Some humans are becoming more non-biological than biological
Today, the average citizen has access to a wide array of biotechnology implants and personal medical devices. These include fully artificial organs that never fail, bionic eyes and ears providing Superman-like senses, nanoscale brain interfaces to augment the wearer's intelligence, synthetic blood and bodily fluids that can filter deadly toxins and provide hours' worth of oxygen in a single breath.
Some of the more adventurous citizens are undergoing voluntary amputations to gain prosthetic arms and legs, boosting strength and endurance by orders of magnitude. There is even artificial skin based on nanotechnology, which can be used to give the appearance of natural skin when applied to metallic limbs.
These various upgrades have become available in a series of gradual, incremental steps over preceding decades, such that today, they are pretty much taken for granted. They are now utilised by a wide sector of society – with even those in developing countries now having access to some of the available upgrades due to exponential trends in price performance.
Were a fully upgraded person of the 2080s to travel back in time a century and be integrated into the population, they would be superior in almost every way imaginable. They could run faster and for longer distances than the greatest athletes of the time; they could survive multiple gunshot wounds; they could cope with some of the most hostile environments on Earth without too much trouble. Intellectually, they would be considered geniuses – thanks to various devices merged directly with their brain.
Construction of a transatlantic tunnel is underway
Built from advanced automation and robots – and controlled by AI – this is among the largest, most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken. With hyperfast Maglev up to 4,000mph, passengers using the tunnel can be delivered from Europe to America in under an hour.
Carbon nanotubes, along with powerful geo-sensing devices, have been paramount in the structure's design – these can self-adjust in the event of undersea earthquakes, for example. Also noteworthy is that the train cars operate in a complete vacuum. This eliminates air friction, allowing hypersonic speeds to be reached. The cost of this project is in the region of $88-175bn.*
Many former Winter Olympics venues no longer provide snow
Rising temperatures have rendered many former Winter Olympic sites "climatically unreliable" – that is to say, unable to provide snow on a regular basis.* Although geoengineering efforts have been underway for some time, these have not yet managed to stabilise the global climate.* Former locations that are now either unsuitable or forced to rely on artificial snow include Sochi (Russia), Grenoble (France), Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany), Chamonix (France), Vancouver (Canada) and Squaw Valley (US), with a number of others remaining at high risk. Aside from the Olympics, winter sports in general are increasingly being moved indoors, or are taking place in simulated environments.
Polar bears face extinction
Between 2000 and 2050, polar bear numbers dropped by 70 percent, due to shrinking ice sheets caused by global warming. By 2080, they have disappeared from Greenland entirely – and from the northern Canadian coast – leaving only dwindling numbers in the interior Arctic archipelago.*
Of the few which remain, ice breaking up earlier in the year means they are forced ashore before they have time to build up sufficient fat stores. Others are forced to swim huge distances, which exhausts them, leading to drowning. The effects of global warming have led to thinner, stressed bears, decreased reproduction, and lower juvenile survival rates.
One in five lizard species are extinct
The ongoing mass extinction has claimed many exotic and well-known lizards.* One in five species are now extinct as a result of global warming. Lizards are forced to spend more and more time resting and regulating their body temperature, which leaves them unable to spend sufficient time foraging for food.
Deadly heatwaves plague Europe
Heatwaves greater than that seen in 2003 have become annual occurrences by this time.* In the peak of summer, temperatures in major cities such as London and Paris reach over 40°C. In some of the more southerly parts of the continent, temperatures of over 50°C are reported. Thousands are dying of heat exhaustion. Forest mega-fires rage in many places* while prolonged, ongoing droughts are causing many rivers to run permanently dry. Spain, Italy and the Balkans are turning into desert nations, with climates similar to North Africa.
The USA cedes territory to Mexico
For over two centuries, the United States effectively controlled the entire North American continent. Its dominance throughout this time was unquestioned.
During the late 21st century, however, its territorial integrity was being challenged once again. By the early 2080s, four of its fifty states had been ceded to Mexico.*
What led to this astonishing development?
Most historians would agree it began in the 2030s. America's shrinking labour supply during this time led to the introduction of laws encouraging a massive influx of immigrants. These came from all over the world – but a substantial portion came from Mexico due to its geographical proximity and strong cultural ties.
