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2050

Humanity is at a crossroads

The world of 2050 is a world of contrasts and paradoxes. On the one hand, science and technology have continued to advance in response to emerging crises, challenges and opportunities. This has created radical transformations in genetics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and related fields. On the other hand, many of these same technologies have been so disruptive that it has led to a more frightening, unpredictable and chaotic world than ever before. Humanity is now at a crossroads that will determine its future path for centuries to come – survival or destruction, prosperity or collapse.

Some of the most cherished political, economic and social structures have been turned on their heads. In a sense, capitalism remains the dominant economic model, but is now evolving drastically in response to ecological impacts,* resource scarcity,* demographic trends,* technology* and a host of other factors.* The endless consumer culture that was prevalent throughout the first world has all but collapsed, replaced by a societal need to conserve.* Though there are still many wealthy people around, money is concentrated in a shrinking upper class. By 2050, "traditional" free market capitalism is largely viewed as a broken system.***

As more and more wealth trickles upwards to the hyper-rich elite, there is a growing consensus that money itself – the profit motive – is a major obstacle to future progress, and a new driving force may be required for civilisation to flourish. Debates are raging on what reforms to make in order to adapt societies to this rapidly changing world. People everywhere sense that a great transition is approaching, the likes of which has never been seen before in all of human history.* It is clear that some new global paradigm will appear; but it is still unclear what this will be.

 

2050 technology singularity timeline the law of disruption

 

Decades of stagflation have produced a fragmented, chaotic and perpetually sluggish global economy. Nearly half of the world's nations have "junk" credit ratings, effectively making them bankrupt.* US national debt has now reached almost 400% of GDP,* far exceeding even the levels seen during World War II. China and India, though surpassing the US in overall GDP,* have also stagnated.

In the face of economic catastrophe, international politics has faced enormous challenges. Although the number of democratic countries has risen significantly over the years,* many have turned inward, cutting off foreign relations. Revolutions, wars and failed states have produced a strikingly different geopolitical map than seen at the beginning of the century. To repair and maintain the fabric of society, an increasing number of regions have abandoned their national currencies in favour of interest-free, non-fiat, non-inflationary local ones.* Decentralised cash systems such as the Bitcoin* and other electronic alternatives have also exploded in use.

Social systems are under extraordinary stress today. The younger generations are increasingly resentful towards the elderly – seeing them as the cause of many problems, and a drain on capital as the ratio of workers to seniors continues to fall.** The rich and poor have continued to grow apart, now that upward social mobility has become next to impossible. Massive protests outside corporate HQs and gated communities are a daily reality on the news. Global warming has created almost 150 million climate refugees: a sixfold increase compared to 2010.* The influx of people to foreign lands has put a further strain on economies. Resentment towards migrants has produced an upsurge in nationalism with many isolationist parties sweeping government elections. To maintain order and stability, martial law and military occupation is a feature of many cities around the globe. Radical new political parties and movements have emerged, advocating the overthrow of the reigning system.

Recycling and waste management – for decades neglected by many countries* – are among the issues now taking centre stage.* New regulations and market pressures have forced corporations to move away from the model of planned obsolescence** and mass production, to one of conservation and responsibility. Most firms no longer sell entirely new models of their products when technological advances are made. Instead, replacement components and upgrades form the bulk of profits, with items made of universally interchangeable parts. In a world of increasing resource conflicts, "doing more with less" has become an essential mantra.* A system is also employed whereby customers return products at the end of their life cycle, to be used as materials for the next generation. In some of the worst-hit countries, mandatory resource dumps are organised, in which citizens are obligated to recycle any unnecessary possessions. Naturally such systems are highly controversial and intrusive.

Meanwhile, the widespread use of robots,* automation,* 3D printing* and other technology has rendered obsolete many traditional human roles. Though industries have made vast improvements in speed and efficiency, it has come at the expense of a declining labour force. Consequently, overall government revenues have seen a net reduction.

 

2050 technology future predictions timeline singularity robots humanity

 

Radical Islam and its resentment of the West continue to produce new Jihadists. In addition, underground groups ranging from those angry at the first world's neglect, to anarcho-primitivists, have sprung up. By 2050, at least one terrorist nuclear attack on a major world city has been conducted by one of these groups. Large amounts of nuclear material had been missing from Russia since the 1990s and some inevitably fell into the wrong hands.* Being orders of magnitude greater than 9/11, the effects of this attack leave a deep psychological scar on many people alive today, fuelling much paranoia and suspicion between nations.

Despite this turmoil, progress has been achieved in cooperating on certain key issues, such as global warming. Carbon emissions have fallen substantially compared with 1990 levels,* thanks to a global carbon tax* and the widespread deployment of solar, wind and wave power,* together with 4th generation nuclear.* Fossil fuel reserves were declining in any case.** Fusion power is also becoming available now* and is being adopted by some of the leading nations. Orbital solar is another emerging industry.* Energy efficiency and conservation have provided further reductions in CO2 output.

However, carbon emissions from earlier decades remain locked into the system. This delayed reaction will continue to affect weather patterns and climate stability,* as will the ongoing destruction of the Earth's rainforests, some of which are transitioning from carbon sinks to carbon sources. Sea levels have risen over a foot by now* and are beginning to affect much of the world's coastal real estate. Large-scale carbon capture and sequestration** appears to be humanity's last and only hope of reversing these trends.

 

2050 global warming predictions timeline

 

 

Nearly half of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested

Lack of enforcement in the so-called protected areas has resulted in the Amazon undergoing a catastrophic decline. Though army troops were sent into regions of illegal deforestation, their numbers were simply too small, and the Amazon too vast, to have sufficient impact. Political corruption also played a role in undermining protection efforts. Droughts caused by global warming have further contributed to the decline, with many areas of jungle being turned into parched scrubland. By 2050, nearly 2.7 million sq km have been deforested.*

 

amazon rainforest 2050 map

 

As a result, over 30 billion tons of carbon have been added to the atmosphere. Although clean energy sources are offsetting this, it can't save the countless species of plant and animal life dependent on the rainforest for survival. Substantial amounts of biodiversity have been lost. Desperate efforts are being made by non-profit organisations to obtain DNA samples, in the hope of resurrecting these species at some point in the future.

 

red eyed tree frog 2050
Above: A red-eyed tree frog

 

 

Wildfires have tripled in some regions

Rising global temperatures are creating drier conditions for vegetation – producing larger and more frequent wildfires. In North America, the geographic area typically burned has increased by an average of 50%. Worst hit are the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains, which have seen a tripling of areas affected.*

With so much extra burning, air quality and visibility in the western United States is being significantly altered. There has been a 40% rise in organic carbon aerosols and other smoke particles. These irritate the lungs, but are especially dangerous to people who have trouble breathing as a result of asthma and other chronic conditions. Southern Europe is also badly affected – especially Greece, which has been ravaged in recent decades.*

These wildfires are triggering positive feedback loops. As more and more carbon is liberated from burning material and released into the atmosphere, this is further accelerating the pace of global warming.

 

wildfires 2050 forest fires global warming climate change future

 

 

Traditional wine industries have been severely altered by climate change

By 2050, many of the world's most famous wine-producing areas have been rendered unsuitable for traditional grape growing and winemaking, with climate change having severely impacted land use, agricultural production and species ranges. The area suitable for wine production has declined by almost 85 per cent in some regions. California, Mexico, the eastern USA, Southern Europe, South Africa and Australia are particularly affected.**

In response to the crisis, many traditional vineyards have shifted to higher elevations with cooler conditions – putting pressure on upland ecosystems, as water and vegetation are converted for human use. Others have made use of genetic engineering, or indoor growing methods such as vertical farming. Geoengineering efforts are also getting underway, but have yet to be successful on a global basis.*

Although many regions have been devastated, others have actually benefited. This is particularly noticeable in the Rocky Mountains near the Canadian-US border, the westernmost parts of Russia, and Europe which has seen a massive shift northward in the areas suitable.

