tech and stylish, these devices combine the functions of watches, phones, music players and health monitors into one device. Apple, Google, MicroSoft and SamSung become the dominant marketers as they continually create more models with more features.
Memristor technology available.
Theorized in 1971, realized in 2008, “memristors” begin appearing in consumer electronics.As the fourth fundamental circuit element (resistors, inductors and capacitors being the other three),the memristors’ ability to maintain its resistance state after being powered off frees transistor circuits from that task. Because memristors function at the atomic level, this allows phenomenally fast, small and energy efficient devices to become commonplace. Battery lives are extended, boot times are virtually instantaneous and memory capacity becomes exponentially larger. Because memristors are reconfigurable, this allows scientists and engineers to create circuits that are similar to brain synapses and can apply “learning” to new situations. It also allows for the beginning of human like brain circuits for the next generation of computers.
Mules return to the Army.
Decades after they were phased out of service, mules return to the U.S. Army. Dynamically stable, four legged robots will carry materiel and equipment loads up to 340 pounds moving about 6 m.p.h. Traversing terrain that would defeat jeeps or tanks, these robots allow small unit mobility while increasing their firepower. They can also be used as tactical scouts or as platforms to create signaling stations in remote locations.
Naval Laser guns deployed.
After years of research and development, the U.S. Navy deploys Solid State Laser weapons for short range defense. The directed energy beams can destroy targets out to a range of four miles, hitting targets moving at 300 m.p.h. This weapon is deployed as point defense against missiles, drones and suicide vessels. At one dollar per shot, the weapons represent a vast savings over conventional projectile technology. This technology will become the forbearer of railgun weapons of vast range and power.
Genome sequencing will cost less than $100.
Due to the development of the nanofluidic chip, your genome can be sequenced within a few hours for less than $100. Doctors will be able to sequence defective cells and personalize treatments. They could also diagnose a baby’s predisposition to diabetes and prescribe a dietary regimen to alleviate the condition. Civil rights concern will be made manifest as some employers and insurance companies try to justify employment decisions based on sequencing data or attempt to force individuals to be sequenced involuntarily.
International Space Station Completed.
At 360 feet across and with a mass of 157,000 lbs., the International Space Station is the largest orbiting object created by man. Researching space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology, it is a crowning achievement in humanity’s quest for knowledge. Scheduled for completion in 2012, it was delayed waiting for the Russian lab module Nauka and the European Robotic Arm. With the final installation of these components, the I.S.S. remains in operation until 2028, when several modules are re-purposed and the rest is de-orbited.
Orion test flight.
The Orion crew test vehicle is launched as a continuation of NASA’s plans for exploration of the Moon, Mars and the asteroid belt. Should this unmanned test flight be successful, it puts NASA and the U.S. back on track to the manned exploration of the Solar System and eventually, the stars.
Probes to Mars.
The NASA probe MAVEN arrives to orbit Mars and begins its mission to study the historical and current composition of the Martian atmosphere and the processes governing it. Controversially, the first Martian probe from India arrives in orbit to study the Martian environment in depth. India’s spending is questioned in light of the amount of foreign aid they receive to help alleviate poverty and other social ills.
Close Brush for Mars.
In mid-October, comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1, discovered in Jan. 2013) will pass within 31,000 miles of Mars. This is two-and-a-half times the distance of it’s outermost moon, Diemos. Should this comet collide with the Red planet, it’s blast would be equivalent to 1 billion megatons of T.N.T., the same as the Chicxulub impact which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Significant Construction Projects
New World Trade Center completed.
The terrorist attacks of 2001 created a gaping wound in both the psyche and the skyline of the United States’ premiere city. During that time, bureaucracy and economic downturns had limited construction to the completion of 7 World Trade Center. After 2011, the economic upturn led to rapid completion and construction of the other six towers. One World Trade is completed in 2013, showcasing blast-resistant steel and concrete, a more thorough sprinkler system, polymer reinforced glass and a wider stairwell. It also has an environmentally friendly design, featuring rainwater collection for its cooling system and steam heating to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The rest of the complex is completed in 2014. One World Trade is the tallest building in the U.S. and the third tallest in the world until overtaken by the Shanghai Tower.
Panama Canal expansion is completed.
As the most important transit point in the world, the Panama Canal could not pass 37% of world shipping through it’s infrastructure. After constructing new locks on the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, new access channels and the deepening of existing channels and raising Gatun Lake’s maximum operating level, the mega-project should be able to handle traffic until at least 2025. This project generated enough wealth to reduce poverty in Panama by almost 30%. Critics of the project contend many serious environmental issues were left unaddressed.
Shanghai Towers completed.
Designed by Gensler and constructed in the Pudong District of Shanghai, the Shanghai Tower is the tallest in the group of three supertall buildings, the others being Jin Mao and the Shanghai World Financial Center. When completed, it becomes the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The building is 2,073 feet tall and has 128 stories, featuring offices, a hotel, retail and entertainment facilities and an observation deck.
The tower is organized as nine cylindrical buildings stacked on top of each other and enclosed by the glass façade’s interior layer. Between that and the outer layer, which twists as it rises, nine indoor zones provide public space including gardens, cafes, restaurants and retail spaces with a 360 degree view of the city.
Sustainability is a key feature of construction, with the asymmetrical design reducing wind loads by 25% which reduced needed construction material. The spiraling parapet collects rainwater to use for heating and cooling, and the building includes wind turbines for on-site power.
Welcome to our tomorrow. Whose policies will ensure the future?