RE: Twenty Predictions for 2100
I picked up this article from the BBC in which user-submitted predictions for 2100 were commented upon by two fellows. I get a kick out of this kind of thing so I thought I would add some commentary here. In general I feel as though the commentators are too optimistic about the likelihoods of many of these.
Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish (Jim 300)
This is such a vague statement that its certainty is almost guaranteed. I think we will find ways to extract value out of the seawater itself (e.g., organic compounds that have use as fertilizer or animal feed). But I think the most likely new use of the sea will be floating plantations. One of the biggest challenges of the next century is going to be feeding the growing population. 70% of Earth’s surface is ocean. If we could build expansive buoyant platforms – artificial islands, if you will – and layer them with enough soil to grow crops – we’d be in business in a major way. First, the ocean is flat, so one major problem is solved. Next, the ocean is made of water. Salty water, yes, but we’ve had desalinization plants for years, and such a plant would be a staple of any floating farm. Desalinization requires electricity, but solar and wind installations, both of which are unsightly eyesores on land where people live but completely harmless when off-shore, could easily be used. Third, particularly if we’ve found a way to derive a form of fertilizer from ocean water or the ocean floor, all of the nutrients are there too. The biggest problem you’d have with such a construct is preventing a storm from destroying your platform, but we build oil rigs in the middle of the Caribbean. Surely we could solve this problem creatively.
I believe China will pioneer this tech because they’ll need to first. The U.S. and other nations will start building these installations eventually too, particularly when the large aquifers that water the farms in the Midwest start to dry up.
We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission (Dev 2)
I think this is certain, but the question about how commonplace it will be is more interesting. It raises incredible privacy concerns. If we have the ability to communicate by wearing a special helmet that can read our thoughts, how will we appropriately control which thoughts are transmitted? More importantly, do you want your local police station to have the ability to forcibly strap one of these things to your head so they can read what’s going in your mind while they’re interrogating you?
This is a very tricky technology because its usefulness is mitigated by privacy concerns. A certain segment of the population – and one much larger than you might think – will simply refuse to ever use one of these devices. It could get bad. What if your unwillingness to communicate via thoughts becomes culturally construed as an indicator that you have something to hide?
Still, it will probably happen and become ubiquitous.
I believe the application of this technology will be to enable hands free control of computers, including, for example, writing this blog. (Writing is not really the same as communication). Mostly, it will be used for video gaming. I believe you’ll see helmets which use lasers to beam images directly on to your retinas so that you have 100% immersive sight and noise cancelling headphones to create 100% immersive hearing, and a brain-to-computer interface to allow your thoughts to control the game.
We will be able to control the weather (mariebee_)
Total rubbish. This prediction stems from the ridiculous notion held by most global warming nutjobs today that human beings can influence the Earth’s climate in a meaningful way. The oceans, decaying plant matter, and volcanoes contribute enormously more CO2 into our environment than all of human production combined (several orders of magnitude more, in fact – about 100 times!)
We may be able to influence the weather in certain ways, but of even that much I am skeptical. What mechanisms could we possibly use to make it sunny instead of rainy? Do you envision a giant fan that we point at the rain clouds to move them over the ocean or something?
Even if we could “control” the weather, we wouldn’t. Look at how hopping mad these climate change buffoons get at the notion that we may be increasing global temperatures by a couple of degrees C. Look at the idiot politicians’ responses to these climate change buffoons. We’re busy spending billions of dollars and billions of minutes yammering on about global warming which we aren’t even sure that a) we’re causing b) can stop and c) will negatively impact the planet in a meaningful way.
In a hypothetical year 2100 where we have the technology to control rainfall, everybody would be terrified to either make it rain or not because the sheer number of variables affected by the weather in terms of overall climate, ecosystems, seasons, and so on creates a system so complex that even the hypothetical computers of tomorrow won’t be able to churn through them all and determine how safe or unsafe turning rain into sunshine would be – not because we lack the CPU cycles but simply because some human being would have to design a simulation that takes all these things into account.