 

Click to view larger version

climate change wine industry 2050 map
Credit: Conservation International

 

 

Fish body size has declined by nearly a quarter

By far the greatest impact from global warming has been in the seas and oceans,* where changes in heat content, oxygen levels and other biogeochemical properties have devastated marine ecosystems. Globally, the average body size of fish has declined by up to 24 per cent compared with 2000.* About half of this shrinkage has come from changes in distribution and abundance, the remainder from changes in physiology. The tropics have been the worst affected regions.

 

fish body size decline 2050 global warming climate change

 

 

Hi-tech, intelligent buildings are revolutionising the urban landscape

In the first half of the 21st century, a soaring urban population posed serious problems for the environment, health and infrastructure of many cities. In newly industrialised nations especially, urban centres became polluted, overcrowded and chronically inefficient. Throughout the world, metropolitan areas grew to unprecedented sizes – putting huge and increasing pressure on city planners to adapt.*

 

future buildings 2050 technology timeline global warming environment climate change

 

Amid worsening climate change and resource depletion, urban regions were forced to either evolve, or die off. Countless cities failed to make this transition in time, and went the way of Detroit, many being abandoned and left to decay, or subject to intense military control and martial law. In those that survived, a new generation of buildings and infrastructure emerged based on these rapidly changing social and environmental needs.*

Among the most important trends in modern architecture has been self-sufficiency. By 2050, environmental and resource degradation have become so obvious and huge, it has triggered a radical rethink of production and consumption by citizens. As such, many modern skyscrapers now come complete with the internalised creation of food, water and other resources. Farms often comprise multiple floors of a tower – regardless of its purpose – while rain, mist and condensation are constantly trapped and stored. Advanced 3D printers are available locally on site to manufacture everything from household furniture, to personal transportation, to replacement parts for the building itself. Energy is typically provided by photovoltaics and wind turbines. These are often integrated seamlessly into the building design, so as not to harm the aesthetic appeal. Solar power, for instance, can be collected by window panes or special photovoltaic paints applied to outside surfaces.* The efficiencies for solar have been improving steadily for decades.*

Nature features heavily in these structures. Many towers incorporate parks and sky gardens, helping to increase the overall biodiversity of a city, with numerous bird and small animal species finding homes and nesting places. Careful environmental controls ensure that these creatures are protected while not becoming a nuisance for human residents. The outside of buildings are often covered with vegetation, or special membranes, designed to filter pollutants and capture CO2.* Government regulations now require a large percentage of buildings to be fitted in this way, making it a dominant style of architecture today. The artificial parts of this outer layer can also adjust to wind conditions, temperatures, moisture levels and sunlight in order to produce optimal thermal comfort for the human and animal occupants. Algae bio-fuel cells adorning the facade can also absorb CO2 while acting as an additional source of electricity.*

 

future buildings 2050 technology timeline global warming environment climate change

 

Buildings are integrated into the city around them in a number of ways. Fuel restrictions and other factors have led to increasingly socialised transportation. The bottom floors of most towers have dedicated public car share (AI controlled) and bike share facilities, while bus and other mass transit stations are often built into the structures themselves. Pedestrian sky-walkways feature heavily in most modern cities, improving access and permeability of the urban realm, while shielding walkers from the elements. If ornamented with foliage, they can also function as elevated parks and gardens.

Buildings are making cities more comfortable and inviting in various other ways. By tightly controlling a tower's reflectivity, heat absorption and heat balance, for example, planners can significantly reduce the temperatures associated with urban heat island effects. This comes at a time when temperatures in less developed cities are soaring from the combined effects of climate change and urbanisation.*

The average modern building in 2050 is seamlessly integrated into a city's power supply, acting as another node in a city-wide smart grid. Nearly all buildings are able to transmit locally produced energy back into the system. Wireless electricity transfer is also common, with energy beamed invisibly between buildings, which eliminates the need for unsightly poles and cables. AI systems within each building direct its total power consumption, adjusting according to the varying needs of occupants and taking into account even the most minor of details.

Overall, this new smart infrastructure is helping to drastically improve the nature of urban living. Cities following this model are becoming far more liveable, clean, efficient and modernised. Though many regions have collapsed into chaos, others are now leading the way in providing a more sustainable path for humanity.

 

 

 

 

Smaller, safer, hi-tech automobiles

Increased living costs and environmental factors have resulted in smaller, cheaper, more energy-efficient cars. More people than ever before are choosing to live and work alone, while the number of children per couple has also declined, two additional factors which have led to these lighter, more compact vehicles, a large percentage of which carry just one or two passengers.

The vast majority of cars in the developed world are now computer-controlled,* while traffic flow and other road management issues are handled by advanced networks of AI. The resulting fall in congestion has boosted some economies by tens of billions of dollars.

The inherent safety of being controlled by machine, rather than human hands, allows for greater speed of travel: over 100mph in many countries. Even when crashes do occur, which is very rare, built-in safety features and toughened materials (e.g. carbon nanotubes) mean that fatalities are becoming virtually non-existent.

 

future car 2050
A mid-range car of 2050.

 

 

Major advances in air travel comfort

Commercial airliners of 2050 are safer, quieter and cleaner than those of earlier decades. The vast majority are based on some form of renewable energy. In addition, travel times have greatly improved. Hypersonic engines, which entered use in 2033, have seen further development, aided by the rapid growth of artificial intelligence and the resulting advances in computer-automated design evolution. It is now possible to reach anywhere on the planet in under 2.5 hours.

The interiors of most planes are breathtakingly luxurious compared to those of earlier decades. New materials have enabled the use of transparent walls and ceilings, flooding the fuselage with natural light. Seating areas are beautifully spacious and filled with a range of interactive technology.

When flights are running at less than full capacity, any unneeded seats are automatically shuffled to the rear, where they collapse and are hidden from view. The remaining seats are redistributed, rearranging themselves to offer everyone the maximum possible legroom. These seats can also morph to perfectly fit passengers' bodies. They can re-energise travellers with vitamin and antioxidant-enriched air, mood lighting, aromatherapy and acupressure treatments.* In the mid-section of the plane is a hi-tech zone offering a range of activities from virtual golf, to conference facilities and bar/lounge settings.

 

 

 

Continent-wide "supergrids" provide much of the world's energy needs

The need for reliable, clean, cost-effective energy has led to the creation of electrical "supergrids" across much of the world. These allow nations to share power from abundant green sources and distribute it to those regions most in need. By cooperating in this way, it is possible to greatly reduce waste and to optimise power supplies on a continent-wide scale, at all times of the year.

For instance, winter gales in the North Sea can provide a surplus of wind power, which is complemented by the summer winds of Morocco and Egypt. Meanwhile, solar panels in northern Africa generate three times the electricity compared with the same panels in northern Europe, due to much greater intensity of sunlight. Up to 100 GW of power is being supplied from Africa to Europe in this way.* Similar large-scale infrastructure is now in place throughout America, Asia and other parts of the world.

Long distance transmission technology has seen major advances over the decades. Each country is connected to the grid using high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission, instead of traditional alternating current (AC) lines. This results in far greater efficiency, since DC lines have much lower electrical losses over long distances.

 

europe supergrid 2050
Source: DESERTEC Foundation

 

China completes the largest water diversion project in history

The South-North Water Transfer Project – proposed almost a century ago* – is finally completed in China this year* at a cost of over $60 billion.* This becomes the largest project of its kind ever undertaken, stretching thousands of kilometres across the country.

