Today, I’m looking a hundred and fifty years into the future. Fun! What kind of changes in technology and culture can we expect to see? Obviously, I can’t cover everything, so I’m just going to spew. Here are a few thoughts.
The ability to make and encode human brains and put them into computer systems. Think of it as a simulation of yourself, your memories, your personality, everything – a snapshot of you that’s then left running. Of course, it then takes a life of its own, but when you die, it continues. So, in a lot of cases, this becomes “retirement.” When your body fails, your mind is encoded. You die, but your copy lives on in cyberspace. Given enough of this, cyberspace then becomes filled with undead AI that are all people from the past. I’m not sure if we’ll be there in a hundred years, but the groundwork for it is being paved now.
Growing new bodies for the retired undead eventually becomes possible, but a lot of them won’t want to leave their cyberspace environment. Some do, some don’t. And there needs to be a reason someone would want to be a meat person. Still, it changes the life-cycle of humanity in some significant ways, particularly if and when this technology becomes commonplace. Not every meat-person you run into will be new. Some of them will be ancient copies of personalities from the past. And these people will demand the same rights as meat people, inside of cyberspace or out.
It will probably depend on what you can afford. I expect it will stratify from a “basic” plan that covers the standard stuff all the way up to an entirely new body. Cancer will be a thing of the past. Oh, people will still get it, but it will be easily cured. Alzheimers and dementia will be gone. Almost any body part can be regrown from one’s own cells. That includes hair. Baldness will be a choice – so long as you can afford the growth and transplant of new hair. People will live longer, but there will still be a cap on how long you can keep an old body running. The wealthy who can afford the most advanced care will, of course, live the longest.
Becoming a Parent
Birth control – as in the right to procreate – will likely eventually no longer be a right but a privilege. First world countries burdened with overpopulation will likely be the first to impose laws. Homogeneous countries with forward thinking populations will likely accept these restrictions far easier than countries with mixed populations and different social and religious beliefs. They will be more likely to rebel against it, and there may be civil wars. Regardless, some form of population management will eventually become necessary or the Earth will no longer sustain humanity, and artificial means will be required. Given that humans are horrid at this type of self-regulation, it’s more likely that we’ll undergo complete removal of the Earth’s biomass and all food will be produced by artificial means. Imagine a world that’s one big city. Some countries will refuse to regulate their populations. They will overflow and there will be wars.
Environment control – think weather control – may become a necessity if we can’t halt global warming. This means we’ll have to have artificial means of heating and cooling the planet. To a large degree that may require some kind of solar shield. A mesh network of nanotech particulate in the upper atmosphere that can be programmed to absorb or let light through, for example. Rings of umbrella satellites that can be closed or open to focus sunlight in specific areas. And a computer system called something like “The Butterfly’s Wings” that can calculate the massive number of variables in this chaos and determine the changes to make to artificially stabilize the earth’s heating and cooling. Will we be capable of this in a hundred years? Maybe. But even if we are, I expect the polar ice caps will be gone by then, and the heating of the ocean will result in the loss of coastal cities, islands, and probably massive storms.
Expect the further fragmentation of society into classes with very wealthy, moderate, poor, and very poor. Upward mobility through that system will become more and more difficult. The cost of education will become prohibitive. Genetic engineering of progeny may also have a factor – ala Brave New World on some level or another. This will further fragment things to the point that the children of the wealthy with genetically engineered intellect may run everything, and everyone else is basically screwed.
Employment may change significantly with the advent of advanced robotic systems. In some countries there may be no more menial labor and physical labor jobs will become a thing of the past. For many people, there simply may be no work. Some countries will pay people anyway – a form of socialism that keeps capitalism alive by giving people money to spend so that they can continue to function as consumers. Without this (at least as an intermediary step) entire economies may collapse. Educated jobs will suffer as well once computer AI become advanced enough to take over some of those jobs. What won’t change, at least right away, will be those profession that require creativity and originality, but even they will have to compete with computers eventually. And they’ll have to compete with the “retired” people in cyberspace.
The Speed of Change
Expect all changes to occur in stages and mostly slowly. It will be a piecemeal social and cultural evolution, and be different in different locations, while at the same time it will be visible to everyone due to the exposure of the internet. Which brings me to privacy and information security. There won’t be any for the poor. Anything and everything most people do will be easily accessible to their governments (which is largely the case now). The only exception is quantum entanglement. If we crack that nut, and we end up with FTL communication, then expect the hardcore exploration of our current solar system and nearby ones to take place via robotics.