Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2012-2060:A World Timeline!


Economic growth remains sluggish in many markets

Although the worst of the economic downturn has passed by now, genuine growth and recovery remains sluggish - especially in countries like the UK, where the fall in private sector debt ratios and rebuilding of savings ratios lasts well into the second half of this decade. Grinding slow growth - as low as 1-1.5% in Europe, the US and Japan - persists for several years, which still feels like a recession to most of the public, and does little to improve levels of employment. Vast interest payments for Government debt force a reduction in social and defence spending and leads to higher taxes, which also harms growth. As if this wasn't bad enough, the baby boomers are now entering their retirement years. The younger generations are faced with a huge burden of debt.
With America nearly bankrupt, a clear shift in the balance of power is taking place from West to East. If the 19th century was Europe's century, and the 20th century was America's, then the 21st century looks like being Asia's - or at least, a combination of Asia's and America's.

London hosts the Olympic Games

London hosts the Olympic Games for the 3rd time in its history - the only city to have done so this many times. The two week event takes places amidst the largest security operation ever seen in peace-time Europe.
Aside from a small number of arrests, it passes without incident. Despite this, the media tries to hype the threat of a terrorist attack as much as possible during this time.
London has been transformed in recent years by a number of massive construction projects. In addition to the Olympic Games venues themselves, there is Stratford City - a new business district that will eventually rival the Square Mile and Canary Wharf. Then there is Crossrail - a £16bn rail connection linking Heathrow Airport with the central and eastern parts of the city. Various masterplans are helping to regenerate vast areas of land all over the city - including Greenwich Peninsula, Elephant & Castle, Croydon, Paddington, Battersea and elsewhere. These mixed-use developments contain hundreds of thousands of new homes, shops, and offices.
Several new landmarks dominate the skyline including the Shard of Glass at London Bridge, a 72-storey crystalline spire that redefines the capital's image. 

OLED screens are becoming widespread

Having reduced in cost, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are appearing in a wide variety of devices now - including mid-range smartphones, laptops and television displays. These use considerably less power than traditional LEDs and LCDs whilst allowing brighter, sharper, thinner displays.
They also eliminate the need for back lights. Sunlight that would normally "wash out" a display has no effect - the screens appear the same even in broad daylight, or when tilted at an angle.
Brain-computer interfaces allowing the paralysed to walk again
By this date, a prototype full-body exoskeleton has been devised which allows the paralysed to walk again - using their thoughts alone to control it.*
This is achieved using a neuroprosthetic device with a highly advanced brain-computer interface (BCI) at its core, driven by neurochips implanted in the patient's skull. These monitor electrical brain activity and adjust the movement of the limbs accordingly.
The project has been developed by an international team of neurophysiologists, computer scientists, engineers, roboticists, neurologists and neurosurgeons at laboratories around the world. Fresh hope is now being offered to millions of people affected by paralysis.*

A cure for baldness

Until now, more than half of men and a third of women have been affected by hair loss at some point in their lives. The $1bn hair loss industry has only provided treatments to save what they have left, or cover what they have lost - not to actually grow new hair.
Thanks to advances in stem cell research - along with a new compound - treatments are now available that can actually regenerate hair follicles.*

World's first 1-gigawatt offshore wind farm

Construction of the largest ever offshore wind farm is underway off the southeastern coast of England. Known as the "London Array", it will supply enough power for 750,000 homes - a quarter of all those in London.*
With a total of 341 turbines, it will reduce carbon emissions by nearly 2 million tonnes every year: a significant milestone in the government's plan to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.
This project marks the beginning of a major expansion of offshore wind power in Britain. Numerous other large-scale wind farms will be constructed in the coming decades - greatly reducing the country's dependence on foreign energy and creating thousands of new jobs in the green industry.

Mars Science Laboratory explores the Red Planet

This is by far the largest and most powerful rover ever sent to Mars. Among its many instruments is the first ever video camera taken to another planet, as well as the first 3D camera.
The mission has four goals:
? to determine if life ever arose on Mars
? to characterize the climate of Mars
? to characterize the geology of Mars
? to prepare for human exploration.

Barack Obama is re-elected

Obama now has a reduced majority, however. He is confronted with further economic difficulties, precipitated by an emerging energy crisis - the early effects of peak oil are being felt.

Iran carries out its first nuclear test

After years of diplomatic stall tactics, Iran confirms its place in the "nuclear club" of countries.
Technology covertly supplied by Russia has allowed it to fulfill its nuclear ambitions. Faced with such a grave potential threat, Israel's economy goes into freefall.
Although the Iranian government repeatedly states its peaceful intentions, the region as a whole now enters a period of instability the likes of which has never been seen before. This nuclear test is viewed in the West as the most significant world event since 9/11.

Solar flares are disrupting the Earth's magnetosphere

The Sun reaches its solar maximum this year - the period of greatest activity in its 11-year solar cycle. Because of the unusually low level of activity in recent years, this has caused a sudden build up of energy, with "solar storms" hitting the Earth's magnetosphere. These are powerful enough to disrupt electronic systems on the ground.
Satellites, air travel, car navigations, the banking system, hospital equipment, computers and many other machines are affected during these storms. There are widespread blackouts.*

3D technologies are widespread

3D technology is now widespread across a range of communication and entertainment platforms.* It has become a mainstream element of cinema, TV, Internet, video games and even mobile. This technology provides users with a whole new level of immersion, interaction and realism.
James Cameron's Avatar, released in 2009, was a major breakthrough in terms of developing this format and raising awareness of its potential.
In 2010, new 3D TV channels are introduced and these can even be viewed without 3D glasses. This effect is achieved via multiple projectors behind the screen, combined with a lens array that creates a parallax effect from any direction. Among the many TV events during this time is the first ever FIFA World Cup to be screened in 3D.
Compatibility is soon incorporated into a range of consumer products including Blu-ray recorders, games consoles and personal computers.
By 2013, the technology has become widespread in homes in developed countries.*

India launches its second lunar exploration mission

Chandrayaan-2 becomes the second lunar probe to be sent by India's space agency. It includes an orbiter as well as two rovers: one lander/rover built by Russia, and a second smaller rover built by India. The wheeled rovers will move on the surface, picking up soil or rock samples for on-site chemical analysis. The data will be sent to Earth through the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter. The team is headed by Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai, who was behind the success of the previous mission (Chandrayaan-1).


James Webb telescope is launched

The long-awaited successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is launched. Its primary mirror has a collecting area six times larger than Hubble. The telescope is situated in an L2 orbit approximately 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.

Personalised DNA sequencing for less than $100

DNA sequencing technology is now so fast and cheap that an entire human genome can be read in a matter of hours for less than $100, making it accessible to everyone. This has been made possible by a revolutionary new device called a nanofluidic chip.*
Medical treatments can now be delivered on a highly personalised level, uniquely tailored to a patient's genetic code. For example, a doctor can biopsy a cancer patient's tumor, sequence all of its DNA, and use that information to determine a prognosis and prescribe treatment - all for less than the cost of a chest X-ray. In the case of lung cancer, the doctor can determine the exact genetic changes in the tumor cells and order the chemotherapy best suited to that variant. Meanwhile, parents of newborns now have the option of determining if their baby is susceptible to conditions like diabetes, and then modifying the baby's diet and medication from day one to reduce the chance of it ever manifesting.

Internet "lifecasting" enters the mainstream

Digital devices are continuing to shrink in size, becoming ever more compact and miniaturised.* On-person webcams measuring less than a centimetre across are now being embedded in clothing, hats, spectacle frames and other discrete locations. This has led to the emergence of a new form of Internet blogging known as "lifecasting".
Rather than text updates, every moment of a person's daily experiences can now be captured on video, in real time. This is available on social networking sites, so that communities of users can "subscribe" to the lives of individuals they wish to follow. This includes a number of famous celebrities.

16 nanometer chips are in mass production

The successor to 22nm, this latest generation of chips continues the trend of Moore's Law. Each contains more than 7.5 billion transistors. They will, in turn, be succeeded by 11nm chips. 

Terabyte SD cards are available

SD cards and other memory devices continue to grow exponentially this decade, with storage capacities doubling roughly every year. A terabyte is equal to 1000 gigabytes.

Robotic pack mules are entering military service

Dynamically stable, quadruped robots are being deployed in military support roles now. These are accompanying soldiers in terrain too difficult for conventional vehicles. They use four legs for movement, allowing them to move across surfaces that would defeat wheels or treads. They are capable of running at 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h), while carrying loads up to 340 pounds (150 kg) and climbing slopes with 35 degree inclines.*
Locomotion, navigation and balance are controlled by an onboard computer that receives input from the robot's many sensors, which include a stereo vision system, laser gyroscopes, joint position and ground contact monitors.
These machines greatly reduce the burden of equipment for soldiers.

MAVEN probe arrives at Mars

NASA's MAVEN probe arrives at Mars, to study its atmosphere and climate history.*

Most phone calls are made via the Internet now

The majority of homes and offices have now adopted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems, such as Skype.* These connections are made over the Internet, rather than traditional phone lines.
Undoubtedly the biggest advantage of VoIP is the cost. PC-to-PC phone calls can be made anywhere in the world, at any time, for free. PC-to-phone connections usually charge a fee, but are generally much cheaper than standard phone services with conventional handsets.
Another advantage is the portability. Phone calls can be made and received from any PC - provided there is a broadband connection - simply by signing into your personal VoIP account.
Phone-to-phone VoIP is also portable. When you sign up with a VoIP servicer provider, the Internet phone or adaptor that is used with that service is assigned a unique number. This 'phone number' remains valid even if your VoIP service provider is located in England and you are connected to the Internet in Australia. An Internet phone is small and light enough to take with you anywhere. It can simply be plugged into any broadband connection, anywhere in the world, and used to make and receive calls, just as though you were in your own home or office.
There are several other features that make VoIP attractive. Call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID and multiple-way calling are included with Internet telephone at no extra charge. Digital data such as pictures, documents and other files can also be transmitted at the same time you are talking on the phone.

Brazil hosts the FIFA World Cup

This is the second time the country has hosted the competition.


Virtual Reality makes a comeback

Enormous strides in computing power are making it possible to create exceedingly lifelike graphics, animations and 3D environments. At the same time, super-fast broadband is opening up new frontiers in cyberspace and enabling the development of "Web 3.0".
Combined with developments in on-person hardware, this is leading to the rebirth of virtual reality. Having been something of a gimmick in the 1990s, it is now becoming a serious tool for business, leisure, education and training. For the rich, options for this form of technology now include pod-like structures which are fully enclosing.*
Much of the content in these simulations is user-generated. There are many online communities for sharing and exchanging virtual objects, buildings, avatars, etc. The most impressive creations are rated and promoted in a manner similar to YouTube.

Worldwide PC use reaches 2 billion

PC adoption in emerging markets has been growing at a phenomenal pace. There were a billion PCs in use in 2008, and this number doubles by 2015. In other words, it took nearly 30 years to reach the one billion mark, but only seven to grow from 1 billion to 2 billion.

Nanotech water filters are spreading to many developing countries

Third World countries are now benefitting from a revolutionary portable device. First revealed in 2007, it has become widespread by now.
The "Lifesaver Bottle" filters water-borne pathogens, using holes just 15 nanometers across, to prevent even the smallest viruses (25 nanometers across) getting through, and eliminating the need for chemicals to treat the water. The Lifesaver Bottle is fitted with a 4000UF replaceable purification cartridge that removes bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi, and all other microbiological water-borne pathogens.*
It also comes with an activated carbon filter, made of a high specification activated carbon block. This reduces a broad spectrum of chemical residues including: pesticides, endocrine disrupting compounds, medical residues and heavy metals such as lead and copper. The carbon filter also eliminates bad tastes and odors from contaminates such as chlorine and sulphur. It is designed to last for approximately 250 litres.*

The first climate change refugees

As a direct result of sea level rises, the inhabitants of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea have been forced to abandon their homelands.* Crops, trees and wells have been contaminated by seawater, while most of the buildings on the islands have been destroyed. Attempts to build sea wall defences were unsuccessful – these were simply washed away.*
The melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers, together with thermal expansion, could raise the level of Earth's oceans nearly 2m by 2100 - potentially displacing hundreds of millions of people. 

3D printing enters the consumer market

Until recently, this technology was extremely expensive - upwards of $15,000 per machine - and limited to use in industrial prototyping, product design, medical modeling and architectural models.* However, plummeting costs are now making it affordable to consumers.**
Rather than using ink on paper, these machines can actually "print" 3D objects. This is achieved by melting nylon powder and then shaping it based on computer instructions.
Countless different items can be produced – from jewellery and decorative giftware, to children's toys, kitchenware, replacement plugs, hooks, pipes, fittings, flooring and other household essentials.
Users can download new items and configurations from the Web.* Artists and hobbyists can even create their own, using these printers in combination with 3D scanners and modeling software.
In addition to falling costs, another reason that home 3D printing has taken off rapidly is that there is very little manufacturing being done in America and various other countries anymore. As a result, there is little or no pressure by manufacturing special interests against it.
In the decades ahead, this technology will evolve into nanofabricators, capable of reproducing items with atomic precision within minutes. It will ultimately lead to matter replicators with near-instantaneous production of virtually any object – including foodstuffs.