Its main purpose is to divert water from the southern region of China to the dryer north. It is hoped that this will spur economic growth and stability in the more populous northern area, where the per capita share of regional water has declined to near-crisis levels. It consists of an extensive system of tunnels, dams, reservoirs and canals, all connecting and diverting water from China's largest rivers – including the Yangtze, Yellow and Hai River. At its peak capacity, the entire system can move nearly 45 billion cubic metres of water annually.

 

south north water transfer map project china 2050 2052 water rivers

 

First proposed by Mao Zedong in 1952, the project was officially approved in 2002. The first stage of construction, the 717 mile (1,155 km) long eastern route, was completed in 2013. This begins near the mouth of the Yangtze, crosses through the Yellow River and ends at the Beijing-Tianjin Metropolitan area within the Bohai Economic Rim. This brings much-needed water to one of the largest and most high density conurbations in the world. Along with the construction of new tunnels and pumping stations, the Grand Canal was upgraded in order to accommodate the increased flow of water.* Adding to this is the central route, completed in 2014. This brings water from the Danjiangkou and Three Gorges reservoirs, as well as the Han River, north to Beijing and its neighbouring provinces. This totals 787 miles (1,267 km) in length and by 2030 was diverting over 13 billion cubic metres of water annually. The third and final stage to be completed is the 310 mile (500 km) western route. This involved working on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau – from 3,000–5,000m above sea level – and posed major engineering and climatic challenges. This route diverts water from the headwaters of the Yangtze to the parched eastern plateaus.

Like the Three Gorges Dam before it, the South-North Water Transfer Project receives heavy criticism.* In addition to environmental damage through mining, construction and pollution, there are worries about the increased potential of floods in certain areas and droughts in others. Also of concern are the hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes during construction. Meanwhile, other diversion projects in the south have provoked conflicts with neighbouring countries.*

Many doubted that China had enough water to begin with to make the project worthwhile. Indeed, by the 2050s, southern China itself is beginning to feel the effects of melting Himalayan glaciers and drying conditions. As a result, the water diversion project rarely operates at full capacity, primarily acting as a way to evenly distribute water around China, easing tensions between the inland and coastal regions. While of some benefit to China now, in the coming years, even projects of this magnitude will be insufficient to prevent serious water shortages.* Longer term, only desalination will be able to save the country.

 

south north water transfer project china 2050 2052 map
Credit: Bo Song, The Middle Route Project Construction Authority

 


2051

An interstellar radio message arrives at Gliese 777

The Yevpatoria RT-70, located at the Center for Deep Space Communications in Ukraine, was among the largest radio telescopes in the world, with a 70m antenna diameter. On 1st July 1999, it beamed a noise-resistant message named "Cosmic Call 1" into space. This was sent towards Gliese 777, a yellow subgiant star, 52 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus. At least two extrasolar planets were known to be present in this system. In April 2051, the message arrives at its destination, for any potential alien civilisations to hear and decode it.

 

2051 gliese 777
Credit: S. Korotkiy

 

Britain holds its centennial national exhibition

A centennial national exhibition is held in the UK, in keeping with the precedent set by the Great Exhibition of 1851* and the 1951 Festival of Britain.* The opening ceremony is attended by King William V, now aged 69.

 

future timeline technology 2050

 

future timeline technology 2050

 


2053

Moore's Law reaches stunning new levels

Due to Moore's Law, the average desktop computer now has the raw processing power equivalent to all of the human brains on Earth combined. There is no longer a clear distinction between human and machine intelligence. Entities of astonishing realism and interactivity are widespread. Many are in fact merging with human intelligence, as the trend towards brain-computer links increases.

Video games of today provide fantastically lifelike experiences. Full immersion VR is now a mainstream phenomenon, having developed rapidly over the last decade. Recent advances in AI have led to Matrix-style worlds of breathtaking scale and ingenuity. Entire new societies have formed in cyberspace, with many in developed nations spending their entire leisure time engaged in them. Mounting stresses from the outside world have served to increase demand for this form of recreation: as a means of escaping from reality itself.

 

future computer technology timeline 2050 moores law
Credit: Ray Kurzweil

 

 

Genetically engineered "designer babies" for the rich

The ability to manipulate DNA has come a long way since its discovery in 1953. A century on, wealthy parents now have the option of creating "perfect" babies in the laboratory. This is done by picking and choosing their best hereditary traits. Gender, height, skin, hair and eye colour – along with hundreds of other characteristics – can be programmed into the embryo prior to birth. The embryo is then grown in an artificial uterus.*

The most advanced (and controversial) techniques involve manipulating the brain to improve the child's intelligence, behaviour and personality. Many conservative and religious groups decry what they see as the commercialisation of the human body.

 

designer babies genetic engineering 2050 future

 


2054

Rainfall intensity has increased by 20%

As the world warms, the increased evaporation is putting greater amounts of water vapour into the atmosphere. Rainfall intensity rises by 7% for each degree of additional warming.* With temperatures approaching 3°C (5.4°F) above the 20th century average, the most extreme rainfall events are now 20% more intense than before. Dramatic increases in surface runoff, peak river flows and flash flooding are being experienced around the world – exacerbating soil erosion and putting huge pressure on drainage and sewage systems. This additional rainfall is a particular problem in the tropics and poor regions with insufficient infrastructure or flood defences.

 

future rainfall predictions climate change 2050

 


2055

Spaceflight has taken a leap forward

Environmental catastrophes, overpopulation, war and other crises have made humanity painfully aware of the limitations on its home planet. Many now believe that exploring and settling space could be a way to alleviate some of Earth's immediate problems. As a result of this, spaceflight has advanced considerably since the beginning of the century. National governments are able to participate to a certain extent, but huge levels of debt and economic stagnation have left the bulk of the effort to private enterprises and wealthy individuals.

The cost of launching material into space has declined considerably by now.* Advances in materials technology, greatly improved fuel efficiency for rockets* and the proliferation of single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft* have all contributed to this fall in prices. Automated design evolution, facilitated through artificial intelligence networks (enabling rapid synthesis of optimal design requirements) has also played a role. This is allowing much greater frequency of flights, as well as heavier payloads.

One result of this has been a rapid growth in space tourism, with journeys available to even middle-income citizens. For the super-rich, even excursions to the Moon's surface are now possible. Lunar bases, already established in previous decades, have been expanded. In addition to room for tourists, new scientific modules have been added with greenhouses, ice harvesting stations for water, and solar arrays built from lunar regolith. Corporate interests are now looking to exploit the Moon commercially. Though human presence is still confined to the poles, a number of prospecting missions are underway in preparation for mining operations.* Other long-term plans include solar power stations capable of beaming energy directly to Earth. In the more distant future, these may expand to completely encircle the Moon.*

Asteroid mining has now evolved into a huge industry, with major firms competing in the business.** Thanks to progress in rocket technology and robotics, countless rendezvous with near-Earth and main belt asteroids have been conducted. A wide range of metals and minerals – including gold, platinum, nickel, iron, zinc, antimony, copper, cobalt and phosphorus – are being recovered.* Some of these materials became so rare on Earth that demand made them exceedingly valuable. This drove accelerated exploration. Swarms of automated probes are now involved in prospecting and mining on a constant basis.

