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What Will The Future Be Like?

Updated on July 20, 2014
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Introduction

(*Please refer to the glossary at the end of the article for help with bold, italicized terms.)

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”—Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.[i]

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”—Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.[ii]

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”--Ken Olson, president, chairman, and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.[iii]

Consider what the world was like just 300 years ago. Imagine taking a fictitious time machine back to 1700, bringing along a few technological gadgets. How would Isaac Newton react to the sudden displacement of this technology? Would he have the ability to comprehend the applications of such technological wonders as a laptop computer, compact disc player, or television; or such movies as The Matrix[iv] or Cloud Atlas,[v] in addition to some of today’s music?

Consider how we might react if a time traveler arrived here from 300 years in the future. Would society have the ability to comprehend the applications of any gadgets she might bring along?

Futurists and other scientists have all made predictions for future technological progress, yet they remain educated guesses. Anyone can predict what the future might be like, but only a handful of those guesses will be accurate renditions. Most of what the future has in store 300 years from now and beyond will be advancements nobody could imagine. This is confirmed by comparing the countless incorrect forecasts those of the past have made about the present.

The true inventers of the future are the philosophers and science-fiction writers. They have a proven track record to back up that claim. Their visions are limited to the imagination since they do not have to consider equations and scientific probability or lack thereof. This leads one to believe whatever one can imagine and much more will become the new reality, including many predictions scientists are adamant would be impossible. If a super-advanced civilization that evolved a billion or more years ahead of us is out there somewhere, those realities exist now and their technology would resemble a magic beyond our wildest dreams. One has to concoct ludicrous schemes for what it could do. Perhaps some of the ideas and predictions in this publication are just the tip of that iceberg.

[i] “Forecasting the Relentless March of Science,” Popular Mechanics. (1949).

[ii] Watson, Thomas J. Chairman of the Board, IBM. 1943.

[iii] Olson, Ken. President, Chairman and Founder of Digital Equipment Corp. 1977.

[iv] The Matrix, Lana and Andy Wachowski, Warner Bros., 1999.

[v] Cloud Atlas, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski, Warner Bros., 2012.

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Technological Applications

“Anyone who thinks science fiction is about the future is being naïve. Science fiction doesn’t predict the future; it determines it, colonizes it, preprograms it in the image of the present”—Oscar Wilde[i]

If Homo sapiens had evolved 200 years earlier, the current state of technology would be 200 years more advanced. The calendar date might not be different but technology certainly would. A change in the collective-present experience of advanced technology becoming the new reality boils down to when life on the planet first appeared. If advanced alien beings brought 200 years worth of additional technology to Earth tomorrow, civilization would advance overnight. The technological evolution of society would speed up whether we were prepared or not. Now imagine if they brought a million years worth. (See Figure #1 above for an example.)

All of us wonder what the future will hold, yet many so-called experts have difficulty providing accurate predictions. Futurology is an uncertain discipline, more often a miss than a hit. One reason is because humans think linearly rather than exponentially regarding future technological progress. For the most part, science-fiction writers have been more accurate with future predictions of science and technology than have learned scientists.

Some futurists predict within 20 years, commuters will get accustomed to cars driving them around. Cars will be fully automated and much safer. Simply punch in a destination, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

In 20 years, storage media, such as CDs and DVDs, will give way to solid-state storage devices. Computers will have the ability to store 10,000 times what is possible, and software will become a thing of the past.

Twenty years from now, no internal combustion engines will be left on any sales lot. Battery-powered electric motors, hybrid gas-electric engines, or gas fuel-cell engines will fill every sales lot. The price of gas continues to rise, and the world’s oil supply is fast diminishing. The production of alternative methods of transportation will become a necessity. The steady rise in carbon emissions demands it.

Lee Deforest, inventor of the vacuum tube, said the concept of a television set would never work, nor be practical. Today, most people could not imagine life without one.

Ironically, H.G. Wells and other science-fiction writers of the early twentieth century made predictions of subatomic power and its applications for energy long before aged scientists. Twenty years after Wells described the atom as a reservoir of immense energy, Lord Ernest Rutherford, the man who discovered the atom, said obtaining power from this tiny particle was pure fantasy. He accused some physicists and science-fiction writers of talking moonshine.[ii] Today, scientists know for certain they exist and obtain power from it daily.

