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The  World in20Years

 

By: Andrés Benavente A.
andres@revistautopia.com


“I do not predict the inevitable, but the possible, the conceivable… sometimes only a dream”.   Isaac Asimov

 

The way that things are going today makes it fairly simple to predict that over the next 20 years the world will see transcendental changes coming at an even faster pace than we have ever seen.

 

Technology and human creativity will be inseparable elements that will guide us into the future.  A good or bad tomorrow will depend on our capacity to learn and react to mistakes and specifically on the global values that our species embrace and globalize in the coming years.

 

Is a happy future for the planet possible, or are the pessimists right?

The intensity with which humanity presently moves, progresses, learns, consents and advances itself is unprecedented in our history, and allows us to be much more optimistic than what the many ‘apocalyptic messiahs’ would like you to believe.

 

It is certain that humanity has at times been very slow-witted and at times tremendously stubborn when it comes to change, but in the long run humanity has always demonstrated the knowledge and capacity to learn from errors and mend the course. This is the beautiful thing about the human race:  We can learn…quite often the hard way, but in the end we always come out ahead… with good lessons in our pockets.

 

The near future: The next 20 years, consisting of 7,300 days, will provide our species with 175,200 hours, filled with 10 million minutes. Precious minutes that our hyperactive and curious race will creatively embrace second after second.

Let’s peek into the future and into the new toys, sciences and possibilities that will bring tomorrow into the different spheres of our lives. 

 

Nanotechnology: We begin with this advancement since it is likely to be  the most drastic change that we have seen to-date and one that will affect each and every aspect of our lives. If this young science succeeds in totally controlling individual atoms, then society will have the unbridled capacity to manipulate the world around us at leisure, to make new elements, to make incredible materials or construct astonishing, highly efficient microscopic machines. The nano will change everything in inconceivable ways.

 

Today there have already been interesting advances, but we haven’t yet come even close to all of the promising possibilities – which would go far beyond our imagination.

 

For example: Can you imagine a house with ultra-resistant walls that are only 5mm thick? And what if these walls could change color in a matter of seconds, or could even become transparent by only giving the word on demand? Imagine microscopic robots that can circulate around in your blood, monitoring your health and correcting the problems it detected? Or how about nano particles that are able to neutralize and eat pollution?

These are just a few of the incredible possible fruits of nanotechnology.


Nanomachines or Nanobots:

Groups of a few hundred atoms capable do almost everything

we can imagine and instruct.  The construction posibilities are endless.


To learn more about this incredible science, visit a complete previous article at:  Nanotechnology-The-next-revolution


Health: Genomic Medicine, Biotechnology and Nano Medicine: Get used to these terms, because they will take care of your health in the future. These sciences are still in diapers, but are growing and growing.

In five or 10 years, medicine could be completely different: Local insertion of a gene that will kill cancer in just days. Or an intravenous injection containing thousands of nanorobots that will break up kidney stones in minutes. Biotechnologically improved or cloned organs to replace parts of our bodies. And eventually…the cessation of the aging process!

 

This will present us with various ethical and social dilemmas in respect to the possible genetic improvement of our strength or intelligence, the design of super babies or even the controversial issue of human cloning. It is very probable that at a point, strict worldwide agreements with limits and boundaries for the application of these disciplines will be developed.

 

Computers + Internet: Among computer nerds, there’s a general consensus that before the year 2020 the Internet will be omnipresent, satellite-distributed, and maybe… free of charge for all.  And not just computers; telephones, game consoles and televisions will also be online. Cars, household appliances, intelligent factories and buildings, blackboards in schools and countless other things that we have not even invented or imagined yet will be online.

Biotechnology even promises that one day we will have Internet connected… directly to our very brains. Maybe at that point we don’t even call it Internet anymore!




Holographic screens, super high-velocity processors, unlimited cloud storage capacities, high-resolution 3D printers, personal IPs for each person and even the ability for the face or brain to send instructions to machines.  These are just a few of the novelties that we will soon be able to enjoy as a daily reality.

 

But we can project even farther into the future: If quantum computation succeeds, humanity will be able to multiply the speed of our computers by 1000 times the current capacity. Even if quantum computers do not become a reality, nanotechnology promises similar possibilities by turning microchips into nano chips: 1000 times more efficient and 100 times smaller.

 

Given the exponential growth in computer science and the inevitable mega leap that will happen in the near future, it is even possible that artificial intelligence will come true within these 2 decades, which could eventually lead to machines that are many times smarter and faster than our own human brains. 

 

   

Did you know? The tiny telephone in your pocket is about 10 times more powerful, capable and faster than the best computer available at NASA in 1985.



Nutrition: In the near future, we will be designing our food. Genetically modified food involves scientists exploiting the natural evolutionary phenomenon, the crossing of genes. Farmers have used these hybrids to better our food over many centuries. Now the phenomenon is moving inside to controlled laboratories.

Resistance to plagues/viruses, less need for water and a faster cultivation time will lead to better yields per hectare and allow the human race to feed more people. The new advances are bettering the possibilities and diminishing the risks of the present methods of transgenia.

The future possibilities seem like pure science fiction. For example, genetic engineers of the future will eventually be able to create and “cultivate” large masses of live muscle tissue - immobile groups of cells - without brains or nervous systems, able to transform 100% of the food it receives… into tender juicy steaks for human consumption.

Although it seems like a disgusting idea at first, it’s very likely that after a wrathful of debates, we will probably end up incorporating these bizarre options into our standard way of food production.



