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2049

Robots are a common feature of homes and workplaces

Robots are now widspread in mainstream society, appearing in a wide variety of forms and functions.* Androids are especially popular among the elderly, widowed and those who are disabled or incapacitated – in which role they serve as companions, guides and carers. They are also popular amongst 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 2050 2040 future technology

 

Sports enthusiasts are making use of robots – as running partners, for example, on squash and tennis courts, and in certain fighting/fencing games where they can simulate world-class players. Countries such as Japan and Korea have even started broadcasting their own "Robot Olympics", attracting millions of viewers.*

The cheapest android models are available for less than $1,000 now, and are stocked by many high street retailers – including hardware stores, department stores and electronics shops. Some of the more advanced models feature lifelike skin, hair, eyes, lip movement and other features. All of the personal information required to cater for their "owner" is pre-programmed into the android's brain.

Government legislation regarding these machines is complicated – and requires years to be fully implemented – but in every country, without exception, the machines adhere to three basic laws. These were postulated almost a century earlier by the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by humans, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

In urban locations, robots are usually powered by wireless energy transfer. In more remote outdoor environments they can utilise internal super-batteries and photovoltaic polymers coated on their bodies. Piezoelectric meshes in their skins – which generate small amounts of electricity through movement – provide a tertiary source of power.

Factories and warehouses in the developed world now have operations run entirely by robots – which can navigate through aisles and shelves, identify products and load them onto delivery vans with little or no human intervention (and at speeds and efficiencies which far outpace the latter). Even most delivery trucks are now automated, thanks to advanced AI and road traffic systems, with robots unloading goods when the vehicle has reached its destination.

One particular fad at the moment is for robot cats, dogs and other domestic pets with highly realistic movements and behaviour, often indistinguishable from the real thing. These have a number of advantages – such as never getting sick or dying, never requiring food or water, never scratching or biting their owners, and never leaving a mess around the home. Certain species of tropical fish are also popular in robot form, especially those which have recently become extinct. In museums and outdoor exhibitions, breathtaking recreations of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life are now on display.

 

goldfish cat robotic pets 2050 future
© Fesus Robert | Dreamstime.com

 

Robots are now present in many corporate environments – from wheeled models which distribute post, to those in reception-based roles which meet and greet visitors and assist with queries, to more advanced models capable of handling security and maintaining facilities.

In hospitals, delicate procedures involving nanotechnology devices are given over exclusively to robot machinery, capable of far greater precision than human hands.

Agriculture and food production is heavily reliant on robots. With much of the world's arable land turning to desert, hydroponic "vertical farms" are a common feature of urban centres. These carefully controlled environments are tended by robots and automated systems, often requiring the analytical skills of machines rather than humans.

The physical side of military operations is handled extensively by robots now – on land, in the air, and at sea. Formidable humanoid machines equipped with a plethora of devastating firepower are sent deep into enemy lines, left to operate autonomously for months at a time if necessary, and serving in a wide variety of roles: from solitary patrol and scouting missions, to offensive strikes involving many machines working in unison. Human enemies stand little to no chance against this kind of onslaught, which is giving developed nations an overwhelming advantage over terrorist renegades.

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.

 

 

The Dead Sea is drying up

The Dead Sea is a unique geological feature. Located between Israel and Jordan, it is the lowest point on Earth. With an extremely high content of mineral salts (20%), over six times greater than any ocean, it is completely devoid of life, except for extremophile bacteria. The salts are so concentrated that swimmers can float like corks, without using 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 2040s, however, the sea has almost vanished. Its main supply of water – the River Jordan to the north – has seen extensive diversions 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 nearby Red Sea.*

 

dead sea evaporation rate 2050

 

 

The effects of heat stress on labour capacity have doubled

In the early years of the 21st century, peak summer months of heat stress were cutting human labour capacity to around 90 percent of its full potential. 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 has occurred despite heavy reductions in man-made CO2 emissions.

Although robots are now handling many human roles, it nevertheless remains 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 excess heat and humidity, with people forced to spend more and more time indoors. This has boosted the appeal of virtual reality to replace the physical world.

 

heat stress 2049 global warming timeline 2050 future
Credit: U.S. Army

 

 

The Fukushima disaster is cleaned up

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a catastrophic failure at a Japanese nuclear power station on 11th March 2011,* resulting in a meltdown of three of the plant's six nuclear reactors. It occurred when the plant was struck by a tsunami triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake. Substantial amounts of radioactive materials began to leak, creating the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 and the second (after Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Although no short term radiation exposure fatalities were reported, some 300,000 people were forced to evacuate the area, nearly 16,000 died in the earthquake and tsunami, and 1,600 deaths resulted from evacuation conditions, such as living in temporary housing and hospital closures. The disaster prompted some countries to re-evaluate their policies on nuclear energy. Germany and Switzerland, for example, abandoned this technology altogether, shutting down their last remaining plants in 2022 and 2034, respectively.

In the wake of the plant meltdowns, a huge cleanup and decommissioning process was initiated. This presented enormous challenges, with massive amounts of radioactive water spilling out – some finding its way into the Pacific (along with debris*) and even reaching as far as the U.S. West Coast.* Methods used to contain this water included a frozen underground barrier, with coolant fed into pipes at -30°C (-22°F). Robots were required in some parts of the facility, as radiation levels were often too high for humans. In 2014, it was estimated that sealing every reactor off would cost tens of billions of dollars, taking 30-40 years. Sure enough, by the end of the 2040s, this operation is finally reaching its conclusion.*

 

fukushima disaster timeline

 

 

 
   
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References

1 Robots, Boston.com:
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/03/robots.html
Accessed 10th May 2009.

2 Forecast: Sex and Marriage With Robots by 2050, Fox News:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,301717,00.html
Accessed 4th October 2009.

3 Humans to have robot lovers by 2050, TimesOnline.co.uk
http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article3645114.ece
Accessed 9th May 2009.

4 Robotics, YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAxi38FE8xo
Accessed 30th December 2009.

5 Dead Sea may dry out completely by 2050, The Times of India:
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/global-warming/Dead-Sea-may-dry-out-completely-by-2050-/articleshow/5268324.cms
Accessed 9th October 2010.

6 New NOAA study estimates future loss of labor capacity as climate warms, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/20130225_laborandclimate.html
Accessed 3rd March 2013.

7 See 2011.

8 Trash talk, or charting marine debris, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa:
http://manoa.hawaii.edu/media/campustalk/trash-talk-charting-marine-debris/
Accessed 14th July 2014.

9 Japan Fukushima Radiation Reaching West Coast?, Guardian Liberty Voice:
http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/japan-fukushima-radiation-reaching-west-coast/
Accessed 14th July 2014.

10 "Obviously, it's difficult to say for sure how many years it's going to take … at the moment we're talking about 30 or 40 years."
See Doubts over ice wall to keep Fukushima safe from damaged nuclear reactors, The Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/13/doubts-giant-ice-wall-fukushima-nuclear-reactors
Accessed 14th July 2014.

 

 
     
 
 
 
 

 


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