If we could go back to the year 1900 to visit our grandparents, how would they view us? Back then, life expectancy hovered around 40, people were largely dirt farmers and life was short and brutal. Viewing our rockets, jet airplanes, TVs, computers, and Internet, they would see us as sorcerers and wizards.
But if someone from 2100 could visit us now, how would we view them? Probably like the gods of mythology. They would command everything around them by wishing for it. They would have perfect and ageless bodies. And they would ride across the universe in magical chariots. In the past, we feared the gods of mythology. In the next 100 years, we will become them.
Based on interviews with 300 of the world’s top scientists, I’ve put together some predictions for what that world, 100 years in the future, will look like. This is not a work of science fiction, since prototypes of these inventions already exist, and all of them obey the laws of physics. Just a few of the predictions in my book “Physics of the Future” include:
The Internet will be in your contact lens. Imagine blinking, and then instantly going on line, accessing your home office, or home entertainment system anywhere or anytime. We will be able to download any movie, song, Web site, or piece of information off the Internet directly onto our Internet-enabled contact lenses. These lenses will also be able to identify people’s faces, translate their comments and provide subtitles, so that we will always know exactly with whom we are speaking and what they are saying in any language. We will live in a cross between “The Matrix” and real life. Tourists will love this, for example, since they will be able to see the glory of the Roman Empire resurrected in their contact lens as they walk among the ruins of Rome. Artists and architects will love it, as well, since they will be able to create great works of art by simply moving their hands in the air. People suffering from illnesses, like diabetes, will love it, too, because they will have immediate readouts of their heart rate, insulin levels, and other important conditions within their own bodies.
Computers will disappear, as will cellphones, clocks, watches, and MP3 players. Chips, costing less than a penny apiece, will be hidden by the millions in the environment. We will be able to command these hidden computers telepathically, directly via the mind. Computers will interpret the electrical signals emitted by our brains, decipher them, and carry out our wishes. When we walk into a room, we will be able to mentally control a computer that in turn will direct the many things around us. Moving heavy furniture, rearranging desks, and brewing a cup of coffee may be possible just by thinking about it. So we will be like the gods of mythology, mentally manipulating the world around us. We will also be able to conjure up almost any object just by wishing for it. This is done via “programmable matter,” which consists of millions of microscopic computer chips, which are intelligent and can be programmed to suddenly rearrange themselves into any shape or object on command, so that we will be able to create almost anything we can imagine (this is very similar to the Replicator from “Star Trek”).
Our cars will be driver-less, using GPS to navigate without the help of an alert human behind the wheel. These cars will also fly (finally!) by floating on a cushion of magnetism. With room-temperature superconducting magnets, our cars and trains will glide effortlessly in the air without bumps or potholes to worry about since the crafts hover over the treacherous road. Traffic jams and accidents will be a thing of the past as a central computer will be able to track the motions of all the cars on the road (or air), while each car will use radar in its fenders to sense obstacles and take emergency measures as soon as it senses an impending accident. Best of all, we will hardly ever need to fuel up, since there is almost no friction to slow us down. This will also solve the energy crisis, since most energy is wasted, strangely enough, on overcoming the friction of the road.
Doctors will be able to grow “spare parts” for our organs as soon as they wear out. This will create a “human body shop.” We will never need organ donors and never die of organ failure. Even the typical doctor’s visit will change. For a routine checkup we will talk to a robotic software program that will have a complete record of our genes. This robotic MD will be able to correctly diagnose up to 95 percent of human ailments. If the robot can’t help, then the patient moves on to a living and breathing doctor who can help figure out the rarer disease that takes a more refined and sophisticated mind. By mid-century, doctors and scientists may be able to construct an entire organism using its genome alone. As this genome science progresses, researchers may be able to carry a small kit around with them and, in mere minutes, sequence the entire genome of any life-form they encounter. We will then be able to resurrect extinct life-forms, such as the mammoth, dodo bird, and even the Neanderthal (There are ethical concerns with the Neanderthal. Do we put them in a zoo or put them through college, one scientist pointed out to me). In the movie “Jurassic Park,” scientists extracted DNA from dinosaurs and inserted it into the eggs of reptiles. Although usable DNA from dinosaurs has yet to be found, there is evidence that in the future this dream might become a reality. That means by the end of this century, our zoos may be populated by creatures that ceased walking the surface of the earth millions of years ago.
