Predictions for the Next Century of History
A Timeline for Future Events
From Nostradamus to George Orwell, history is replete with prophets, oracles, and fanciful science fiction authors. Each shared a fervor for fathoming the future, and a desire to dispel the doubt that punctuates it. Ultimately, the prescience of these augurs mattered far less than the distribution of their optimism. Humankind's need to know is indiscriminate, injudicious, and indefatigable.
The next century will be a journey of unprecedented tribulation, revolution, and innovation. Three `ages' chronicle our passage though time, divided as they are by significant turning points in human history.
The Age of Stagnation
2020 - Animosity between the US and Russia reaches breaking point. Russia organizes a bloc of anti-American countries, and a second Cold War begins. Both countries begin a process of rearmament and posturing. With history repeating itself, protests erupt around the world. The protesters believe world leaders are manufacturing conflict to justify the need for authoritarian governments.
2021 - A virulent form of flu kills millions of people in the developing world. Cases appear in developed nations, with the media calling it "horse flu" for its similarity to a virus found in the animals. Tentative suggestions of biological warfare are made by government agencies on social media. After the story is picked up by mainstream outlets, the public are bombarded with news about Russian bio-weapons. Moscow remarks that they're suffering just as much as Western nations.
2022 - European and American governments attempt to pass a law in which all internet access is monitored and policed. They cite the need for "vigilance in an increasingly unstable world". Governments remind the public of recent political scandals and the need for transparency. The resultant protests turn violent, causing politicians to delay passing the new law.
2023 - After repeated attempts to detect dark matter fail, scientists concede that it probably doesn't exist. The particle physics profession is blamed for their eagerness to frame every physics problem in terms of missing particles. Other theories gain prominence, such as the idea that the law of gravity operates differently over extremely large distances.
2024 - A coordinated terrorist attack hits London, Paris, and Washington. The British government releases `intelligence' claiming the plot was organized by Russian immigrants in internet chat rooms. Western nations approve web monitoring laws with overwhelming political support. Thousands of Russians are deported, and foreigners from all nations become the focus of increased suspicion.
2025 - Church attendance increases substantially. The phenomenon is investigated by psychologists who confirm that anxiety, uncertainty, and fear cause people to seek comfort in religion or other illusory sources of order and control. Atheists promote this discovery, causing millions to accept that their theistic and afterlife beliefs are `wishful thinking'. As a deconversion movement gains momentum, people begin to suspect that politicians utilize anxiety and fear in the same way to bolster support for governments.
2026 - Obesity reaches record levels in developed nations. Some countries resort to banning hamburgers and other fatty foods. A "hamburger black market" opens up and overweight people become the subject of increased suspicion and disdain.
2027 - Virgin Galactic makes its first commercial orbital spaceflight. However, it ends in disaster as veteran entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is killed. The broken craft is left orbiting the Earth for several months with a frozen Branson floating inside.
2028 - One of the fault lines in the Second Cold War ignites as India and Pakistan trade blows. America and Russia sell weapons to the two sides, securing huge profits for their arms industries.
2029 - Geneticists discover that DNA includes a huge amount of obsolete information. By reactivating parts of the code, ancient adaptations can be bought forth. One geneticist famously uses the technique to create a bird with reptilian scales.
2030 - Global warming hits the news again as several small islands disappear in the Pacific. Melting ice is blamed, but scientists later confirm the disappearance was caused by volcanic activity. Republican extremists use the event to push their view that global warming isn't happening. Meanwhile, a rise in the US Senate electricity bill is blamed by political commentators on `excessive use of air conditioning'.
