The 21st century was the period between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2100, inclusive. It was the first century of the 3rd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 2000, which began on January 1, 2000 and ended December 31, 2099.
The century had the end of total war in World War III and the Second Mexican-American War. American dominance became a major political issue in the world in the 21st century that was acknowledged in international law with the acknowledgement of exclusive American rights to militarize space, colonization of the Solar System, and exclusive rights to diplomatic relations with extraterrestrials.
The century saw a major shift in the way that vast numbers of people lived, as a result of changes in politics, ideology, economics, society, culture, science, technology, and medicine. It has been theorized that the 21st century saw more technological and scientific progress than all the other centuries combined since the dawn of civilization. Terms like colonial, terrorism, non-human, and space war entered common usage. Scientific discoveries, such as the Quantum Force and warp field physics, drastically changed the worldview of scientists, causing them to realize that the universe was fantastically more complex than previously believed, and dashing the strong hopes at the end of the 20th century that the last few details of String theory were about to be achieved. Accelerating scientific understanding, more efficient communications, and faster transportation transformed the world in those hundred years more rapidly and widely than in any previous century. It was a century that started with human controlled cars, simple spacecraft, and freighters but ended with drones, mag-lev rail, commercial interplanetary travel and the warp drive. Cars, Western society's basic form of personal transportation for thousands of years, were replaced by Autos and mag-lev rail within the span of a few decades. These developments were made possible by the large-scale exploitation of space based resources, primarily Helium-3, which offered large amounts of energy with minimal environmental impact, while advances in energy storage made portability more widespread than ever.
Humans explored outer space at a greater pace than ever before, taking their first footsteps on and eventually colonizing Mars, the Jovians, Titan, Triton, the Asteroids, Venus, and dozens of other worlds in and out of the Sol system. Space-based resources came to outpace those of Earth by the end of the century, and Space-based energy came to be the largest single source of energy on Earth.
Personalized media, telecommunications, and information technology (especially computers, neural interfaces, individualized education, and the Internet) made knowledge more widely available. Many people's view of the universe changed significantly as they became much more aware of the struggles of others and, as such, became increasingly concerned with human rights. Advancements in medical technology also improved the welfare of many people: the global life expectancy increased from 65 years to 150 years. Rapid technological advancements, however, also allowed warfare to reach unprecedented levels of precision. World War III only saw the death of 110,000 people, while space weapons gave humankind the means to counter threats in a very short period of time. The world also became more culturally homogenized than ever with developments in transportation and communications technology, popular music and other influences of American culture, international corporations, and an interplanetary economy by the end of the 20th century.
Development in Brief
War and politics
- After gaining political rights in the United States and much of Europe in the first part of the century, and with the advent of new family planning techniques, gay people became more independent throughout the century.
- European integration to breakdown in Atlantic Europe in the 2010s, while it strengthened in Eastern Europe, eventually leading to the formation of the Intermarium.
- During the Little Cold War, the short peace between the US and Russia saw a renewed, albeit brief era of hostility between the two powers. Eurasianism defined the Russian political culture of the era, but the country and its alliance system could not compete with the far more globalized and economically aggressive US. The Little Cold War had caused an arms race and increasing competition between the two. This competition included the development and improvement of drones and the New Space Race.
- Rising nationalism and increasing national awareness were among the many causes of World War III (2051–2055). World War III led to the creation of many new countries, especially in Central Asia. At the time, it was said by many to be the "end of total war".
- In the lead up to World War III the popularity of Japanese culture in America and visa versa cooled substantially, to the point that the Hiroshima Museum in Washington DC was renamed the Nuclear Warfare Museum, and the Atomic bombings were increasingly depicted as essential to stop the atrocities committed by the Japanese. While in Japan, America was portrayed as a perpetual bully who after committing atrocities against Japan in the form of fire and nuclear bombings, shackled Japan from achieving greatness.