 

2050 space exploration

 

Most asteroids are processed in situ, as opposed to Earth orbit, due to fears of an accidental impact. For now, manoeuvring larger asteroids is seen as expensive and unnecessary in any case. Water-rich asteroids are particularly useful as the constituent hydrogen and oxygen can be turned into rocket fuel. As part of the commercialisation of space, numerous fuel depots are in place around the Earth-Moon system and Lagrange points. These are further reducing the cost of spaceflight, with most ships only required to carry enough fuel to get into orbit. Longer and more complex missions are possible with supplies available en route.*

Asteroid mining has proven to be one of the great confirmations of people's hopes for outer space. A single rock just a mile or so in diameter may yield more platinum group metals than has ever been mined on Earth, and more fuel than every rocket launch in history.* The resources now being added to the global economy are helping to meet demand in many areas. However, significant portions of raw materials are being diverted to off-planet projects including the construction of new space stations. As a result, various non-profit groups have sprung up, aiming to ensure that poorer nations can benefit from space, not just the countries and rich individuals that can afford to go. The lucrative nature of this business and its growing influence on Earth has led to the passing of major new regulations, antitrust and monopoly laws.*

 

space flight 2050

 

Ongoing conflicts around the world have spurred military powers to new heights. Developed nations are now turning to space to gain the advantage in next generation warfare.* The USA is prolific in this regard. In earlier decades, international treaties prevented the militarisation of space. However, some of the more powerful nations have moved projects forward in secret. In any case, the volatile and rapidly evolving political climate has led to new agreements being introduced.

A whole new dimension to war is emerging, in parallel with the commercialisation of space. The USA, for example, has established a comprehensive network of spy satellites, each equipped with a wide array of sensors able to observe people and objects on the ground with astounding resolution and detail. AI controls this system, automatically tracking known persons of interest and monitoring for suspicious activity. If enemy actions on the ground cannot be rationalised by the AI, government and military personnel are notified of it. Now controlling the most advanced and intelligent surveillance system in the world, America has regained some of its lost influence on the world stage.

Naturally, other countries object to what they see as a potential for abuse of power. Alongside the spy satellites are manned space stations, placed strategically in geosynchronous orbit. These act as command centres, able to view battles from above in real time while giving directions to forces on the ground. Notably, they allow the military to organise and deploy squadrons of autonomous aircraft and robots. They also ensure that there are repair crews constantly on call, in the event of spy satellites or other craft malfunctioning. In today's hi-tech, fast-moving wars, communication and information are of unparalleled importance. These stations act as intelligence centres of sorts, and as such become prized targets for enemy forces. Knowing this, no expense is spared when it comes to advanced shielding and warning systems.

The first space-based weapons systems are also in place. Most incorporate traditional missile capabilities, but other, more experimental systems are being utilised. One such weapon is an orbital kinetic bombardment platform operated by the US.* This consists of two satellites in parallel orbits. The first provides a target and communication function, taking instructions from the ground on potential enemies. The second satellite is armed with several 20-foot long, specially reinforced tungsten rods, each complete with tail fins and an internal guidance computer. Upon instruction, a rod is released over a ground target and begins to fall. Using nothing but gravity and pure force, these missiles can impact with the power of a tactical nuclear warhead – only without the deadly fallout. Almost no bunker is safe, as the weapon lands with utterly devastating force, penetrating deep underground. Several problems needed to be overcome before this system was operational, such as the cost of lifting the materials into space and creating rods of sufficient strength to withstand the energies involved. Years of experimentation have finally yielded a metal alloy tough enough to be used. This project – the ultimate in bunker busting technology – is highly secretive and only tested in the deserts of the American southwest.

 

space rods weapon bunker busting technology

 

Orbital solar power, since its introduction nearly 15 years ago, has grown considerably.** Various new stations are now in place, able to provide continuous power to Earth. In addition to commercial power production, orbital solar has been found to have military applications. Modern armies no longer require a fixed source of power, with energy beamed down to even the most remote locations. Naturally, these solar power systems, as well as much of the other activity in space, increase the danger of space junk. However, genuine solutions are now finally appearing that can eliminate such debris once and for all. One option is the use of ground-based lasers, which move larger pieces into decaying orbits to eventually burn in the atmosphere,* while massive aerogel nets guided by satellites can sweep up the finer particles in orbit.*

AI and robotics have played a major role in opening up space.* Automated construction of spaceships and supplies is another area of reduced expense, while AI is used by asteroid mining companies to operate their wide range of robotic explorers and miners. In general, the increasingly complex and chaotic network of spacecraft now in place has necessitated the use of strong AI to coordinate operations. Many jobs previously filled by humans have now been given over exclusively to robots and computer programs. Spaceships are almost never piloted by human hands, with everything from docking to refueling to landing completely automated. Naturally, many passengers view this level of AI control with trepidation, cultural fears still being a part of space travel.* Farther away from Earth, numerous robotic probes, each equipped with their own AI, are exploring the planets, moons and asteroids of the outer Solar System. These are yielding unprecedented amounts of empirical data about the nature of these bodies and the early history of the Solar System.

Space-based telescopes have seen phenomenal improvements over the decades. Exponential progress has led to telescopic power increasing by a factor of over 100,000.* Thanks to this astounding rate of advancement, it is now possible to view extrasolar planets in close detail.

 

future extrasolar planet detection

 

The number of known planets beyond our Solar System – about 800 in 2012 – has grown to 13 million by 2055.* Thousands of these bodies have been observed in the habitable "Goldilocks" zones of their respective star systems, including a number of Earth-like planets with liquid water oceans and active hydrological cycles. The possibility of finding alien life expands greatly during this time, as does the hope of achieving contact with intelligent civilisations. Despite the huge progress in this field, however, humans have still barely scratched the surface of the Milky Way.*

Recent progress has been achieved with antimatter propulsion – making human travel to the outer Solar System a real possibility in the coming years.* A permanent base on Mars is in the late planning stages, set to be established by a consortium of national governments and corporate interests. Longer-term projects are now being considered, with international talks being held over the future construction of a space elevator, to be located on the equator. Corporations are also looking to the massive, untapped wealth of the gas giants and outer Solar System as an eventual goal. By all accounts, private interests are driving a new era of space exploration.* Rapid progress in science and technology, combined with surging demand for resources, imply that humanity is well on its way to becoming a space-faring civilization.***

 

2050 space travel

 

 

 

The vast majority of countries have achieved democracy

The on-going spread of information – aided by mobile telecommunications, social media and other technology – continues to nurture democracy. The vast majority of countries now have free and fair elections.*

However, this general upward trend has begun to plateau in recent decades. Climate change is now having a significant impact on regional stability, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, where concerns over scarcity of resources have created conditions allowing dictators and authoritarian governments to make a comeback.

In any case, a number of cultures are simply more compatible with monarchies, theocracies and autocracies at the present time. These parochial nations will remain undemocratic for some time to come.

 

2050 demographics prediction democracy trend future timeline graph chart 2055

 

Global population is reaching a plateau

The global population is stabilising at between 9 and 10 billion.* Most of the recent growth has occurred in the developing world. However, better education along with improved access to contraception, family planning and other birth control methods is now markedly reducing the number of children per couple. Information technology has played a major role in boosting literacy levels and spreading knowledge to the world's poor.

The global population is also getting older, putting a huge strain on government welfare systems and employment. More than a fifth of the planet is aged over 60 now* – and with so many breakthroughs in medicine, this trend will only continue.

More than two-thirds of people live in urban areas by this time,* compared with 50% in 2010,* and there are vast, sprawling megacities in all corners of the globe. In the very densest parts of the world, the tallest skyscrapers reach thousands of metres in height, are occupied by millions of people, and are effectively cities in their own right with self-sufficient energy and food production. Many residents within these towers spend almost their whole lives in these buildings, with little need or want to venture outside.