New Horizons probe arrives at Pluto

The probe was launched in 2006 and has travelled more than 4 billion kilometres through space. It returns the first close range, high resolution pictures of the icy world - along with its three moons - before passing through the Kuiper Belt. It will leave the solar system entirely in 2029.

Dawn probe arrives at Ceres

Dawn is a robotic spacecraft sent by NASA on a mission to the asteroid belt. It reaches Vesta in 2011, before rendezvousing with the dwarf planet, Ceres, in 2015.
Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive members of the asteroid belt: 950 and 530 km in diameter, respectively. Dawn is the first probe to study and photograph them at close range. Both bodies formed very early in the history of the Solar System, thereby retaining a record of events and processes from the time of the formation of the terrestrial planets.
Dawn is also innovative - it becomes the first spacecraft to enter into orbit around a celestial body, study it, then re-embark under powered flight to a second target. All previous multi-target missions (such as the Voyager program) have involved rapid planetary flybys.*

Voyager I enters the heliopause

Voyager I remains the most distant human-made object, traveling away from the Earth at a speed greater than any other space probe.
Launched in 1977, its original mission was to visit Jupiter and Saturn. It became the first probe to provide detailed images of these planets and their moons.
In 2003, it entered the "termination shock" - the point where solar wind particles slow down to subsonic speeds due to interactions with the local interstellar medium.
By 2015, it has travelled so far that it has begun entering a region known as the "heliopause" - the point where the interstellar medium and solar wind pressures balance. It remains operational during this time, pursuing its extended mission to study the very boundaries of the Solar System, including the Kuiper Belt and beyond.
The probe, along with its sister - Voyager II - will continue operating as they head for the "Bow Shock", the true beginnings of interstellar space. They will transmit signals back to Earth until at least 2025 (half a century after they were launched) before their power finally runs out.

The US military withdraws from Afghanistan

The war had been going on since October 2001 - both as a response to the 9/11 attacks, and as a result of ongoing issues from before the attacks. The stated aim of the invasion was to find Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members and to put them on trial, destroy the whole organisation of Al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban regime which supported them.
The Bush administration stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between terrorist organisations and nations or governments that sheltered them. The United Nations did not authorise the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
The first phase was the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom, to annihilate the safe haven to Al-Qaeda and its use of the Afghan territory as a base of operations for terrorist activities. In that first phase, US and coalition forces, working with the Afghan opposition forces of the Northern Alliance, quickly ousted the Taliban regime. During the following Karzai administration, the character of the war shifted to an effort aimed at smothering insurgency.
Over the following years, however, it became clear that little progress was being made in the hunt for bin Laden - and planning to ensure the long-term political, social and economic stability of the country was lacking. America's presence in Afghanistan was inflaming tensions along Pakistan's border. In the eyes of many people, the invasion was doing more to destabilise the country than protect it. By 2009, more than 1,500 coalition troops had been killed, while even the most conservative estimates put civilian deaths in the tens of thousands. There were also multiple accounts of torture and human rights violations by coalition forces.
In addition, the cost of the war was mounting and had now reached almost $7bn per month, at a time when America was facing its worst financial crisis in decades.
Public opinion - having initially been high - declined substantially. When President Obama announced a further increase of 30,000 US troops, cities across America saw protests. Although this troop surge met with some success, it became clear that the war was simply unsustainable. Efforts by the US to train the Afghan National Army and to transfer security responsibility were plagued by inefficiency, widespread illiteracy and endemic corruption.
A series of phased withdrawals began in 2011, with the last remaining US troops pulling out in 2016 - fifteen years after the start of the invasion.* This made it almost as long as the Vietnam War.

US vehicles are becoming more fuel-efficient

New standards enacted by the Obama administration have boosted the fuel efficiency of light duty vehicles (cars, crossovers, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks) to an average of 34 miles per gallon (MPG).*
This will reduce CO2 emissions by almost 1 billion metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil. In addition, the average buyer is saving around $3,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle - even after the higher initial purchase costs are taken into account.
These efficiency gains have come from smaller, more efficient engines with direct injection and/or turbochargers; more sophisticated automatic and dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs); hybrid-electric systems; clean diesel engines; tires with lower rolling resistance; more aerodynamic vehicles and lighter-weight materials.
The US still lags behind the rest of the world, however. New vehicles in Europe and Japan, for instance, are reaching 50 MPG on average.

Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD) replaces Blu-Ray

These ultra-high density discs are capable of holding 1Tb of data - equivalent to over 200 DVDs. They work by analysing micro-holograms in 3D, rather than just markings on the surface. This allows data to be far more densely packed than conventional optical technology.
The price of storage per gigabyte is plummeting - from around $1 per gigabyte in 2006, to less than 10 cents now. This is an example of the trend of exponential progress (rather than linear) seen in forms of information technology.
HVD itself is in danger of becoming obsolete, before it has even been properly established, as solid state flash drives are increasingly being used for digital transfer, some with even higher capacities, along with read and write speeds faster than any optical disc. The new SDXC card format specification for example has already reached the 2TB mark.

Bio-cameras matching human eye resolution

Advances in biotech and sensor technology have enabled the development of tiny "bio-cameras".* These devices can be implanted like contact lenses, and are capable of taking photos with hundreds of millions of pixels' worth of information: equal to the resolution of the human eye itself.*
For now, they are a luxury item used only by the rich - or in specialist roles such as covert spying operations. However, within a few years they will begin entering mainstream use. Future versions will enable the capture of moving video and audio, in addition to static photos.

Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympic Games

Rio becomes the first ever South American city to host the event. 


Total solar eclipse in the USA

On August 21st of this year, a total eclipse occurs in the United States - the first visible from the US since 1991 (just from part of Hawaii), and the first visible from the contiguous US since 1979.
Totality occurs along a path curving from Oregon to South Carolina, and lasts for roughly 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The location and time of "greatest eclipse" is on the western edge of Christian County, Kentucky at 36.97 degrees North and 87.65 degrees West, occurring at 18:25 UTC.

Crossrail opens in London

One of Europe’s largest ever transport projects, Crossrail expands London’s tube network capacity by over 10% and brings enormous regenerative benefits to the city. Costing over £16bn, the line is 120km in length (including 42km of tunnels). It runs from Berkshire in the west to Essex in the east, linking together all of the main economic hubs in the capital - Heathrow Airport, the West End, the City of London and Canary Wharf.
Ten-coach trains, roughly 200 metres long, run at frequencies of up to 24 trains per hour in each direction during the peak periods.

Electronic paper is widespread

This technology has been in development for over a decade* and is now in widespread use.
Organic thin film transistors (TFT) are combined with organic, electroluminescent displays. This produces flexible, paper-thin devices less than 0.3mm in thickness and capable of running high-quality video. The applications are endless. They include true "e-books" and "e-papers" (which can also be read in the dark), clothes and other textiles with electronic displays, video posters, video leaflets, video cards, road signs that are self-illuminating, video instructions on food packaging and other boxed items.
Further development leads to much greater contrast ratio - resembling printed paper more than a screen (the latter is often hard to see in direct sunlight and other conditions).
This technology also marks a step towards the first paperless offices, which in turn helps to reduce deforestation.

Portable medical lasers that seal wounds

Star Trek-style devices shaped like pens are now available which can seal wounds, using specially controlled lasers in combination with a blood protein called albumin. Heated at just the right temperature, this forms a natural "glue" after the skin has cooled down. Using this method allows a wound to be stronger, water-tight, and less likely to scar than traditional stitches.
Following several years of development and refinement, they are used in many hospitals now.* These devices will be cheap and safe enough for the consumer market within a few years.

Teleportation of simple molecules

For a number of years, scientists had been teleporting individual atoms and particles of light. By this date, the first molecules such as water and carbon dioxide are being teleported.* This will be followed in the late 2030s by complex organic molecules such as DNA and proteins.*


The ITER experimental fusion reactor is switched on

Human-engineered fusion has already been demonstrated on a small scale. The problem has been finding ways of scaling it up to commercial levels in an efficient, economical, and environmentally benign way.
ITER - previously known as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor - aims to be the first project to achieve this. Built in southern France at a cost of €20 billion, it has taken over a decade to construct and is one of the largest scientific projects ever undertaken, second only to the International Space Station. This joint research experiment is funded by the US, EU, Japan, Russia, China, India and South Korea.
To demonstrate net fusion power on a large scale, the reactor must simulate the conditions at the heart of the Sun. For this, it uses a magnetic confinement device called a tokamak. This doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber generates a powerful magnetic field that prevents heat from touching the reactor's walls. Tiny quantities of fuel are injected into and trapped within the chamber. Here they are heated to 100 million degrees, forming a plasma. At such high temperatures, the light atomic nuclei of hydrogen become fused together, creating heavier forms of hydrogen such as deuterium and tritium. This releases neutrons and a huge amount of energy.
Following its operational activation in 2018, it is hoped that ITER will eventually produce more than 500 megawatts of power, in bursts of 400 seconds or more. This compares with 16 MW for the Joint European Torus (JET) in 1997, the previous world record peak fusion power, which lasted only a few seconds.
ITER will require another few decades before its reactor has been sufficiently perfected. To generate the sort of continuous levels of power required for commercial operation, it will need a way of holding the plasma in place at the critical densities and temperatures. This will need refinements in the design of the chamber, such as better superconducting magnets and advances in vacuum systems.
However, it could ultimately lead to a revolution in energy. If this project were to succeed, humanity would gain a virtually unlimited supply of clean, green electricity.*

The European Extremely Large Telescope is operational

This revolutionary new ground-based telescope has the aim of observing the Universe in greater detail than even the Hubble Space Telescope. A mirror of approximately 42 metres (138 ft) will allow the study of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. It will also perform "stellar archaeology" - measuring the properties of the first stars and galaxies, as well as probing the nature of dark matter and dark energy. 

Ubiquitous internet nodes connect appliances, vehicles, etc.
In developed nations, many of the day-to-day routines in the home are becoming automated. Fridges, for instance, can be programmed to order new food before they become empty.* RFID microchips - smaller than grains of sand - are printed on packaging labels. These connect wirelessly to the refrigerator, which sends an order via the Internet. New food is then delivered to the customer's door at a pre-arranged time.
Meanwhile, boilers and other appliances can notify an engineer when they break down, while heat and lighting systems can be activated in real time as a person is on their way home from work (rather than being programmed for a fixed time).
Devices are also being synchronised in various ways. They can even sense where you are in the home. A person can be listening to a football commentary in their bedroom, for example, then walk to the lounge and have the television activate itself, then walk to their car outside and have the signal "follow" them by turning on the appropriate radio channel. In addition to being linked with their user's home network, the majority of cars and other vehicles now have Internet access.

Robot insect spies are in military use

These "micro aerial vehicles" - no larger than a common house fly - have been in development for over a decade.* One of the major hurdles was creating sufficient battery power in such a small object, as well as keeping them light enough to remain airborne. Advances in nanotechnology solved this problem. Together with improvements in computing power, this allowed circuitry and components to be packed more closely.
The robots are being used primarily in spying missions, where they quite literally serve as a "fly on the wall" - recording and transmitting audio-visual information. An individual robot is equipped with miniature cameras, microphones, modem and GPS. Many terrorist cells are being infiltrated thanks to this.
More sophisticated versions are being developed for assassin roles. These have capsules in the abdomen of the insect, filled with cyanide or another lethal toxin. This is delivered to the target via a small needle capable of piercing human skin.
Some robots work in groups, forming networks that combine their abilities. Over the next few decades, further advances in nanotech will lead to enormous swarms of these machines being deployed on the battlefield.*
However, concerns are being raised as to how this technology will affect the privacy and safety of citizens.

Consumer devices with 100 Gbit/s transfer speeds

A new form of data transfer is now available for the consumer market. This is known as "Light Peak" and is replacing the Universal Serial Bus (USB) connections which have been the standard for many years.
The USB 3.0 specification allowed transfer speeds of 4.8 Gbit/s. An early version of Light Peak achieved 10 Gbit/s. This latest version, however, can achieve nearly 100 Gbit/s - enough to transfer a full-length Blu-Ray movie in around two seconds.
The optical technology of Light Peak also allows for smaller connectors with longer, thinner and more flexible cables. In addition, it can run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single cable, enabling the technology to connect devices such as peripherals, workstations, displays, disk drives, docking stations and more.*

Anti-fat drug is available

A drug that lets you eat whatever you want without gaining weight is now available.* There is enormous demand for this product, which leads to a major drop in obesity levels throughout the developed world - especially in countries like the USA, which until now had been experiencing a crisis in this regard. Average life expectancy is increased as a result, since there are less people dying of heart-related illnesses.

The new World Trade Center is complete

A full 17 years after the destruction of the World Trade Center, its replacement - 1 World Trade Center - is finally complete. Formerly known as the Freedom Tower, the project was delayed due to acrimonious disputes over money, security and design.*
The new tower features a spire, reaching a total height of 1,776 ft (a reference to the year that America declared its independence). The roof height is identical to that of the previous twin towers on the site.* The project also features a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.


