“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 (last Friday) covered one year, 2014. This 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-2015
Millennial Development Goals Due for Completion.
In 2000, 193 member states of the United Nations convened in New York to develop an ambitious program to be known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals consisted of eight targets intended to help developing countries and to be achieved by the year 2015.
Goal One: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day.
By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
Goal Two: Achieve universal primary education
By 2015, ensure a full course of primary schooling for boys and girls alike.
Goal Three: Promote gender equality and empower women
By 2005, eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education; and at all levels of education by 2015.
Goal Four: Reduce child mortality rates
By 2015, reduce by two-thirds the number of children dying under age five.
Goal Five: Improve maternal health
By 2015, reduce by three quarters the number of women dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Goal Six: Combat AIDS/HIV, malaria and other diseases
By 2015, halt and begin to reverse the spread of AIDS/HIV.By 2015, halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
Goal Seven: Ensure environmental sustainability
Reverse the loss of environmental resources.
By 2015, halve the proportion of people lacking access to safe drinking water.
By 2020, achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
Goal Eight: Create a global partnership for development
Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked nations and small island developing states.
Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures, in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.
In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies.
To further progress toward these lofty goals, the G-8 Finance Ministers met in London in 2005 agreeing to provide funding to the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development bank in the amount of $55 billion. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) could then re-channel money from cancelled debt servicing to the social programs outlined in the MDGs.
Attainment of the MGDs would not depend on economic growth or expensive solutions. In Bangladesh, child mortality was reduced via inexpensive but effective interventions such as measles immunization. Other important technologies were emerging including the $100 dollar laptop, the Lifesaver bottle and genetic engineering of mosquitoes.
By 2010, goal attainment was mixed at best; China (where poverty fell from 452 million to 278 million), India, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Ethiopia saw marked success, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the African continent in general saw failure in meeting these goals.
While progress was made in fits and starts, the overall reduction in poverty combined with the increased access to health care, education, technology and civil services created a hopeful outlook in many countries. Most particularly, the scourge of AIDS/HIV saw a marked drop-off and decline.
By 2015, continued global economic weakness, peak oil and climate change have led to paradigm shift in the MDG approach, with new goals set for 2030.
The Eurasian Union is Formed.
Formed as a political and economic union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and other countries, the Eurasian Union is brought into being. Modeled after the European Union, it was proposed in 1994 by Nursultan Nazarbayev , the President of Kazakhstan and brought to the fore by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in October 2011. On November 18, 2011, the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement setting the date for the union’s completion in 2015. The agreement included a framework for a Eurasian Commission and a Eurasian Economic Space, which started work on January 1, 2012.
Some speculated that expansion of the Union might include membership for countries that have been historically or culturally close, such as Finland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, incorporating them into a state where Russian would be the common language of communication and economic cooperation. Critics were concerned about the “re-Sovietization” of Russia and Central Asia. The United States opposed the Union on the basis of Russia’s dismal human rights record.
United States and South Korea Dissolve Combined Forces Command.
Since the end of the Korean War, Combined Forces Command has acted as the command structure for the multinational military forces supporting South Korea. After 50 years of commanding forces along the demilitarized zone, the United States and South Korea will act as separate entities in the event of war. As this happens, North Korea continues with it’s missile program testing to the greater consternation of the world.
Queen Elizabeth II Becomes the Longest Reigning Monarch in British History.
On Sept. 10, 2015, Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history, surpassing her grandmother Queen Victoria. Raised to the throne on Sept. 6, 1952, she will have been Queen 63 years and 217 days.
Her reign of six decades have seen enormous change in the world including the dismantling of the British Empire, the entire Cold War, the civil rights movement, increased globalization, the development of the space age and technology age and the growing threat of environmental catastrophe.
At 89 years of age, the Queen begins to scale back her official duties. Her next milestone will be in 2022, her Platinum Jubilee. Eldest son Charles patiently abides his succession to be King Charles III.
