Timeline of the Future…

hyperspace4I love to study this thing we call “the future”, and began to do so as a hobby the day I made the decision to become a sci-fi writer. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, its that the future is an intangible thing, a slippery beast we try to catch by the tail at any given moment that is constantly receding before us. And when predict it, we are saying more about the time in which we are living than anything that has yet to occur.

As William Gibson famously said: “…science fiction was always about the period in which it was written.” At every juncture in our history, what we perceive as being the future changes based on what’s going on at the time. And always, people love to bring up what has been predicted in the past and either fault or reward the authors for either “getting it right” or missing the mark.

BrightFutureThis would probably leave many people wondering what the point of it all is. Why not just wait and let the future tend to itself? Because it’s fun, that’s why! And as a science fiction writer, its an indispensable exercise. Hell, I’d argue its absolutely essential to society as a whole. As a friend of one once said, “science fiction is more of a vehicle than a genre.” The point is to make observations about society, life, history, and the rest.

And sometimes, just sometimes, predictive writers get it right. And lately, I’ve been inspired by sources like Future Timeline to take a look at the kinds of predictions I began making when I started writing and revising them. Not only have times changed and forced me to revise my own predictions, but my research into what makes humanity tick and what we’re up to has come a long way.

So here’s my own prediction tree, looking at the next few centuries and whats likely to happen…

21st Century:

2013-2050:

  • Ongoing recession in world economy, the United States ceases to be the greatest economic power
  • China, India, Russia and Brazil boast highest rates of growth despite continued rates of poverty
  • Oil prices spike due to disappearance of peak oil and costs of extracting tar sands
  • Multiple vaccines created to immunize against HIV, infection rates worldwide begin to drop
  • Solar power, wind, tidal and geothermal power growing in use, slowly replacing fossil fuel and coal
  • First arcologies finished in China, Japan, Russia, India and the United States

arcology_lillypad

  • Humanity begins colonizing the Moon and mounts manned mission to Mars
  • Settlements constructed using native soil and 3D printing/sintering technology
  • NASA tows asteroid to near Earth and begins studies, leading to plans for asteroid mining
  • Population grows to 9 billion, with over 6 living in major cities across the all five continents
  • Last reported HIV infection takes place in the developing world
  • Cure for HIV is approved for development and is distributed all over the globe

HIV

  • Climate Change leading to extensive drought and famine, as well as coastal storms, flooding and fires
  • Cybernetics, nanotech and biotech leading to the elimination of disabilities
  • Cybernetic augmentations become available, using artificial muscles, implants, and bionic limbs
  • 3D Construction and Computer-Assisted Design create inexpensive housing in developing world
  • Rates of poverty and underdevelopment begin to drop in Africa, Asia and South America

europa_report

  • First exploratory mission to Europa mounted, discovers proof of basic life forms under the surface ice
  • Rome ordains first openly homosexual priests, an extremely controversial move that splits the church
  • First semi-sentient, Turing compatible AI’s are produced and put into service
  • Thin, transparent, flexible medical patches leading to age of “digital medicine”
  • Religious orders formed opposed to “augmentation”, “transhumanism” and androids
  • First true quantum computers roll off the assembly line

quantum-teleportation-star-trails-canary-islands-1-640x353

  • Creation of the worldwide quantum internet underway
  • Quantum cryptography leads to increased security, spamming and hacking begins to drop worldwide
  • Flexible, transparent smartphones, PDAs and tablets become the norm
  • Nanofabrication leads to boom in “smart materials” that can respond to direct stimuli and user input
  • Hypersonic engine technology becomes incorporated into all military, commercial and private aircraft

skylon

  • Fully immersive VR environments now available for recreational, commercial and educational use
  • Carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere passes 600 ppm, efforts to curb emissions are redoubled
  • Biotech research leading severe drops in cancer, diabetes and chronic illness
  • ISS is retired, replaced by multiple space stations servicing space shuttles and commercial firms
  • World’s first orbital colony created with a population of 400 people
  • First military aerospace craft developed for “next-generation combat” in space

aerospace

2050-2100:

