Day 601: The Thousand-Word Fortune Cookie

originally published August 23, 2013

The reaction to yesterday’s article, which outlined future planetary events over the next couple centuries, was overwhelming. “It changed the way I see the world,” said one fan that I made up. “So much information in such a callipygian space!” said another, who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘callipygian’ (it means well-proportioned buttocks).

But the question that was asked most often – I’d like to say by curious fans, but truthfully just by myself during the commercials of a M*A*S*H rerun last night – was what about our lives? Sure, maybe Venus will eclipse Jupiter in 2123, but certainly there must me more I can find out about life on this planet during the short window I’ll get to see.

Well, good news. With 400 articles yet to be slapped upon the giant refrigerator of this project, I have grabbed my next magnet and selected a good mix of forecasts about life on earth to form the basis of today’s entry. Let’s see what we can expect over the next fifty or so years.

I hope it’s all good news.

For starters, there are going to be a lot of us. We just passed the post of seven billion souls (and a handful of soulless folks) on this planet, and in the next 12-13 years we’ll hit eight. Nine billion in the early 40’s, and the United Nations is confident we’ll be bursting at the seams with ten billion people by 2083. I suppose the upswing to global warming is that the toastier temperatures should make the real estate in Greenland a lot more valuable – that’ll take some of the crowd-burden off the rest of us.

Of course the real drag is that this new swarm of people will be showing up for the long haul. The World Resources Institute figures that by 2045 the global life expectancy for a newborn child will be 75 years. That’s about standard in this spoiled corner of the world, pampered with such luxuries as a quality health system and clean drinking water. But for the world to hit that average, that’ll be pretty impressive. British author Ray Hammond believes that babies born in the developed world in 2030 (so my grandkids) should count on 130 years on this green rock. So they’ll get to live a long healthy life after Venus eclipses Jupiter. Lucky little shits.

It’s time for the downer portion of the article – yes, the environment. We’ll start out with Arctic shrinkage. A number of reputable and depressing sources state that the Arctic will be completely free of ice in the summer before 2100, maybe even as early as 2016. That’s right, the Jet-ski you bought last week will still be in good-as-new condition when you’re ready to skirt across the waves in search of Santa’s palace in three years.

Ted Scambos of the National Ice and Snow Center believes the Arctic might be ice-free all year by 2020. Let that prediction twist a sticky little knot in your gut-region.

The Great Barrier Reef, which is already taking annual kicks to its hypothetical nads every year due to climate change, may drop down below 10% coral cover by the end of this century. And don’t even get me started on peak oil… at least a few experts agree we have reached the peak of oil production, and we’re just riding that final flume straight down to the pit of dry reserves.

But perk up! We’ve still got space-based solar power to look forward to. The International Academy of Astronautics has proclaimed that the ability to collect solar power on  a satellite (no atmosphere and no nighttime to slow down collection up there), then beam it to earth via microwaves should be commercially viable by 2040. Biofuels and alternative energy sources are going to continue to be a big thing, so there is a chance that running out of oil will not turn our country into a Road Warrior-type environment.

TechCast claims that 30% of new cards will by hybrids by 2019. GM says by 2018 they’ll have self-driving cars on the market, and that same Ray Hammond who thinks my grandkids will be able to watch more than a century of Super Bowls believes that all cars on major roads will be controlled by satellite systems by 2030. I wouldn’t mind this for long highway drives, but I’d rather keep my hands on the wheel in the city.

Although, drinking and driving concerns would plummet if cars had a take-me-home feature built-in.

Of course if the world ends up too crowded, too regulated or too overrun with watery meltiness, you can always look for an escape. Arthur C. Clarke figures we’ll have direct inputs to the brain that will provide virtual reality by 2025. This may be the next big thing – we all learned to annoy one another with cat gifs and Viagra ads through the internet, so it’s logical that the next big thing brings us even deeper into the virtual world.

Author and Director of Engineering for Google Ray Kurzweil is confident that by 2030, virtual reality will allow for “any type of interaction” with anyone, regardless of where on the planet they might be. You know what that means… long-distance boning. This is the way of the future, and the future looks good.

And the concept of ‘long-distance’ may have a new meaning by then. NASA figures they’ll be back on the moon, and even starting up a colony there by 2020. Russia plans to have a base up there by 2030. If Arthur C. Clarke is to be believed – and I’ll go with his virtual reality plans before I buy into this one – there should be a human slapping his or her boot-soles onto Mars by 2021, and we may even have near-light-speed travel before the century is out.

It all sounds very optimistic.

Unless you bring up the robots.

The United States Department of Defense stated in 2006 that they anticipate a full third of America’s fighting strength will be robots by 2015. That year is almost here, and I’m not sure that’s looking any more realistic than the myriad of 2015 predictions that Back To The Future II got wrong. But robots could be performing surgery by 2017, and most manual jobs by 2030.

Rosie, the wise-cracking robot maid from The Jetsons may become a reality by 2019, which would be awesome. Apologies to the Roomba, but we aren’t quite where we need to be in this field. Then come the nanobots, which will change the landscape of modern medicine as we know it, quite possibly by the end of this decade.

All in all, I’m optimistic about the future. I have to be – to behave otherwise would drag me down and render the next 399 articles tedious and morose. No, I keep my focus on the good things in life: the delicious beer in my fridge, the happy thought that quality virtual reality in the next decade or so might at least allow me to pretend I have an actual flying car… and of course my lovely wife’s callipygian assets.

Yes, the future is good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s