Battery Technology Boosted.
A new method enables lithium-ion batteries to be charged ten times faster and last ten times as long. A chemical oxidation process creates miniscule holes (10 to 20 nanometers) between graphene layers. By providing lithium ions a shortcut to the anode and increasing energy density with silicon clusters allowing more ions to gather at the electrode, batteries become incredibly powerful.
Widely used by 2015, mobile phones can be charged from zero to 100% in fifteen minutes with a single charge lasting for a week. This also increases the practicality of electric cars by getting greater travel distances with smaller battery packs, it also eliminates the idea of battery swapping in exchange for easier to maintain charging stations. This makes electric car infrastructure more cost effective in both urban and rural areas.
First Large Scale Updraft Towers are Operational.
Towering over the Arizona desert, the world’s first large-scale updraft towers are built by Enviro-Mission. Over 2600 feet tall, these towers generate 200 megawatts of clean energy each. This is the equivalent of removing 220,000 internal combustion engines from use and able to power 150,000 homes.
The towers work harnessing three proven principles: the chimney effect, the greenhouse effect and the wind turbine. The base contains a greenhouse structure to trap heat and as this heat rises through the chimney of the tower it causes turbines to rotate and produce electricity.
The advantages of this structure are many, they work in any weather because they work on temperature differentials. The heat of the day warms the ground to such an extent that the towers continue to work at night. Because they work best in the desert, non-arable land becomes the ideal placement site for these structures. They emit zero pollution and the greenhouse base can be used for some agriculture. They last for a century and require low maintenance and viewing galleries at the top provide tourist income in addition to energy benefits. Once proven to be commercially successful, these towers are deployed on a wider scale in the 2020’s.
LED Technology becomes Light Source of Choice.
LED lighting has been relegated to indicator lighting on equipment and consumer electronics until early in the 21st century. By 2010, LEDs had vastly improved in color and brightness to the point that cathode ray displays were almost entirely eliminated from consumer use. By 2012, LEDs were seen as a potential source of lighting in commercial and residential spaces, replacing problematic compact fluorescents, however their cost remained too high. By 2015, the scale of mass production brought the price point to a favorable level especially when combined with the 90% energy savings realized over the life of the lighting unit.
3D Printing is Mainstreamed for Consumers.
Expensive in the past, 3D printing benefits from plummeting costs to become the consumers “go-to” household industrial tool. Using melted nylon powder to shape objects defined by computer instructions, 3D printers produce a myriad of household items, such as jewelry, toys, kitchenware, replacement plugs, hooks, pipes, fitting, flooring and other essentials. Items are produced from purchased or Web downloaded programs, with artists and hobbyists creating their own designs using 3D scanners and modeling software.
In addition to falling costs, 3D printing takes off because very little manufacturing is done in the U.S. and other developed countries. Because of this, there are no entrenched special interests to exert legislative pressure against this technology.
This technology becomes the forerunner of nanofabricators, producing items with atomic precision within minutes. Ultimately this leads to matter replication technology with near instantaneous production of any material, organic or inorganic.
Gerald R. Ford Class Supercarriers.
The first replacement for the venerable Nimitz class aircraft carriers is launched in 2015. The Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers contains many improvements to naval power projection including increased automation, electromagnetic catapults to replace steam catapults, increased stealth, new nuclear reactors with higher energy efficiency, high tech radar and flight control, as well as the ability to carry the new F-35 Lightning II fighter jet. Ten carriers are commissioned at a cost of $14 billion each, with the last ship launched by the year 2040.
Computer Chips Smaller, Optical Media Bigger.
Intel releases the next generation of microprocessor, with transistors based on the 10 nanometer architecture. Over 10 billion transistors can now be packed into a single chip as further reductions become limited by quantum effects. This will lead to “stacked” 3D circuits made from carbon nanotubes and other exotic materials.