[i] Wilde, Oscar. Irish Writer, Poet. 1854-1900.

[ii] Rutherford, Lord Ernest. Physicist, Chemist. 1831-1937.

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Teleportation

A more arbitrary concept is that of quantum teleportation. Certain aspects of quantum mechanics, in principle, make it seem like an impossible endeavor. One problem is finding a way around Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which does not allow one to know both the precise position and momentum of an object at the same time. In the future, anything will be possible and these problems will become a thing of the past.

Some interpretations of quantum physics do indicate particles of the same type in the same quantum state are indistinguishable, even in principle. For example, the teleportation of a car from one place to another would be identical in all its properties, at the deepest level. The teleportation of identical consciousness within an individual is another question entirely, as it may destroy the original and create nothing more than a copy, or clone. The mastery of consciousness or discovery of a unique “soul signature” will determine whether teleporting people could ever become possible.

Einstein criticized quantum mechanics quite harshly. He insisted physicists should not grasp a reality that exists independent of its observation, nor did he like the study’s unpredictability. Other aspects of this field of science insist identity is nothing more than being the same in all properties. The hypothesis of individual displacement (ID) and the individual-displacement paradox (IDP) supports quantum teleportation of people since the same consciousness would reappear in the new transported body.

Does Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle prevent one from replicating someone precisely enough to remain identical to the original? The quantum no-cloning theorem prohibits anyone from making a perfect replica of any living being. While scientists may uncover aspects of quantum teleportation for macroscopic objects, breaking down the exact structure of a human being in all its properties and rebuilding it at another location might not work unless there is a method of restoring the original mind or consciousness.

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A Scientific Sixth Sense

Applications for neural-network systems that read a person’s mind are in the works at NTT Labs in Japan. They developed a system that receives input from sensors attached to the skull. Commands for a joystick are carried out when the user concentrates on the words up, down, left, or right. The changes in EEG patterns of the brain translate these thoughts into controlling commands for the joystick. The US Air Force is studying this technology for future use in fighter planes. Quadriplegics are others hopeful of gaining from some of its applications.

In the future, different segments of society could become telepathic, and many aspects of the sixth sense would no longer be considered paranormal. Upon wearing a special headpiece or having a transmitter implanted, all appliances in the home could be controlled by one’s thoughts. Imagine how much more focus you would need to maintain for certain situations to remain stable, in particular instances where you share your thoughts with others.

In the future, neurosurgeons will implant similar neural devices in the brain for the purpose of virtual telepathy. Initial models would resemble a mobile headpiece or wireless device. One could transmit his or her thoughts from a brain implant to a module, from it to another’s module, then from it to the brain of another, all within a fraction of a second. Later models would eliminate the use of any mobile device. Manufacturers would establish different frequencies for members of the general population, various businesses, government agencies, and so on, much like how the internet operates. This technology would set in motion a new field of psychic espionage. Efficiently using such equipment might require a great deal of practice and focus, in particular for privacy issues and not sharing your personal thoughts with those around you. Determining the guilt or innocence of someone convicted of a crime would become a perfect system.

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Robotics

Robotic engineering is a new technology that will force people to redefine what it means for something to harbor intelligence. Some biologists argue engineers will never develop the technology to create an artificial entity comparable to a human being. Why do scientists, generation after generation, limit the potential capabilities of humanity based on current applications of and premature predictions for technology? What scientists of this generation think future ones will accomplish should never be a basis for what humans actually will. That position is from a limited reference frame, and Chapter 6 outlined just how wrong they can be.

Some robotic engineers believe it will never be possible for man to create a machine similar in intelligence to the average human being. They argue it would take an incomprehensible amount of programming to come up with one able to perform the simplest of tasks. Others in the field argue it is only a matter of time.

Which group of engineers is right? The key is to remember that anything will become possible. Anything we can imagine will become the new reality, whether the prediction becomes attainable in our lifetime or the next. The sky is not the limit. It is only as far as some can see.