The population of the USA has reached nearly 450 million now (up from 309 million in 2010), with Hispanics doubling their share of the population to 30% and Asians going from 5% to 9%. Non-Hispanic whites have become a minority, with their share dropping to below 45%.* They made up 85% of the population in 1960. Due to climate change, living standards have been highest in the northern states, which have better access to water and are generally more stable. California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have seen huge declines in wealth and influence.

Despite recent advances in energy, food production and other technology, there are still widespread conflicts around the globe – due to a rapidly worsening environment, coupled with a host of socio-political issues as the world struggles to adopt a more sustainable economic paradigm. Huge shantytowns have formed in some countries, with millions of people displaced. The worst-affected regions are so destitute that they have been reclassified as "fourth world" countries.* Desperate attempts are now underway to sequester carbon from the atmosphere in the hope of reversing the effects of global warming.

 

2050 demographics projections prediction world global population plateau overpopulated overpopulation trend

 

 

Traditional media have fragmented and diversified

By the mid-2050s, traditional Western news corporations no longer exist. News gathering, analysis and distribution has fragmented – shifting to millions of creative individuals, bloggers, citizen journalists and small-scale enterprises. These work cooperatively and seamlessly, utilising a "global commons" of instantly shared knowledge and freely available resources. This includes information retrieval not only from cyberspace, but also in the real world; embedded in everything from webcams and personal digital devices, to orbiting satellites, robots, vehicles, roads, street lamps, buildings, stadia and other public places.

Even people themselves have become a part of this collection process. Bionic eye implants (for example) can relay data and footage on the spot, in real time, from those willing to participate.

Traditional Western TV channels have largely disappeared, replaced by unique "personalised" web channels, covering practically any subject or combination of subjects imaginable. These are filtered and customised to the exact tastes and requirements of the individual and are viewable anywhere, at anytime. They can be highly interactive and are often experienced in virtual reality settings, rather than on a screen. This is especially true of movies, many of which have non-linear plotlines allowing the viewer to influence the outcome themselves, or even to become characters within the film.

Mass advertising, too, has undergone a revolution in Western societies. Some of the oldest outdoor media still exist – such as posters, billboards and leaflets – which continue to survive in holographic and other forms. However, online web and televisual product/service information is now accessed almost entirely from on-demand, advanced customer feedback networks along with automated, semantic web assistants. Together these can provide instant, factual and trustworthy information on a highly personalised level: automatically filtering any marketing bias or corporate propaganda which might have influenced a consumer in the past.

Despite the increased choice and empowerment, one major consequence of this fragmentation (a trend which began in the 1980s) has been increased isolation of the individual. A decrease in the shared experience of media has led to a further decline in Western family life.

Poorer nations are still reliant on traditional forms of media, marketing and information exchange. In the near future, however, they too will make the transition – thanks to rapidly improving access to web technology.

 

media future timeline mass news information technology 2050

 


2056

Global average temperatures have risen by 3°C*

Global warming has begun to race out of control with temperatures fed by increasingly strong feedback mechanisms. Melting permafrost in the Arctic is now releasing vast amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas more than 70 times stronger than CO2.* Plants are decaying faster in the warmer climate, while the oceans are liberating ever greater quantities of dissolved CO2.

The Earth is now the hottest it has been since the mid-Pliocene, over 3 million years ago,* and there are permanent El Niño conditions* – resulting in widespread, extreme weather events in regions around the world. Severe droughts, torrential flooding, hurricanes and other disturbances are now a constant feature on the news. Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa are the places most affected. Developing countries dependent on agriculture and fishing – especially those bordering the Pacific Ocean – are particularly badly hit.

In Pakistan, a calamity of epic scale is unfolding. The nation has been declared a failed state, its government having lost control, with armed gangs seizing what little food and water remains. Tens of millions of refugees are attempting to leave the country as rivers run permanently dry.* India has fared little better. The country’s agriculture is now under severe stress, with monsoons ranging from extremely wet seasons to extremely dry ones. In the more intense wet years, the flooding is catastrophic, submerging vast areas of land.

In America, the east coast is being hit particularly hard now. Chesapeake Bay – the largest estuary in the country – has been devastated by recent flooding disasters, rising sea levels and storm damage. The economies of Maryland and Virginia have suffered greatly.

 

2050 flooding 2055 2050s sea level climate change global warming
Credit: NASA

 

Much of the Gulf Coast region has been abandoned, while droughts are worsening in the southwest of the country. More than 15m Americans now qualify as displaced persons.* A surge in migration to Canada is underway – one of the few areas of the world that still offers somewhat favourable environmental conditions.

In Europe, food riots have continued to spread. Temperatures that were previously found only in North Africa and the Middle East have become the norm in central and southern parts of the continent.* Britain now has a Mediterranean climate* and is engaged in a food-sharing process with its neighbour Ireland.* Rising sea levels, erosion and storm surges are wreaking havoc on the coastline.*

Australia is being plagued by extreme heatwaves. The country is experiencing severe and prolonged droughts, together with a huge increase in wildfires and dust storms. The elderly are especially at risk from this hotter and drier weather.*

The Arctic – which became ice-free in September months by the 2030s – now has up to three months of ice-free conditions per year. This has made the region attractive to shipping and exploitation of natural resources, with various new trade routes being opened up. Iceland is benefiting from this, becoming like Singapore in some ways.* Many previously uninhabited islands in the Arctic are now being colonised.

 

global warming timeline 2050 future temperature scenario trend graph

 

 

Fully synthetic humans are becoming technically feasible

In 2010, scientists created the first synthetic cell. Mycoplasma laboratorium was an entirely new species of bacterium, with a man-made set of genetic code, placed on a synthetic chromosome inside an empty cell. Using its new "software", the cell could generate proteins and produce new cells.*

This was followed in subsequent years by a variety of specialised organisms. Some were able to generate new vaccines and medicines; others produced biofuels and similarly useful products.

As the decades went by, larger and more complex life forms were created in the laboratory, including multi-celled animals large enough to be seen by the naked eye.

Synthetic genomics continued to advance exponentially, driven by the breakneck pace of information technology. Large animals – variants of birds, fish and mammals – became available with fully customisable limbs, sensory organs and other features, for use in a variety of commercial, scientific and industrial roles. New plants were created too, some with bizarre yet extremely useful abilities. Certain trees, for example, could be programmed to grow and shape themselves into furniture or building components.

By 2056, the number of cells that can be synthesised in a single organism is reaching almost 100 trillion: equal to the total number in the human body.* Debates are now occurring over "synthetic people" entering the population. What rights and freedoms would they have? Countless moral, ethical and legal arguments are raised.

For now, the vast majority of countries are unable to authorise the technology; the cultural lag is simply too great. Just as stem cells were controversial in the USA during the early 2000s, the creation of synthetic humans represents a step too far, for many people.

However, a small number of countries – notably China – secretly push ahead with the project. Test subjects are successfully created, then made to take part in biotechnology experiments. Although hidden from public view, rumours begin to emerge of horrific abuses.

 

synthetic humans 2050 future technology genomics dna biotechnology artificial
© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

 


2057

Computers reach another milestone

Desktop PCs now have raw processing power equivalent to all of the human brains which ever existed on Earth.* This is a result of Moore's Law – the trend in computer processing power which has been increasing exponentially for over a century.

Computers are becoming so powerful that many high-level tasks in business and government are being handed over directly to them. For years, software had lagged behind hardware in development, which impeded the spread of AI, but this is no longer the case. Ever more sophisticated programs have begun to create a chain reaction of self improvement cycles. This has led to an "intelligence explosion", with some of the biggest political decisions on the world stage now being influenced by sentient machines.

