My clock read 00:13, 1 April 298000. Below that, bold printed in black against the silver wall was my name – Voyager 2. Ahead of me is a beautiful bluish-white star by the name of Sirius. I used to hear man talk about Sirius when I was back on Earth before my departure in year 1977. It was the brightest star in the night sky when viewed from Earth. As I drifted along in empty space, my thoughts wandered to Earth. What has become of mankind?
Unknown to many, I was given a mind of my own when I was created. I have my own personality and emotions. I am an artificial intelligence. As a dreamer and an idealist, I was easily intrigued by unorthodox, peculiar, mystical or far-fetched ideas. Many visionary thoughts ran through my mind as I was exploring the possibilities of Earth’s future. Here are some interesting speculations.
Artificial intelligence is predicted to take over the world. In the first half of the 22nd Century, AI systems will take over almost every level of the corporate world, as well as the government, military, manufacturing and service sectors. Skills and knowledge could then be downloaded directly into human brain. This meant that learning a skill such as playing the piano or flying an aircraft could be done within seconds. Human and machine would become virtually indistinguishable by then. Non-upgraded humans are comparable to cavemen.
In the 23rd Century, AI will dominate Earth. The physical world is no longer reality for humans. Neuroengineering combined with nanotechnology allows the human mind to be detached and fully immersed in the digital world, introducing a form of immortality. This in turn, led to the physical world being restored back to the pre-industrial era, repairing itself from damages done in the 21st Century.
If the people of the year 2300 can be brought back to the present, they would be regarded as Gods. They can basically do everything beyond our abilities, for example altering their own molecular structure to walk through walls, turn invisible and levitate at will. They cannot be killed by today’s weaponry and would be nearly impossible to be contained. These are all possible thanks to the future biotechnology and nanotechnology developments.
Space exploration and colonisation of other planetary bodies will also be one of the main highlights of the future. The first space hotel launched by Russia is expected to be up in the near 2016. A manned mission to Mars is possible by 2033. By the end of the 2050s, Mars would have a permanent human presence. In 2130, the Moon would see settlements of human colonies and a boost in tourism as a result of the International Space Elevator. Antimatter powered starships are available in 2230, pushing speeds up to 99% lightspeed. At this speed, we can reach Alpha Centauri, the closest star to our Sun in less than 5 years. The whole solar system is predicted to get colonised by year 2260, with the interesting conjecture that Mars will declare independence from Earth in this year.
Various minerals and resources from other planets in our solar system are being tapped on and mined. Mars will transform from a dead barren red planet into a lush Eden-like paradise, much like a second Earth in 2500. Venus would also be transformed into a habitable planet by 2700. Faster-than-light travel is possible in 1 million AD, when descendants of humanity would have explored the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Extra-terrestrial life forms would have been contacted by then and ruins on other planets indicating failed civilisations would also be uncovered.
The main communication medium we are looking at would be telepathy or in the digital world. Phone communication would be entirely obsolete. The fastest form of travel across countries would no longer be via air. It would be in the form of Maglev trains that operate in vacuum within tunnels made of carbon nanotubes. This form of travel allows the distance between America and Europe to be closed under an hour.
New forms of terrorism begin to take place. Attacks are brought up to space such as redirection of asteroids to hit targets and hijacking of spacecraft. Today, we have religious extremists. In the future, we are having extremists opposing the dominance of AI and pushing for reinstatement of traditional cultures and lifestyles.
Future manufacturing industries will see goods being produced or replicated in split seconds via quantum physics, something akin to photocopying or printing our lecture notes.
I was shifted back to reality after reading the last line, ‘The universe continues to expand forever… but is essentially dead.’ I had just been brought for a tour into the distant future while researching for my project.
This speculative timeline of the future extends beyond googol (10^100) years later.
Somehow this reminds me of the 2011 film In Time, which depicted the world in 2169 when time determines longevity and is the worldwide currency. One may question the accuracies of such depictions, but I guess it will not differ much from reality since possibilities are endless. There might be a New World Order by then.
Traveling time around the globe would be reduced to less than 6 hours. There is no more reason to fight for territories or resources. Physical sufferings will more or less be eliminated. Technology allows population to be controlled. Homo sapiens will unify instead of dividing across borders in light of the discovery of other life forms and colonisation of space bodies. Individual governance is not going to be efficient.
Seeing how the future goes, it is true that technology can solve all global issues such that there will be no more poverty or political tensions, but philosophical issues will arise. With sentient minds occupying artificial bodies, what defines human? Without a biological body, human attains immortality. By attaining practical immortality, what is the purpose of life?
Religion will be history as these immortal beings redefine God and the way of life. Christianity in the USA has been declining at present and assuming that it follows a stable trend, Christianity is going to fade away from American culture by year 2240.
Being able to switch between physical and digital worlds also reminds me of the film Avatar. What is the point of living in a digital world where everything can be adjusted to perfection (if need be)? It is technically a paradise for our descendants in that era.
As the universe becomes dead, this, in relation to the philosophical mind-body problem, questions the outcome of sentience. For this, I decided to stick to Plato’s theory of forms. The theory states that forms or ideas that are experienced by the soul (I termed this as our conscious mind) are the true reality. Disregarding religious ideas, Plato believed that the soul is immortal, coming from an immaterial world, while the body comes from this material world. This meant that as we sleep and dream, we are experiencing reality in our dreamland. Thus, according to Plato’s theory, our souls will exist eternally. So now that our sentience never dies, where will we go?
By the time the Sun dies and the solar system is no longer habitable, descendants of mankind would most probably be calling some other planet far away home.