And then, even if we did have such a thorough understanding of climate and weather that the scientists who study this could assure us that it’s perfectly safe to manipulate stormclouds (and be correct!), enough of the population simply would not believe them and protest the idea of controlling the weather.
And then, even if we did have the green light and the tech to do this, who gets to decide where it rains and where it snows and where it’s sunny? What happens when the farmers start fighting with the resort hotel owners who start fighting with the stadiums who start fighting with municipalities who don’t want to buy salt to clear the roads who start fighting with airlines who want clear skies to fly in…
Total rubbish. We may someday learn how to control precipitation, but we won’t ever actually do it on a large scale. China might. But we won’t.
Antarctica will be “open for business” (Dev 2)
Incredibly vague and probably also wrong. The truth is there’s very little of interest in Antarctica and we’ll likely be done with petroleum by 2100 (or be using so little that existing reserves meet world demand). As one of the commentators mentioned, we’d be far more likely to use the vast areas of inner Asia (Siberia) and the tundras of Canada for human population centers than we would the Antarctic. The only value that continent has is natural resources and it’s unlikely that it will ever be economically viable to acquire them.
One single worldwide currency (from Kennys_Heroes)
Wrong. We saw the circus that the single currency in Europe has caused with countries like Greece and Ireland in financial ruins and an inability to correct their markets. Most people do not understand how national currencies work, but here’s the brief version:
A government controls the money supply by taking money in and out of circulation (printing and destroying, respectively). When there is a lot of money in circulation, then banks, which borrow money from its government, will not pay a high interest rate on the money because the supply is high. When there isn’t a lot of money in circulation, then banks will pay a high interest rate because the demand is high. Supply and demand. So when a national interest rate is, for example, 5%, what that means is that if a private bank borrows 100 units of currency from that nation’s central bank, it has to pay 5 units of currency back to the bank every year until it pays those 100 units back. Since private banks have to make a profit, they loan those 100 units to a private citizen for say 8% interest. The private citizen pays the bank 8 units of currency per year. The bank gives 5 of those to the government and keeps 3 for itself and therefore has revenue.
The question then becomes why does a national bank (in the U.S.’s case, this is called the Federal Reserve) raise and lower interest rates? When the economy is strong and unemployment is low, putting more money out for private banks to loan to private citizens encourages economic growth. A business needs funds to get started, so most small businesses start with a small business loan of some kind, which they get from a private bank. When the economy is weak, it is more appropriate to reign in the amount of money available for loaning because another word for loan is “debt.” In a bad economic situation, making loans easy and cheap encourages people to take on debt which they may not be able to repay. For example in a boom economy a small business such as a restaurant has a much greater chance of success (and therefore repayment of the loan debt) than in a stagnant economy of a recession, for the simple fact that during boom times people have money to spend on dining out and in a recession they do not.
The reason that a single worldwide currency would therefore be a terrible idea and will not happen is the same reason why the single Euro currency has been a disaster for Greece, Ireland, and Spain – their governments and their economies are vastly different. When Ireland switched from the Punt to the Euro, the interest rate on money, which is set in Brussels, became cheaper, because the interest rate on the Punt was higher than the Euro. It was higher on the Punt because Ireland’s economy at the time called for a higher interest rate. Now that Euros were cheap, the Irish borrowed, and their real estate market – one of the primary reasons for people to borrow money (mortgages) – exploded. The reason for this is that the interest rate on your mortgage determines your buying power. You may be able to afford, say, a $300k home with a 5% interest rate. But you may be able to afford a $400k home with a 3% interest rate. When national interest rates are low (and stay low), houses begin to go up in value. When the rates are high, houses begin to go down in value.