Various immigrant groups from around the world became culturally integrated with the USA. They fragmented and settled around the country, without overwhelming any region or state. The immigrants from Mexico behaved differently, however. Many became integrated with the USA – but unlike the other groups, they would always be in close proximity to their homelands. With most settling in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, they were never more than a short journey from the border. This fostered a growing intermingling of cultures in southwestern states.
Over time, the social and economic links of the Mexican immigrants began to predominate, to such an extent that they almost represented an extension of their homeland into the United States. These lands had once been Mexican anyway – before the territory was taken by the US in the 19th century – so they already held many characteristics of Mexican society and culture. As the decades rolled by, with more and more immigrants pouring into the country, this influence shifted ever northward. By the middle of the century, states that had been 25% Mexican were now over 50% Mexican, while states which had been 50% Mexican were now almost entirely occupied by Mexicans.*
Climate change was now an added factor, driving large numbers from the southern parts of Mexico to head north, where food and water was more readily available.
This wave of immigration solved the labour supply issue, and contributed to a period of economic boom in the USA.
At the same time, however, a number of radical new technologies were in development: technologies that would lead to a socio-political crisis in later years. Chief amongst these was the growth of robotics. A range of highly versatile machines had already been in military use since the 2030s. These began spreading to consumer markets. By the 2060s, they were becoming sufficiently powerful, intelligent and numerous to make vast numbers of civilian jobs redundant.
This greatly reduced the need for immigration. Millions of workers were now permanently displaced, without the skills to move into robotics support or maintenance. Their previous roles were now being handled by machines that were not only cheaper, but also faster and more productive than any human. Manufacturing, mining, building and construction trades, mechanical work, maintenance and a host of other roles were being dominated by robots.
Unemployment began to soar, exacerbated by advances in longevity which meant that workers were now remaining active longer than ever before. This combination of increased labour pool and redundant workers meant that immigration into America had become a problem rather than a solution.
The US government began limiting its intake of immigrants and addressing the economic imbalance. This would prove disastrous for the poor and working class, however: especially those in the borderlands.
By the 2070s, Mexico was emerging as a major regional power. It now had a balanced and mature economy ranked eighth in the world, along with a stable population, a relatively high standard of living, and growing military power. Mexican nationalism had already been on the rise. Combined with the turmoil now unfolding in the southwestern USA (including the forced repatriation of many immigrants), this began spilling into outright anti-Americanism.
Tensions continued to grow. A critical mass had been reached, with most of the immigrants regarding themselves as a separate entity within the USA – linked to and part of Mexico itself, but under foreign domination. An annexation movement began to arise. Army troops on both sides began to mobilise and patrol the border. American citizens viewed the radicalisation of the south with increasing fear.
Long, drawn-out political battles ensued between Washington and Mexico City. Both sides made it clear that neither desired war. It also became clear that the Mexican president – in effect – was negotiating on behalf of American citizens of Mexican origin within the United States. The recognition of a distinct nation living within the USA appeared inevitable, with no chance of a return to the status quo.
By the early 2080s, following years of negotiations, the matter was finally settled. The country of Mexico had been expanded to include California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas: effectively reclaiming its 19th century territory.
Above: The territorial status of Mexico and the USA, 2082.
Due to Moore's Law, $1000 of computing power is now equivalent to a billion Earth's worth of human brains.* Laptop-sized computers of today can perform the equivalent of all human thought over the last ten thousand years in less than ten microseconds. Technology is progressing so fast that – in order for people to comprehend it – neural upgrades have become necessary on a regular basis.
Credit: Ray Kurzweil
Hinkley Point C and other nuclear plants are decommissioned
Hinkley Point C was part of a "nuclear renaissance" that emerged in the UK during the 2020s. This power station supplied nearly six million households with electricity. After 60 years of operation, the aging plant (along with several others in the country) is finally being shut down.* Fusion has supplanted fission by now.*
Androids are widespread in law enforcement
Fully autonomous, mobile robots with human-like features and expressions are deployed in many cities now.* These androids are highly intelligent, able to operate in almost any environment and dealing with various duties. As well as their powerful sensory and communication abilities, they have access to bank accounts, tax, travel, shopping and criminal records, allowing them to instantly identify people on the street.
The presence of these machines is freeing-up a tremendous amount of time for human officers. They are also being used in crowd control and riot situations. With inhuman strength and speed, a single android can be highly intimidating and easily take on dozens of people if needed. Special controls are embedded in their programming, however, to prevent the use of excessive force.