2031 - As the Second Cold War rumbles on, a huge international protest movement forms. Several million people line the streets in cities around the world. A section of the Washington protest storms the White House, taking the President hostage. In an attempt to divide the protesters, some of the mainstream media report that the hostage-takers are backed by Russian money. The BBC, Fox News, and other establishment media have their studios ransacked by protesters, temporarily ending their ability to broadcast. Social media ensures that the hostage-takers remain popular in subsequent weeks. Many social media outlets experience "technical difficulties" which are blamed on increased traffic to the sites. Special forces are sent into the White House. The President is rescued and all his captors are killed. Before they die, the hostage-takers release a video claiming they never intended to harm the President. They become martyrs in many people's eyes.
2032 - After elections that are almost won by anti-war independents, the US and Russia agree a temporary truce to deescalate the Second Cold War. Both governments take the opportunity to suppress dissent in their countries. With the world economy in recession, it becomes easy to turn people against one-another. Protesters are blamed for the economic downturn because they are anti-capitalist.
2033 - With the economy in recession, attempts to develop renewable energies are suspended because they are "too costly". Oil company profits quickly recover.
2034 - Engineers develop a robot that can clean houses, putting thousands of immigrants out of work. Many are forced to leave, causing right-wing politicians to applaud the development. However, the technology is introduced into numerous other jobs, such as shopkeeping, trash collection, and even agriculture. To the dismay of right-wingers, this causes a glut in the number of people applying for welfare.
2035 - The first manned spaceflight to Mars departs for the red planet. Six months later, the craft lands on the surface and deploys portable laboratories and accommodation. Transmissions from the research team enthrall the world and trigger a surge in the number of children wanting to become astronauts.
2036 - The Mars broadcasts result in liberal, progressive governments coming to power around the world.
2037 - Robot workers are introduced to the teaching profession. They are programmed with lesson plans and a disciplinary system that involves recording problem behavior and sending it directly to parents' computers.
2038 - Africa descends into a continental war between Muslim and Christian nations. The increasingly atheist Western world takes the unusual position of not interfering, though they sell arms to the Christians. Middle Eastern nations support the Muslims.
2039 - A terrorist attack in America is blamed on Muslim fundamentalists. America and Europe send stealth drones to Africa with sleep-wave warheads to incapacitate groups of Muslim fighters. The sleeping Muslims are subsequently slaughtered by Christian fighters. Western governments protest but continue the strikes.
2040 - Right-wing governments return to power in the West. Troops are deployed to North Africa to fight the Muslims. The war ends quicker than expected when retreating North African Muslims agree to secular style democracies in which all religions are represented equally.
2041 - Right-wing groups succeed in having robot teachers and nurses banned. They cite the need for a more `human interaction' and make use of complaints from some parents. However, approval ratings for the mechanical workers remain high.
2042 - Oil supplies are running low, putting a huge strain on energy prices. A decade of stifling the renewable energy sector has added to the problem. With what seems like perfect timing, the first commercial fusion reactor comes online. The technology is hailed as revolutionary, but the prospect of a ten year trial period is labelled `excessive' by progressives.
2043 - America begins posturing with China over its dominance in the Pacific and its apparent antagonism towards Australia. The media becomes awash with news about Chinese weapon deployment and spies. However, the public's reaction in Western nations is unexpectedly pacifistic. The general consensus is "we've seen it all before". A movement emerges in Britain for the establishment of a new political system...
The Age of Wonder
2044 - For the first time, a Direct Democracy comes into force in Britain. The public are issued with electronic devices that allow them to vote each morning on the day's issues. Politicians are completely removed from the decision making process. Their only job is to determine the questions being asked and to enact the public will. The list of questions is supplemented by popular public petitions.
2045 - The success of the British government in reforming public services results in similar movements appearing around the world. Elections are called early in some nations to fast-track the new system of governance.
2046 - Bans on robot workers and driverless cars are lifted in many nations, and fusion technology is passed as fit for widespread use. Unemployment skyrockets, but the cost of buying energy and food is drastically reduced. The capitalist system begins to falter without the economic slavery of the working classes. Many commentators suggest that this is why new technologies were held back for so many years by the rich and powerful.
