are becoming intimately merged with machines
fields, the pace of technology has become so fast that humans can no
longer comprehend it without augmenting their own intelligence. This
is particularly true of computing, nanotechnology, medicine and neuroscience, all of which have seen exponential progress.*
home PC of today has an integrated AI equivalent to over a billion
human brains.* This machine can think
for itself, communicate with its user and suggest new ideas in ways
that surpass even the greatest minds on Earth. Due to the flood of data
being exchanged on the Internet and elsewhere, these computers receive
literally millions of emails and other communications each day.
way for a user to interpret this avalanche of information is to merge
their consciousness with that of the machine. A growing segment of society is
now turning to on-person hardware to achieve this. The most advanced
method involves the use of microscopic, wireless, implantable devices
linking neural activity directly to electronic circuitry. These "nanobots"
have already been used in full
immersion VR and medical
procedures. The latest versions are capable of marrying AI with
human intelligence in ways that combine the best aspects of both. No monitor
or projector of any kind is required for the latest generation of computers.
The nanobots can instead produce a virtual image of the screen which is
augmented in the user's field of vision.
system is controlled by their thoughts – and those of the AI – running
at speeds vastly greater than a real time physical version would allow.
Many individual actions can be performed at once,
thanks to robust wireless connections between the nanobots and neurons.
a user's entire sensory experience can be instantly shifted to full
immersion virtual reality. This is a popular choice for gaming and entertainment,
but also has many practical applications in the world of business. Meetings
and conferences can be hastily scheduled between vast numbers of participants
from around the globe – with barely a few second's notice
– often lasting only a few seconds in duration. Communicating at this
speed is not possible using conventional means, creating
a significant divide between those who have the technology and those without.
people, nanobot implants are becoming permanent and essential – rather
than temporary and optional – due to the sheer speed and level
of information now being encountered in day-to-day situations together
with the explosive growth of AI. Military personnel, scientists and
medical staff were among the first to take advantage of them, but mainstream
society is now following.
are merging with machines in various other ways, too. Nanobots can boost
immune systems, for example, helping to exterminate pathogens. They
can also regulate blood pressure, or repair some of the damage caused
by the aging process, or accelerate the healing of wounds. Cybernetic
organs are now available that almost never fail and can filter deadly
poisons. Brain-computer interfaces are increasingly used in middle class
homes to open doors, control lighting and operate everyday appliances.
extreme cases of enhancement involve people opting for decentralised circulatory systems, as well as a form of synthetic blood, reducing
physical vulnerability still further. This particular option is only available to the wealthy at this stage, as it involves a highly complicated procedure
that radically alters their internal anatomy. The end result is that
a person can survive multiple gunshot wounds and other internal damage relatively
easily. Politicians and a number of famous celebrities are taking advantage of this. It is also popular with gangsters and career criminals. The line
between man and machine is starting to blur. Later this century, there
will no longer be a clear distinction.
Homosexual discrimination has declined substantially
In 1800, more than 120 countries had laws against homosexuality. This number increased over the next century, peaking at 160 in the 1920s.* The mid- to late-20th century saw great progress in human rights, culminating in the first gay marriages during the early 2000s.*
With the floodgates now opened, many more nations began to allow same-sex couples to form civil partnerships, or full marriages, including the United States.* This trend was reinforced by the continued spread of democracy and the rule of law,* better education and rapid societal changes wrought by the Internet and social media. Younger generations in particular were more open, liberal and willing to support such policies.**
By the 2040s, more than half of the world's countries allow same-sex marriage, while the overwhelming majority have decriminalised homosexuality. Only a handful of hard-line, authoritarian regimes – mostly in Africa and the Middle East – continue to outlaw the practice.
Air accident fatalities have been eliminated
Recent decades have seen an explosion in the level of computer control in vehicles of all types, greatly reducing the need for human involvement.* This includes the aviation industry, which has become highly automated.** Although manned crews may still be present, their roles are limited and supervisory, with only minimal if any need for intervention during the flight process. On the ground, airport infrastructure and navigation systems have seen major overhauls, leading to vastly improved traffic management and safety.*
Revolutionary new materials (such as graphene) – in combination with self-healing, nano-sensors and other systems embedded throughout the wings and body – have largely eliminated the structural failure issues that plagued earlier generations. Most aircraft now run on purely electric systems, without the need for dangerous and combustible liquid fuels.*
Hijacking and violent incidents, meanwhile, are now practically impossible, due to the sheer level of surveillance and security in place. Quantum encryption has made hacking of navigation systems difficult if not impossible.