Five-year survival rates for brain tumours are reaching 100%
Because of their invasive and infiltrative nature in the limited space of the intracranial cavity, brain tumours were once considered a death sentence. Detection usually occurred in advanced stages when the presence of the tumor had caused unexplained symptoms. Glioblastoma multiforme – the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans – had a median survival period of only 12 months from diagnosis, even with aggressive radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgical excision.
In the 21st century, however, detection and treatment methods improved greatly with nano-robotics, gene therapy and technologies able to scan, analyse and run emulations of complete brains in astonishing detail. Alongside this was the gradual emergence of "transhumans", who began utilising permanent implants in their brains and bodies, alerting them to the first signs of danger. Towards the end of this century, five-year survival rates for brain cancer are approaching 100% in many countries, the US being among the first.**
By now, the vast majority of countries have adopted a single, global currency. The USA is among the last developed nations to do so. International business is now fairer, more efficient and more stable. Problems with inflation which had plagued some economies in the past are eliminated. The poor are no longer being hurt by the impacts of currency fluctuations.
All but the most impoverished societies are now cashless. For the typical citizen of today, transactions take place without any need for physical coinage, notes or cards, instead being achieved by on-person nanotech. A large portion of the world's GDP now comes from goods and services produced entirely online, often within highly sophisticated virtual environments. Full immersion VR is impacting on real world commerce, as more and more people become willing to utilise the necessary bio-implants.
Many people today invest more time and money in their virtual home than they do in their actual, physical home. This is especially true of those living in China, India and Japan – where cities are so dense, overcrowded and expensive that many residents are forced to live in pod-like structures, cubicles or shared rooms. The online world offers a welcome escape from this stressful way of life. Indistinguishable from reality, a person's virtual home can appear as a gigantic mansion, in exotic and beautiful surroundings, decorated in whatever style the occupant desires, with many luxurious items of furniture. Being entirely digital, these can be bought for a fraction of the cost of their real world counterparts.
Manned exploration of the Jovian system
Solar sail technology, nuclear pulse propulsion and other forms of rapid space travel have seen major advances in recent decades.* Together with greatly reduced launch costs and improved access to low-Earth orbit, this is making it financially and technically feasible to conduct manned exploration of Jupiter. At least one expedition to the gas giant has been attempted by now. This succeeds in rendezvousing with a moon* in addition to orbitting the planet itself.
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Accessed 15th Jan 2009.
2 Climate change threatens Winter Olympics, University of Waterloo:
Accessed 6th February 2014.
3 See 2060-2100.
4 Earth's Endangered Creatures – Polar Bear Facts, earthsendangered.com:
Accessed 13th April 2009.
5 Climate change link to lizard extinction, BBC:
Accessed 15th May 2010.
6 Background: Britain's heatwave plan, guardian.co.uk:
Accessed 16th August 2009.
7 2003 European heatwave, Wikipedia:
Accessed 16th August 2009.
8 The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, George Friedman:
Accessed 25th October 2009.
9 Based on current rates of technological progress, desktop PCs will reach the computational power of the human brain in 2020 – and continue to double in power every year after that. By 2053, they will be equivalent to the entire human race. By 2057, they will be equivalent to all brains in history. By 2083, a single desktop computer will match the raw intelligence of 9,223,372,037,000,000,000 human brains – or the same as a billion Earth civilisations.
10 See 2023.
11 See 2070.
12 Robots on the beat by 2084, ZDNet:
Accessed 12th November 2012.
13 Browse the SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2009 (Vintage 2009 Populations), National Cancer Institute:
Accessed 11th October 2012.
14 Brain cancer survival statistics, Cancer Research UK:
Accessed 11th October 2012.
15 Ion engine could one day power 39-day trips to Mars, newscientist.com:
Accessed 20th August 2009.
16 "Within 50 years: Mars. After that comes the gas and ice giants in the outer solar system and their intriguing moons."
See Cosmic Concept: Laser-Powered Space Travel, Popular Mechanics:
Accessed 21st October 2013.
17 This will likely be Callisto, due to its relatively low radiation dose. It is the outermost of the four Galilean moons, orbitting at a distance of approximately 1,880,000 km (26 times the 71,398 km radius of Jupiter itself). This is significantly larger than the orbital radius – 1,070,000 km – of the next-closest Galilean satellite, Ganymede.