Energy: 10 years from now, thanks to new, much more efficient forms of energy, we will be saying goodbye to fossil fuels. Bio-fuels will also most likely leave the scene.

At the end of the next two decades, a great part of the new energy we create will be produced and used in the same general locale. 

 

Our 3 main sources of energy will likely be nuclear energy 2.0, the sun and hydrogen taken from common water. 

At some point we will also be able to have in each of our homes and maybe within every apparatus nano-dynamos constantly creating electricity by the friction of atoms in perpetual rotation around an axis.

 

The thick solar panels currently made of silicon will be obsolete and replaced by layers of photovoltaic nanoparticles finer than a hair.  We could use this to make photovoltaic paint and cover any surface exposed to the sun. Eventually all of our windows, cars and roofs will be ‘sources’ of electricity.

 

Space exploration and exploitation: The plasma motor that Adastra Rockets has been developing right here in Guanacaste, will provide a huge leap in fuel performance and vastly accelerate our space travel capabilities. Beyond the push on space study, these efficient motors will also allow us to initiate a space mining adventure – that is, obtaining gold, copper, lithium and possibly the entire periodic table from asteroids or comets, diminishing mining in our planet.

It’s completely like science fiction, but these changes will likely happen in less than 20 years…all thanks to the brilliant mind of Franklin Chang and his team of young Costa Rican scientists.

 

Robots and automation: Forget about the concept of a humanoid robot. They will be available in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Artificial intelligence will one day be applied to everything that we use, including our clothes, utensils and many ordinary objects in our homes and offices. The automation and advancement that we have seen in the past 50 years will look like child’s play compared to what is to come in the next 20. 




Transportation: Thanks to the ability to communicate instantaneously on a global level, the need for the daily transportation will continue to diminish.

In about 10 years, it is very likely that we will no longer have human pilots in airplanes, and as Google and Toyota’s current experiments indicate…  soon it may not be necessary for us to drive our own cars! Each car will have dozens of cameras and sensors, and will be connected to the Internet. This will enable the cars to have the ability to make decisions more quickly and securely than we are currently able to react, thanks to be “speaking” all the time with the surrounding cars.

Tele-windshields, augmented reality and many other functions of navigation will enable us to either opt for manual driving, or let the car drive while one watches television, surfs the Internet or invents the next great technological advancement.


Enjoying this long article, take a break to watch this video...


Society and Values: Given the magnitude of the new technologies mentioned above and all of the new “powers” that we could acquire,  the moral, political and cultural path taken by societies will be extremely important– and above all, the consensuses reached at a global level.  

Even though there is still much to fix, humanity has always been working to better itself. In the past few years, humanity’s greatest values have been globalized and consolidated.

Fair practices such as democracy, environmental responsibility and respect for human rights are now more globally accepted. Even the global economic system is being reevaluated and becoming more monitored.

 

Although we still have many ideological divisions and there are still wars and a long list of problems needing to be resolved, as a species we have learned to work together and achieve agreement.  Today immoral practices are more easily exposed and more frequently punished. The citizens are more connected, demanding and organized. They have extended their influence and taken a more active role in the direction of their society and in the supervision of their governments. Global ignorance continues to diminish rapidly in the hands of a universal knowledge available only a few mouse clicks away.

 

Without a doubt, in the past, our societies have been slow to learn and accept new knowledge. We procrastinated for millenniums to accept that the planet was round, without angles or corners. It took dozens of centuries to rationalize and abolish slavery and hundreds of years to give proper respect and equal rights to women and children.  We did not accept that we could be damaging our planet through our modernization for three long decades…and it took another ten years for us to begin to better our attitude concerning the precious ground upon which we walk.

 

Yes, we have been slow in the past…

 

“The future has many names: For the weak, it means the unattainable. For the fearful, it means the unknown. For the courageous, it means opportunity”.

José Ingenieros (1877-1925) Argentinian philosopher 


Today however, we are experiencing a dizzying pace of change. Here is a small example: It’s estimated that in the last three years, humanity has discovered and understood more new things than all we have learned as a species in all previous millennia combined. Tons of new knowledge is generated each day, and new information is now socially spread in a matter of days, hours and even minutes.

 

The telegraph took almost 200 years to be available in all countries. The telephone took 89. Television, 23. Internet, about 8. And in only 3 years Facebook, Twitter and Skype have changed global communications.   And amazingly, it only took a few months and a few million clicks and tweets to erase some of the most obstinate dictators on the planet.

 

Clearly it is another world… But are we ready for it?

The fact of the matter is that although we are ‘wise elders’ in relation to science and technology, on a moral and emotional level our species is still a scared and impulsive child.  This is where there is great opportunity for improvement…and a lot of it!

 

Fortunately, today’s mankind is now influenced at a more global level than by mere personal whims, and as a whole our species is making better decisions.

 

The risks of climate change, poverty and other evils that haunt may find solutions in science. Soon, carbon will be able to be absorbed by machines and grounded again in the earth. Energy will be produced at a much lower cost. Our food will be produced locally and in a more efficient manner. And many more sustainable solutions will be available to us.

We will certainly have the tools; the key will be to recover the ethics and awareness necessary to take the correct path.

What do you think? Are you optimistic? Can we make it?

 


“Men and nations in decline live remembering from where they came from. Brilliant men and strong nations only need to know to where they are going”.

  Víctor Hugo (1802-1885) French Novelist.


A cool video about 10 'future' toys...already invented.

 

 


We now invite you to read the other articles of this issue on the virtual version of the magazine. 


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