Of course, there are controls and regulations in place to guide these actions (to prevent the use of nuclear missiles for example). Nevertheless, it is becoming obvious to everyone by now that machines are quite literally taking over the world.

 

future 2050 technology predictions computers timeline 2050s 2057
© Cammeraydave | Dreamstime.com

 

 

Handheld MRI scanners

The ability to scan, analyse and diagnose the body has taken a huge leap forward by now. Hi-res, 3D imaging of internal structures and brain activity is now possible using real-time video rather than static photos. This can be accomplished with devices no bigger than a camera.*

In the early 2000s, these machines were so bulky that they filled whole rooms.* Scans typically required half an hour or longer to create. They were also highly expensive: upwards of a million dollars for a state-of-the-art model, with each individual scan costing hundreds of dollars.

A new generation of machines began to evolve, based on supersensitive atomic magnetometers, able to detect the tiniest magnetic fields. These replaced the huge doughnut-shaped magnets that had been used in the past. By the late 2050s, MRI scans had become as quick and easy as taking a photograph, with a hundredfold decrease in cost.* Healthcare programs in developing countries would benefit particularly from this.

 

handheld mri scan scanner future medical technology timeline
© Katie Nesling | Dreamstime.com

 


2058

The Beatles' music catalogue enters the public domain

Copyright law has remained largely unchanged since 2019. Accordingly, the Beatles' songs from 1962 are entered into the public domain, 96 years after the band's first single.*

 

beatles 2058 public domain

 

 

A radio telescope is built on the Moon*

The telescope is 100m wide and located on the Moon's far side, giving it a stable platform with slow rotation rate (0.5 arcsec/sec), beyond the interference of Earth's atmosphere and cluttered radio background. This provides astronomical images with a clarity unmatched by any observatory on Earth or in space. Individual stars, billions of light years away, can be seen assembling into the first galaxies.

The telescope is situated within an impact crater. Both it and the surrounding infrastructure are built using a mixture of epoxy, self-assembling carbon nanotubes and material from the Moon itself – drastically reducing costs.*

 

moon telescope observatory radio future lunar outpost
Credit: NASA

 


2059

The end of the oil age

For most of the 20th century, prospectors discovered far more oil than industrial societies could consume. This was an era of cheap and plentiful energy, which saw huge growth in the world's economy and population. By the 1970s, however, a major slowdown in discoveries was observed. This continued into the 21st century – contributing to a financial crisis that persisted for decades, led to a near-total collapse of the global economy and drove nations to the brink of another World War. It was only through massive government intervention, last-minute substitutes for crude oil and widespread deployment of renewable energy that a major catastrophe was averted. By the late 2050s, the end of the 200-year oil age is approaching, with the final dregs being extracted in the Middle East.*

 

oil 2050 future predictions trend graph chart diagram

 

 

Mars has a permanent human presence by now

By the end of this decade, a permanent team of scientists is present on Mars.** This comprises a highly international mix of people. The first civilian tourist has also arrived. Travel to Mars was made cheaper and faster thanks to nuclear pulse propulsion, cutting journey times from six months to just a few weeks.*

The base will soon be expanded with new facilities providing more energy, food production and recycling systems, along with mining equipment and other tools.* Vehicles are being supplied too, improving the astronauts' mobility and enabling them to roam hundreds of miles. More sophisticated long term bases are now being planned to accomodate larger teams of scientists as well as corporate interests.

The habitat modules are constructed partially underground, giving protection from the Sun's ultraviolet glare. Radiation-absorbing materials based on advanced nanotechnology are used in spacesuits, as well as on the exterior of the vehicles. These same materials have filters to block even the tiniest particles of dust, providing long term protection against the environment outside.

All of the above is providing the critical mass needed for self-sufficiency. Operations will soon be conducted entirely independent of Earth. In the coming years, the first children will be born on Mars.

 

mars future missions 2050
Credit: NASA

 

 

 
   
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References

1 The Earth Is a Ponzi Scheme on the Verge of Collapse, AlterNet:
http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/135525
Accessed 6th May 2012.

2 Earth's natural wealth: an audit, New Scientist:
http://www.science.org.au/nova/newscientist/027ns_005.htm
Accessed 6th May 2012.

3 Megachange: The World in 2050, The Economist:
http://www.amazon.com/Megachange-The-World-2050-Economist/dp/1118180445/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

4 The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Singularity-Is-Near-Transcend/dp/0143037889
Accessed 6th May 2012.

5 The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future, James Martin:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Meaning-21st-Century-Blueprint/dp/B001G8WI6E
Accessed 6th May 2012.

6 World needs to stabilise population and cut consumption, says Royal Society, The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/26/earth-population-consumption-disasters
Accessed 6th May 2012.

7 The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, Richard Heinberg:
http://www.amazon.com/The-End-Growth-Adapting-Economic/dp/0865716951
Accessed 6th May 2012.

8 Peter Joseph Radio Lecture "A Profile of Collapse", The Zeitgeist Movement:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bil6ZTEvC8M
Accessed 6th May 2012.

9 S&P: 60% of countries will be bankrupt within 50 years, Raw Story:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/09/sp-60-countries-bankrupt-50-years/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

10 Technological singularity, Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity
Accessed 6th May 2012.

11 S&P: 60% of countries will be bankrupt within 50 years, Raw Story:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/09/sp-60-countries-bankrupt-50-years/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

12 S&P: 60% of countries will be bankrupt within 50 years, Raw Story:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/09/sp-60-countries-bankrupt-50-years/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

13 Megachange: The World in 2050, The Economist:
http://www.amazon.com/Megachange-The-World-2050-Economist/dp/1118180445/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

14 See 2055.

15 The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, Richard Heinberg:
http://www.amazon.com/The-End-Growth-Adapting-Economic/dp/0865716951
Accessed 6th May 2012.

16 Bitcoin, Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin
Accessed 6th May 2012.

17 World Population Ageing, UN:
http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WPA2009/WPA2009-report.pdf
Accessed 6th May 2012.

18 Society: Spending for seniors to double or more by 2050, says OECD, OECD:
http://www.oecd.org/document/2/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_47904908_1_1_1_1,00.html
Accessed 6th May 2012.

19 Global warming could create 150 million 'climate refugees' by 2050, The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/03/global-warming-climate-refugees
Accessed 6th May 2012.

20 Animating water bottle recycling rates, Doug James, Cornell University:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZbTXDkrD1o
Accessed 6th May 2012.

21 Rising resource use threatens future growth, warns UN, BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13376416
Accessed 6th May 2012.

22 The Story of Stuff:
http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

23 Planned obsolescence, Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence
Accessed 6th May 2012.

24 Rising resource use threatens future growth, warns UN, BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13376416
Accessed 6th May 2012.

25 See 2049.

26 The Lights in the Tunnel, Martin Ford:
http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

27 The 3D Printing Revolution, Explaining the Future:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP1oBwccARY&hd=1
Accessed 6th May 2012.

28 Nuclear bomb material found for sale on Georgia black market, The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/07/nuclear-material-black-market-georgia?CMP=twt_fd
Accessed 6th May 2012.

29 Europe's Roadmap to Low Carbon by 2050, LessEn:
http://www.less-en.org/?page=blog&article=108
Accessed 6th May 2012.

30 Poll: 75 Percent of Americans Support Regulating CO2 As A Pollutant, 60 Percent Support Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax, Think Progress:
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/04/26/471840/poll-75-of-americans-support-co2-regulation-60-support-revenue-neutral-carbon-tax/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

31 Solar power could surge by 2050 in deserts: study, Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/05/25/us-solar-idUSTRE54O16R20090525
Accessed 6th May 2012.