Sebastin Thrun of the Robot Learning Laboratory at CarnegieMellonUniversity and Joe Engelberger, founder of HelpMate Robotics, both agree the remaining obstacle to building and developing a useful humanoid robot is money since politicians put little funding into the research. In an interview in the March 2000 issue of Discover Magazine, Thrun said, “If we could just get one percent of the money put into cars today, a robot that assists you at home would be a reality in five to ten years.”[i] During the same interview, Engelberger admits to having a difficult time finding an industrialist who will agree to test a personal-assistant, humanoid robot in the home of a frail, elderly person. He said scientists are only $5 million and 27 months from implementing such a venture.

Hans Moravec, cofounder of the robotics department at CarnegieMellonUniversity, predicts machines will match human intelligence and consciousness by 2040. From then on they will get better. Should it take until 2240 or 3040, it will become a reality. He further argues there will be an eventual symbiotic relationship between human and machine.[ii]

In a 1946 science-fiction novel by Will F. Jenkins, titled A Logic Named Joe, there is somewhat of a premonition for home computers.[iii] In 1946, computers had to be enormous to do simple calculator computations. The story describes a world where logics are so small there is one in every home. These logics are all connected, share information, and combine to create a worldwide library of knowledge at one’s fingertips. Today, computers and the internet are taken for granted every day throughout the world. Could some predictions of future AI by various science-fiction authors come to fruition as well?

Considering distances between each star system are too vast for life forms to traverse, aside from theories of folding the space-time continuum, a manufactured being would be ideal as an interstellar explorer. A robot is the primary, practical solution to foreseeable space travel. In order for human beings to share in this venture, they may want to become a part of their creation. Perhaps mechanical beings, at the very least hybrid, biomechanical life forms, are the final product of evolution for all worlds since they would, “unnaturally,” outlast their makers.

If an extraterrestrial civilization is monitoring Earth, it is possible they are manufactured rather than biological, or a combination thereof. Such beings might appear biological at first glance yet reflect the type of being who manufactured them. Chapter 12 entertains different theories for the extraterrestrial hypothesis, including possible origin and motive.

[i] Thrun, Sebastian. “Discover Roundtable: The Future of Humanoid Robots.” Discover Magazine. (March 2000): p. 88.

[ii] Moravec, Hans. Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1999, p. 232.

[iii] Jenkins, Will F. A Logic Named Joe. (first appeared in March 1946 “Astounding Science Fiction” Magazine in 1946 under his surname, Murray Leinster). New York: Baen Books, 2005.

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Future Predictions

The following list includes 15 significant events predicted to occur over the next 10 years and beyond:

(1) Discovery of other Earthlike planets: within 10 years. Scientists are very close. With better satellites and detection methods, they will discover new planets at an increasingly exponential rate. There are a few candidates now, so discovery of one could present itself as early as tomorrow.

(2) Proof of the existence of primitive extraterrestrial microbes: 25 years. This is another discovery that could present itself at any time. The most recent Mars Exploration Rover, Curiosity, which landed in August 2012, could make the discovery during its current mission. A mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, could do the same.

(3) Proof of advanced extraterrestrial life via SETI or first contact here on Earth: 50 years. A handful of scientists believe we could establish proof of advanced extraterrestrial beings any day now. Most of them believe it will arrive in the form of a message discovered by SETI. Some believe they are here now and waiting for the right moment to make their presence known. Though the idea is speculative, they might feel we are not ready or are waiting until we become a possible threat to ourselves or other civilizations, a high priority if everything in the Universe is connected as some quantum models suggest.

(4) Invention of telepathic neural networks as brain implants: 75 years. While the technology for some of its applications exist now, presenting and implementing a working model for most people will take time; including the struggle to get many onboard with the surgery since some will argue it is an invasion of privacy.

(5) Medical ability to extend life: 100 years. Once scientists are able to master the human genome and all functions of the entire DNA sequence, they will have the ability to turn off cells that promote death and aging, which will extend life indefinitely.

(6) Ability to reanimate a frozen cadaver successfully: 250 years. First, scientists will need to solve the mystery of the mind and consciousness as the biggest obstacle to its success. If not, it may never work right and we might revive nothing more than a copy or clone.