- The century is often referred to as the Balkanization Era. Violent civil wars and political disunion effected many countries throughout the century, substantially increasing the number of nation-states, and with it the level of instability in many regions. The most significant example of the Balkanization was the collapse and dissolution of Russia in 2023. This event led to the crafting of the alliance systems that would define the Third World War.
- The economic and political aftermath of the Little Cold War and the Labor Crisis 2030s led to the rise of ultra-nationalism in Eurasia, and subsequently to World War III. Unlike the previous two world wars, civilians did not suffer from the mass death of a total war. This is largely due to the surgical striking of military and economic targets on both sides, that rarely caused the death of civilians.
- The Cold War between the US and the Turkish-Japanese alliance had caused an arms race and increasing competition between the two major players in the world: the Eurasian Trade and Security Coalition and USA. This competition included the development and improvement of space-based weapons and the further spread of nuclear proliferation.
- The Japanese authorities caused the deportation of millions of their own citizens in order to eliminate domestic opposition, and promote "racial purity". More than 2 million people were forcably relocated to Chita and Manchuria, or fled to Australia or America, because they were not full-blooded Japanese.
- The rise of President Hillary Clinton in the United States and the anti-rape movement in India challenged gender politics in those countries.
- In the late 2050s the GM rights movement began for people who had elected to be genetically augmented. In the US, Falana Act banned all recreational modifications, effectively making criminals of animal/human hybrids (furries), unusual skin colors (rainbow children), and those that modified themselves to resemble fictional creatures (FreakGeeks). In 2070 the Augmentation Rights Act overturned the Falana Act's most radical policies, but maintained a ban on all post-natal augmentations before the age of 18.
- The Third World War was largely fueled by rising nationalism, and religious fundamentalism in Japan and Turkey, while the United States entered into the conflict for more reactionary motives, seeing the rise of Turkey and Japan as an existential threat.
- Civil wars occurred in many nations throughout the 21st century and continuing into the 22nd, an era often called, the Balkanization. Rebellions were easier than ever to start, thanks to the hyperlocalization of manufacturing that enabled any political group to build a militia in a matter of days.
- The Little Cold War and the Third World war saw a realignment of the International System, and the tearing down of Cold War-era institutions, among which were NATO and the United Nations.
- After a long period of civil wars and the conflict with Japan, China's duopoly ended in 2058 with the establishment of the United Federation of China.
- The American wars in the Middle East caused a major re-structuring of the US military that spread across military systems in other nations.
- Advances in unmanned systems, human augmentation, and interface weapons have led to new era of proffessional soldier, not seen since the days of knights and paladins.
Culture and entertainment
- As the century began, Los Angeles was the entertainment capital of the world, where both American and foreign filmmakers, musicians, and visual artists gathered.
- The internet had a major influence on fashion and trends in all aspects of life, supplanting movies and music as the primary driver of cultural trends. As a great deal of digital content originated from the United States, and most software languages were written in English, American culture continued to permeate every society in the world.
- Video Game consoles continued to exist as a separate class of device well into the 2010s before digital media forced game publishers to adapt to the growing mobile market.
- In film and television, science fiction, fantasy, alternative history fiction gained unprecedented popularity. Espionage fiction gained unprecedented popularity during the cold wars.
- Electronic and House music became popularized during the 2010s and 2020s in the United States. Electronic music went on to influence AstroBlues in the 2040s, which in turn influenced Epical Music that exploded in popularity in he 2060s.
- Digital media radically disrupted the structure of the music industry, as songs, albums, and concert footage became easily accessible though legal and illegal means. By the 2020s, most bands self published, and music publishing companies invested their resources into producing artificial idols.
- Body Art became a staple of American culture in the 2010s. Astronauts began getting tattoos in the 2010s and 2020s, much like sailors of old. Bio-lumenecent and animated tattoos became popular in the 2020s and 2030s.
- Simulated culture became more dominant not only in interactive entertainment but in movies and series as well. During the century a new skilled understanding of interactive imagery was developed.