32 See 2032.

33 See 2020-2035.

34 See 2027.

35 See 2040.

36 See 2041.

37 World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns, The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/09/fossil-fuel-infrastructure-climate-change
Accessed 6th May 2012.

38 Global sea level linked to global temperature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS):
http://www.pnas.org/content/106/51/21527.full.pdf
Accessed 6th May 2012.

39 A way to reverse global warming – study finds room to store CO2 underground, FutureTimeline blog:
http://futuretimeline.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/a-way-to-reverse-global-warming-study-finds-room-to-store-co2-underground/
Accessed 6th May 2012.

40 Climate change solutions: freight containers and giant fly-swats, Institution of Mechanical Engineers:
http://www.imeche.org/news/press-release/11-08-22/Climate_change_solutions_freight_containers_and_giant_fly-swats.aspx
Accessed 6th May 2012.

41 Modelling conservation in the Amazon basin, Nature:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v440/n7083/full/nature04389.html
Accessed 6th May 2012.

42Wildfires set to increase 50 percent by 2050, Science Centric:
http://www.sciencecentric.com/news/article.php?q=09072853-wildfires-set-increase-50-percent-by-2050
Accessed 1st May 2010.

43Environmentalists say Greece disregarded climate change, EurActiv:
http://www.euractiv.com/en/climate-change/environmentalists-greece-disregarded-climate-change/article-184740
Accessed 1st May 2010.

44 Climate change will threaten wine production, study shows, The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/08/climate-change-wine-production
Accessed 21st April 2013.

45 Climate change, wine, and conservation, Lee Hannah et al:
http://www.conservation.org/Documents/CI_PNAS_Climate-Change-Wine-Production-Conservation_Lee-Hannah_March-2013.pdf
Accessed 21st April 2013.

46 See 2060-2100.

47 Change in Earth's total heat content, Skeptical Science:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=46
Accessed 1st October 2012.

48 Shrinking of fishes exacerbates impacts of global ocean changes on marine ecosystems, Nature Climate Change:
http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1691.html
Accessed 1st October 2012.

49 See 2030.

50 Report describes the future of buildings in 2050, Future Timeline Blog:
http://www.futuretimeline.net/blog/2013/02/14.htm
Accessed 10th March 2013.

51 Paint-on solar cells developed, Future Timeline Blog:
http://www.futuretimeline.net/blog/2011/12/23.htm
Accessed 10th March 2013.

52 Best Research Cell Efficiences, NREL:
http://www.nrel.gov/ncpv/images/efficiency_chart.jpg
Accessed 10th March 2013.

53 Potential carbon capture role for new CO2 absorbing material, Future Timeline Blog:
http://www.futuretimeline.net/blog/2012/06/12.htm
Accessed 10th March 2013.

54 Ecological Age Presentation, Arup:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbNuU21_V8I#t=5m24s
Accessed 10th March 2013.

55 City Temps May Soar From Urbanization, Global Warming, Climate Central:
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/urbanization-global-warming-could-send-city-temps-soaring-14806
Accessed 10th March 2013.

56 You won't need a driver's license by 2040, CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/18/tech/innovation/ieee-2040-cars/index.html
Accessed 1st October 2012.

57Airbus presents a panoramic view of 2050, Airbus:
http://www.airbus.com/newsevents/news-events-single/detail/airbus-presents-a-panoramic-view-of-2050/
Accessed 15th June 2011.

58Saharan sun to power European supergrid, The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/22/solarpower.windpower
Accessed 11th October 2009.

59 China Completes Tunnel Under Yellow River for South-North Water Transfer Project, Circle of Blue:
http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2012/world/update-china-completes-tunnel-under-yellow-river
Accessed 17th June 2012.

60 South-to-North Water Diversion Project, China, water-technology.net:
http://www.water-technology.net/projects/south_north/
Accessed 17th June 2012.

61 Water Wars, China Water Risk:
http://chinawaterrisk.org/big-picture/water-wars/
Accessed 17th June 2012.

62 Grand Canal (China) – South-North Water Transfer Project, Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_of_China#South-North_Water_Transfer_Project
Accessed 17th June 2012.

63 Plan for China's Water Crisis Spurs Concern, New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/world/asia/02water.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
Accessed 17th June 2012.

64 Geopolitical Risks: Transboundary Rivers, China Water Risk:
http://chinawaterrisk.org/resources/analysis-reviews/geopolitical-risks-transboundary-rivers/
Accessed 17th June 2012.

65 The key effects of climate change: How water availability may change, as temperatures, population and industrialisation increase, BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7821082.stm
Accessed 17th June 2012.

66 The Great Exhibition, Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Exhibition
Accessed 6th May 2012.

67 Festival of Britain, Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festival_of_Britain
Accessed 6th May 2012.

68What the World Will Look Like by 2050, Time:
http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1890927,00.html
Accessed 22nd October 2009.

69 Increases in extreme rainfall linked to global warming, The University of Adelaide:
http://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/news58961.html
Accessed 18th February 2013.

70 JSC Celebrates 40 Years of Human Space Flight, NASA:
http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/jsc40/jsc40_pg20.htm
Accessed 26th May 2012.

71 Russia Develops Revolutionary Ammonia Rocket Engine, space-travel.com:
http://www.space-travel.com/reports/Russia_Develops_Revolutionary_Ammonia_Rocket_Engine_999.html
Accessed 26th May 2012.

72 See 2021.

73 Lunar boom: Why we'll soon be mining the moon, PhysOrg:
http://phys.org/news/2012-05-lunar-boom-moon.html
Accessed 26th May 2012.

74 The Energy Paradigm Shift Opens the Door to a Sustainable Society, Shimizu Corporation:
http://www.shimz.co.jp/english/theme/dream/lunaring.html
Accessed 26th May 2012.

75 Planetary Resources unveils cosmic plan 'to boldly go' and mine asteroids for gold and platinum, The Telegraph:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/mining/9222766/Planetary-Resources-unveils-cosmic-plan-to-boldly-go-and-mine-asteroids-for-gold-and-platinum.html
Accessed 26th May 2012.

76 2,000 Apply for Jobs Building Asteroid-Mining Robots, Space.com:
http://www.space.com/15686-asteroid-mining-jobs-planetary-resources.html
Accessed 26th May 2012.

77 Mining The Sky: Untold Riches From The Asteroids, Comets, And Planets, John S Lewis:
http://www.amazon.com/Mining-The-Sky-Asteroids-Planets/dp/0201328194
Accessed 26th May 2012.

78 Planetary Resources Inc.:
http://www.planetaryresources.com/
Accessed 26th May 2012.

79 The Space Economy: A Modern Day Gold Rush, Planetary Resources Inc. (press release):
http://www.multivu.com/assets/55879/photos/55879-SpaceEconomy-original.jpg?1335284263
Accessed 26th May 2012.

80 Asteroid Mining: Science or Fiction, David Brin:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luQl8vFOEa8
Accessed 26th May 2012.

81 The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, George Friedman:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Next-100-Years-Forecast/dp/038551705X
Accessed 26th May 2012.

82 Rods from God: Space-launched darts that strike like meteors, PopSci:
http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2004-06/rods-god
Accessed 26th May 2012.

83 See 2041.

84 Exclusive: Orbital solar power plants touted for energy needs, Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/13/us-space-energy-solar-idUSTRE7AC0J120111113
Accessed 26th May 2012.

85 NASA Studies Laser for Removing Space Junk, Technology Review:
http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26512/
Accessed 26th May 2012.

86 For Space Mess, Scientists Seek Celestial Broom, The New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/science/space/for-space-mess-scientists-seek-celestial-broom.html?_r=1
Accessed 26th May 2012.

