“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 normally covers five year increments to the year 2100. However, this week, 2076 to 2085 will be covered. 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 2076-2085
The U.S. Cedes Territory to Mexico
For over two centuries, the United States effectively controlled the entire North American continent. It’s dominance throughout this time was unquestioned.
During the 21st century, however, it’s territorial integrity was being challenged once again. By the early 2080s, four of its fifty states had been ceded to Mexico.
What led to this astonishing development?
Most historians would agree it began in the 2030s. America’s shrinking labor supply during this time les to the introduction of laws encouraging a massive influx of immigrants. These came from all over the world - but a substantial portion came from Mexico due to its geographical proximity and strong cultural ties. Although many different ethnic groups would arrive, the Mexicans would behave differently. It was this, combined with Mexico’s growing economic strength, that would lead to a slow but gradual shift in the balance of North American power.
The various immigrant groups from around became culturally integrated with the U.S. They fragmented and settled around the country, without overwhelming any region or state.
The immigrants from Mexico behaved differently, however. many became integrated with the U.S. - but unlike the other groups, they would always be in close proximity to their homelands. With most settling in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, they were never more than a short journey from the border. this fostered a growing intermingling of cultures in the southwestern states.
Over time, the social and economic links of the Mexican immigrants began to predominate, to such an extent that they almost represented an extension of their homeland into the United States. These lands had once been Mexican anyway - before the territory was taken by the U.S. in the 19th century - so they already held many characteristics of Mexican society and culture. As the decades rolled by, with more and more immigrants pouring into the country, this influence shifted ever northward. By the middle of the century, states that had been 25% Mexican were now over 50% Mexican, while states which had been 50% Mexican were now almost entirely occupied by Mexicans.
Climate change was now an added factor, driving large numbers from southern parts of Mexico to head north, where food and water was more readily available.
This wave of immigration solved the labor supply issue, and contributed to a period of economic boom in the U.S.
At the same time, however, a number of radical new technologies were in development: technologies that would lead to a socio-political crisis in later years. Chief amongst these was the growth of robotics. A range of highly versatile machines had already been in military use since the 2030s. These began spreading to consumer markets. By the 2060s, they were becoming sufficiently powerful, intelligent and numerous to make vast numbers of civilian jobs obsolete.
This greatly reduced the need for immigration. Millions of workers were now permanently displaced, without the skills to move into robotics support or maintenance. Their previous roles were now being handled by machines that were not only cheaper, but also faster and more productive than any human. Manufacturing, mining, building and construction trades, mechanical work, maintenance and a host of other roles were being dominated by robots.
Unemployment began to soar, exacerbated by advances in longevity which meant that workers were now remaining active longer than ever before. The combination of increased labor pool and obsolete workers meant that immigration into the U.S. had become a problem rather than a solution.
The U.S. government began limiting its intake of immigrants and addressing the economic imbalance. This would prove disastrous for the poor and working class, however: especially those in the borderlands.
By the 2070s, Mexico was emerging as a major regional power. It now had a balanced and mature economy ranked eighth in the world, along with a stable population, a relatively high standard of living, and growing military power. Mexican nationalism had already been on the rise. Combined with the turmoil now unfolding in the southwestern U.S. (including the forced repatriation of many immigrants), this began spilling into outright anti-Americanism.
Tensions continued to grow. A critical mass had been reached, with most of the immigrants regarding themselves as a separate entity within the U.S. - linked to and part of Mexico itself, but under foreign domination. An annexation movement began to arise. Army troops on both sides began to mobilize and patrol the border. American citizens viewed the radicalization of the south with increasing fear.
Long, drawn-out political battles ensued between Washington and Mexico City. Both sides made it clear that neither desired war. It also became clear that the Mexican president - in effect - was negotiating on behalf of American citizens of Mexican origin within the United States. The recognition of a distinct nation living within the U.S. appeared inevitable, with no chance of return to the status quo.