2047 - As unemployment becomes a major problem, emergency welfare deals are put in place to fund the poor. Many rich people flee to countries where they can still exploit manned labor.
2048 - Money is abolished for public use in many Western nations. It is replaced by resource entitlements. Individuals submit their requirements to the state, which are approved or amended based on a sensible allocation of resources. Energy is freely dispensed, and food is delivered to doors by robot labor. Mortgaged and rented houses become fully owned, with rich people being compensated for their losses with more luxurious properties.
2049 - Unemployment surpasses 70%. Outside of entertainment and sport, the only jobs not occupied by robot workers are creative, academic, or highly skilled professions. Despite this, many leave these jobs because there is no incentive to remain. Governments are instructed to increase entitlements to those in work and those acquiring an education.
2050 - The virtual reality profession grows at an unprecedented rate as people seek new ways to spend their free time. Science degrees become equally popular.
2051 - Voters agree to a proportional reduction in their resource allocation in order to support a manned space mission to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The mission will make stops at colonies on the Moon and Mars to swap supplies with fuel for the journey. It will be powered by fusion rockets, cutting the journey time in half.
2052 - A scientist presents the first cyborg. It is constructed from machine parts, but the brain encased in the head is that of a previously paralyzed woman who volunteered for the procedure. In addition to being stronger than the average human, the cyborg is expected to live for as long as her brain remains in steady health.
2053 - The cyborg unveiling leads to a flood of people wanting to undergo the same procedure. Some are completely healthy, but are attracted by the perks of having a durable new body.
2055 - After a decade of increasing drug-use, people take the unusual step of voting to legalize all drugs. The caveat is that drugs are only dispensed to existing users in state-operated clinics. The move forces drug dealers out of business, bringing reductions in crime, the rate of new users, and the resources needed to tackle the problem.
2057 - A virtual reality system is devised that is indistinguishable from the real world. It requires a person to put on a sensory suit that covers the entire body. Sights, sounds, smells and touch are all perfectly replicated, though taste is understandably difficult. People are given the opportunity to create their own programs and scenarios with computer generated characters. They can even interact with real people via avatars.
2060 - The mission to Jupiter and Saturn's moons gets underway. In just under a year, it arrives at Jupiter and puts a research team on Europa. Later, the mission puts teams on Saturn's moons, Enceladus and Titan.
2062 - A malicious computer virus infects a number of cyborgs, causing them to behave independently of their host brains. The cyborgs go on a rampage, punching holes through buildings and beating up robot workers. This continues until the cyborg's metal parts are bent and buckled beyond repair. In some cases, the host brain dies as a result of damage to life support systems.
2065 - The first signs of life are detected in the solar system. A type of microbial pollen is found in the watery plumes of Enceladus. However, the microbes all appear to be in a state of perennial hibernation.
2067 - Ten years after the inception of virtual reality, and addiction to the technology has become an inevitable problem. The most applied for item in every resource entitlement is the machine's sexual attachment.
2070 - The same dormant microbial pollen is discovered on Jupiter's moon, Europa, baffling scientists. They begin to suspect that the pollen didn't evolve naturally on the moons.
2072 - An atmospheric net is invented that can harvest enough solar energy to power the world several times over. Fusion power stations are gradually phased out. It is remarked that the new technology should have been invented several decades earlier, but it was held back by powerful individuals affiliated with oil companies.
2073 - The microbial pollen is found to have a signature in its molecular structure that could only have been put there by an intelligent being of some kind. Scientists suggest that life on Earth evolved from this same pollen, and that Earth's ancestral environment is what activated its properties. Tests confirm that the pollen becomes active under ancient Earth-like conditions. The hunt for intelligent life in the Milky Way takes on a new vigor.
2076 - A disease appears among people addicted to virtual reality. It's called phase calibration syndrome (PCS), or just `the phase' to most people. Essentially, the body's biological systems become so disconnected from reality that they begin to speed up or slow down, causing their abrupt and often fatal failure. Time restrictions are imposed to prevent the condition developing, though the restrictions are less severe for cyborgs. This prompts more people to exchange their healthy bodies for mechanical ones.