Computers break the exaflop barrier

An exaflop is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (a million trillion, or a quintillion) calculations per second. The world's top supercomputers are now achieving this speed. This represents a thousandfold improvement over machines of a decade earlier.*
This exponential growth will continue, so that by 2029, computers will surpass the zettaflop barrier - a thousand times faster than an exaflop computer of 2019, and a million times faster than a petaflop computer of 2009. One of the many resulting applications will be the accurate simulation of an entire human brain and its neurons in real time.
Personal computers in 2019 are becoming ever smaller, lighter and more compact - with laptops, netbooks and other mobile devices far outnumbering desktops.* Physical hard drives are becoming almost redundant, with most storage now done online using "virtual drives" housed in remote servers, aided by the tremendous growth in broadband speeds and 5G wireless communications.
Web applications have reached startling levels of power and sophistication, especially where search engines are concerned. These not only find keywords in a search, but also interpret the context of the request - and most use voice recognition software. Users can ask their computer a highly specific question (such as "I'd like to see a comedy at the cinema after 9pm, then have an Italian meal for less than $20") and receive detailed answers and recommendations, often customised to their exact personal tastes and interests.
This emerging form of AI - which effectively acts like a personal assistant - means the web now offers a far more productive and intuitive experience.*

Bionic eyes are commercially available

Following trials, the world's first bionic eyes are now available for persons with degenerative vision loss.
These devices use miniature cameras, mounted on a pair of glasses. The cameras beam visual information into an electrode array which is connected to neurons in the retina. Electrical impulses are then transmitted through the optic nerve to the vision centres of the brain.
The first prototype of this technology was somewhat crude and pixelated, with only 100 dots of resolution. However, this new version provides 1000 dots, allowing the patient to recognise faces and read large print.*
Bionic eyes continue to gain in sophistication over the following decades, making exponential progress in resolution and visual quality. Fully artificial eyes eventually become available that can actually provide better vision than normal eyes - leading even healthy people to "upgrade" their sight.
Automated freight transport

Autonomous rapid transit systems have already been in place at certain airports, and on the metro systems of cities. By this date, significant numbers of driverless trucks have begun appearing on the roads.* They are capable of travelling hundreds of miles by themselves, negotiating traffic and other obstacles, and utilising advanced GPS technologies. They have a number of advantages over human drivers - such as being able to run 24 hours a day without getting tired, never being absent, and not requiring a salary or training. The trucks can also detect mechanical or software faults.*
These automated vehicles will eventually include cars, taxis and other types of road vehicles, becoming widespread by the 2030s.

The Aral Sea disappears from the map

As recently as the 1970s, the Aral Sea was the world's fourth largest lake, with an area of 68,000 km2.
However, Soviet irrigation projects diverted the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers which fed into it. By 2004, the sea had shrunk to 25% of its original surface area, and a nearly fivefold increase in salinity had killed most of its natural flora and fauna. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into three separate lakes, two of which were too salty to support fish. The once prosperous fishing industry had been virtually destroyed, and former fishing towns along the original shores became ship graveyards.
The Aral Sea was also heavily polluted, largely as a result of weapons testing, industrial projects, pesticides and fertilizer runoff. Wind-blown salt from the dried seabed damaged crops and polluted drinking water, while salt- and dust-laden air causd major public health problems in the Aral Sea region. The retreat of the sea also caused localised climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer.
Although a dam project in 2005 saved what little remained of the northern part of the sea (the Small Aral), the much larger southern part of the sea (the Large Aral) continued to shrink, and by 2019 had evaporated entirely.*

Global oil demand exceeds 100m barrels per day

Meanwhile, new discoveries are continuing to show an alarming decline. As the decade draws to a close, it becomes painfully obvious to all that "peak oil" has been reached. And with 60% of all recoverable oil in the Middle East, conflict looms for much of the region.


World energy crisis

Throughout this period the world is thrown into turmoil as demand for oil begins to greatly exceed supply - crippling many economies and triggering widespread social unrest.*
There are major conflicts throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. The most significant of these resource wars actually involves the one-off use of a tactical nuclear weapon.
The crisis plays out for nearly two decades, gradually being resolved by a switch to renewable energy and alternative fuel technologies - but the transition is by no means a smooth one. By the mid-2030's, the geopolitical map of the Middle East is almost unrecognisable compared with 20 years previously.
peak oil 2020 energy crisis future


Internet use reaches 5 billion worldwide

The number of Internet users has now reached almost 5 billion - equal to the entire world's population circa 1987. This compares with 1.7 billion users in 2010 and only 360 million in 2000.*
Vast numbers of people in developing countries now have access to the web, thanks to a combination of plummeting costs and exponential improvements in technology. This includes laptops that can be bought for only a few tens of dollars, together with explosive growth in the use of mobile broadband. Even the most remote populations on Earth can take advantage of the Internet, thanks to the infrastructure now in place.*
2020 internet users graph data chart global worldwide population future trend

Texting by thinking

In 2020, mobile phones are becoming available with the option of texting by thought power alone.*
A sensor-mounted headset is worn by the user. This contains brain-machine interface technology, which analyses brain waves and converts them into digital signals.*
Some of the higher end models feature glasses or visors, with displays built into the lenses. This allows completely hands-free texting, effectively creating a form of electronic telepathy. The process is rather slow at this stage - requiring a high degree of concentration - but advances in the coming decades will revolutionise communication.
future mobile phones 2020 texting

Complete organ replacements grown from stem cells

In the previous decade, it was already possible to grow individual tissues, tendons and cartilages from stem cells. By 2020, scientists have fully characterised how every part of the heart works - enabling them to grow complete replacements for use in transplants.*
The need for external donors is eliminated, and since the organ is genetically matched to the patient, there is no chance of rejection. Natural, living tissue is also far more flexible, sophisticated and efficient than artificially built components - so this new treatment offers radical hope to millions of people affected by cardiovascular disease. Until now, around 15m people have died each year from heart-related conditions.
The economic benefits are huge. A significant fraction of healthcare costs have been attributable to organ failure, the recurring treatments for chronic diseases and their subsequent complications. This new regenerative medicine effectively provides a cure, rather than ongoing treatment. Until now, direct healthcare costs of organ replacement and associated care have been $350 billion globally (about 8 percent of global healthcare spending).
As well as the heart, various other organs are developed over the subsequent decade: lungs, livers, kidneys, spleens, stomachs and sexual organs all become available by 2030. Internal organ failure is gradually becoming a thing of the past; for those who can afford the treatments, at least.
Combined with new vitrification techniques* (which allow organ banking without damage from ice crystal formation), this is a major breakthrough in longevity extension.

Holographic TV is mainstream

Breakthroughs in rewritable and erasable systems have made it possible to mass-market the first truly holographic TV displays.*
This form of technology had been in development for nearly three decades. One of the main problems encountered was that the displays required a lengthy delay between each "rewrite" - making it impractical for televisual displays. However, recent advances in power transfer have overcome this problem, with displays now capable of running at 24 frames per second.
Typical holographic screens of this period are relatively small. They are also very expensive, and still viewed as a luxury item for now. However, further refinement of this technology leads to bigger, more powerful displays; while competition between the major vendors later succeeds in bringing down costs, making them affordable to the majority of people.
The screens can either be fixed to a wall (with all the image writing lasers behind the wall), or placed horizontally on a table (with all the components underneath).
Initially popular in Japan and the Far East, the displays rapidly find their way to the rest of the world and make traditional CRT and LCD screens obsolete.
Over the next few decades perfection of this technology will see entire rooms turned into holographic environments.

Sweden becomes the first oil-free country

This has been achieved through large-scale investments in renewable energy, massive tax incentives and grants for scientific research, and a detailed programme of energy conservation. The country is powered entirely by zero-carbon technologies, and has rid itself completely of gasoline cars and oil-heated homes.* From this decade onwards, Sweden experiences massive prosperity and growth.

Wholly lifelike CGI

Computer-generated people used in the latest video games now achieve a wholly lifelike appearance. Advances in modelling techniques have allowed programmers to recreate the subtlest of movements, facial expressions, lighting and other physical effects. Complex animated scenes featuring entirely computer-rendered people are becoming indistinguishable from reality.*


"Thoughtcrime" is becoming a reality

Twenty years on from 9/11, mind readers are now a common feature of airport security, as well as sports stadiums and other high profile events. This technology faced problems to begin with, as there were false positives recorded by the machines – but recent advances in neuroscience and computer analysing software have greatly improved their accuracy.*
The system uses "non-invasive" sensors and imagers. These observe a person's emotional state, facial expression, body language, body temperature, heart rate, breathing pattern and other cues. Analysed together, these factors can determine whether they are planning to commit a crime.
Specific words, phrases and imagery within the person's brain are still years away from being fully decipherable. However, it is now possible to establish their basic, overall intentions beyond any reasonable doubt.*This technology is also replacing the lie detectors used in courtroom settings.malintent future airport security fast department of homeland security 2020 2020s 2025
Fully reusable, single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft
Until now, all orbital spacecraft have used multiple stages. This has required jettisoning parts of a launch vehicle during the flight, in order to reduce weight. In the early 2020s, however, a new prototype "space plane" is developed with funding from the EU. This can operate without the need for booster rockets, fuel tanks, engines or other external components, instead utilising a hybrid jet/rocket system.*
The vehicle takes off from a specially strengthened runway. It uses a precooled jet engine (rather than scramjet) to reach speeds of Mach 5.5 (1700 m/s), then closes the air inlet and operates as a highly efficient rocket to complete the journey to orbit.
Although its payload is only 12 tons (about one-third the capacity of the space shuttle), the craft is substantially cheaper (about 1/10th) and far more efficient (about 400-fold) than earlier spacecraft.* After completing a mission, it reenters the atmosphere with its skin protected by a strong ceramic, landing back on the runway like a normal aeroplane. It then undergoes any necessary maintenance and is capable of flying again in just two days (compared to two months for the space shuttle).
These planes are initially unmanned. However, later versions will be used for space tourism – capable of transporting up to 20 passengers in a purpose-built module and costing around $500,000 per person.*

Telecommuting is a standard flexible work option

In an effort to cut real estate costs, become more eco-friendly and attract the growing number of people seeking work-life balance, most companies by now have adopted a "work wherever you want, whenever you want" policy.
An increasingly global talent pool is emerging, with companies aggressively pursuing the best available workers, regardless of where they reside. Combined with superfast broadband in the home, telecommuting has grown tremendously as a result.
In addition, soaring fuel costs have led to many office-based employees working a four-day week, usually consisting of four 10-hour days.
In today's corporate workplaces, multi-touch surface computing is becoming ubiquitous - along with seamless integration of wireless devices and applications. Near-paperless offices are becoming a reality.
This combination of advanced technologies and flexible work options is leading to greatly improved speed, productivity and efficiency in companies around the world.
Traditional microchips are reaching the limits of miniaturisation
Semiconductor companies are reaching the limits of miniaturisation for computer chips. The smallest transistors are now being built with 11-nanometre manufacturing processes. This is close to the size of individual atoms. Silicon is impossible to scale below this size, due to the effects of quantum tunnelling.
Moore's Law - the trend which has seen computer power doubling every two years - enters a new paradigm shift, with traditional microchips abandoned in favour of "stacked" 3-dimensional circuits made from carbon nanotubes.*

Water crisis in southwest USA

Southwestern parts of the USA – including Nevada, Arizona and southern California – are faced with crippling water shortages, on a scale normally only seen in Third World countries.
Lake Mead, a key source of water for more than 25 million people (or about 8% of the US population), has run dry as a result of climate change.* Increased population growth and associated demand for water resources have also played a part.
Once the largest reservoir in the country, it has declined to almost nothing due to the Colorado River’s net deficit of nearly 1 million acre-feet of water per year. This crisis has occurred despite mitigation measures implemented early in the previous decade.
As well as providing fresh water, Lake Mead has been a major source of hydroelectric power, via the Hoover Dam. Blackouts are now occurring across much of the area. Las Vegas and its famous lights are particularly hard hit. Authorities have been attempting to stabilise the situation by constructing solar power facilities both in and around the city, as well as laying groundwater pipelines from elsewhere in Nevada.* Improved methods of water conservation and new agricultural techniques are also being introduced. However, even these measures are proving to be insufficient, and major societal and economic disruption is unavoidable in the short term. A virtual exodus of people from the affected regions is underway during this time.


Nanotech clothing enters the mass market

A variety of nanotechnology-based clothing is becoming mainstream now. This includes truly waterproof garments. These are made from polyester fibres coated with millions of tiny silicone filaments, structured in such a way that water simply falls off.*
Other textiles utilising nanotechnology include self-cleaning carpets. Millions of tiny fingers, embedded in the fabric, can be made to gently sway and lean towards the edge of the room, shifting dust and other garbage in a matter of minutes. Collectors fixed into the skirting board can then gather and dispose of any detritus as necessary. This has already been used in hotels, luxury apartments and high-grade office buildings - but is now entering the consumer market thanks to falling costs.
Nanotech is also being used extensively by the military, as well as police forces. Ultra-lightweight but extraordinarily impact-resistant jackets and body armour are becoming available. Fireproof suits can also be made safer using these new materials.

