The 23rd century
The entire Solar System and surrounding interstellar neighbourhood is being transformed by an ever-expanding sphere of influence produced by massive levels of artificial intelligence. It completely
dominates the Earth now, with every aspect of world affairs controlled
by superintelligent entities, formed of billions of inorganic minds working
in unison. These "Artilects" operate at speeds and scales that
would be incomprehensible to observers from earlier centuries. Global
issues that persisted for years or decades in the past can now be resolved on timescales
measured in hours, minutes or even less.
which used to be known as the Internet has evolved into something quite
profound: for many people, it has replaced their physical reality entirely.
Reverse engineering of the brain, combined with advanced nanotechnology,
allows human minds to be fully detached and immersed within digital
environments. These virtual worlds, able to exist at speeds vastly greater than real-time, offer a kind of immortality now.
The awesome resources
available online mean that war, conflict, poverty and disease are being consigned to history. The knowledge and education that is free
to everyone has fostered a culture of trust and cooperation, while technological
breakthroughs have made traditional employment obsolete – leaving citizens free to enjoy their own personal, creative and other leisure pursuits, without needing to work.
Venus and Mars both have
terraforming programmes underway now; the latter is home to many large
cities. The Moon, too, has millions of permanent inhabitants. The gas giants and their moons are dotted with scientific stations. The
Kuiper Belt is now fully probed and catalogued, as is the Oort Cloud, with mining operations harvesting an untold quantity of resources. Beyond
the Oort Cloud, a huge network of telescopes is being deployed. Meanwhile, new forms of propulsion have allowed the first manned exploration
of neighbouring stars, with Alpha Centauri and other systems gaining permanent settlers.