- Online dating became the primary medium for people seeking sexual partners in the 2010s and 2020s. The practice was particularly disruptive in more traditional societies with strict moral codes about human courtship.
- The Legalization movement saw Cannabis become an accepted recreation drug by the end of the 2010s. Most other narcotics were decriminalized or legalized by the 2030s, and anti-addiction and drug treatment technology became more commonplace during that time. By the 2030s the first cyberdrugs were created.
- Designer pets became a major trend in the 2010s through new selective breeding projects. The movement eventually gave way to the Genetically Modified Pet movement in the 2020s and 30s, which domesticated foxes, badgers, seals, otters, big cats, and other wild animals into tame subspecies. More advanced GM pets came about in the 2060s with direct manipulation of DNA, producing animals with more unusual appearances and sophisticated behavior.
- The Sixth and Seventh Great Awakenings of the 2020s and 2060s saw Christianity adopt new interpretations of biblical dogma as egalitarianism, human augmentation, and the discovery of new civilizations drove many people away from existing churches.
- In America, modern architecture departed radically from the excessive utilitarianism of the Information age. Organic forms created to benefit from the ecosystem became more commonplace, enabled by developments in building materials and technologies.
- Gamification has become so widespread due to advances in social networking and augmented reality technologies, that almost any activity on Earth can be treated as a game. For example, most governments grant a community service tax credit that lets any community service activity be rated and tallied in a points system that can be exchanged as a tax credit for all exchanges and income. Job Communities (the closest thing to employment left) have running tallies that display the success of their members in real time.
- Space Hotels became popular tourist destinations during the 2020s.
- Analog Media (i.e. Newspapers, Radio, and Television) saw a mass die off, with the last print magazine ending circulation by 2041. News and information moved to being streamed through dynamically generated outlets that take information fed through both local reporters and content contributors.
- Designer Children became the norm in the Developed World by 2030, and globally by 2050, leading to longer life-spans, higher IQs, and more dynamic economies.
- The term "parent" has lost most of it's meaning as now most people are more than capable of caring for themselves by age 13.
Science advanced dramatically during the century. There were new and radical developments in the physical, life and human sciences, building on the progress made in the 19th century. Big Science flourished, especially after the Second World War, as funding for science increased. Mathematics became ever more specialized and abstract.
Science and mathematics
Science advanced dramatically during the 21st century. There were new and radical developments in quantum physics, genetics and cybernetics, building on the progress made in the 20th century. Big Science flourished, especially after the Third World War, as funding for science increased. Computer science became ever more specialized and abstract.
- New areas of physics, like warp field theory, quantum entanglement , and light-mass conversion, were developed during the 21st century.
- While some pioneering experiments about string theory had been made at the end of the 20th century, it was only in the 21st century that the relationship between the fundamental forces was clearly understood, following the discovery of the Quantum Force.
- It was found that all the known forces can be traced to an additional fifth fundamental interaction, the Quantum force, the weakest of the five forces.
- The planets of a number of nearby star systems were closely observed via numerous space telescopes and interstellar missions.
- Life was discovered to be prolific in the Universe, appearing beneath the ice moons of Jupiter, Enceladus, and in isolated aquifers on Mars.
- Humans began an expansive age of colonization throughout the solar system, and on some nearby star systems.
- A much better understanding of the evolution of the universe was achieved, its size was determined, and the Big Bang theory on its origin was further refined to account for the presence of Dark Energy and low amounts of anti-matter.
- Genetics and evolutionary biology faced greater political skepticism in the 2000s and 2010s, but further advanced the fields of cloning and genetic modification.
- The Human Connectome Project modeled every neural connection of the human brain and gave scientists a better understanding of the brain's structure.
- The discovery of alien life led to a boom in biological research in off-Earth research facilities.
Engineering and technology
One of the prominent traits of the 21st century was the dramatic growth of technology. Organized research and practice of science led to advancement in the fields of communication, engineering, travel, medicine, and war.