Consequently, air crashes involving passenger deaths in large commercial aircraft are now almost unheard of in the news.** The age-old phobia of flying will soon become a thing of the past. In addition to safety, the rise of computer intelligence in aircraft design is leading to improvements in overall comfort experienced by travellers.*
The Chūō Shinkansen high speed maglev route is complete
Tokyo and Osaka are now connected by a direct high-speed maglev route – the Chūō Shinkansen. This megaproject began construction in 2014, at a cost of over 9 trillion yen ($115bn). By 2027, the first trains were running between Tokyo and Nagoya,* and by 2045 the route has been extended to Osaka,** with trains travelling beneath the Japanese Alps (Akaishi Mountains). The first generation of these vehicles reached 313 mph (505 km/h), but newer and even faster designs are now in use.
Coast cities are being abandoned due to super hurricanes
The rapid growth of CO2 emissions has led to rising sea levels, a warming
of coastal waters and a more volatile climate system. In the Gulf of
Mexico, a new category of "super hurricane" has emerged. This
is becoming a regular occurrence by now. These extreme
weather events are nightmarish in scale and intensity. At their peak,
winds of 200mph bring untold devastation. Trees are uprooted and hurled
like matchsticks, while skyscrapers visibly sway. Storm surges
and flash floods travel up rivers with surreal speed, overwhelming
defences and bringing waves tens of metres high. Damage from these and various other disasters has run into hundreds of billions of dollars. A number of Gulf coast cities are being permanently abandoned during this time, including Houston and New Orleans.**
Apollo 12's third stage returns to Earth
In November 1969, the Apollo 12 Saturn V blasted off towards the Moon. This rocket consisted of a three-stage launching system. While the first and second stage dropped back to Earth after launch, the third stage (S-IVB) was used to propel the docked Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module into a lunar trajectory.
In 2002, amateur astronomer Bill Yeung discovered what appeared to be a 30-metre (100 ft) asteroid in orbit around the Earth. Initially, it was believed to be a second natural satellite of Earth (the Moon being the first). However, later measurements of the electromagnetic spectrum were consistent with titanium dioxide paint used for the Saturn V rockets. Back-tracing its orbit showed that the object had been orbiting the Sun for 31 years and had last been near Earth's vicinity in 1971. This seemed to suggest it was part of Apollo 14, but NASA knew the whereabouts of all hardware used for that mission – the third stage, for instance, was deliberately crashed into the Moon for seismic studies.
Another explanation emerged that it could be the S-IVB third stage for Apollo 12. NASA had originally planned to dump this spent component into a solar orbit, but an extra-long burn of the ullage motors meant the remaining propellant could not provide enough energy to escape the Earth–Moon system. Instead, this stage ended up in a highly erratic orbit around the Earth, after passing by the Moon.
Sure enough, this antique space junk, with an empty weight of 9,600 kg (20,000 pounds), would return to Earth during the mid-2040s, after drifting for over 75 years.* Objects with similar mass tend to impact Earth's surface about once every 10 years.
extinctions of animal and plant life
end of this decade, many well-known animal species are going extinct,
or have declined in such numbers that only those in captivity
are now remaining.
eastern coast of Australia one of the world's greatest natural
wonders – the Great Barrier Reef – has been almost completely destroyed, with less than 2% of coral remaining.* Rising levels of greenhouse gases have made the water too acidic for
calcium-based organisms to grow.* Dumping of dredged sediment to help create the world's largest coal port has caused further damage.* Most
of the colourful fish for which the reef is famous have also disappeared.
On land, 50% of the continent's 400 butterfly species have
died out, as well as numerous reptiles including Boyd's forest dragon, a rare and colourful lizard.
an astonishing 50% of amphibians have disappeared due to pollution,
disease and loss of habitat including many previously common species of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and
caecilians.* More than 20% of bird species have been lost, and around 15% of plants.
Africa's Kruger national park, a major conservation area, nearly 60%
of the species under its protection have been lost. In the same region,
35% of proteaceae flowering plants have disappeared including the country's national flower, the King Protea.*
America, nearly half of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed, with
more than 2,000 native tree species becoming extinct.
nearly 30% of animal species are either extinct, or critically endangered.
Asia, the Indian elephant is on the brink of extinction. Once a common
sight in this part of the world, it has declined in huge numbers due
to poaching for the ivory of its tusks, loss of habitat, and human conflict.
Arctic, nearly 70% of polar bears have disappeared due to the shrinking
of summer ice caused by global warming. By 2080 they will disappear
from Greenland entirely, and from the northern Canadian coast, leaving
only dwindling numbers in the interior Arctic archipelago.
well-known species of fish, bird and mammal become critically endangered
around this time.
is often referred to as the Holocene extinction event. As a
direct result of human influences, the rate of species extinctions this
century is between 100 and 1000 times the natural "background"
or average extinction rates in the evolutionary time scale of Earth.
Credit: Elisei Shafer