“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. This week, 2046 to 2049 will be covered. Next week, this column will focus on the upcoming brink for humanity. 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 2046-2049
Effects of Heat Stress on Labor Capacity Have Doubled
In the early years of the 21st century, the peak summer months of heat stress were cutting Human labor capacity. By the middle of the century, this figure has dropped to 80 percent. Rising global temperatures are now having a major impact on those who work outside, or in hot environments - particularly in mid-latitude and tropical regions like South and East Asia, North America and Australia. This trend continues despite heavy reductions in man made CO2 emissions.
Although robots are now handling many human roles, it becomes a serious issue for the economy and society in general. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and other conditions are increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. Many sports and leisure activities are being abandoned due to excessive heat and humidity, with people forced to spend more and more time indoor. This has boosted the appeal of virtual reality to replace the physical world.
Fully Autonomous, Intelligent Military Aircraft
The jet fighters of 2047 now have fully autonomous capabilities from launch to landing. Powerful AI, swarming behavior and hypersonic technology create near instantaneous effects wherever they are deployed.
With network centered warfare and increasingly sophisticated enemies, along with environmental factors, major advances are made in target recognition technology and collision avoidance systems. This allows whole squadrons of pilot less planes to synchronize attacks from multiple directions and regroup quickly. With auto-refueling and self repair technology, squadrons become even more autonomous.
Because of the increased deployment of AI, cost are shifting from operations and maintenance to design and development. Most repairs, whether in-flight or at the hangar, require little or no human intervention. New tactics are programmed into the aircraft’s systems and then modified in deployment as the aircraft “learn” from an enemies tactics.
With hypersonic engines, inhuman reaction times and improved weaponry, these planes can outperform any previously human controlled aircraft. After the retirement of the F-35 Lightening II, manned fighter planes are obsolete.
Reversible Biostasis is Available
With the exponential development of nanotechnology, society is being transformed in ways that had previously been considered science fiction. By the end of the 2040’s, it’s becoming possible to “freeze” humans in a form of suspended animation. This is done by shutting down a persons metabolism and preserving their cell structures, using a complex array of nanobots.
Having been in use for quite a while now, nanobots are a staple of military hardware, medical equipment, entertainment devices and general purpose computing. This latest generation exhibits a higher degree of sophistication. Networked in the trillions, they course through the bloodstream to every cell where they can block the molecular machinery of the metabolism and tie structures together with cross links, held firmly in place. As water is expelled, the nanobots pack themselves solidly around each cell, preventing any damage or deterioration.
Once a patient has been stabilized this way, they are essentially frozen in time. They can be kept in this condition for years, looking to the casual observer as if they were cold and dead.
In medicine, this would allow the deepest possible anesthesia, giving surgeons unlimited time to work. In remote locations, it can be used for medical emergencies, stopping further deterioration until help can arrive. In space exploration, it can be used as a method of hibernation, saving mass used for food and supplies and alleviating the boredom of a long journey. Some societies seek to use this technology as a replacement for penal incarceration, causing offenders to be removed from society at the most basic level. However, the expense is not deemed to be an appropriate use of resources. Most commonly, it is used for life extension or for personal financial reasons.
The process is reversed with nanobots doing cellular repair, rehydrating cells and removing linking structures. Salt, ATP and blood sugars are returned to normal levels and with the metabolic machinery restored, the person is rapidly brought back to life.
Robots Are A Common Feature of Homes and Workplaces
With a wide variety of form and function, robots are now widespread in mainstream society. Androids are especially popular among the elderly, widowed and those disabled and incapacitated-in which role they serve as companions, guides and caregivers. They are also popular among the lonely and socially anxious, who can develop relationships without the fear or hang-ups normally associated with human company. Those seeking “alternative” lifestyles are also making use of androids.
Robots are in use everywhere. Factories and warehouses in the developed world are run entirely by robots.Agriculture and food production is heavily reliant on robots. The physical side of military operations is handled extensively by robots-on land, sea and air. Hospitals use robots in conjunction with nano-surgical techniques, due to their precise movements compared to human hands. In space, robots have probed and explored hundreds of moons in the outer solar system, and are playing a key role in the Moon colonies. One fad is to have robotic pets, indistinguishable from the real thing. Certain species of recently extinct tropical fish are popular, while museums and outdoor exhibitions have incredibly realistic recreations of dinosaurs and other extinct mega fauna.