The problem with real estate going up in value based on an interest rate is the fact that actual value of the property is not commensurate with the market value. A 3,000 square foot house may cost about $200,000 in materials and labor to build, but it could be on the market for $500, $600, even $700,000 if interest rates are nice and low. If I buy a house for $600,000 with a nice low 3% interest, what happens when the Federal Reserve ups the interest rate to 4%? A 4% mortgage for that amount costs more per month than a 3% one does, and now there’s fewer people who actually earn enough money to actually afford that monthly mortgage payment, so now my pool of potential buyers gets smaller. What happens if I lose my job and I have to sell my house because I can’t afford it, but interest rates have gone up and nobody can afford to pay what I paid for it? The answer is I take a huge loss. Possibly such a huge loss that I don’t have the money to cover it. The end result is a foreclosure. The private bank that owns my loan has now just lost a lot of money, and this creates a huge ripple effect across every segment of the economy.
This scenario happened to some degree or another almost everywhere (at least in the Western world) between 2007-2008. We’re now in an economic recession because of it, which will last until prices begin to stabalize themselves. The U.S. can do anything it wants with its reserves in the meanwhile, adjusting it appropriately in an effort to fix this problem.
But if the entire world were pegged to one currency (which was administered using a reserve system as nearly every modern country does today), we’d end up with national economies getting devastated by the effects of cheap money and like Greece and Ireland have absolutely no recourse.
Thus, it will never happen.
We will all be wired to computers to make our brains work faster (Dev 2)
It is estimated that the human brain is equivalent to a computer that performs one quadrillion flops per second. In comparison, your desktop PC does perhaps 100 billion, and your smart phone does much less. Computers are not as fast as our brains. They may seem so since obviously we cannot perform a quadrillion mathematical operations per second, but considering all of the things the brain does at the rate at which it does it is the key. Even something as basic as our vision – how we combine two unique inputs (one from each eye) and process it into a single image in real time (the eye can see approximately 30 “frames” per second – an image flickering faster than that appears to be a still image to us) is incredibly costly in terms of computer FLOPS but we do it seemingly effortlessly on top of all the other things our brain is doing, like telling our hearts to beat.
Even still, computers will probably be objectively faster than human brains by 2100. That said, it’s unlikely that a computer can do anything to make our brains “faster” per se. We are limited by hardware the same way your desktop PC is limited to 100 gigaflops today. What computers can do is augment our brains such that we do not need to remember as much. That’s already true today. The only limiting factor is our interfaces. When you want to know which year Isaac Newton is born you need to get onto a computer or your phone and clumsily type in a search query in Google or browse to Wikipedia or whatever. It will probably take minutes to come up with an answer. I believe we will use brain interfaces to replace clumsy typing and browsing websites with our eyes, and in that sense, we will appear to be “smarter” and “faster” because we are asking our computer questions and our very fast computer is giving us answers very fast.
If we have a brain-computer interface it will almost certainly be one-way. I think it’s very likely that smart phones will evolve into a true personal computer that you essentially wear at all times which acts as your assistant – you ask it something by thinking it and it uses natural language processing tools to interpret what you mean and then find an answer for you, and then speaks the answer to you, possibly through a tiny earpiece that would be inaudible to anyone except you. Game shows like Jeopardy! will be obsolete and considered hopelessly stupid because humans will not be expected to know things. Our children will not be asked to learn things and memorize them as part of their education. Instead it will focus entirely on critical thinking and interpreting, because everybody will have a smart phone/personal computer on them at all times which has always-on internet access which can answer any question you have about any objective fact instantly. They will also not be expected to know how to do long division, except perhaps taught as a lesson in how to apply a mathematical algorithm (e.g., follow these steps).