(7) Exact replication of a human being; biological, mechanical, synthetic, or a combination thereof: 500 years. This feat will require combined efforts from both the medical establishment and engineers. By then, a synthetic person will be indistinguishable from someone born naturally.

(8) Experimental proof of the existence of other dimensions and universes, and mastery of virtual technology: 750 years. It might not take this long for the former, but creating a virtual reality experience that looks and feels like the real thing will require a momentous feat of engineering. The best example is the holodeck from Star Trek. People could relive moments from their past or childhood, develop virtual relationships, and become a part of their favorite video game. The possibilities will be limited to the imagination.

(9) Colonization and terra-formation of other worlds throughout the Galaxy: 1,000 years. The start of this process will be ongoing and for the long haul. It may take an additional 10,000 years or more to visit most every star system.

(10) Technology to warp the space-time continuum for interstellar mobility, and quantum teleportation of macroscopic objects: 10,000 years. If it is possible to travel from one part of space to another in an instant, the Universe will become our playground. Other civilizations with a significant head start on evolution might be taking advantage of such technology now.

(11) Technology to travel through black holes and wormholes, possibly to a parallel universe: 100,000 years. The biggest difficulty scientists would face is protecting the pilot and ship from the gravitational forces of a singularity. If they can achieve that, they would discover one either leads to a different part of the Universe or to another universe altogether.

(12) Culmination of an Encyclopedia Galactica,[i] compiled after exploring the entire Galaxy: 500,000 years. After our descendants visit and upload knowledge from nearly every star system throughout the Galaxy, a compilation of that information into a supercomputer program would be the next logical step. Imagine choosing any star in the Galaxy at random, clicking on its specifics, and discovering everything there is to know about all the planets and life in that system.

(13) Ability to know all quantum events throughout the entire Universe from any location: one million years. Mastery of quantum mechanics will allow our civilization to know every event in every star system throughout the entire Universe based on the theory of quantum non-locality.

(14) Technology to store and catalog any event from every portion of the Universe into an Encyclopedia Cosmologica: 100 million years. Knowing every event in the Universe and having the technology to store them are quite different feats. Mastery of quantum computing will allow scientists to store near-infinite amounts of information. Every event of every moment throughout the Universe will be updated and stored in an ultimate, universal reference program as they transpire. (Biologists working on the human genome project have placed 20 million copies of a book, including charts and figures, onto a small piece of paper and over an area less than half an inch in diameter!)

(15) Ability to recreate the entire history of every moment throughout the Universe in a virtual reality program: one billion years. This is where the reality of The Matrix is comparable, but on a universal stage. Existing in this program would appear as genuine as living in the real world. One might ask how we would know the difference, and could we be living out our lives in one this very moment? What would be left to accomplish as far as progress is concerned? If a civilization has mastered longevity in the physical world, the next logical step is immortality in a virtual one. Religious adherents may interpret such a realm as Heaven. To know everything and make life eternal would be the ultimate and final goals for any race of beings and, in the end, may be the true meaning of life.

Some scientists feel extraterrestrial, artificial neural networks exist somewhere in the Galaxy, sharing information from one star system to the next and possibly from one galaxy to the next. If the Universe is 13.8 billion years old and our planet has been here for only four…well, just do the math. Scientists have calculated the first intelligent beings in the Universe to evolve could be anywhere from four to five billion years ahead of us! An intergalactic library of knowledge regarding everything there is to know about the entire Universe could exist somewhere in the cosmos. An artificial neural network might evolve on its own as it gathers vast amounts of galactic and intergalactic information. In the near future, it might arrive here and present itself, which would establish first contact with mechanical beings as opposed to biological ones.

[i] Asimov, Isaac. The Foundation Novels: Foundation. New York: Bantam Books, 1991, pp. 41,42.

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Glossary

(*Terms devised by the author.)

*Encyclopedia Cosmologica A universal-wide reference guide or virtual program that includes all information about every event throughout the entire Universe gathered based on advanced quantum processes. It would be an automated program that obtains information as it transpires throughout the Universe. A Type IV civilization might be one capable of assimilating such information and, in theory, could be active right now. One place to store this much data might be in a virtual universe they created from scratch. If that much information can be stored in a single atom, versions of it might include many-world renditions of the original Universe. See also Akashic Records.