Tooth regeneration is transforming dental care

Having been demonstrated in mice, bioengineered tooth regeneration is becoming available to humans. Using a combination of stem cells, scaffold material and signaling molecules, a fully functional and living tooth can be regrown in around two months - complete with roots, inner pulp and outer enamel.
Until now, dental implant therapies have required pre-existing high quality bone structures for supporting the artificial implants. Full reconstruction of natural, healthy teeth in patients without adequate bone support is therefore now possible. Fillings and dentures are becoming obsolete as a result, improving the health and well-being of many millions of people.*

Piezoelectric nanowires are appearing in high-end products

The piezoelectric effect, in which crystalline materials under mechanical stress produce an electric current, is now being utilised at the nanoscale level to power a variety of devices.*
Tiny vibrations - such as those created by wind, sound waves, friction, and even the turbulence of blood flow - can be captured and harnassed by a nanowire mesh. The bending of this mesh in response to these subtle forces can generate over 200 millivolts.
This form of self-powering technology is so sensitive, it can even be embedded in clothing. For instance, the subtle movements of a belt, shirt or trouser pocket can produce enough power to charge the batteries of a cell phone.
Implantable medical devices benefit particularly well from this. Hearing aids, for example, no longer require batteries since they can be powered by sound waves hitting them. Meanwhile, bone-loss monitors and other sensors can be activated by stresses to the body - then beam an alert signal to a computer.
Piezoelectric nanowires have a range of other applications. They can be used in engineering, for example, to detect microscopic fractures in an aeroplane or spacecraft. They can also be used in identity verification: a grid of piezoelectric wires underneath a signature pad (or other touchscreen device) can be used to record the pattern of pressure applied, which is then checked against a database

Deafness is curable

Recent advances in stem cell research have provided a method of regenerating sensory cells within the inner ear. Humans are born with 30,000 cochlear and vestibular hair cells per ear. Unlike many animal species, they are unable to regenerate these when they are damaged. However, experiments with mice showed that it was possible to induce stem cells - as well as reprogrammed fibroblasts - into creating enough replacement hair cells to fully restore hearing. This process was then replicated in people.*
Using the patient's own skin as a source of stem cells means that the replacements are a perfect genetic match for their body, avoiding issues of immune rejection. This form of therapy also enables a variety of other ailments to be treated, such as balance disorders and tinnitus.


Laser-driven fusion energy makes progress

Magnetic confinement - as seen in the ITER - has thus far been the preferred approach to studying fusion energy. However, the potential of lasers is now being explored in greater depth. Following years of engineering and construction, a major new research facility is operational in Europe.* This aims to demonstrate the feasibility of commercial-level fusion.
The High Power laser Energy Research facility (HiPER) uses a laser-driven inertial confinement reactor. Lasers are fired into a central core, where they collide with a single fuel pellet, compressing it to high density. A second laser is then fired, in a more intense pulse with nanosecond precision. This ignites the fuel, raising the core temperature to over a hundred million degrees celsius - hotter than the centre of the Sun - allowing fusion reactions to occur. Helium is formed, releasing energetic neutrons in the process. These neutrons are captured, generating electricity.
HiPER's "fast ignition" approach uses much smaller lasers than previous designs, yet generates power of the same magnitude. This offers a total "fusion gain" that is much higher than earlier devices, with a ten-fold reduction in construction costs.
HiPER is only a prototype - but when fully developed, fusion will become a revolutionary form of energy production. It will be a giant leap forward in addressing climate change, pollution, energy security and the ever increasing demand for consumption.

Borneo’s rainforests have been wiped from the map

The world’s 3rd largest island, Borneo was once home to a staggering range of biodiversity, covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. Its lush rainforests have now almost completely disappeared as a result of deforestation.* Many rare species are declared extinct around this time including the Orangutan – one of the most intelligent of the great apes.*

Gorillas are extinct in Central Africa

Rampant and uncontrolled poaching, together with large-scale deforestation, agriculture, mining, pollution, disease and militia operations have led to the terminal decline of gorilla populations.* Only those in captivity now remain.

Turkey becomes self-sufficient in energy production

While many countries are struggling with the effects of peak oil, a lucky few have benefited from recent new discoveries. Turkey, for example, has become entirely self-sufficient in energy production - with 10 billion barrels of oil reserves and over 1.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas uncovered in the Black Sea.*
These huge reserves have enabled the country to completely end its dependence on foreign imports and meet its energy needs for at least the next 30 years. Turkey's standing in the world is increased significantly as a result, boosted further by its recent entry into the EU. Celebrations are also taking place this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the republic.
New oil discoveries have also been made in Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and China. More controversially, the frozen polar wastes of the Arctic and Antarctic are now being plundered for their fossil fuel reserves.


The biggest refugee crisis in world history

Torrential flooding in southeast Asia - brought on by a combination of rising sea levels, melting glaciers and extreme weather events - is creating the biggest refugee crisis in world history. Bangladesh and other parts of the region are seeing literally tens of millions of men, women and children displaced from their homes.*
This unfolding horror is the first major crisis of the 21st century which can be attributed directly to global warming.
Although a number of different countries are affected, the disaster is centred on Bangladesh with its high population (over 150 million) and high density, situated in the low-lying Ganges River delta. With most of the country just a few metres above sea level - and with a flat topography - storm surges are flooding vast areas of land with virtually no hope of recovery. As well as the physical damage to infrastructure, salt in the ground means that fields up to 40km from the new coastline are rendered useless for growing crops.*
Millions are drowned, while many others die in the subsequent looting and chaos that sweeps the nation, and a whole series of conflicts begins to erupt along the border with India.* The sheer scale of this catastrophe makes it difficult to coordinate relief efforts. Relatively speaking, only token assistance can be offered by the UN.
Ironically, Bangladesh has contributed very little in the way of pollution blamed for accelerating climate change.

African elephants are on the brink of extinction

Despite efforts to curtail the ivory trade, huge numbers of elephants continued to be poached throughout Africa. Their population - which stood at 600,000 in 2009 - declined by nearly 40,000 each year.*
Only a handful remain in Africa today. Zoos and safari parks around the globe are now working to maintain a viable population for future rewilding.

Petabyte storage devices are available

Data storage devices are continuing to grow exponentially, with capacities doubling every year. Nanotechnology is enabling truly vast quantities of information to be stored. A petabyte is 1000 terabytes, or one million gigabytes. Secure digital and microSD cards have disappeared by now, replaced by an even smaller form-factor.

Human brain simulations are possible

The exponential growth in computing power - combined with the use of nanobots - is making it possible to form accurate models of every part of the human brain.Between 2005 and 2025, there is a millionfold increase in computational power, along with vastly improved scanning resolution and bandwidth. Until recently, only separate regions of the brain had been modelled - but scientists are now able to combine them into one giant, complete simulation.

Much like the Human Genome Project of the 1990s, there were many in the scientific community who doubted the brain could be indexed and catalogued so quickly. However - like their predecessors - they failed to account for the Law of Accelerating Returns and its rapid snowball effect on the gathering of knowledge.*

Medical nanobots are becoming available

Microscopic robots - measuring just a few nanometres across - are available for a variety of uses now. They are most commonly seen in medical applications, where their size enables them to reach places in the human body that were simply inaccessible before or too delicate for conventional instruments to operate on.
A number of the most important breakthroughs have been in the treatment of cancer, which can be detected earlier than ever before and targeted with far more precision. By the 2030s, more than 90% of cancers can be cured as a result of this. Even patients who would previously have been diagnosed as "terminally ill" can now be routinely saved. Monitoring of heart conditions, neurological disorders and countless other illnesses is also vastly improved. This, combined with enormous strides in stem cell research, is creating a new generation of medical treatments that is reaching a whole new level of sophistication and efficiency.
The nanobots themselves are built on a molecule-by-molecule basis, via positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and diamondoid nanofactories. Each robot is capable of propelling itself using tiny "motors" and is equipped with microscopic sensing, guidance and communication devices.

China's economy continues to boom

Much of China is now highly urbanised and densified. Its booming economy has led to the construction of literally tens of thousands of new skyscrapers all over the country. There are now over 200 cities with more than a million inhabitants, compared with just 35 in the whole of Europe circa 2010.* Even many remote and isolated places are beginning to see development on an unprecedented scale. Large-scale infrastructure such as maglev trains, airports, bridges and tunnels is forming an extensive network to all corners of the nation, leaving few areas untouched. China is well on its way to becoming a developed country.
Some of the largest metropolitan areas - such as Hong Kong and Shenzhen - actually begin to overlap and form "hyper cities", rivalling Tokyo in terms of population and land area. Many of the world's tallest buildings can now be found in China, including a number of kilometre-high "supertalls".
All of this has a considerable impact on the price of steel and other materials, which leads to cutbacks of many large-scale development projects in Europe, America and elsewhere. The rise of neighbouring India is adding to this. The West is now having a greatly reduced influence on setting the price of metals. Meanwhile, vast profits are being made by construction and mining firms, which leads to many high profile takeovers and acquisitions. At the same time, record numbers of accidents during this time - as a result of so much construction activity - lead to tighter regulations and improved safety in the industry. Better pay and working conditions for employees are subsequently introduced.

As China booms, its power requirements are soaring. The country has been preparing for this, however, by strengthening relations with Central Asian countries and importing more oil and gas from them, especially Turkmenistan which has made significant new discoveries. China’s entry into Central Asia was also partly motivated by the need to reduce its dependency on (a) the Middle East, and (b) the Malacca Strait for shipping oil from the Persian Gulf and Africa; a stretch of water that was becoming increasingly vulnerable to pirate attacks, and was the subject of ongoing political tensions regarding its control.
As well as strengthening its oil imports, substantial gains have been made from energy efficiency and conservation programmes, along with greatly increased use of nuclear power. By 2025 its nuclear power generating capacity is nearly 150 billion kilowatthours (khwh), passing that of Canada and Russia.* In the coming years, this will increase still further, as 4th generation nuclear power plants become available. Demands for environmental protection also lead to increased solar, wind and hydro-electric power.

Vertical farms are appearing in many cities

In an effort to deal with potential food and water shortages, many cities are now building vertical farms.* There are tremendous cost advantages of sourcing food locally, and the farms often use genetic modification processes, allowing them to harvest crops faster.
High-speed rail networks are being expanded in many countries
Many countries have now conducted a radical overhaul of their rail transport infrastructure.
In Spain, more than 10,000km of high-speed track has been laid, making it the most extensive network in the world. 90 percent of the country's population now live within 50km of a bullet train station.*
In the UK, a major high-speed rail line is nearing completion. This will travel up the central spine of the country - connecting London with Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Trains will be capable of reaching 200mph, slashing previous journey times by almost half.*
In Japan, Tokyo is now connected with Nagoya and Osaka - along with several smaller cities - via superfast magnetic levitation trains. Tests conducted in previous decades showed that it was possible to build a railway tunnel in a straight route through the Southern Japanese Alps. The first generation of these trains already held the world speed record, at 581 km/h (or 361mph); but recent advances in carriage design have pushed this still further, to over 600 km/hour (or 373mph). This is fast enough to compete with some commercial airliners.*
Many other countries are investing in high-speed rail during this time, due to its sheer speed and convenience, together with soaring fuel costs and environmental factors which have made car and air travel less attractive.
Even the US - which for decades had neglected its rail network - is making huge progress in this area.
Africa and the Middle East are linked by a transcontinental bridge
A 15-year megaproject - costing over $200 billion - has seen the construction of two entire new cities, located at either ends of a 29 kilometre (18 mile) bridge. Dubbed the "Bridge of the Horns", this spans the southern mouth of the Red Sea and connects Yemen (Middle East) to Djibouti (Africa). With support for freight trains, light rail and cars, this greatly facilitates the movement of people, trade and resources between the two continents.*
Each of the hi-tech cities at either end of the bridge is powered almost entirely by renewable energy. They feature many other green technologies and sustainable development practices. As their population swells, they become major commercial, educational and tourist hubs of the region.* A highway is also built, linking them to Dubai.

Progress with longevity extension

The potential for radical life extension is beginning to enter the public consciousness. Experiments at a university have yielded the first 10 year old mice. Since mice and humans share similar DNA, this "robust rejuvenation" is a major stepping stone towards halting the ageing process in people.*
For those under the age of 50, there is now real and genuine hope of being able to live indefinitely. Though a permanent cure for humans is still many years away, a number of therapies are now in development which can substantially reduce the cell damage, mitochondrial mutations and other adverse effects of ageing. Combined with dietary and lifestyle changes, these temporary measures can be used to buy time for the more dramatic advances in the years ahead - creating a "bridge" to the next era of scientific discovery.
This period marks the beginning of a major increase in public interest and awareness of the subject. At the same time, however, there is a great deal of opposition from religious institutions and conservative groups.