Unmanned Probe to 2060 Chiron
Discovered in 1977, Chiron 2060 is a minor planet found in the Outer Solar System. It is the first of a new class of objects known as centaurs-small bodies orbiting between Saturn and Uranus- and named after the race of half-man/half-horses from Greek mythology, in recognition of their dual comet/asteroid nature.
2060 Chiron has a radius of about 145 miles and a parabolic orbit going from just inside the orbit of Saturn to just outside the orbit of Uranus. With an orbital period of 51 years, it reaches perihelion in 2047.
As part of the recent exploration of the Kuiper Belt, a robotic probe has been sent to intercept it, arriving in 2047.Critical data about Chiron’s size, shape, polar obliquity, atmosphere, surface structure and composition, internal structure, surface activity (including the nature of Chiron’s outbursts) and it’s origin. NASA had been planning this mission as far back as 1994.
Near Earth Asteroid 2007 VK184 Comes Close
Discovered by the Catalina Sky survey in 2007, 2007 VK184 has a 1 in 3,000 chance of hitting Earth in the year 2048. Measuring 426 feet in diameter, it’s relative velocity to Earth at intersection would be about 9.8 miles per second.
Were impact to occur, it would likely break up in the atmosphere. However, some fragments might be large enough to cause widespread destruction, if they hit populated areas. By comparison the Tunguska Event in 1908 was thought to have been caused by an object only 100 to 165 feet across. This created an explosion similar to the airburst of thousands of Hiroshima bombs.
Antarctic Treaty Up for Review
As the last remaining unspoiled wilderness, Antarctica is untouched by the massive industrial/urban agglomerates common to the rest of the planet. Covering an area of 5.3 million square miles and covered by an ice sheet 2.5 miles thick, it has no human inhabitants save for a handful of research scientists in small stations.
Antarctica is governed by the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, which came into effect in 1961. The treaty was signed by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Japan, South Africa, the United States and Russia. The first seven of these countries have historic claims to the continent (none of which are generally recognized) and the Treaty preserves the status quo, neither recognizing or repudiating old claims, but forbidding their expansion in any way. The terms of the Treaty also forbid the assertion of new claims.
With the discovery of the ozone layer hole, as well as other concerns, a new environmental protocol was agreed upon in 1991. This entered force in 1998. It was intended to protect Antarctica’s environment and ecosystems, and included a total ban on the exploitation of mineral and energy resources, as well as strict regulation of pollution and other damaging activities. The protocol is open for review in 2048, exactly 50 years after it was implemented.
Over the last 50 years, the Earth’s population is 50% larger, placing an alarming pressures on the planet’s resources, which has become glaringly apparent. Metal and mineral supplies continue to be an issue, even with large scale recycling systems in place. Despite objections from environmentalists, there is a growing consensus among the international community that some limited exploitation of Antarctica should be allowed, within certain designated areas. Over the next few years, a new treaty is drawn up with modified clauses, though disputes continue over territorial boundaries.
With the extreme cold, isolation, rough seas and thick ice sheet, Antarctica presents significant logistical challenges to mining and mineral extraction. However, new technology is utilized to mitigate these difficulties, including robots, heavy automation and alternative methods of drilling. In addition, the changing climate has melted enough ice to allow access and exploitation of areas within the western ice sheet.
The Dead Sea is Drying Up
Located between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea is a unique geological feature. The lowest point on Earth, it has an extremely high content of mineral salts (20%), over six times greater than any ocean and only contains extremophile bacteria. The salts are so concentrated that swimmers bob in the water, floating without a life vest. The water of the sea is also purported to relieve pain and treat several different skin conditions and arthritis. For these reasons, it has been a world famous tourist attraction.
By the late 2040’s, however, the sea has almost vanished. It’s main supply of water - the River Jordan to the north - has been diverted extensively for industry, agriculture and domestic use. This has reduced its flow to just a trickle by the time it reaches the Dead Sea, far from adequate to replace the water lost by evaporation.
For decades the Dead Sea has plummeted in depth. The problem is compounded by rising global temperatures, which have accelerated the evaporation of water, and the growing population in the region. By now, little more than a pond remains. This is despite efforts to divert water from the Mediterranean and the Nearby Red Sea.
Next week - The Brink