As computing power increases the amount of video data generated calls for a new optical disc format. To be jointly developed by Sony and Panasonic, the new optical discs can store up to 300 gigabytes of data (as opposed to the 50 gigabyte current standard). Initially developed for cinema, broadcasters and data centers, the explosion of YouTube and other “selfie” media makes these discs popular with the mainstream consumer.
Trucks With Emergency Braking Mandatory in Europe.
In November 2015, EU law mandates that all new trucks must be fitted with emergency braking and collision warning systems. This law was introduced to reduce the number of rear end collisions, a significant proportion of road accidents.
Radars and cameras working together can identify and monitor vehicles in front and can prevent a collision with a moving target at a relative speed of 44 m.p.h. If the system detects an imminent collision, it sounds a warning. If no action is taken, the system applies the brakes. By the end of this decade, this system is applied to automobiles as well. This becomes the precursor to automated vehicle technologies of the future.
First Lunar Tourists
In 2001, Dennis Tito became the world’s first space tourist, securing a seat on the I.S.S. for $20 million in conjunction with Space Adventures Ltd. Afterwards, a number of companies sprang up hoping to capitalize on the space tourism industry.
Companies such as Virgin Galactic, using high tech space planes were charging $250,000 for sub-orbital flights. These flights allowed patrons to experience zero-G and see the earth from space for a brief period of time.
By 2015, Space Adventures offers lunar orbits for passengers willing to spend $150 million for the privilege. This trip includes circumlunar trips around the Moon, coming as close as 62 miles from the surface and viewing the spectacular Earthrise. The craft in these voyages are much larger and more comfortable than the NASA craft of the 20th century.
New Horizons at Pluto.
The New Horizons probe launched in 2006 arrives at dwarf planet Pluto in July of 2015. After traveling over 3.6 billion miles, the probe will return close range, high quality pictures of Pluto and it’s five moons before voyaging to the Kuiper Belt.
Dawn at Ceres.
The Dawn probe sent by NASA arrives at asteroid Ceres in 2015. Having reached Vesta in 2011, it is the first probe to have arrived, orbited, studied and de-orbited an object to proceed to a second object. Ceres and Vesta being the largest members of the asteroid belt, their study allows scientist an insight into the early Solar System and the mechanics of planetary formation.
Woolly Mammoth Resurrected
The woolly mammoth, extinct for 5,000 years, is brought back to life using new cloning technology. Tissue samples taken from frozen woolly mammoths have viable cell nucleus that are inserted into the egg cell of a female African elephant. Following a 600 day gestation period, the baby woolly mammoth is born. Previous attempts at cloning failed due to cellular sample degradation and less sophisticated cloning techniques.
Mammoths take 20 years to reach adulthood. By the 2030s, they are appearing in zoos and private collections. Other extinct mammals are cloned also, including saber tooth tigers and Megatherium.
Tigers Going Extinct
The 20th century saw tiger numbers plunge by over 95% worldwide. By the 1970s, they had disappeared from Central Asia, by the 1980s, from Java and by the 1990s from South China.
Tiger numbers continued to decline in the 21st century. By 2010, it was estimated that India, once a tiger stronghold, had less than 800 in the wild, while some subspecies had only 30 individuals. Poaching and habitat loss were the main culprits in the species demise.
Within a few years, there were no longer genetically viable breeding populations of tigers, setting them on the path to extinction. Once the most recognizable of the worlds megafauna, they only exist in zoos and private collections.
Carteret Islands Abandoned.
By 2015, rising sea levels forced the inhabitants of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea to abandon their homelands. These people are the harbingers of future climate refugees.
Crops, trees and wells have been contaminated by seawater, while most buildings have been destroyed. Sea walls built to protect the island were unsuccessful, as they were washed away.
Melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers along with thermal expansion, could raise sea levels over six and one half feet by 2100. This will result in trillions of dollars in property loss as well as displacing hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
You and your children’s future; what policies do you support to shape it?