Stress and anxiety is reaching crisis levels

By now, a multitude of external factors - intruding into almost every aspect of peoples' day-to-day lives - has led to soaring levels of stress, anxiety and depression. In the early 2000s, around one in four citizens could expect to develop a form of mental illness. By the late 2020s, this has risen to almost one in three.
This is especially true of those living in high density urban centres. Rapid advances in technology and the Internet, rampant consumerism and advertising; the ever increasing work-related stresses, debts, living costs, bad diets, overcrowding and pollution - coupled with loneliness, alienation, and loss of national identity - not to mention the constant scaremongering by media and government; the intensifying problems of climate change, peak oil, and terrorism (plus a host of related security and surveillance measures), along with various health scares originating from overseas... the list goes on and on.
Due to the ongoing energy crisis, frequent blackouts are occurring in many countries during this time, while fuel shortages are commonplace at petrol stations. Meanwhile, record heatwaves and dangerous levels of air pollution are making summers unbearable in some urban areas. In Europe, right-wing nationalist governments are on the rise due to the massive amount of immigration occurring from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.
The combined impact of these many factors is having a serious impact on the mental health of citizens.*

Contact with the Voyager probes is lost

Voyager I is now almost 23 billion kilometers from our Sun - or 150 times the distance between the Sun and Earth.
Both probes have remained operational for nearly half a century, continuing to transmit science data back to NASA. They have left the heliosphere entirely and are now headed towards the bow shock - the boundary between the stellar wind and the interstellar medium.
However, by this date, onboard power finally starts to wane. Various instruments begin shutting down, one by one, until eventually all contact is lost.
Each probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc, in the event that either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent alien life. The discs carry images of Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, along with a medley, "Sounds of Earth", that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, a variety of music from different cultures and eras, plus greetings in 60 different languages.*


Rising sea levels are wreaking havoc on the Maldives

At an average of just 1.5m above sea level, the Maldives is the lowest lying country on the planet. Rising sea levels are now beginning to devastate its economy, one-third of which relies on tourism.
The mere talk of a possible submersion, in previous years, had been damaging investor confidence. By this date, however, the tangible reality of global warming is leading to the wholesale abandonment of many islands.*

The United States of Africa is established

Following years of diplomatic negotiations, the first truly pan-African government has been formed.* This federation has a combined population of more than a billion. It consists of the 53 sovereign states on the African continent, and extends as far west as the Caribbean to include Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
The union is faced with major challenges - including health issues such as the AIDS epidemic and malaria; political issues such as corruption and civil wars; economic issues such as improving the standard of living of millions of impoverished, uneducated Africans; and environmental issues such as famine and desertification. However, this continental unity marks a turning point for Africa. As trade links improve, wealth and stability increases, and its constituent nations find themselves better able to market their labour, products and resources. Access to education and healthcare is being boosted by a number of technological innovations
This transformation is a slow, gradual process - but finally there is hope for a peaceful, prosperous Africa. This situation is being mirrored in a number of other Third World countries which are beginning to extend their spheres of influence. With many First World nations facing their own economic and political crises, a more even spread of power is emerging across the globe.


BRICs overtake the G7

By this date, the major emerging markets - Brazil, Russia, India and China, a.k.a. the BRICs - have overtaken the combined GDP of the G7 nations.*

Carbon sequestration is underway in many nations

Following years of research and development, a number of geoengineering techniques are now being utilised for trapping and removing CO2. This is offering fresh hope for mitigating the effects of climate change.
The most significant technology is "clean coal", being fitted to power plants. This is seeing widespread adoption, since it now costs less than unsequestered coal-based power generation.* The carbon dioxide is stored in geological formations deep underground (including some empty oil wells). Great care and precision must be taken in choosing these sites, however, as dumping the gas in an unstable location may cause it to leak back up to the surface or contaminate aquifers used for drinking supplies.
Another method of carbon sequestration which is showing great potential is the deployment of "artificial trees". These are shaped like giant fly swatters around 10m high, and are becoming an increasingly common sight along roads, freeways and other polluted areas.* The trees capture CO2 through a filter - thousands of times more efficiently than real trees - which is then removed and stored.
Another geoengineering project involves strips of algae, fitted to the sides of buildings, which naturally absorb CO2 through photosynthesis. They are most common in high-density urban centres, where tall buildings offer a much greater surface area. These "photobioreactors" (as they are called) not only sequest carbon, but can also produce biofuel and biochar as beneficial side effects. The biofuel can be used to generate energy whilst keeping net carbon emissions to zero, while the biochar can be used as a very good fertiliser.*
Yet another project is the addition of highly reflective panels on rooftops. These reflect sunlight back into space, reducing the amount of solar radiation being absorbed by the Earth.
Although efficient, the geoengineering techniques described above (along with various others) do not represent the ultimate solution to global warming. They are only a temporary measure. The only effective, long-term process for stabilising the earth's climate remains the large-scale adoption of solar, wind, hydro, nuclear and other renewable energy sources.


Printed electronics are ubiquitous

The printed electronics market has seen exponential growth. By now, it has ballooned to over $300 billion globally - even overtaking the silicon integrated circuit industry.*
This technology began with a small number of niche, high-end products. It expanded rapidly in the 2010s, thanks to plummeting costs and improved production methods. By the 2020s it had exploded into the mainstream – creating a whole new generation of ultra-thin electronics.
Today, these have such low fabrication costs that they are ubiquitous, being present in countless everyday business and consumer applications. Many previously bulky and heavy devices can now be folded, stored or carried as easily as sheets of paper. This includes flexible TV displays that can be rolled or hung like posters, wearable mobile phones, electronic newspapers with moving pictures, disposable netbooks, "smart" packaging and labels with animated text, signage in retail outlets that can be updated shop-wide at the touch of a button.*
Multimedia players with expandable, fold-out touchscreens are especially popular. Even low-end models are now the size and weight of credit cards and can easily fit inside a wallet. With petabytes of storage, gigapixels of screen resolution and superfast transfer speeds, they are millions of times more powerful than iPods of previous decades. They are also completely wireless - no cables or physical connections of any kind are required, and music can be enjoyed using wireless earphones.

UK population reaches 70 million

Britain will soon become the most populous country in Europe, overtaking both Germany and France. This is mainly due to vast numbers of immigrants. Combined with a shrinking labour force, this is putting an enormous strain on public services - especially in London, which has born the brunt of this increase.
The East End has been transformed in recent years, becoming almost a whole new city within London, and beginning to rival the West End. Vast areas of land have been redeveloped with hundreds of new residential developments, office towers, retail masterplans, green spaces and public areas - all built to the highest environmental standards.

Manned fighter planes are being phased out and replaced with UAVs

By this date, the A-10 Thunderbolt II has been replaced completely by the F-35 Lightning II - which itself becomes one of the last remaining manned fighter planes in the US military. The F-35 will remain in operation until the 2040s, eventually being replaced by a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) controlled by advanced AI.
x-47a x47 x47a uav unmanned aerial vehicle ai

Amputees can regrow lost limbs

Drugs are now available that can stimulate human cells to regrow entire limbs.* By switching off a particular gene known as P21, adult mammalian cells can be induced to behave like regenerative embryonic stem cells.*
The treatments are applied transiently during the healing process and only locally at the wound site, which also minimises any side effects.Further into the future, spinal cords and even damaged brains will be capable of being regenerated.*


Human-like AI is becoming a reality

A major milestone is reached in the field of AI research this year, as a computer passes the Turing Test for the very first time.** In a virtual reality setting, a human judge is made to engage in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each of which tries to appear human. The participants are placed in isolated locations.
Graphics and voice effects have already progressed to the point that CGI characters are visually indistinguishable from real people. However, computer intelligence and interaction has also grown exponentially, such that the judge is now literally unable to tell the machine from the real human.*
Answers to certain "obscure" questions posed by the judge may appear slightly childlike from the AI - but they are humanlike nonetheless.*

Automation of supermarkets and retail environments

In developed nations, the majority of retail environments are now cashless. Automated systems have made it possible for customers to shop with little or no physical interaction with a checkout.
Items are simply "scanned" as they pass through the door. The customer is identified either by a chip in their card, or with a prepayment transponder obtained from a vending machine outside the store. Transactions are then generated instantly and wirelessly over the Internet.
This system greatly saves time, improves security and reduces costs for the retailer by eliminating the need for checkout staff.

Intelligent advertising

Personalised adverts, similar in style to those seen in the film Minority Report, are becoming widespread by the end of this decade.* Microsensors embedded in posters and other outdoor media can identify people by the chips in their mobile phone, credit card and other personal effects. These adverts are then customised depending on the personal habits, interests and lifestyle of the person in question.
Pairs of ultrasonic beams - targeted to intersect at specific points - deliver a localised sound message that only a single person can hear. This means that even in crowded situations, the adverts can be made personal and unique.
Civil liberties campaigners decry the use of such technology, given the rise in anxiety, paranoia and other mental illness resulting from such marketing tactics; but the demands of business win through.

Titan Saturn System Mission (TSSM)

This is a joint NASA/ESA mission involving the exploration of Saturn and its moons. The craft is launched in 2020, and goes through a total of four gravity assists (Earth-Venus-Earth-Earth), before finally reaching Saturn in 2029.*
Detailed, close-range imaging is conducted of both Titan and Enceladus - including a flyby into Titan's lower atmosphere with a hot air balloon, just a few miles above the surface. This takes place over the equator and lasts for six months, returning a vast amount of data. Equipped with ultra-high resolution cameras, the probe reveals in stunning detail the landscapes of this strange alien world.
On its second Titan flyby, a surface lander is released by the orbiter. This is targeted over Kraken Mare, a northern polar sea of icy hydrocarbons. The probe descends by parachute, like the Huygens probe of 2005. A few hours later, it hits the liquid surface - becoming the first ever floating exploration of an extraterrestrial sea.
The battery-operated craft's principal function is to sample and analyze organics on the surface for a period of nine hours, including six hours of atmospheric descent and three or more hours on the surface. Both probes' data are relayed to the Titan orbiter.

Lake Chad disappears from the map

In the 19th century, Lake Chad was among the largest lakes in the world. It supported a vast ecosystem of fish, waterfowl, crocodiles, shore birds and other animals.
Due to the combined effects of drought, irrigation and human activity, it has disappeared entirely by now.* This is having a devastating impact on Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon - with over 30 million people depending on the lake for agriculture, drinking water, livestock, fishing and other purposes.
Vast numbers of refugees are now moving to elsewhere on the continent.


Global population is reaching crisis point

Explosive population growth - along with continued industrialisation of emerging economies - is having a catastrophic impact on food, water and energy supplies.*
In the early 2000s, there were six billion people on Earth. By 2030, there are an additional two billion, most of them from poor countries. Humanity's ecological footprint is such that it now requires the equivalent of two whole Earths to sustain itself. Farmland, fresh water and natural resources are becoming scarcer by the day.
The extra one-third of human beings on the planet means that energy requirements have soared, at a time when fossil fuel supplies are declining. A whole series of conflicts is now unfolding in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, at times threatening to spill over into Europe. With America involved too, the world is teetering on the brink of a major global war.
There is the added issue of climate change, with CO2 levels now reaching 450 parts per million. There are signs that a tipping point has been reached, which is manifesting itself in the form of runaway environmental degradation. Nature's ecosystems are beginning to collapse on a scale rarely witnessed in Earth's history.
The accelerating magnitude of these problems is leading to a rapid migration from traditional fossil fuels to renewable energy. Advances in nanotechnology have resulted in vastly improved solar power. This is enabling photovoltaic materials to be added to almost every new building. Maglev wind power is beginning to replace traditional wind turbines, allowing for much greater capacity in a smaller footprint. Energy supplies in general are becoming more localised and self-sufficient, while standards of power conservation have risen across the board. Clean coal is a further option now available. Meanwhile, 4th generation nuclear is close to being perfected and fusion power is only a decade or two away.
Although humanity is weening itself off fossil fuels, they remain the principal energy source in 2030 - accounting for nearly half of all power production.
Another issue which governments have to contend with during this time is the ageing population, which has seen a doubling of retired persons since the year 2000. People are living longer, healthier lives. Huge budget increases have been made for state pensions, but the funding is spread over such a large number of people that the overall effect is a decreased income for the average senior citizen. Retirement ages are increasing: in America, Asia and most European countries, many employees are forced to work into their 70s.

AI is widespread

Technology is accelerating exponentially. By 2030, the pace of change is so great that it will seem as if an entire century of progress has already occurred in the first three decades of the 21st century.* Scientific breakthroughs appear to be happening with startling frequency now - especially in the fields of computing, nanotechnology, medicine and neuroscience.*
Workplaces are becoming highly automated, with tremendous improvements in speed, productivity and efficiency. Ever-increasing use of portable, wireless devices has led to the evolution of near-paperless offices. Meanwhile, the need for hyperfast exchange of information has created enormous demand for video conferencing - a trend reinforced by significant reductions in air travel.
Many companies are downsizing their administrative departments and replacing them with AI. This is particularly true of call centres, and other service-based roles, where customers often deal face-to-face with "virtual employees" based on automated software. Crude versions of these systems had been utilised as far back as the 1990s - activated by simple voice commands over the telephone - but now they are presented onscreen as fully conversant digital entities.
Though lacking much in the way of personality, these sentient programs talk with "perfect" voices and are very pleasant on the ears.* They have a multitude of menu options and can usually deal with almost any query - however specific or unusual - thanks to their advanced voice and facial recognition software.
As competition increases, these virtual employees become a powerful marketing tool in the bid to provide the best possible customer service. In addition to mainstream companies, the adult entertainment industry gains a huge advantage from them, with enormous demand for their services. Research and development into artificial intelligence (and related hardware/software) increases greatly during this period. An added benefit of interacting with these virtual people is the complete elimination of caller queuing, since there is no need for physical staff anymore.
With AI beginning to play a stronger role in society, concerns arise of a "technological singularity", as forecast by Ray Kurzweil and others. These fears prove to be exaggerated for now, in a manner similar to the Millenium Bug.