87 The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Ray Kurzweil:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Singularity-Is-Near-Transcend/dp/0143037889/
Accessed 26th May 2012.

88 2001: A Space Odyssey, IMDB:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062622/
Accessed 26th May 2012.

89 "Telescopic power is rising quickly, possibly at 26% a year."
See SETI and the Singularity, The Futurist:
http://www.singularity2050.com/2009/05/seti-and-the-singularity.html
Accessed 26th May 2012.

90 Extrapolated from the following graph:
A Plethora of Planets: Number of Known Exoplanets Soaring,
Scientific American:
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/09/20/a-plethora-of-planets-number-of-known-exoplanets-soaring/
Accessed 26th May 2012.

91 Free-floating planets in the Milky Way outnumber stars by factors of thousands, Space Daily:
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Free_floating_planets_in_the_Milky_Way_outnumber_stars_by_factors_of_thousands_999.html
Accessed 26th May 2012.

92 See 2067.

93 Billionaires back ambitious space projects, USA Today:
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-04-25/space-exploration-billionaires/54866272/1
Accessed 26th May 2012.

94 The Case for Space: Why We Should Keep Reaching for the Stars, Foreign Affairs:
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137277/neil-degrasse-tyson/the-case-for-space
Accessed 26th May 2012.

95 Your ticket to Mars will cost only half a million dollars, io9:
http://io9.com/5894987/your-ticket-to-mars-will-cost-only-half-a-million-dollars
Accessed 26th May 2012.

96 Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, Neil deGrasse Tyson:
http://books.wwnorton.com/books/Space-Chronicles/
Accessed 26th May 2012.

97 Extrapolated from the following graph:
Global Trends in Governance, 1946-2009, The Center for Systemic Peace (CSP):
http://www.systemicpeace.org/CTfig12.htm
Accessed 13th February 2011.

98World Population Prospects, the 2010 revision, The United Nations:
http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/unpp/panel_population.htm
Accessed 11th March 2012.

99 Global ageing statistics, HelpAge International:
http://www.helpage.org/resources/ageing-data/global-ageing-statistics/
Accessed 11th March 2012.

100 19.20.21,
http://www.192021.org
Accessed 18th Jan 2009.

101 Urbanisation, BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/world/06/urbanisation/html/urbanisation.stm
Accessed 11th March 2012.

102 Minorities set to be US majority, BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7559996.stm
Accessed 11th March 2012.

103 The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future, James Martin:
http://www.amazon.com/Meaning-21st-Century-Blueprint-Ensuring/dp/B001G8WI6E/
Accessed 1st May 2010.

104 Climate change odds much worse than thought, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/roulette-0519.html
Accessed 21st May 2012.

105 NSIDC bombshell: Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100,
Climate Progress:
http://climateprogress.org/2011/02/17/nsidc-thawing-permafrost-will-turn-from-carbon-sink-to-source-in-mid-2020s-releasing-100-billion-tons-of-carbon-by-2100/
Accessed 12th March 2011.

106 Risk of extreme climate change accelerating, West Coast Climate Equity (via Web Archive):
http://web.archive.org/web/20111101055745/http://westcoastclimateequity.org/2009/03/16/risk-of-extreme-climate-change-accelerating/
Accessed 9th February 2014.

107 Climate Countdown, Culture Change:
http://www.culturechange.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=409&Itemid=1
Accessed 12th March 2011.

108 Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas
http://www.amazon.com/Six-Degrees-Future-Hotter-Planet/dp/1426203853/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299962902&sr=1-1
Accessed 12th March 2011.

109Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats, by Gwynne Dyer
http://www.amazon.com/Climate-Wars-Fight-Survival-Overheats/dp/1851687181/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295388454&sr=1-1
Accessed 12th March 2011.

1103 Degrees Warmer: Heat Wave Fatalities, National Geographic:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rdLu7wiZOE
Accessed 12th March 2011.

111Climate may turn UK Mediterranean, BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4091068.stm
Accessed 12th March 2011.

112Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats, by Gwynne Dyer
http://www.amazon.com/Climate-Wars-Fight-Survival-Overheats/dp/1851687181/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295388454&sr=1-1
Accessed 12th March 2011.

113Climate change 'will wreak havoc on Britain's coastline by 2050', The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/06/climate-change-coastline-joseph-rowntree
Accessed 12th March 2011.

114Sydney summers by 2060 could be deadly, Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/03/25/us-climate-sydney-idUSTRE52O24020090325
Accessed 12th March 2011.

115Climate Change Impacts on National Security, Admiral David Titley:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBBEyJVj5MY
Accessed 12th March 2011.

116 See 2010.

117 This is assuming that synthetic genomics follows the same exponential progress seen in other forms of technology. If the number of cells that could be synthesised and conjoined were to double roughly every year, it would reach 100 trillion by 2056.

118It's believed that around 106 billion humans may have existed since modern homo sapiens first emerged:
http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx.
Based on Moore's Law, individual PCs should be equal to all of the human brains on Earth by 2053 (see earlier in the timeline). Processing power doubles about every year – and the population of Earth in 2053 will be around nine billion – therefore, another four doublings will be enough to exceed 106 billion. This may even be a conservative estimate, as technologies may emerge which accelerate Moore's Law still further.

119 "It's going to be an incredible tool. Fifty years down the road, there could be small handheld MRI devices – like the tricorder in the Star Trek television series – that enable us to see signals from molecules, and there will be patterns for different diseases."
See Thinking outside the box on MRI, Medical Physics Web:
http://medicalphysicsweb.org/cws/article/research/30780
Accessed 17th October 2009.

120 A typical MRI machine of the early 2000s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Varian4T.jpg

121Physics of the Impossible, by Michio Kaku:
http://www.amazon.com/Physics-Impossible-Scientific-Exploration-Teleportation/dp/0307278824/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1250029787&sr=1-1

Accessed 17th October 2009.

122 Love Me Do, Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Me_Do
Accessed 17th May 2012.

12350 Years in Space: NASA's Roadmap to 2058, Space.com:
http://www.space.com/news/081001-nasa50-road-ahead.html
Accessed 13th May 2010.

124NASA Envisions Huge Lunar Telescope, Space.com:
http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/080716-tw-lunar-telescope.html
Accessed 13th May 2010.

125 "There could be less than 49 years of oil supplies left, even if demand were to remain flat according to HSBC senior global economist Karen Ward."
See Science: “Peak oil production may already be here”, Climate Progress:
http://climateprogress.org/2011/04/05/science-peak-oil-here/
Accessed 31st May 2011.

126 NASA Director Predicts Mars Settlement by 2060, Fora TV:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mRM9MlZ9bk
Accessed 24th March 2010.

127 "In the next generation or two—say the next 30 to 60 years—there will be an irreversible human migration to a permanent space colony. Some people will tell you that this new colony will be on the moon, or an asteroid—in my opinion asteroids are a great place to go, but mostly for mining. I think the location is likely to be Mars."
See The Coming Age of Space Colonization, The Atlantic:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/03/the-coming-age-of-space-colonization/273818/
Accessed 31st March 2013.

128 Ion engine could one day power 39-day trips to Mars, newscientist.com:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17476-ion-engine-could-one-day-power-39day-trips-to-mars.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news
Accessed 18th October 2009.

129 "Learning to grow plants on Mars will be an important precursor to humans living there. Future explorers will need oxygen, food, and purified water -- items too costly to ferry from Earth to Mars on a regular basis. But plants can help provide those essentials inexpensively and locally as part of a self-contained 'bioregenerative' life support system."
See NASA.gov:
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast01jun_1.htm
Accessed 18th October 2009.

 

 
     
 
 
 
 

 


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