Nanorobots will flow around our body fixing cells, and will be able to record our memories (Alister Brown)
I believe nanorobots will extend our lifespans incredibly, and possibly indefinitely. They will almost certainly be able to cure all forms of cancer. Whether they exist as actual mechanical devices or are actually engineered viruses is debatable, but one way or another, we will have engineered things floating around our body repairing it for us. It’s easy to imagine, for example, creating an artificial blastocyst (the cells which create bone) which works faster and could greatly increase the recovery time for a broken bone. We will almost certainly have a device which is capable of clearing plaque from arteries, greatly reducing heart attacks and strokes. We will almost certainly have a device which floats around our body and selectively simply kills fat cells so that no matter how badly we eat, we don’t get fat. Many of these technologies are likely to occur much sooner than 2100 because there’s an incredible monetary incentive to the company who patents that tech first. They could charge $100,000 for a cure for obesity and every woman in the western world would pay it, and almost every man. Every year our knowledge of our own bodies and how they work increases hugely, so this is highly likely.
As far as lifespan goes, aging is really nothing more than built up corruption of our DNA. Old people have liverspots on their hands because those areas of the skin have damaged DNA which cause them to be brown spots instead of good, healthy skin. It isn’t hard to imagine engineering a customized virus whose job is to replace the corrupted DNA in a liverspot with your undamaged DNA. It’s also possible that we could invent a robot who floats around your blood stream, latches on to a cell, removes the existing damaged DNA and replaces it with a copy of your actual, uncorrupted DNA without damaging or destroying the cell.
The big issue is your brain. Neurons are notoriously hard to fix, but it’s not inconceivable. Full-body DNA replacement technology might not make it by 2100, but probably by 2200 and almost certainly by 2300. That’s if we haven’t found a way to create artificial bodies by then.
We will have sussed nuclear fusion (Kennys_Heroes)
Sussed must be some kind of weird British slang, which I assume to mean solved or invented. Yes, this is almost guaranteed. Not much to say.
There will only be three languages in the world – English, Spanish and Mandarin (Bill Walker)
The “experts” seemed to think that this is likely but I strongly disagree. Cultures are in love with their own languages. Can you really envision France making its national language Spanish or English? There’s a very strong chance that everyone in the world will speak two of those three languages (which means everyone would be able to each other in at least one common language), but the idea that France will give up French or that Japan will give up Japanese is absurd. They will continue to exist. It is almost certain that most of the tiny regional dialects will virtually disappear, but as long as language is such a huge aspect of our culture, it’s here to stay.
Eighty per cent of the world will have gay marriage (Paul)
If we’re still talking about gay marriage in 2100 then we deserve to go extinct as a civilization. I’m sure to modern gays it’s a big deal but in the large scale (such as most of the rest of these questions) it’s a trifling irrelevant thing. A much better prediction would be phrased like this:
Moral authority based on religion will be rare or extinct.
People will not use any holy book to dictate what is culturally acceptable on a large scale.
California will lead the break-up of the US (Dev 2)
Pat Buchanan predicted that by 2040 the U.S. will be four or five small countries (northeast, southeast, midwest, southwest, northwest).
I believe this is a ridiculous notion and it highlights the general misunderstanding of what the United States actually is. If California were to secede from the United States it would rapidly devolve even further into unsustainable debt because all of the functions that the federal government performs would fall upon the state (e.g., defense).
If the U.S. were really so divided that there were states that were contemplating secession, we would simply adjust our federal laws to return more authority on certain issues to individual states and shrink the federal government – in other words, a major tenent of the Republican Party’s platform. I believe mostly everyone in the country would rather we go in that direction than dissolve the union, and I think the large majority of Californians today and in 2100 will realize that they would be better off as part of the nation than on their own, even if they have to share it with those loathsome Texans.
I believe this question is motivated by the impending Euro failure and a general desire among Europeans to see the U.S. “fail” in a similiar way by devolving into a multi-nation second Europe. It is inconceivable to many of them that such a culturally diverse population could exist together under one single federal sovereign state, particularly when they have proven so totally inept at replicating the United States in Europe.
Space elevators will make space travel cheap and easy (Ahdok)
As much as I would love to see this happen, I think it won’t. A space elevator is an incredibly daunting engineering feat that makes the Apollo program look like a Boy Scout boxcar derby. The problem is that it’s hard to monetize a space elevator sufficiently to cover the cost and risk. Even though satelite launches are a business, it isn’t a big enough business. A space elevator would almost certainly need government involvement and considering how America has treated NASA since 1969 it’s incredibly unlikely that we’d see taxpayer commitment. Opponents would call it Jack’s Magic Beanstalk and that would be the end of that.
