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Ian Pearson Looks to the Future

23rd January 2012

The BBC website magazine has asked readers for their predictions of life in 100 years time, and has brought in futurist and keynote speaker Ian Pearson to comment.

“1. Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish
IP: Likelihood 10/10. We will need to feed 10 billion people and nature can't keep up with demand, so we will need much more ocean farming for fish. But algae farming is also on the way for renewable energy, and maybe even for growth of feedstock (raw materials) or resource extraction via GM seaweed or algae.

“2. We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission
IP: Likelihood 10/10. Transmission will be just as easy as other forms of brain augmentation. Picking up thoughts and relaying them to another brain will not be much harder than storing them on the net.

“3. Thanks to DNA and robotic engineering, we will have created incredibly intelligent humans who are immortal
IP: Likelihood 9/10. It is more likely that direct brain links using electronics will achieve this, but GM will help a lot by increasing longevity - keeping people alive until electronic immortality technology is freely available at reasonable cost. 

 “4. We will be able to control the weather
IP: Likelihood 8/10. There is already some weather control technology for mediating tornadoes, making it rain and so on, and thanks to climate change concerns, a huge amount of knowledge is being gleaned on how weather works. We will probably have technology to be able to control weather when we need to. It won't necessarily be cheap enough to use routinely and is more likely to be used to avoid severe damage in key areas. 

 “5. Antarctica will be "open for business"
IP: Likelihood 8/10. The area seems worth keeping as a natural wilderness so I am hesitant here, but I do expect that pressure will eventually mean that some large areas will be used commercially for resources. It should be possible to do so without damaging nature there if the technology is good enough, and this will probably be a condition of exploration rights.

“6. One single worldwide currency
IP: Likelihood 8/10. This is very plausible. We are already seeing electronic currency that can be used anywhere, and this trend will continue. It is quite likely that there will be only a few regional currencies by the middle of the century and worldwide acceptance of a global electronic currency. This will gradually mean the others fall out of use and only one will left by the end of the century. 

 “7. We will all be wired to computers to make our brains work faster
IP: Likelihood 10/10. We can expect this as soon as 2050 for many people. By 2075 most people in the developed world will use machine augmentation of some sort for their brains and, by the end of the century, pretty much everyone will. If someone else does this you will have to compete.

“8. Nanorobots will flow around our body fixing cells, and will be able to record our memories
IP: Likelihood: 7/10.

“9. We will have sussed nuclear fusion
IP: Likelihood 10/10. This is likely by 2045-2050 and almost certain by 2100. It's widely predicted that we will achieve this. What difference it makes will depend on what other energy technologies we have. We might also see a growth in shale gas or massive solar energy facilities. I don't think that wind power will be around.

“10. There will only be three languages in the world - English, Spanish and Mandarin
IP: Likelihood 8/10. This does look like a powerful trend, other languages don't stand a lot of chance. Minor languages are dying at a huge rate already and the other major ones are mostly in areas where everyone educated speaks at least one of the other three. Time frame could be this century.

“11. Eighty per cent of the world will have gay marriage
IP: Likelihood 8/10. This seems inevitable to those of us in the West and is likely to mean different kinds of marriages being available to everyone. Gay people might pick different options from heterosexual people, but everyone will be allowed any option. Some regions will be highly resistant though because of strong religious influences, so it isn't certain.

“12. California will lead the break-up of the US

IP: Likelihood 8/10. There are some indications already that California wants to split off and such pressures tend to build over time. It is hard to see this waiting until the end of the century. Maybe an East Coast cluster will want to break off too. Pressures come from the enormous differences in wealth generation capability, and people not wanting to fund others if they can avoid it.

“13. Space elevators will make space travel cheap and easy
IP: Likelihood 8/10. First space elevators will certainly be around, and although "cheap" is a relative term, it will certainly be a lot cheaper than conventional space development. It will create a strong acceleration in space development and tourism will be one important area, but I doubt the costs will be low enough for most people to try.

“14. Women will be routinely impregnated by artificial insemination rather than by a man
IP: Likelihood 5/10.

“15. There will be museums for almost every aspect of nature, as so much of the world's natural habitat will have been destroyed
IP: Likelihood 2/10.

“16. Deserts will become tropical forests
IP: Likelihood 7/10. Desert greening is progressing so this is just about possible.

“17. Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract
IP: Likelihood 6/10. I think we will certainly see some weaker forms of marriage that are designed to last a decade or two rather than a whole lifetime, but traditional marriage will still be an option. Increasing longevity is the key - if you marry at 20 and live to well over 100, that is far too long a commitment. People will want marriages that aren't necessarily forever, but don't bankrupt them when they end.

“18. Sovereign nation states will cease to exist and there will be one world government
IP: Likelihood 2/10.

“19. War by the West will be fought totally by remote control
IP: Likelihood 5/10.

“20. Britain will have had a revolution
IP: Likelihood 7/10. Well, possible, but not as likely as some other trends.”


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