In Five Years
I think climate change will become an even more pertinent issue, but whether this will spur on efforts to find a solution is another matter. As the issue becomes harder to ignore, the challenge will not be convincing world powers to take action, but finding a way to act together, as a global society, to tackle the issue.
It seems safe to assume that technology will remain a central part of our lives, but I can’t help but wonder if a proportion of people might start to spurn technology, if only to set themselves apart socially.
Many current trends will continue into the near future, I suspect, including the continued rise of monopolistic conglomerates and the technological facilitation of everyday activities and transactions (like using your debit card to swipe through the Tube, for example); the little things that are slowly transforming the world around us.
In Fifty Years
I imagine by this point we’ll have reached a critical juncture with regard to the environment. Assuming a scenario in which climate change is more severe than at present, there will presumably be some advocating off-world colonisation. Whether or not such ideas are perceived as viable will depend to an extent on how much funding has been channelled into space exploration in the intervening years. Meanwhile, global overpopulation will continue to be a significant issue. Resources will dwindle and disease will almost certainly become more prevalent, not least due to the emergence of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
On a more positive note, I think electric cars will almost certainly have become commonplace, and perhaps even self-driven cars. Personally, I’d love to see a transport system like the one depicted in Minority Report – reliable, safe, and environmentally sound.
Generally speaking, we have a compulsion to move away from the values and conventions of our forebears. The self-centric values of the 1980s were in some respects a reaction to the utopian idealism of the 1960s and 1970s, so in societal terms I think we’ll see the emergence of a more reflective and less superficial culture in the next fifty years.
In five hundred years
When it comes to the far future, it’s tempting to imagine that the issues facing the present will have been overcome. If I’m optimistic about the future, it’s an optimism born of pragmatism – after all, the challenges facing us in the present are so significant, in five hundred years humanity will surely either have overcome them or perished.
I think in the next 500 years it could become possible to transfer a human consciousness into a computer, giving rise to an age of transhumanism. Naturally, such a development would have a transformative effect on civilisation. Would we embrace such a future, or would we find the reality of a non-biological existence abhorrent?
The development of artificial intelligence, which could also feasibly take place within the next 500 years, would be no less transformative, and raise just as many social and ethical questions. Personally, I lean towards the optimistic and assume that an artificial intelligence of our own creation wouldn’t perceive us as an enemy...although that’s not to suggest it would regard us benevolently, either.
In five thousand years
Since we’re now firmly in crystal ball territory, I’ll be a little less reserved in my predictions.
In five thousand years I think we could be sharing our solar system with a second, non-biological society – one that emerged from our experiments with artificial intelligence. Or perhaps this society, unhindered by biological constraints, will have set off into space, leaving us behind. Alternatively, biological life might have died out entirely – the result of either a cosmic catastrophe or a disaster of our own making. Our species might exist only in a transhuman state, in which case we too would be free to set off into space.
I think we’ll be less enthusiastic about space colonisation than we might currently imagine. Human beings will always need a connection to the natural world, I suspect – to see a blue sky overhead and feel the rain on their cheeks – and may baulk at the idea of living in space stations and off-world outposts.
But perhaps I’m simply being unimaginative. Perhaps terraforming will have become a reality, and we’ll be able to walk through fields of verdant grass on Mars. Only time will tell.
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