USA is declining as a world power

A ballooning budget deficit, record levels of personal debt, and a declining manufacturing base, combined with excessive military spending and related activities (such as increased homeland security and surveillance) greatly damaged the US economy over the previous few decades. This caused long term damage to the country's standing.
The continued industrialisation of China and India has led to phenomenal growth in these and other Asian countries, with many millions being lifted out of poverty. Shanghai has eclipsed Wall Street as the leading financial centre.
Despite these changes, the US still retains its super power status - but every leading economist now acknowledges that it won't be the only country holding such influence for much longer. China, India and the EU are becoming major players on the world stage. What this means for geopolitical stability is the subject of much debate around this time, but many agree that a group of superpowers rather than a single hyperpower will mean increased conflict.

AIDS, cancer and a plethora of other degenerative diseases are curable

The combination of stem cell research, synthetic genomics, nanotechnology and other breakthroughs has led to cures for a wide range of illnesses by now - including AIDS/HIV, the majority of cancers, motor neurone disease, arthritis and diabetes. Although Parkinson's and Alzheimer's have yet to be fully understood, dramatic progress is now being made thanks to reverse-engineering of the human brain.*
The growth of information technology in medicine has played an enormous role here. Ongoing, exponential gains in the scale, capacity and price performance of computer hardware (doubling annually) have transformed the ability to scan, analyse and decode the human body.
The tools to reprogram the information processes underlying biology are gaining a further boost from the development of strong AI. This is being used to greatly accelerate research efforts. Automated software programs now combine the subtlety of humans with the speed, memory and knowledge sharing of non-biological intelligence.*

India becomes the most populous country in the world

Around this time, India overtakes China to become the most populous country in the world. By the middle of this decade it will be home to over 1.5 billion people. The gap between these two countries will continue to widen, with China's population actually declining from this point onwards.

As part of a climate change deal, foreign investment within India has enabled the country to build more than a hundred gigawatts of solar power facilities: enough to supply 200 million people with clean energy.* Together with its growth as a major IT centre, this has further improved its social and economic standing. At the same time, however, the effects of climate change are beginning to take hold. Droughts are posing serious challenges to food and water production.

Full weather modeling is perfected

Zettaflop-scale computers are now available for scientific establishments. These systems are a thousand times more powerful than those of 2020 and a million times more powerful than those of 2010.
One field seeing particular benefit during this time is meteorology. Weather forecasts can be generated with 99% accuracy over a two week period.* Satellites can map wind and rain patterns in real time at extraordinary resolution - from square kilometres in previous decades, down to less than 10 square metres now.
Long-term global warming and climate modeling can also be achieved in far greater detail than ever before.

Emerging job titles of today

Some of the new job titles becoming widespread in 2030 include the following.*
·         Alternative Vehicle Developer
·         Avatar Manager / Devotee
·         Body Part Maker
·         Climate Change Reversal Specialist
·         Memory Augmentation Surgeon
·         Nano Medic
·         Narrowcaster
·         'New Science' Ethicist
·         Old Age Wellness Manager / Consultant Specialist
·         Quarantine Enforcer
·         Social 'Networking' Officer
·         Space Pilot / Orbital Tour Guide
·         Vertical Farmer
·         Virtual Clutter Organizer
·         Virtual Lawyer
·         Virtual Teacher
·         Waste Data Handler

Web 4.0 is transforming the Internet landscape

Further convergence of the online and physical world has led to the emergence of "Web 4.0" - the next generation of internet. Semantic analyzing programs, having evolved into forms of AI, now perform a huge range of automated tasks for business, government and consumers. Running on massively parallel networks, these applications hunt for textual and visual data - combining the most subtle capabilities of humans (such as pattern recognition) with ways in which machines are already vastly superior (such as speed and memory).*
In addition to serving as highly advanced search engines, they are playing a major function in the real world - gathering information from the array of sensors, cameras and other tracking devices now present in the environment, on vehicles, and even on people themselves.
Although privacy and civil liberties issues are being raised, this new generation of IT promises to bring enormous benefits to society. Crimes are faster and easier to solve thanks to these intelligent virtual agents; transport and logistics are smoother and more efficient; resources can be managed and distributed more accurately.
In addition, practically every physical document in existence has now been digitally encoded, backed up and archived online. This includes full copies of all books, journals, manuscripts and other literature ever published – forming a complete repository of human knowledge going back thousands of years. These documents can be retrieved and analysed using real-time speech commands, translated from any of the world's 6,000 languages and accessed via 3D holographic imaging.
Web 4.0 is also democratising the Internet more than ever before. News agencies are finding themselves increasingly outmoded by bloggers and other social media when it comes to speed and accuracy of information.

Married couples are a minority

By now, marriage in the West has been reduced to the status of a lifestyle choice enjoyed by a minority, rather than an essential institution of society. This trend, which began in the 1980s, has seen the married population shrink from almost 50% of adults in 2009, to just 41% now.*
Increasing pressures of work and money, together with the general stresses of the outside world (including the ongoing energy crisis), are putting an ever-greater strain on couples. The decline of religious institutions has also played a part here. Unmarried partnerships no longer carry the stigma they once had.
In addition, increasing numbers of people either working at home alone, or living with their parents, are making it difficult for some to meet potential partners.
Another contributory factor is an explosion in the use of virtual reality - and other such technologies - which has led to increased individual isolation. People of all ages spend increasingly large amounts of their time engaged in highly immersive online experiences, requiring little or no interaction with the outside world.
Of those who are married, the number of children per couple has declined considerably in Western societies. Combined with increasing numbers of Muslim immigrants (who have much higher numbers of children), this is beginning to radically alter the demographics in some countries.


Manned mission to Mars

Perhaps the most long-overdue space mission in history is finally undertaken during this time. A full six decades after the Apollo landings, technology is now vastly improved - particularly with regards to IT and telecommunications.
The costs involved are still enormous, however. Rather than going it alone, NASA is forced to share the burden with other nations.

4th generation nuclear power

By this date, 4th generation nuclear power plants are commercially available.* They utilise a system of tiny ball bearings, rather than large fuel rods. They are a major improvement over previous generations, for the following reasons:
    * It is physically impossible for them to have a runaway chain reaction, as happened with Chernobyl. No error, human or otherwise, will ever produce a meltdown.
    * The uranium fuel is only 9% enriched. This makes it impossible to be used in terrorist nuclear weapons.
    * The nuclear waste is much easier to dispose of.
    * They are highly economical. Electricity can be generated more cheaply than oil or gas power, even when the decommissioning costs of the stations are taken into account.
For these reasons, nuclear power becomes a lucrative industry from the 2030s onwards. China and India, in particular, take advantage of this enhanced power source.
Solar and wind power has greater long term potential, however, due to the finite supply of uranium.

Terabit internet speeds are commonplace

In addition to the benefits resulting from Web 4.0 (described earlier), connection speeds have also vastly improved. Bandwidth has been growing by roughly 50% each year. Many households in the developed world now have a terabit connection.*
A significant number of these connections are now appearing on people themselves, in the form of wearable or implantable devices.


Hypersonic airliners are entering service

Following decades of research and development, a new generation of aeroplanes are entering commercial service.*
These aircraft have a cruising speed of Mach 5 - or about 3,800 mph - enabling them to fly from Europe to Australia in less than four hours. With a range of more than 20,000km (12,000 miles) they can perform this journey without refuelling and have excellent subsonic and supersonic fuel efficiency, thus avoiding the problems inherent in earlier supersonic aircraft. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, they are environmentally friendly. Being powered by liquid hydrogen, their only waste products are water vapor and small amounts of nitrous oxide.
Another advantage is that, while the 150 metre-long designs are much bigger than previous jets, they are actually lighter than Boeing 747s and can utilise conventional airport runways. They have moderate take-off noise, too.
In many ways, they are the spiritual successor of Concorde.
However, they do not have windows. The heat generated by traveling so fast makes it difficult to install windows that are not too heavy. One solution to this problem has been the installation of flat screen displays, showing images of the scene outside.*
Holographic wall screens
Conference halls, office headquarters, modern art galleries and other such environments now have access to holographic wall screens. These are substantially larger versions of the TV projectors which have been in use since the 2020s. These upscale models are becoming so large that they can fill entire rooms. At this stage, they remain far too expensive for mainstream use in the home (except for luxury apartments owned by the rich and famous). However, they are a relatively common sight in workplaces, where video conferencing is playing an increasing role in business; and in entertainment venues such as movie theatres, nightclubs and stadiums.
Times Square in New York, Piccadilly Circus in London, and Shibuya in Tokyo now feature spectacular advertisement displays, with graphics appearing to literally "jump out" of the screen.

IT's share of the US economy reaches 15%

The trend in IT growth is shown below. This has been consistent since at least the 1970s and there are no signs of it slowing down. Major industries fueling this growth now include biotechnology, nanotechnology, leisure and entertainment (especially VR) and the development of AI.
By the end of the century, over a quarter of America's GDP may be based on IT, as the demand for physical goods and services decreases, being replaced with virtual and digital goods and services online.

Lung disease in China has killed over 80 million by now

This has resulted from the combined long term effects of (a) pollution; 20 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are in China, (b) huge numbers of smokers; around 50% of adults, and (c) the widespread practice of burning wood or coal at home for cooking and heating; over 65% of the population.*
China has begun switching to cleaner fuels by this time, however - and is implementing a new programme of taxation, better health education and tobacco advertising bans. This begins to reduce the proportion of deaths from lung disease from around this time onwards.


Exabyte storage devices are available

Data storage devices are now available with capacities of more than one exabyte (a million terabytes). This might seem excessive to observers from earlier decades. It has become necessary in today's world, however, due to the exponential growth of information technology. The day-to-day experiences of the average person now involve a stupendous amount of data collection - especially for those using neural interfaces or biotechnology implants.

 Ice-free summers in the Arctic

Due to global warming, the Arctic is now completely free of ice during summer months. A dramatic decline in sea ice coverage was observed during 2007. This trend continued over the subsequent decades, the process accelerated by the increasing surface area of water - being darker, the sea absorbed more of the Sun's heat compared to reflective white ice.

Self-driving vehicles are widespread

In many developed countries - especially in the EU - a new generation of self-driving vehicles is being rolled out. These use a combination of advanced GPS, AI and lane-changing technology to carry passengers to their destination automatically. As well as improving road safety, these cars are fitted with the latest hydrogen-based technology to make them energy efficient and reduce their impact on the environment.

Holographic recreations of dead people

Throughout this time many dead celebrities, presidents and historical figures from the past are "resurrected" online, via the immense AI and supercomputing powers now available. This phenomenon is aided by the recent human brain simulations that have been made possible. Data mining of every single word ever spoken, written, or otherwise recorded by the person is undertaken, then analysed to recreate their character traits and emotions. This allows the construction of a highly accurate "shell" personality, surrounding a generic "core" program, run as an entirely independent AI simulation.
The project sparks much controversy when first announced (especially among the religious community) but soon gains momentum, as a whole host of actors, musicians, artists, scientists, politicians and other individuals from the past are made available.* Advanced holographic techniques - combined with real-time audio-visual interaction - make them appear as lifelike as any other person alive in the world today.
This form of computerised resurrection is soon extended and made possible for ordinary citizens wishing to preserve a loved one in digital form; though once again, it is more popular among the non-religious (and the process is generally less accurate, since the average person tends to leave behind less data, written words, video recordings and other information for use in constructing the programs). The technology involved is also expensive. It is used only by the rich for now - or in certain public locations such as museums, galleries and other venues.

Robots are dominating the battlefield*

A variety of mobile, autonomous fighting machines are appearing on the battlefield now. Guided by advanced AI, they can aim with inhuman precision and come equipped with powerful sensors, GPS and thermal vision. They can be deployed for weeks or months at a time if necessary, without need for rest or maintenance. They have other advantages too - such as a complete lack of remorse or fear; no need for training, or retirement payments, or other such costs. These machines are being used in a wide variety of conflicts (especially food/energy/resource-related) where they spread terror and confusion through the ranks of their enemies.
In fact, only the poorest or most desperate enemies are fielding human troops against this new and deadly force. This is giving the US an advantage in battlefield situations, allowing the country to regain some of the power and influence it has lost in previous decades - at least with regards to armed conflicts.
The most advanced robot models come with self-repairing nanobot systems and immunity to EMP attacks. Some can even turn themselves invisible through the use of metamaterials.

Artificially-grown meat is available to consumers
A solution to the ongoing food crisis becomes available near the end of this decade. Advances in tissue engineering have made it possible to actually "grow" meat, using just single animal cells.* Having been in development for over 30 years, it has now reached the stage where it can be safely mass-produced and made available for public consumption.*
The meat itself has a number of benefits. It is unusually pure, clean and healthy - whilst retaining the original flavour, texture and appearance of traditional meat. It can also be produced without harm or cruelty to animals, being just a lump of cultivated cells. Perhaps most importantly, it has far less impact on the environment.
It is also much cheaper than ordinary meat, which is especially beneficial to developing countries, many of which have seen their agricultural systems ravaged by climate change.
Like GM crops and other such radical advances, a number of political and psychological hurdles stood in the way of its development. This meant its introduction to the mainstream was delayed by several years. However, the aforementioned crisis in farming - along with endorsements from animal welfare groups - gave added impetus and eventually pushed it through.