Encyclopedia Galactica First introduced in his book, Foundation, it is Isaac Asimov’s interpretation of a Galaxy-wide reference guide or virtual program that includes information about everything occurring throughout the entire Galaxy. A Type III civilization would be one capable of assimilating and processing that much data. All histories of all potential civilizations throughout the Galaxy would be included in a massive, interactive, virtual program. Dyson spheres would be essential devices for gathering the information.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle States it is hard to know both the precise position and momentum, or specific properties, of a particle at the same time. This makes it difficult to predict the future behavior of any subatomic particle.

*Individual Displacement (ID) The concept of individuality by way of mind, consciousness, and geographic location, from one person or being to the next. It separates one person from another and explains why you are you instead of someone else. Also referred to as the individual-displacement paradox (IDP) since the same consciousness cannot reside in more than one body at a time, regardless of advances in cryobiology. It may be a quantum function.

*Individual-Displacement Signature (IDS, aka “The Soul”) Determines the unique, individual conscious signature found in all living things. It is a quantum phenomenon that defines and differentiates between the energy forces separating one being from another. Geography, ancestry, environment, and other elements from the idea of individual displacement are determinable factors. It is the interpretation of an eternal soul, but with a scientific explanation as a quantum function. Each signature, like a subatomic radio wave, is unique to the individual being. IDS is localized and receptive to the unique DNA structure of a particular brain while said individual is alive. After the person dies, it again becomes part of the Universe. If the person’s unique mind-map is saved and later revived, it should become receptive to the same conscious signature, and that person could live again. (If memories and individuality do not remain intact with the signature, cryonics may be a pointless endeavor.) A Type IV civilization may have the technology to harness this quantum-energy signature in a virtual reality universe, which might explain reincarnation and past lives if one considers the many-worlds interpretation.

Neural Networks Different from artificial intelligence, they are intelligent, self-learning systems that grow and develop independent of their initial programming. Neural networks are artificial neurons designed to continue progressing where their basic programming leaves off. They are artificial, intelligent circuits that mimic the behavior of biological neurons and have the ability to learn on their own. Basic neural networks can be created in the lab, but it will take decades before complex ones that mimic human behavior are manufactured.

Quantum Entanglement The effect of multiple particles sharing correlated properties across great distances. This shared state is indefinite until measured. After two particles come together and are separated carefully, they share corresponding properties with each other to include those on opposite ends of the Galaxy. Albert Einstein called it spooky action at a distance. In theory, we should be able to learn about events occurring on the other side of the Galaxy without ever having to travel there. Decoding that information on our end may be impossible to foreseeable science. Future applications, if possible, would involve teleportation of macroscopic objects from one location to another.

Quantum Mechanics Study of physics dealing with atomic and subatomic particles, in particular their behavior and interactions with energy and matter. Different from classical mechanics, which deals with the interactions and predictable behavior of macroscopic objects.

Quantum Non-Locality Non-locality relies on the theory of quantum entanglement. For the purposes of this book, they are pretty much the same principle. See also quantum entanglement.

Quantum No-Cloning Theorem In quantum mechanics, it states one cannot produce multiple copies of an unknown quantum state.

Sixth Sense Also known as Extra-Sensory Perception, or ESP. Applications of a type of sixth sense are being applied to control systems hooked up to the brain. These pattern readers interpret brain activity and are sensitive to thoughts. The Air Force is working on aircraft controls that read these brain patterns to make an airplane move in the desired direction. Think left and the control will move left, think right and it will go right, and so on. A true sixth sense will require advances in biology and quantum physics well beyond current technology. If the mind is somehow connected to the quantum world, we may learn to control our thoughts and send them to another remotely. It may sound like science-fiction, but there is a lot of science behind the idea.

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    • Bill Sego profile image
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      Bill Sego 4 years ago from Logan, Ohio

      Thanks so much for your interest whonunuwho. Appreciate the kind remarks. I'm so glad you enjoyed the article. Take care!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      This was a very interesting and innovative hub about our future. I am always amazed how quickly human kind has advanced in the past 100 years. If this is the standard, perhaps many of the new inventions and understandings of why a thing exists, will be answered in short order. Thanks for sharing this nice work. whonu

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