- The number and types of personal robots radically changed throughout the 21st century due to advancements in technology, electricity availability, and demand for labor. Such basic home robots with general purpose capabilities ranging from cleaning, gardening, and caretaking all became popular from the 2030s through the 2060s. The 3D printer became popular during the 2010s, and became a self contained fabricator by the 2030s.
- Virtuals were popularized as a form of entertainment during the 2030s, which extended to education during the 2070s. Wearable computers began to enter the home during the 2010-2020s as well. The age of the wearable grew during the 2030s with the development of fiber circuits and tactile-neural interfaces, which slowly began to replace visual interfaces.
- The first hypersonic aircraft was flown in 2001. With the engineering of combined cycle jets by the 2030s, global hyper-sonic travel became commercially viable.
- Additive manufacturing/3D printing made mass personalization of the home appliances, and eventually personal vehicles viable. By the end of the 21st century, billions of people had aircraft for personal transportation. The advances in autonomous systems allowed for unprecedented personal mobility. By 2050 motor vehicle accidents became one of the least likely causes of death in the world.
- The quantum circuit, photon transistors, and tactile-neural interfaces revolutionized computers, leading to the proliferation of the personal AI in the 2060s.
- New materials, most notably graphene, carbon-nanotubes, unobtanium, nova-steel, and superhydrophobics, came into widespread use for many various applications.
- Graphene became an inexpensive material and became second only to iron in use.
- The Space Boom of the 2020s gave rise to the colonization of the solar system. Terraforming of Mars and Venus began in the early 2030s while subsurface colonies in the Jovan and Saturn systems were settled in the 2040s. Asteroids were processed into many kilometers long O'Neil ships that provided easy transport of goods, biomass, and people throughout the system. Warp drive gave humans limited access to other star systems, and suspended animation technologies enabled colonists on slower than light ships to travel to other worlds by the end of the 21st Century.
- Quantum entanglement technology enabled instantaneous communication across interstellar distances, and creating unbreakable codes for governments and major corporations.
- Lab-on-chip technology became a powerful tool for testing new medicines.
- Antibiotic resistant bacteria began to increase mortality from bacterial diseases and their prevalence in the 2020s, forcing western nations to adopt Bacterial Phage treatments.
- A vaccine was developed for HIV, ending a worldwide epidemic. Effective vaccines were also developed for a number of other serious infectious diseases, including Ebola, Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s, Cervical Cancers, Lung Cancer, and influenza.
- Genetic Engineering and nanotechnology led to the eradication of cancer in humans.
- Development of GM bacterial virtually eliminated tooth decay and other mouth diseases from post-industrial societies.
- New psychiatric technologies were developed. These include virtual psychoanalysis and psycho-surgery.
- The development of genetic sequencing and genetic modification made selecting out harmful conditions from embryos safe and widely available.
- The invention and development of stem cell technology made organ and tissue replacement a clinical reality.
- Anti-addiction treatments for Cocaine/crack and heroin resulted in their effective treatment; mind-altering drugs such as LSD, MDMA, and cyberdrugs were decriminalized in the 2060s. In many countries, a war on drugs was ended in favor of new treatment techniques, leading to the collapse of black market drugdealing, and a significant reduction in prison sentences for drug charges.
- Male Contraceptive drugs were developed, which reduced population growth rates in industrialized countries.
Energy and the environment
- By 2075, the ozone in Earth's atmosphere was almost completely restored.
- Re-wilding efforts are now common place.
- The Earth Working Group carried out a geoengineering program mid-century that returned much of Earth's polar ice and atmospheric carbon levels have returned to where they were in 2000.
- Solar cells are included in almost everything in modern construction, clothing, and of course electronic devices. The most efficient cell, used on rooftops, is capable of absorbing 81% of all light that strikes it into pure electricity.
- Fossil fuel use and nuclear fission were supplanted by the dominant use of renewable sources and fusion power.
- The decline in population growth reduced the strain on the environement.