2078 - Studies are finding that cyborgs are living well into their hundreds with few signs of degradation, though brain diseases are on the rise.
2081 - With the advent of new propulsion engines that rely on forming a `gravity trench' to pull a vessel through space, a mission to our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is proposed. The journey will take a decade, but millions of people volunteer.
2083 - For the first time in history, the birth-rate drops below the death-rate. Despite the longevity of cyborgs, virtual reality has seen a profound reduction in the number of people starting families. Increasingly realistic artificial intelligences are blamed for providing too many people with `perfect mates'. The ability to physically and mentally customize these artificial life partners is especially appealing.
The Age of Serenity
2086 - Scientists discover a way to halt the aging process by infecting people with a genetic virus that stimulates telomerase production and repairs damaged DNA. Many are worried that using the virus may also stop the evolutionary process by deleting useful mutations.
2088 - Uptake of the `immortality serum' in people over 21 years old is almost universal. Those still clinging to religious ideas voice their concern that heaven will be unreachable for most of the population. However, many religious people take the serum anyway. It's suggested that real immortality appeals more than one requiring faith.
2090 - Contrary to expectations, Earth's population has become more concerned with survival than ever before. The streets are populated almost exclusively by robots. They zoom from building to building, delivering food and performing maintenance. The human population is hidden away in their homes, fearful of walking in front of a bus or falling down a storm drain. No-one wants to lose out on several million years of existence.
2093 - The mission to Proxima Centauri departs on schedule. Constructed in orbit, it is the largest ship ever built. Hundreds of deathless humans make the journey with hydroponics and recycling equipment to last them indefinitely. Though the search for intelligent life is likely to continue for many centuries, reaching our nearest star is seen as the first milestone.
2096 - As Earth's population begins to increase once more, people begin leaving for colonies on the Moon, Mars, and the rocky moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Construction begins on more "Great Ships" to take adventurers to other stars.
2100 - The new century is celebrated in style. Onlookers watch as robot laborers initiate the launch of fireworks from the solar net. Earth's atmosphere is covered with an array of color. The spectacle is visible from Titan.
2103 - Missions are launched to the Sirius star system and Gliese 581. It's hoped the Gliese mission will establish a colony on one of the extrasolar planets that orbit the star. Despite recent improvements to propulsion technology, the Gliese mission will take several decades to reach its goal.
2104 - Spare human bodies become all the craze. These brainless clones are grown with an interface that allows for the implantation of a host brain. The bodies find many uses, such as sexual gratification, switching genders, or simply looking more beautiful. Acquiring clones of other people is strictly prohibited, though a black market emerges, and impersonation becomes a popular crime.
2107 - Billions watch as the first transmission from Proxima Centauri is received. The red dwarf star shines darker than our Sun, and its alien light fascinates the watching public. After the crew agrees to keep exploring, the craft is sent to other stars in the local neighborhood.
2111 - A breakthrough in propulsion technology results in small ships being sent to intercept and upgrade the engines of the Proxima Centauri, Gliese 581, and Sirius missions.
2113 - Scientists discover how to download a human mind onto a computer. Though few people volunteer for the procedure, the idea of complete mechanization is attractive to an extreme group of cyborgs called `mechanoids'.
2115 - Mechanoids discover they can upgrade their memory and processing systems. This allows them to acquire huge quantities of information with little effort. They become the most intelligent beings in the solar system, prompting many humans to follow in their footsteps. With such vast intellects at its disposal, the human race advances at an astonishing pace towards a complete mastery of space and time.
How many of these predictions will come true?
This timeline of predictions for the next century has in no way been pillaged from the diary of a notorious time traveler. Nevertheless, if any of these visions for the future do not come to pass, you may complain until however many hearts you have are content by using the comments box below.
© 2014 Thomas Swan