The human life span will be extended. Aging will be slowed down by attacking it at the molecular and genetic level. We may be able to “cruise” at the age of 30 almost indefinitely by growing new organs as they wear out or become diseased, ingesting a cocktail of proteins and enzymes, using gene therapy to alter genes that may slow down due to aging, and the old adage of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Genetic engineering will also allow us to create “designer children,” so parents can choose the physical (and perhaps even intellectual) characteristics of their children. (Laws will have to be passed to regulate this powerful technology.) Some of these children will be designed to have “superhuman abilities,” or become stronger, more intelligent, and happier individuals.
Molecular “smart bombs” circulating in our blood will home in on, zap and kill cancer cells. Nanoparticles, the size of molecules, will seek out cancer cells and destroy them years before they become a problem, either by poisoning them or rupturing the cells. We will view chemotherapy like we view blood-letting and leeches, a painful relic of our ignorant past. However, cancer will not be cured. There are too many types of cancers that mutate too quickly, so the disease will persist; however doctors will be better equipped to diagnose cancer early and treat the disease successfully.
Our toilets and bathroom mirror will contain DNA sensors, capable of detecting proteins emitted from perhaps a hundred cancer cells in a cancer colony, 10 years before a tumor forms. We will have a complete medical check-up every time you go to the bathroom, which contain more computer power than a modern hospital. The word “tumor” will disappear from the English language. Even our clothes will contain these cancer-finding chips, but these chips will also multitask, and will be able to independently call for an ambulance in the case of an accident, upload our medical history to nearby hospitals and sense irregularities in heartbeat, breathing and brain waves. In the future, it will be difficult to die alone. And today’s huge MRI machines which peer into the body will be reduced to the size of cellphones, like the Tricorder from “Star Trek.” By passing this “Tricorder” over the body, it will immediately detect signs of any illness and project a 3-D image of your internal organs for doctor’s to examine. However, diseases will not be eradicated, since they tend to mutate faster than we can cure them, even in 2100.
The robot industry will dwarf the size of the current automobile industry. Robots will be everywhere, performing dangerous and tedious tasks. They will have emotions. They will be friendly, polite, helpful (and with fail-safe devices to prevent accidents). Many robots won’t exist in human form, but will be hidden from view, the size of snakes, insects and spiders, and undertaking various unpleasant and dangerous tasks in place of humans. They will also be used as cooks, surgeons, musicians, pets, store clerks and so forth. By the end of the century, robots will be nearly as smart as humans and may replace many jobs. Among the worse off will be blue-collar workers who perform repetitive jobs that are easily replaced by robots. However, there are a large number of blue-collar jobs that will survive, including garbage collectors, police officers, gardeners and plumbers, who are all dependent on pattern recognition. Among white-collar workers, the losers will be those involved taking inventory and “bean counting,” such as low-level agents, brokers, tellers, and accountants. However, novelists, scriptwriters, artists, entertainers, and jobs that deal in human relations, such as lawyers, will persist.
Tourists will soar into outer space via the Space Elevator. We will push the “up” button and the elevator will climb up a long carbon fiber cable, which extends thousands of miles into space. This will open up the solar system to wealthy tourists and the outer- space-obsessed. The key is to use nanotechnology to create these super-strong cables made of carbon. In addition, scientists will be preparing the first starship capable of leaving the solar system and visiting the nearest stars. New propulsion systems, perhaps involving antimatter or fusion engines, will take us there. By the end of the century, we may have a small outpost on Mars, but an overwhelming fraction of the human race will still be on earth. For decades to centuries to come, space travel will be for astronauts, the wealthy and maybe a handful of hardy space colonists.