  • Global economy enters “Second Renaissance” as AI, nanomachinery, quantum computing, and clean energy lead to explosion in construction and development
  • AIDS slowly being eliminated in all corners of the world
  • Commercial space travel become a major growth industry with regular trips to the Moon
  • Implant technology removes the need for digital devices, technology now embeddable
  • Medical implants leading to elimination of neurological disorders and injuries
  • Synthetic food becoming the rage, 3D printers offering balanced nutrition with sustainability

3dfood2

  • Canada, Russia, Argentina, and Brazil become leading exporters of foodstuffs, fresh water and natural gas
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and South East-Asia become fastest growing economies in the world
  • Colonies on the Moon and Mars expand, new settlement missions plotted to Ganymede, Europa, Oberon and Titan
  • Quantum internet expanding into space with quantum satellites, allowing off-world connectivity to worldwide web
  • Self-sufficient buildings with water recycling, carbon capture and clean energy becomes the norm in all major cities
  • Second and third generation “Martians” and “Loonies” are born, giving rise to colonial identity

asteroid_foundry

  • Asteroid Belt becomes greatest source of minerals, robotic foundries use sintering to create manufactured products
  • Europe experiences record number of cold winters due to disruption of the Gulf Stream
  • Missions mounted to extra-Solar systems using telexploration probes and space penetrators
  • Average life expectancy now exceeds 100, healthy children expected to live to 120 years of age
  • NASA, ESA, CNSA, RFSA, and ISRO begin mounting missions to exoplanets using robot ships and antimatter engines
  • Private missions to exoplanets with cryogenically frozen volunteers and crowdfunded spaceships

daedalus_starship_630px

  • Severe refugee crisis take place in South America, Southern Europe and South-East Asia
  • Militarized borders and sea lanes lead to multiple humanitarian crises, thousands killed and interned
  • India and Pakistan go to war over Indus River as food shortages mount amidst droughts
  • China clamps down on separatists in western provinces of Xinjian and Tibet to protect source of the Yangtze and Yellow River
  • Biotechnology begins to grow, firms using bacteria to assemble structural materials

geminoid

  • Biotech leads to growth of “glucose economy”, South American and Sub-Saharan economies leading in manufacture of biomaterials
  • Fully sentient AIs created and integrated into all aspects of life
  • Traditionalist communities form all over Earth, people seeking to disconnect from modern world and eschew enhancement
  • Digital constructs become available, making neurological downloads available
  • Nanotech research leading to machinery and materials assembled at the atomic level
  • Traditional classrooms giving way to “virtual classrooms”, on-demand education by AI instructors
  • Medical science, augmentation, pharmaceuticals and uploads lead to the first generation of human “Immortals”

space_debris

  • Orbital colonies gives way to Orbital Nexus, with hundreds of habitats being established
  • Global population surpasses 11 billion despite widespread famine and displacement
  • Solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and fusion power replace oil, coal and natural gas as the dominant power source worldwide
  • Census data shows half of world residents now have implants or augmentation of some kind
  • Widespread use of implants and augmentation leads to creation of new underclass called “organics”
  • Research into the Alcubierre Drive begins to bear experimental results

alcubierre-warp-drive-overview22nd Century:

2100-2150:

  • Climate Change and global population begin to level off
  • First “Neural Collective” created, volunteers upload their thought patterns into matrix with others
  • Transhumanism becomes established religion, espousing the concept of transcendence
  • “Organics” become a counter-culture, forming traditionalist communities on Earth and throughout the Solar System
  • First generation of fully capable space combat fighters created

aerospace_1

  • Space-based solar power now the leading source of energy in the world, Luna Ring and hundreds of orbitals arrays collect solar energy and beam it directly to the surface
  • Number of human uploads exceeds one million and growing with every passing year, creating culture of “Immortals”
  • Cybernetics and biotech merge to create seamless prosthetics and replacement body parts
  • Era of the “posthuman” declared as organic and artificial life become all but indistinguishable
  • Research into “quantum entanglement” leads to the creation of artificial wormholes
  • First space “Destroyer” created using orbital facilities, beginning of space-based military