By the early 2080s, following years of negotiations, the matter was finally settled. The country of Mexico had been expanded to include California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas: effectively reclaiming its 19th century territory.
Global Currency Adopted
By now, the vast majority of countries have adopted a single, global currency. The U.S. is among the last developed nations to do so. International business is now fairer, more efficient and more stable. Problems with inflation which had plagued some economies in the past are eliminated. The poor are no longer being hurt by the impacts of currency fluctuations.
All but the most impoverished societies are now cashless. For the typical citizen of today, transactions take place without the need for physical coinage, notes or cards, instead being achieved by on-person nanotech. A large portion of the world’s GDP now comes from goods and services produced entirely online, often within highly sophisticated virtual environments. Full immersion VR is impacting real world commerce, as more and more people become willing to utilize the necessary bio-implants.
Many people today invest more time and money in their virtual home than they do in their actual, physical home. This is especially true of those living in China, India and Japan - where cities are so dense, overcrowded and expensive that many residents are forced to live in pod-like structures, cubicles or shared rooms. The online world offers a welcome escape from this stressful way of life. Indistinguishable from reality, a person’s virtual home can appear as a gigantic mansion, in exotic and beautiful surroundings, decorated in whatever style the occupant desires, with many luxurious items of furniture. Being entirely digital, these can be bought for a fraction of the cost of their real world counterparts.
Deadly Heatwaves Plague Europe; Traditional Agriculture is Decimated
Heatwaves greater than that seen in 2003 have become annual occurrences by this time.
In the peak of summer, temperatures in major cities such as London and Paris reach over 40 degrees C. In some of the more southerly parts of the continent, temperatures of over 50 degrees C are reported. Thousands are dying of heat exhaustion.
Forest fires rage in many places while prolonged, ongoing droughts are causing rivers to run permanently dry. Spain, Italy and the Balkans are turning into desert nations, with climates similar to North Africa.
This period effectively marks the end of traditional agriculture for many EU countries, and sees the establishment of whole new farming systems based on carefully controlled indoor environments. In the short term, this causes tremendous social and economic disruption, but in the long term is conducive to the betterment of humanity.
Practical Flying Cars are Widespread
Anti-gravity propulsion has been under development for almost a century now. Initially, seen in military applications, it eventually found it’s way to the consumer market. Advances in AI, room temperature superconductors, micro jets and collision avoidance systems have led to the dawn of a new era in personal transportation. By the end of this decade, it is not uncommon to see “flying cars” moving through cities.
In fact, these are light duty vehicles based on earlier model military VTOL (Vertical Take-off And Landing) craft, but with slimmed down functionality and costs. They come in a variety of styles, but are typically around 12 feet wide, and limited to a maximum of one or two passengers. By the 2080s, they are becoming cheap, safe and numerous enough to be regarded as a mainstream form of transport.
The craft have a number of advantages over established forms of mobility. Since they float above the ground, they can access terrain and environments that would easily defeat traditional automobiles. This makes them popular with adventurers and explorers.
They are also substantially faster than normal cars, able to reach several hundred miles per hour if necessary. They are more versatile and maneuverable than aircraft and can utilize a much greater volume of airspace. Since the traffic they generate is decentralized and there is so much available airspace, this makes them safer than both cars and airplanes. Collisions are almost unheard of, in any case, due to the onboard software and AI. In addition, they use considerably less fuel than earlier forms of transport and require less maintenance.
Some of the more expensive models are capable of reaching low Earth for short periods. Others feature striking designs, often personalized by their owner - such as holographic decals and other accessories. These craft are being used by many businesses too (especially for rapid delivery of goods), as well as police and ambulance crews.
Further developments in anti-gravity will lead to bigger, more sophisticated versions - including recreational vehicles serving as truly mobile homes. Many previously inaccessible parts of Earth will become inhabited thanks to this, such as mountains and remote islands.