Bionic eyes that surpass human vision

Although yet to become mainstream, a bionic eye is now available that not only restores sight, but actually exceeds normal human vision. This breakthrough has been made possible due to exponential advances in sensor technology and computer power.
The first generation of these implants began appearing in the late 2010s.* They were somewhat crude initially - providing only a very pixelated view of the world and requiring the use of glasses frames for mounting the cameras.
This latest generation, however, is such high resolution that it now exceeds the sensitivity of natural human eyes. Gigapixels of resolution can be captured and transmitted to the optic nerve into the visual centres of the brain. Externally mounted cameras are no longer necessary - these have been miniaturised by a factor of thousands and incorporated within the eye itself.
Bionic eyes will soon begin to offer more than just ordinary sight. They will be capable of providing infrared vision, for instance, for improved health and safety in night-time situations. They will include video recording capabilities, serving as the ultimate in portable webcams. The convergence of Web 4.0 and augmented reality will enable users to receive detailed information on their surroundings, just by looking around them.*
The cost of these implants is also dropping substantially, thanks to exponential improvements in price performance. Having been tens of thousands of dollars in earlier decades, they will soon be available for less than $100.


Quantum computers are becoming available

Certain government agencies, universities and research institutes now have access to this revolutionary form of technology, which offers spectacular computing speed and power on a completely different scale to anything used before. These machines work by making direct use of quantum mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. In addition to being trillions of times faster than earlier computers, they can be made absolutely secure, too. The machines' encryption techniques are virtually unbreakable, due to the almost unimaginable number of instructions being executed simultaneously.


Teleportation of complex organic molecules

In the early 2000s, scientists were able to transfer particles of light (with zero mass) over short distances.
Further experiments in quantum entanglement led to successful teleportation of the first complete atom. This was followed by the first molecules, consisting of multiple atoms.
By the late 2030s, complex organic molecules such as DNA and proteins can be teleported.*


Full immersion virtual reality

Towards the end of this decade, personal computers are becoming sophisticated enough to bring full immersion virtual reality to the mainstream.*
In other words, users now have the option of actually "being" in a video game and experiencing its graphics, audio and other effects (e.g. tactile feedback) in a manner that is practically indistinguishable from the real world.
This stunning breakthrough has been achieved through exponential trends in computing over the previous decades - including a billionfold improvement in processing power and price performance, combined with a 100,000-fold shrinkage of components and circuitry.*
For the first time, human brains are actually being merged with computer intelligence. Rather than viewing games on a screen, users now experience the game from within their own nervous systems, as though it were an extension of their mind. Players undergo a simple, minimally invasive procedure to insert nanobots (blood cell-sized devices) into their bodies. These microscopic machines are self-guided towards the neurons in their brain responsible for visual, auditory and other senses. Here, they remain in a dormant state, but in close proximity to the brain cells.
When the user wishes to experience a simulated reality, the nanobots immediately move into place, suppressing all of the inputs coming from the real senses, and replacing them with signals corresponding to the virtual environment. If the user decides to move their limbs and muscles as they normally would, the nanobots again intercept these neurochemical signals - suppressing the "real world" limbs from moving, and instead causing their "virtual" limbs to move within the game. This means a user can be sitting in a fixed position, while experiencing a high degree of activity and movement.
Although most people are initially wary of these devices, they have been around in some form since at least 2025 (eg. for medical purposes) and years of testing, security and safety measures have gone into this latest generation. Detailed regulations are now in place which cover any possible eventuality. For example, a power cut means the nanobots simply detach from the neurons - automatically returning a user to the real world - while checks are constantly performed to ensure there is no danger of being "trapped" in a virtual environment.
Furthermore, the machines are not permanent and can be removed from the body altogether if desired. In any case, it is practically impossible for them to damage nerve cells or cause any lasting damage, due to their small size and limited functionality. Over the next few years, many people come to accept them as a natural part of their bodies – just as bacteria and other small objects are part of their stomach, digestion and other internal processes.
Full immersion VR isn't just limited to games. With such huge creative scope, it is being used for a whole range of applications now: from business to education, training, healthcare, engineering, design, media and entertainment.
Tourism is being revolutionised, since people no longer have to travel great distances or spend large amounts of money to explore the sights and sounds of another location – they can simply go online. For this reason, a number of travel firms are going bust around this time, or else drastically changing their business models to account for this new medium.
Of course, that’s not to say these online holidays are intrinsically better than the real thing. Although on a different scale of technical wizardry compared to graphics of previous decades, they are still somewhat limited in their accuracy of towns and cities. At this stage, many of them lack sufficient AI, are often sparsely populated, and miss out vital details or subtle characteristics of foreign culture... things which make real-life travel such an enriching, worthwhile experience. Decades of refinement will be needed before VR is entirely convincing.

Nevertheless, this new phenomenon is so profound in its depth of interactivity – as well as sheer convenience, accessibility and ease of use – that it presents a serious threat to old-line travel agencies.
One way that the industry adapts to this is by offering more detailed, advanced and sophisticated holiday environments, for a fee. However, this becomes only a temporary solution, as certain users find a way to pirate these programs, which are then duplicated and shared online. The problem is exacerbated by groups collaborating to form their own free/open source programs, which combine the best elements from these and others, and are easy to customise by the casual user. In some cases, "hybrid" versions of holiday destinations are being created which offer wholly new, surreal and bizarrely dreamlike experiences. One such example might be a recreation of New York with a tropical coastline, populated by characters from Star Wars.
Just as the internet led to a decline in the music industry, the same is now happening to the travel industry. From the 2040s onwards there is a massive decline in air travel and overseas holiday bookings. The effects of climate change and worsening environmental crises are also playing a part here. A growing number of citizens are choosing to stay at home, with most communication and interaction being done online. The same is true of businesses – especially with regard to meetings and conferences, which are increasingly being held in virtual settings.
One area of commerce with no such troubles is the adult entertainment industry. Full immersion VR allows users to meet and interact with people in astonishingly lifelike ways. This includes virtual recreations of glamorous celebrities and film stars…

Universal translators are widespread

On-person devices capable of instantly translating speech, text or handwriting from any of the world’s 6,000 languages are widespread by this time.* Every website, virtual environment and electronic publication now has this facility too. This is having the effect of speeding up many bureaucratic/administrative procedures in business and government – as well as improving trust and cooperation at both a national and individual level.

Nanotech fabrics are ubiquitous

Nanotech fabrics are everywhere now. They are available for a huge range of clothing, footwear and accessories, some of which are remarkable in their design. For instance, many clothes can be programmed to change their molecular structure to alter their colour, texture or style. Others have self-cleaning abilities, with micro-thin layers of disinfectant to regulate germs and dirt.
Others have more exotic properties. One such example is a material that can replicate the texture of geckos' feet. This allows people to stick to vertical surfaces, giving them Spiderman-like agility.* In addition to outdoor adventurers and climbers, a number of radical activists are making use of this. Eco-protesters for example are often seen on the news, scaling prominent buildings to unveil banners and placards. A number of government offices and corporate headquarters are being targetted in this way – raising fears of more serious incidents involving terrorists. Many companies are forced to improve their security measures
More advanced "chameleon"-style fabric is being utilised by special forces. This comes in the form of fully-enclosing suits which change colour to match the wearer’s environment, providing a near-perfect means of camouflage.*

Australia's national symbol, the koala bear, faces extinction

By this date, the koala population in Australia has dwindled to almost nothing, due to the combined effects of drought, disease, climate change and loss of natural habitat.*
US population reaches 400 million*
This compares with 309 million for the year 2010. Most of the population growth has occured in urban areas - especially in the northern states, which are more stable in terms of food and water production.


Clean energy is widespread

Widespread use of nanotech fuel cells, maglev wind power, hyper-efficient solar and 4th generation nuclear is gradually relegating fossil fuels to obsolescence. The latter are, in any case, dwindling in availability - and have been for some time. Fusion power is also close to being perfected now.
2040 energy future

Fusion power is nearing commercial availability

A prototype commercial fusion reactor is entering its final phase of operation.* DEMO (DEMOnstration Power Plant) is the successor to ITER and has built on the success of that project, achieving a number of major breakthroughs. Among the earlier problems which have now been solved are: containing the plasma at high enough temperatures, maintaining a great enough density of reacting ions, and capturing high-energy neutrons from the reaction without melting the walls of the interior.
Constructed from 2024 to 2033, DEMO is now close to being perfected - having undergone several years of testing, expansion and upgrades. Later this decade, it will be capable of producing a sustained output of 2 gigawatts (GW), making fusion commercially available for the first time.*

Thought transfer is dominating personal communications worldwide

The first generation of brain-computer interfaces reached the consumer market in around 2010. This technology was crude and limited to begin with: more of a novelty than a serious application. Devices could perform only the simplest of operations, such as directional commands.**
Some university experiments were successful in creating text messages, using thought power alone,* but were slow and required bulky equipment to do so.
Advances by 2020 enabled the sending of messages via wireless headsets and visors* - but the process remained sluggish and unreliable, often demanding a high degree of concentration.*
By 2030, however, exponential progress had been made in mapping and understanding the brain and its neuroelectrical signals.* This was filtering down rapidly to the consumer market. Detailed, real-time messages were becoming possible, using non-invasive methods. The graphical interfaces used in composing messages had also been much improved, with more intuitive navigation and features.
By 2040, the technology is largely perfected for everyday use. It works well and is cheap enough to have spread to even developing countries. Privacy and security issues have been resolved, with personal firewalls able to restrict any unwanted intrusion or hacking attempts. The headsets, visors and earphones necessary for users have been miniaturised and made more comfortable. Whether for business or personal use, people everywhere are now enjoying a faster, more sophisticated, more private way of communicating.
This form of "synthetic telepathy" - along with the convergence of other network-based technologies - is radically reshaping society and culture during this time. A speculative bubble is formed on the stock markets, with investors everywhere forecasting a revolution in telecoms. This temporarily overheats the economy, resulting in a crash similar to that of the dotcom collapse of early 2000.

Claytronics are revolutionising the consumer market

Claytronics - also known as "programmable matter" - is now embedded in countless everyday items. This technology involves billions of tiny devices known as catoms (claytronic atoms), joined electrostatically. These work in concert to produce dramatic changes at the macroscale.
Objects featuring these catoms can be radically altered in form and function within seconds. Furniture can morph into new types, for instance. A bed could suddenly become a sofa, or a large table. Chairs can be instantly moulded to precisely suit the individual. Walls, carpets, ceilings, doors and other surfaces can modify their colour or texture on demand.
Electronic devices are featuring this exotic material. They can be adaptable to their environments, for instance - altering their structure to cope with dust and heat in a desert, then later shifting to resist humidity and moisture in a jungle, or even becoming completely waterproof. They can be personalised too: devices worn on the head or ears can mould themselves to fit the individual.
Many vehicles are now making use of claytronics. Car surfaces can change their colour. Or they can self-heal, fixing bumps, scratches and other damage. Tyres can be instantly adapted for different terrain or weather conditions.
Claytronics are especially popular in children's toys, with figures taking on astonishingly lifelike forms.
Various other everyday objects are now highly configurable and morphable.
Further into the future, claytronics will enable the creation of entire simulated humans.*

Breakthroughs in carbon nanotube production

New processes have been developed for the synthesis of carbon nanotubes, which promise to revolutionise the fields of engineering, architecture and materials science.
Having been limited to a few centimetres, these structures can now reach potentially thousands of miles in length.* Combined with purification techniques ensuring maximum tensile strength (hundreds of times greater than steel), this means the technology for a space elevator is now available. Political and financial will are the only remaining obstacles for such a project.*

World population reaches 8.5 billion

Water crisis in Europe

Due to global warming, the Alps are becoming largely devoid of snow for the first time in millions of years.*
Having served a vital role as the "water towers of Europe", this is having a catastrophic effect on water supplies. Major rivers such as the Rhine, Rhone and Danube have until now relied on snow and glacial melt from the Alps. Switzerland is being especially hard hit, with much of its electricity based on hydroelectric power.
In addition, record heatwaves are causing gigantic wildfires, the likes of which have never been seen before. At the foot of the mountains, rockfalls triggered by melting permafrost have caused widespread destruction to villages and towns.* Meanwhile, the tourist industry has been decimated, with skiing impossible in most areas.


Nanotech robot swarms are the latest in military hi-tech

In addition to larger machines, a new class of miniature robots is now appearing on the battlefield.* These are so small that they are barely visible to the naked eye, measuring less than a millimetre across. Viewed through a microscope, they would appear like tiny insects equipped with metallic wings and armed with diamond-sharp claws and teeth.
Individually, they are relatively harmless. However, the strength of these robots lies in their terrifying numbers, and their ability to work in autonomous networks guided by remote computers. Released from capsules dropped by UAVs, these machines are deployed in colossal swarms – often consisting of many trillions of individuals. At full spread, they can sometimes cover an area the size of a small town.
Collectively, they would appear like a diffuse, greyish cloud. For a potential enemy, the first warning sign of their approach might be a glittering of reflected sunlight in the distance. This would be followed by a high-pitched buzzing or humming sound, at the edge of the human auditory range. The next indicator would be the crumbling of trees, buildings and other nearby objects. Then the robots would attack... engulfing their victims like a swarm of locusts, eating through flesh within seconds and reducing organic material to dust.
Even those hidden within bunkers or underground shelters are vulnerable – the swarms dissolve all but the most heavily reinforced armour and can easily penetrate cracks, air vents, keyholes and the like.
In addition to their offensive capabilities, nanotech robot swarms can serve in a defensive role. By floating at low altitude in the sky, they can provide cover to advancing ground forces, acting as a shield or “buffer” against incoming projectiles.
This form of technology is so deadly that it has been placed in the same category as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by the UN. A number of international treaties are signed over the following years, limiting its use. Safety mechanisms are also introduced, minimising its potential for adaption. Self-replicating variants, for example, are flat-out banned, as these could potentially consume the entire biosphere in a worst-case scenario. Fears are growing of a potential terrorist incident (or "nanocaust").