Vladivostok-class_Frigate

  • Moon settlements become major agricultural operation, sealed domes and hydroponics producing grains, vegetables, fruits and meat for Earth consumption
  • Population in Solar Colonies and Orbital Nexus reaches 100,000 and continues to grow
  • Economic speculators shifts interest to orbit as new sites for innovation, research and development
  • First recorded indications of Global Dimming begin, carbon capture efforts curbed amidst fears of “Iceball Planet”
  • Off-world industry continues to grow as Asteroid Belt and colonies provide the majority of Earth’s mineral needs

asteroid_belt1

  • Famine now widespread on all five continents, internalized food production in urban spaces continues
  • UN gives way to UNE, United Nations of Earth, which has near-universal representation
  • First test of Alcubierre FTL Drive successful, missions to neighboring systems planned
  • Deep space flooded with nanoprobes carrying message of peace for extra-terrestrials
  • Space penetrators loaded with terraforming nanoprobes fired in direction of exoplanets to terraform them in advance of settlement

terraforming-mars2

  • Terraforming of Mars and Venus begins in earnest using specially-cultured bacteria and nanomachines
  • Tensions begin to mount in Solar Colonies as pressure mounts to produce more agricultural goods
  • Extinction rate of wild animals begins to drop off, efforts at ecological restoration continue
  • First attempts to creating universal religion are mounted, condemned by virtually all the world’s major faiths
  • Far-flung communities established in Solar System with mission of preserving human “purity” (i.e. no augmentation)

networked_minds

  • Governments in most developed countries transitioning to “democratic anarchy”
  • Political process and involvement becoming digitized as representation becomes obsolete
  • “Super-sentience” emerges as people merge their neural patterns with each other or AIs to form first “borganism” communities
  • Law reformed to recognize neural constructs and AIs as individuals, entitled to legal rights
  • Biotech research merges with AI and nanotech to create first organic buildings with integrated intelligence

digital_sentience2150-2200:

  • Majority of the world’s population live in arcologies and self-sufficient environments
  • Census reveals over 80% of world lives with implants and augmentation of some kind
  • Population of Orbital Nexus, off-world settlements surpasses 1 million
  • First traditionalist mission goes into deep space, seeking world insulated from rapid change and development
  • Labor tensions and off-world riots lead to creation of Solar policing force with mandate to “keep the peace”

alien-world

  • First mission to extra=Solar planets arrive, robots begin surveying surface of Gliese 581 g, Gliese 667C c, HD 85512 b, HD 40307 g, Gliese 163 c, Tau Ceti e, Tau Ceti f
  • Deep space missions planned and executed with Alcubierre Drive to distant worlds
  • 1st Wave using relativistic engines and 2nd Wave using Alcubierre Drives meet up and begin colonizing exoplanets
  • Neighboring star systems within 25 light years begin to be explored
  • Terraforming begins on Mars, Venus and Europa using programmed strains of bacteria, nanobots, robots and satellites
  • Space Elevator and Slingatron built on the Moon, used to transport people to space and send goods to the surface

space_elevator_lunar1

  • Earth’s ecology begins to recover
  • Natural species are reintroduced through cloning and habitat recovery
  • Last reported famine on record, food production begins to move beyond urban farms
  • Colonies within 50 light years are established on Gliese 163 c, Gliese 581 g, Gliese 667C c, HD 85512 b, HD 40307 g, Tau Ceti e, Tau Ceti f
  • Off-world population reaches 5 million and continues to grow
  • Tensions between Earth and Solar Colonies continue, lead to demands for interplanetary governing body
  • Wormhole technology developed and FTL jumps planned to neighboring systems
  • Living, breathing cities become the norm on all settled worlds, entire communities build of integrated organic materials run by AIs and maintained by programmed DNA and machinery

self-aware-colony

23rd Century and Beyond:

Who the hell knows?

*Note: Predictions and dates are subject to revision based on ongoing developments and the author’s imagination. Not to be taken literally, and definitely open to input and suggestions.