I don’t like being down on space exploration because space exploration is fun, but let’s face it – unless we either prove Einstein wrong or we find a way to circumvent the laws of our four dimensional visible universe, space just isn’t that interesting. It might be fun to build a space elevator to make a mission to Mars for example economically possible, but we’re limited to our solar system at best, and our solar system is boring. Neither Mars nor Venus are habitable even if we terraform them due to systemic unsolvable problems with them. Mars has no magnetic field and we can’t turn one on because it’s core is and therefore not moving. The motion of our molten core is what gives Earth its field. Unless we found a way to melt the interior or Mars we’d be out of luck there, and the energy requirements (and engineering capabilities) are far beyond what we’ll be able to do by 2100. Venus’s year is longer than its day and also lacks a magnetic field. Every other rocky body like the gas giant moons are just too cold and too far from the sun to be useful to us.
Unless we come up with light speed travel before 2100 this won’t happen, and if we do, it’s unlikely that we’d need a space elevator to get into orbit.
Women will be routinely impregnated by artificial insemination rather than by a man (krozier 93)
Too vague. What does routinely mean? The majority? In what country? This may become true in places like Sweden or Iceland where every man has Herpes and women, even married women, won’t have sex without a condom on, but the chances of this being true on a large scale are slim to none. There are some aspects of human behavior that “advance” with an evolving civilization but screwing isn’t one of them. A great number of both men and women would insist on doing it the natural way for reasons that don’t change every century. It’s deep seated instinctual biomechanics and those trump cultural practices every single time.
There will be museums for almost every aspect of nature, as so much of the world’s natural habitat will have been destroyed (LowMaintenanceLifestyles)
This is a stupid one because it’s already true. I love indoor rainforests. If I were a billionaire I’d have a private one in my backyard. I think a better phrasing would be:
“Most people will only be able to see forests in specially designed museum buildings.”
That I could definitely see, with “most” being a percentage of the population. I still think 2100 is premature and I also think that whoever wrote this has no concept at all of how gigantic the planet Earth actually is. If we crammed every person on the planet into the state of Texas, everybody would have 5,000 square feet of personal space available to them. And Texas is what, 0.1% of the land surface area of Earth and 0.001% of the total square area? When you also consider that urbanization is going to increase and cities all around the world are going to just grow up as much as out due to better steel and better skyscraper architecture, I think the overall land area that is still “wild” is not going to decrease nearly as rapidly as you might think.
Deserts will become tropical forests (jim300)
Again this is incredibly vague but I assume this means the Sahara will stop taking up a gigantic portion of Africa. The problem with this is that there’s a finite amount of rainfall that will exist on the planet, that we can’t really increase. Even if we assume that by 2100 we’ll be able to control the weather sufficiently to artificially reverse desertification, if we made it rain a lot in the Sahara we’d see rain decrease somwhere else and a new desert would spring up elsewhere. The other question one needs to ask is even if we could “use” the world’s deserts for something, would we? Deserts are notorious for being large stretches of land that nobody gives a shit about. If I created a private company that had tech which could turn large stretches of the Sahara into a lush flood-of-the-Nile-esque tropical paradise and I tried to start selling real estate out there, would anyone actually buy it? No, they wouldn’t.
I might see Australia doing something about the Outback or China doing something about the Gobi – and by something I mean finding a way to grow crops there using massive irrigation schemes, but I doubt the effort would be worth the cost. As for the Sahara, unless Mother Nature decides to turn it from a desert back to something else, it will stay a desert. Nobody – and when I say nobody I mean the part of civilization which will advance enough to invent such geo-forming technology – cares enough about Africa to fix the Sahara in 2000, and I highly doubt that anyone will care enough about Africa in 2100 either. A more interesting prediction would be that Africa actually becomes a civilized, useful place. I’m not holding my breath. That’s not a prediction I would make.
Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract (holierthanthou)
Unlikely. What is more likely is that the ridiculous, antiquated divorce laws will have changed such that conditions like that the man who divorces his wife is not financially obligated to “keep her in the manner to which she has become accustomed” are no longer part of it. A huge driving force behind this is going to actually be gay marriage. Gay marriage is going to frequently result in gay divorce and we’re going to find that all of the divorce laws in which the woman/mother gets everything and the man basically gets fucked are going to be really hard to apply to same sex couples and divorce laws in general are going to be affected for the better.
But marriage has been a concept in human culture for thousands of years and it will be a concept in human culture for thousands of years more, mostly because women like it. Women invented the phrase “happily ever after” and are psychologically compelled to demand long term commitment because raising a baby is a long term commitment. You will find it very hard to convince a woman that a good definition of marriage is an annual contract. If she wants to have a baby, she’s going to want an 18 year contract because she wants help raising that baby, and she’s right.
I think more likely, people will only get married because they want to raise children together – gay and straight alike. In 2100, it will be rare to find a couple who is married and neither has nor wants children.
Sovereign nation states will cease to exist and there will be one world government (krozier93)
This is almost guaranteed never to happen. The only impetus I could foresee that would make this happen is first contact with an alien species, and that contact would have to be hostile. If we were attacked by aliens and managed to survive, we would only have done so by uniting as a species and presumably our losses would be catastrophically large such that the world population would end up being much smaller and therefore easier to convince.
Come to think of it, this could also come to pass if sometime in the next 100 years some natural disaster devastates the world population and necessitates global cooperation.
But even if we were to create some kind of governing body with actual authority (which could represent us as a species in some kind of galactic federation), there’s almost a 100% certainty that it would function much like the U.S. government does today – a federation of soverign states with a central government that has very limited power. That power would probably be a joint military tasked with defending Earth from possible hostile aliens (rather than national militaries pointing rockets at each other). Many of the social concerns that national governments deal with today would probably remain soverign issues that invidiual states still control (e.g., marriage age, abortion rights, gay marriage rights, etc.)
War by the West will be fought totally be remote control (LowMaintenanceLifestyles)
The experts found this to be unlikely but I find it to be almost a certainty. By 2100, technology like the predator drone will be so sophisticated that if you are on the U.S. government’s hit list you’ll probably be dead as fast as it takes for us to find you and dispatch a predator. The tech will probably be sophisticated enough so that if we were to have deposed Saddam in 2100 instead of 2003, we would have simply blackened the sky with highly sophisticated (and possibly even autonomous) predator drones that would be authorized to seek and destroy any Iraqi citizen carrying a firearm larger than a pistol. And by then we’ll probably have ground based humanoid robots that we can remote control. Couple that with brain-computer interactive devices and the soldiers could control robot bodies that are on the ground in Baghdad from the safety of a command bunker 3,000 miles away.
Why would anyone risk their actual body when we could deploy a robot body instead?
Britain will have had a revolution (holierthanthou)
What kind of revolution? Even the breakup of the USSR is hard to call a revolution. It is unlikely that any major western country will see a radical shift in its politics, but if it does, it will almost certainly be a repeat of 1930′s Germany. I would not be surprised if more than one western country succumbs to a fascist dictator. However, I think this is unlikely because the advances in technology mostly in the areas of entertainment and industry will enable huge swaths of the population to not work, not starve, and still stay entertained. Contented populations are far less likely to revolt than uncontented ones, and it’s hard to foresee what could cause such unrest in a western country that it would abandon its democracy in favor of a (seemingly benevolent) dictator. We could see a system bordering on a centrally planned communism emerge in a lot of countries once the robots do all our work for us – which could easily happen by 2100 – but I doubt those would emerge as a result of revolution. It would happen gradually.
Next time: my own predictions for 2100.