With advanced technology also comes advanced dangers, especially biological warfare, nuclear proliferation, and global warming. Science is a double-edged sword. One side can cut against poverty, disease, and ignorance; but the other side can also cut against the people unless it is properly controlled. Global warming will become even more disastrous, as many American cities will likely be drowned and other cities, such as New York, will be surrounded by seawalls. Biological terrorists will get more sophisticated and most likely will be able to make viral diseases, like AIDS, airborne. Also, for example, since chips and robots will replace a wide variety of products and occupations, millions could lose their jobs and the economy could be thrown into turmoil. Silicon Valley, for one, may become a dead zone as the chip is replaced by smaller and smaller prototypes, eradicating the area’s jobs and upending the nation’s economy.
Michio Kaku is a professor of physics at the City University of New York and a TV host on the Science Channel. His latest book is “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives By the Year 2100” (Doubleday), out now.
Have you ever wondered how the world will be in 100 years?
No one can know it from now, but highly-regarded scientists (physicists, biologists, sociologists) who study the evolution of the society, human life and the world in general make such kind of predictions based solely on scientific data. This is how the world might look in 100 years from now, according to their publications in scientific journals.
According to futurologistsIan Pearson and Patrick Tucker, by 2050, the human body will be embedded with computers, at least in a big part of the population. By 2075, most of those living in the developed world will have some kind of chips built in their brains to make them work faster and share thoughts in the form of computer files.
Advancements in genetic engineering and robotics will create human geniuses who will live forever. Does it sound excessive? It is sure that there will be a way to influence neurons in the brain to increase the intelligence level and with the help of genetics, it will be possible to maintain the human body for many many years. Thus, the death would become an option…
Brain-to-brain communication will be taken for granted by scientists. They say that it will become as simple as when you save files to a memory stick and transfer them to another computer. They call this process “synthetic telepathy” and see the communication as electrical signals, rather than words.
According to futurists, it is very likely that a global electronic currency will be created. They say that the number of local currencies will significantly reduce by the mid-century and will gradually disappear.
Nuclear fusion and alternative energy
Nuclear fusion occurs when lightweight atomic nuclei (eg, isotopes of hydrogen) unite to heavier ones with a simultaneous release of energy (such reactions constantly occur in the Sun, but also in nuclear reactors). At present, such thermonuclear reactors (such as in Princeton, USA) are experimental, so we do not even know when and how they will be able to provide usable amounts of energy. However, scientists believe that the potential of solar energy and shale gas is likely to increase tremendously.
There will be only three world languages: English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese
All the other languages will have no chance to survive through time. Futurists say that it is not a coincidence that many minority languages are already extinct. The fact that all educated people in the world speak at least one of these languages will further contribute to this phenomenon.
Journeys into space for everyone
Most futurists agree on this and believe that some kind of tourist resorts will be created in space, although they will be affordable only for wealthy people.
The deserts will become tropical forests
Even now, leading teams of architects and engineers with the support of the European Union plan to create huge greenhouses in deserts like Sahara, in order to produce food, energy and water using new technologies. In these greenhouses, the sea water will be converted to the drinkable one and will be used in cultivation. In the test facilities of the Sahara Forest Project, which already operate in Qatar, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes are currently produced. Moreover, a vast park of solar collectors, which could power the whole Europe, is to be created in the same area in the coming years.
Oceans as a food source
It is one of the most “confident” future developments, according to scientists, because if the world population continues growing at the same rate, it will reach ten billion. So the food will not be enough. Thus, the oceans will be used to rear fish and to provide populations with water taken from the algae, which can be modified genetically to release fresh water. The algaculture is already considered a renewable resource.
It will be possible to control the weather
Scientists are sure about the development of a technology that will direct storms, cause rain and so on. Moreover, because of the intense climatic changes of the recent years, the ongoing research is conducted to better understand how the weather “works”. However, since the technological means to control the weather will be quite expensive, it is likely that they will be used only in special cases, for example, to avoid a severe natural disaster.
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