7 thoughts on “Timeline of the Future…

  1. Wow. This is really great. The thing that stayed in my mind as I was reading this was (and here is the connection in a way to my WIP) will adherents to some of the major world religions find themselves forced to shelve the more outward forms of practice in order to conform to societal expectations or the laws of the city/state/country. And we’re seeing it now. The burqa bans in France, other parts of Europe and now parts of Canada. Its all frightening because as with all things it is just the beginning of things…they always go farther, get worse. As you know, when you tell people they can’t do or be something, that is all they want to do. Which means non observant members of religions will become more adherent to their respective faiths.
    Then there are the members of major the major religions who distort the religions and use them for their own reasons, terrorists and the such.
    I like the inclusion of population changes and the introduction of AIs. We already see that now. Look at Japan with the love-doll/sex-bots. Heh.
    I’m totally about growing older, but I tell you what, the idea that i was born to soon to be able to qualify to be a moon or Mars colonist just makes me sad and jealous. I want to be able to do that. I want to go.

    1. That is a good question! I feel that on the one hand, persecution of religions, not religious persecution, may very well become the norm in the not-too-distant future because of the excuse that such people are intolerant. Which is a very good way of empowering faiths to do some extreme things! However, I think that the real danger is that technological progress might lead to unabated technocracy, where faith finds itself growing slowly obsolete and they must find ways to shield and isolate themselves in order to keep a message about the importance of the spiritual alive in a world where the boundaries between physical and spiritual are becoming increasingly blurred. In fact, got a short story in mind with just that theme! Its an older idea, but thanks to the mention of religion here I decided I might dust it off!

      Oh, and I think you could go on a Moon or Mars mission. Your still young, and definitely young enough given some of the predictions I’ve been hearing. And you could always sign up for Mars One’s trip to the Red Planet, but I assume you want to come back to right?

      1. Well as for coming back, I think that this would be an important enough trip to make that sacrifice for. My children on the other hand may not allow me to do this. I don’t know though, I think I’m too old not. At 43 years old there would definitely be other younger more qualified individuals to go.
        I do see things getting pretty bad as far as our environment and despite the introduction of synthetic food I think we’ll have a real issue feeding the hungry. While racism, to some degree may be on the decline, classism is not. We aren’t that sympathetic to those in need nor are we very sympathetic to our elderly. The elderly will live longer and yet become part of that underserved underprivileged group of people. The divide between rich and poor will broaden.
        I am skeptical about the place that AIs will have in our coming society. While I think they will play a large role, I don’t think, at least here in the West, that we will be so welcoming of them in our personal lives.

      2. I agree, especially where the AIs are concerned. I predict a major shift in thinking and that the law will need to be rewritten to grant them rights, unless we go the other way and ban them entirely (echoes of Blade Runner there!). I imagine it will be much like the debate over gay marriage today, with some saying they just can’t budge on their moral beliefs, and others saying that its wrong to deny anyone their freedom.

        As for class differences, I worry that technological change will have a duel effect. On the one hand, the global economy is becoming more equalized, shifting away from a polarized system dominated by western economies, but at the same time, ongoing change is likely to widen the divide between the haves and have nots. Just because other nations are getting richer does not erase class distinction within those nations.

        Oh, but you can still go to the Moon on a commercial flight. You might not get into a space program, but its going to be easier for other people to go into space in the near future. And in the future, its going to be easier to experience what it’s like through VR. I bet you could get some tickets for a Moon trip by 2030 or so. Though it might not hurt to tell the kids you plan to spend their inheritance on the trip… either that or they gotta get rich and buy the tickets for you!

        This is fun!

  2. You might also want to take a look at the timeline of the Orion’s Arm Universe project. However the timeline there uses a different calendar system:

    http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/48c6d4c3d54cf

    And here’s the timeline; 10000 years of future history starting with the first landing on the Old Earth’s moon:

    http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-topic/45b170f9e0941

    Unlike in your timeline above the AIs take on a much more active role in the leadership of future humanity and later on the Terragen society in general:

    http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/491c07059ad58

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