Manned missions to Phobos and Deimos

A decade after the Mars landings, follow-up missions to its satellites are being undertaken. Due to the low gravity and lack of atmosphere, these missions are actually easier (and cheaper) than going to Mars itself.
These tiny moons are found to contain pockets of water ice, along with carbon and silicates - greatly increasing their potential for colonisation.*
On Phobos, a series of habitation modules are subsequently built, together with small experimental mining facilities and a solar parabolic reflector. This allows the basics of carbon nanotube (CNT) production, as well as conversion of water into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel. Over the next few decades, the base is expanded further, eventually becoming self-sufficient.
Both moons are colonised, but Phobos in particular will play a key role in the development of Mars, being much closer to its parent planet than Deimos. As well as supplying raw materials, it will act as a stepping stone for astronauts arriving from Earth.

Floating hotels in the sky are heralding a new era in luxury transport*

Giant, vertical airships powered by a combination of hydrogen and solar energy are now a common method of holiday travel for the rich and famous. These ships are nearly 900ft tall when docked. They are capable of lifting 400 tons of payload, in addition to ferrying over 100 passengers and 20 crew to their destination.
Cruising at a maximum altitude of 12,000ft, the ships drift at a leisurely 60-90mph, depending on wind conditions. Popular routes include London to New York (37 hours) and Los Angeles to Shanghai (four days).
Huge internal spaces offer plentiful room for living, dining and relaxing. The lower deck contains a glass bottom floor, enabling passengers to view the land and sea beneath.
Safety is ensured thanks to self-sealing lifting bags. These are made from nanotechnology materials that minimise any potential for skin rupture.


The last veterans of WW2 are passing away

During this decade, the last surviving veterans of World War II are passing away. A small number of them reach their 120th year, allowing them to attend the 100th anniversary commemorations of D-Day, on 6th June 2044.
On this date, a time capsule is opened at the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, close to the site of the Normandy landings which claimed so many lives. This contains press articles from the time - including a message from President Eisenhower to future generations.*


Humans are becoming intimately merged with machines

In some fields, the pace of technology has become so fast that humans can no longer comprehend it - unless they augment their own intelligence. This is particularly true of computing, nanotechnology, medicine and neuroscience, all of which have seen exponential progress.*
The typical home PC of today has an integrated AI system equivalent to over a billion human brains.* This machine can think for itself, communicate with its owner and suggest new ideas in ways that surpass even the greatest minds on Earth. Due to the flood of data being exchanged on the Internet and elsewhere, these computers receive literally millions of emails, status updates, news reports and other alerts each day.*
The only way for a user to interpret this avalanche of information is to merge their consciousness with the machine. A growing segment of society is now turning to on-person hardware to achieve this. The most advanced method involves the use of microscopic, wireless, implantable devices linking neural activity directly to electronic circuitry. These "nanobots" have already been used in full immersion VR and certain medical procedures. The latest versions are capable of marrying AI with human intelligence in ways that combine the best aspects of both.
No monitor or projector of any kind is required for the latest generation of computers. The nanobots instead produce a virtual image of the screen which is augmented in the user's field of vision.
This operating system is controlled by their thoughts - and those of the AI - running at speeds vastly greater than a real time physical version would allow. Thousands of individual actions can be initiated within a microsecond, thanks to the robust wireless connections between the nanobots and neurons.
If necessary, the user's entire sensory experience can be instantly shifted to a full immersion virtual reality. This is a popular choice for gaming and entertainment, but also has many practical applications in the world of business. Meetings and conferences can be hastily scheduled between vast numbers of participants from around the globe - sometimes with barely a few second's notice - and lasting only a few seconds in duration. Communicating at this speed is no longer possible using conventional means, which is creating an enormous divide between those who have the technology and those who don't.
For many people, nanobot implants are becoming permanent and essential - rather than temporary and optional - due to the bewildering speed and level of information now being encountered in day-to-day situations together with the explosive growth of AI. Military personnel, scientists and medical staff were among the first to take advantage of them, but mainstream society is now following.
People are merging with machines in various other ways, too. Nanobots can boost immune systems, for example - helping to exterminate pathogens. They can also regulate blood pressure, or repair some of the damage caused by the ageing process, or accelerate the healing of wounds. Cybernetic organs are now available that almost never fail and can filter deadly poisons. Brain-computer interfaces are increasingly used in middle class homes to open doors, control lighting and operate everyday appliances.
The most extreme cases of enhancement involve people opting for "decentralised" circulatory systems - along with a form of synthetic blood - reducing physical vulnerability still further. This particular option is only available to the rich, as it involves a highly complicated procedure that radically alters their internal anatomy. The end result is that a person can survive multiple gunshot wounds or other damage relatively easily. Certain politicians are taking advantage of this - especially those in unstable regions - along with gangland bosses and career criminals.
The line between man and machine is starting to blur. Later this century, there will no longer be a clear distinction.

Global food and water shortages

The demand for food and fresh water is far outstripping the supply. Climate change is devastating entire regions, turning vast areas of farmland and forest into arid desert, creating literally tens of millions of refugees. There is a great deal of conflict across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the southern states of America, South America, and parts of southern Europe during this time.

Gulf Coast cities are being abandoned due to "super hurricanes"

The growing concentration of atmospheric CO2 has led to rising sea levels, a warming of coastal waters and a more volatile weather system. In the Gulf of Mexico, a new category of "super hurricane" has emerged. This is becoming a regular occurrence by now.
These extreme weather events are nightmarish in scale and intensity. At their peak, winds of nearly 200mph bring untold devastation. Even some of the most heavily reinforced buildings are destroyed. Trees are uprooted and hurled around like matchsticks, while skyscrapers visibly sway. Storm surges and flash floods travel up rivers with almost surreal speed, overwhelming defences and bringing waves thirty feet high.
Damage from these various disasters has run into hundreds of billions of dollars. A number of Gulf cities are being permanently abandoned during this time - including Houston and New Orleans.**


China transitions towards a democracy

Faced with growing social unrest, China transitions towards a Russian-style democracy. The ongoing internet/IT revolution and the resulting decentralisation of communication has brought down many of its former barriers.

Major extinctions of animal and plant life

By the end of this decade, many well-known animal species are going extinct, or else have declined in such huge numbers that only those in captivity now exist.
Off the eastern coast of Australia one of the world's most beautiful natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef - has been virtually destroyed by climate change, with less than 2% of coral remaining.* Rising levels of greenhouse gases have made the water too acidic for calcium-based organisms to grow.* Most of the colourful fish for which the reef is famous have also disappeared. On land, more than 50% of the continent's 400 butterfly species have died out, as well as numerous reptiles including Boyd's forest dragon, a rare and colourful lizard.
In Europe, an astonishing 50% of amphibians have disappeared due to pollution, disease and loss of habitat caused by climate change. This includes many previously common species of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians.* On the same continent, more than 20% of bird species have been lost, and around 15% of plants.
In South Africa's Kruger national park, a major conservation area, nearly 60% of the species under its protection have been lost. In the same region, 35% of proteaceae flowering plants have disappeared - including the national flower, the King Protea.*
In South America, nearly half of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed, with more than 2,000 native tree species becoming extinct.
In Mexico, nearly 30% of animal species are either extinct, or critically endangered.
In Southeast Asia, the Indian elephant is on the brink of extinction. Once a common sight in this part of the world, it has declined in huge numbers due to poaching for the ivory of its tusks, loss of habitat, and human conflict.
In the Arctic, nearly 70% of polar bears have disappeared due to the shrinking of summer ice caused by global warming. By 2080 they will disappear from Greenland entirely, and from the northern Canadian coast, leaving only dwindling numbers in the interior Arctic archipelago.
Many other well-known species of fish, bird and mammal become critically endangered around this time.
This period is often referred to as the Holocene extinction event. As a direct result of human influences, the rate of species extinctions this century is between 100 and 1000 times the natural "background" or average extinction rates in the evolutionary time scale of Earth.


The near-Earth asteroid 2007 VK184 makes a close pass

This object - measuring 130m in diameter - has a 1 in 3,000 chance of hitting the Earth on this date. It was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in 2007. Ignoring the acceleration of the asteroid due to the Earth's gravity, its velocity relative to the Earth at the intersection of their orbits would be 15.63 km/s.
If such an impact were to occur, it would likely break into several pieces in the atmosphere. However, these individual chunks of rock may still be large enough to cause widespread devastation, if landing in populated areas. For comparison, the Tunguska event of 1908 was thought to have been caused by an object measuring 30-50m. This was large enough to produce an airburst equivalent to thousands of Hiroshima bombs.


Robots are a common feature of homes and workplaces

Robots are now appearing in mainstream society in a wide variety of forms and functions.* Mobile androids are especially popular amongst the elderly, widowed and those who are disabled or incapacitated - in which role they serve as companions, guides and carers. They are also popular amongst the lonely and socially anxious, who can develop relationships without the fear or hang-ups normally associated with human company.* Those seeking "alternative" lifestyles are also making use of androids.*
Sports enthusiasts are making use of robots - as running partners, for example, on squash and tennis courts, and in certain fighting/fencing games where they can simulate world-class players. Countries such as Japan and Korea have even started broadcasting their own "Robot Olympics", attracting millions of viewers.*
The cheapest android models are available for less than $1,000 now, and are stocked by many high street retailers - including hardware stores, department stores and electronics shops.
The robots are customised in the factory beforehand - decorated with skin, clothes, hair and other desired features (pictured above is a bare generic model before this process has occurred). All of the personal information required to cater for their "owner" is pre-programmed into the android's brain.
Government legislation regarding these machines is complicated - and requires years to be fully implemented - but in every country, without exception, the machines adhere to three basic laws. These were postulated almost a century earlier by the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law
In urban locations, robots are usually powered by wireless energy transfer. In more remote outdoor environments they can utilise internal super-batteries and photovoltaic polymers coated on their bodies. Piezoelectric meshes in their skins - which generate small amounts of electricity through movement - provide a tertiary source of power.
Practically every warehouse and factory in the developed world now has operations run entirely by robots - which can navigate their way through aisles and shelves, identify products and load them onto delivery vans with little or no human intervention (and at speeds and efficiencies which far outpace the latter). Even most delivery trucks are now automated, thanks to advanced AI and road traffic systems, with robots unloading goods when the vehicle has reached its destination.
One particular fad at the moment is for robot cats, dogs and other domestic pets with highly realistic movements and behaviour, often indistinguishable from the real thing. These have a number of advantages - such as never getting sick or dying, never requiring food or water, never scratching or biting their owners, and never leaving a mess around the home. Certain species of tropical fish are also popular in robot form, especially those which have recently become extinct. In museums and outdoor exhibitions, breathtaking recreations of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life are now on display.
Almost every large office and corporation features robots now - from wheeled models which distribute post, to those in reception-based roles which meet and greet visitors and assist with queries, to more advanced models capable of handling security and maintaining facilities.
In hospitals, delicate procedures involving nanotechnology devices are given over exclusively to robot machinery, capable of far greater precision than human hands.
Agriculture and food production is heavily reliant on robots. With much of the world's arable land turning to desert, hydroponic "vertical farms" are a common feature of urban centres. These carefully controlled environments are tended by robots and automated systems, and often require the analytical skills of machines rather than humans.
The physical side of military operations is handled extensively by robots now - on land, in the air, and at sea. Formidable humanoid machines equipped with a plethora of devastating firepower can be sent deep into enemy territory, left to operate autonomously for months at a time if necessary, and serving in a wide variety of roles; from solitary patrol and scouting missions, to offensive strikes involving thousands of machines working in unison. Human enemies stand little to no chance against this kind of onslaught, which is giving developed nations an overwhelming advantage over terrorist renegades.
In space, robots have probed and explored hundreds of moons in the outer solar system, and are playing a key role in the Mars colony.

2050 - The World in 2050 | 45% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed | Wildfires have tripled in some regions; air quality and visibility is declining | Smaller, faster, hi-tech automobiles | Continent-wide "supergrids" provide much of the world's energy needs | One in five Europeans is a Muslim

2052 - Hyper-fast crime scene analysis
2053 - Moore's Law reaches stunning new levels | Genetically engineered "designer babies" for the rich
2055 - Traditional media have fragmented and diversified | Global population plateaus at 9 billion
2056 - Fully synthetic humans are becoming technically feasible
2057 - Computers reach another milestone | Handheld MRI scanners
2058 - Construction of a radio telescope on the Moon
2059 - Mars population reaches 100


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