Some Humans Are More Non-Biological Than Biological
By 2080, the average person has access to a wide array of biotechnology implants and personal medical devices. These include fully artificial organs that never fail, bionic eyes and ears providing Superman-like senses, nanoscale brain interfaces which greatly augment the wearer’s intelligence, synthetic blood and bodily fluids which can filter deadly toxins and provide hours’ worth of oxygen in a single breath.
Some of the more adventurous citizens are undergoing voluntary amputations to gain prosthetic arms and legs which boost strength and agility by orders of magnitude. There is even a form of artificial skin based on nanotech (which gives the appearance of natural skin when applied to metallic limbs).
These upgrades have become available in a series of gradual, incremental steps over preceding decades - such that today, they are pretty much taken for granted. They are now being utilized by a wide sector of society, with even those in developing countries having access to at least some of the upgrades due to exponential trends in price performance.
If a fully upgraded person of the 2080s traveled back in time a century and be integrated into the population, they would be superior in every way imaginable. They could run faster than the greatest athletes of the time, leaping and bounding tremendous distances; they could survive multiple gunshot wounds; they could cope with some of the most hostile environments on Earth without to much trouble. Intellectually, they would put the likes of Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare to shame - thanks to hyper fast AI merged directly with the brain.
Due to Moore’s law, $1,000 of computing power is now equivalent to a billion Earth’s worth of human brains. Laptop-sized computers of today can perform the equivalent of all human thought over the last ten thousand years in ten microseconds. Technology is progressing so fast that - in order for people to comprehend it - neural upgrades have become necessary on a regular basis.
Androids Are Entering Law Enforcement
Fully autonomous, mobile robots with human-like features and expressions are being deployed in many cities now. These androids are highly intelligent - able to operate in almost any environment and dealing with a range of duties. In addition to their powerful sensory and communication abilities, they have access to bank accounts, tax, travel, shopping and criminal records, allowing them to instantly identify people on the street.
The presence of these machines is freeing-up a tremendous amount of time for human officers. They are also being used in crowd control and riot situations. With its inhuman strength and speed, a single android is highly intimidating and can easily take on dozens of people if necessary. Special controls are features in their programming, however, to prevent the use of excessive force.
Macro-scale Teleportation is Achieved
Recent experiments in quantum entanglement - made possible by AI and picotechnology - have yielded major breakthroughs. It is now possible to teleport macro-scale objects from one location to another. The objects being tested are still very small (I.e. grains of sand), but are nevertheless visible to the naked eye, and retain their original structure following the procedure.
Unmanned Probes to Sedna
Sedna is a trans-Neptunian “dwarf planet”, similar in size and composition to Pluto. Discovered in 2003, it became the most distant object yet observed in the Solar System, and the largest solar body to be found in over 70 years. Its orbit is highly elliptical, going from 76 AU to about 975 AU over the course of 12,000 years. In 2076, it reaches perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) and a number of unmanned probes are sent to explore it.
Total Solar Eclipse in New York
A rare total solar eclipse takes place in New York in 2079.
Polar Bears Face Extinction
Between 2000 and 2050, polar bear numbers dropped by 70%, due to the shrinking ice sheets caused by global warming. By 2080, they have disappeared from Greenland entirely - and from the northern Canadian coast - leaving only dwindling numbers in the interior Arctic archipelago.
Of the few remaining, ice breaking up earlier in the year means they are forced ashore before they have time to build up sufficient fat stores. Others are forced to swim huge distances, which exhausts them, leading to drowning. The effects of global warming have led to thinner, stressed bears, decreased reproduction, and lower juvenile survival rates.
One In Five Lizard Species Extinct
The ongoing mass extinction is beginning to claim many exotic and well-known lizards. One in five species are now extinct as a result of global warming. Lizards are forced to spend more and more time resting and regulating their body temperature, which leaves them insufficient time to forage for food.
“One mustn’t dream of one’s future, one must earn it.” - Carlos Ruiz Zafon