THE FIRST STEP TOWARD ESTABLISHING A FORECAST is to look at the near future, ie. the coming several years. This section is an attempt to do just this: expound on the most basic components of the future so that we may be able to delve deeper into the far future as we gain experience and wisdom.
Changes may be classified into different areas, --though they are by no means static the areas themselves change as the types of technologies that humanity unlocks open new fields of advancements. Thus the classification system we here can be considered arbitrarily assigned, but is useful in understanding the variety of the change that is to occur in the future.
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As societies have changed over the past several decades, so they will change in the next few, and even more so as technology continues to develop faster and faster. We can divide the social area of the future into several basic categories, as follows:
Language will become more and more complex, as the areas of knowledge continue to expand and require more and more specific, abstract terminology bordering on jargon. Though the era of language creation is long past, there will continue to be new "languages" devised to meet needs in the various areas of the future. Most of these new languages would involve computer terminology and various programs, each specialized to meet specific needs. A new method of naming chemicals could also become widely accepted.
As globalization progresses, people will become more frequently in contact with peoples of other cultures, other languages, and other societies, resulting in a mix of languages far more extensive than today's combinations and for which learning a second or even a third foreign language will not be enough. English, directly as a result of sociopolitical luck (the United States being a world power), will become a global language, as it currently already is ingrained in societies world-wide. The establishment of a universal language will usher in a leap in the fostering of cooperation between peoples of different backgrounds and also aid in the rise of speech recognition algorithms. Until then, people will have to rely on translation algorithms to communicate with those of other primary languages.
As a reaction to today's slang and the cascade of socially untolerated concepts such as "Found Under Carnal Knowledge" and pornography will arise a new generation in which the concept of "cool" will involve the use of detailed, complicated, elitist vocabulary in an attempt to show superiority to their parents. This is starting to appear with the youngest of today's children. Many children, especially in lower income families, are born out of wedlock or exposed to a divorced/remarried family. The concept of the traditional nuclear family of the 1950s had declined in the last few decades, making the "married with kids" family something that is in the days of our grandparents and even great grandparents. Even the grandparents (the aging Baby Boomers) today have accepted divorce and other non traditional family structure. Decades later, when this explicit vocabulary has become mainstream, youngsters' new conception of "cool" will involve symbolic language as yet another reaction to their parents' (and grandparents) styles. Even further into the future, language itself will be replaced with thought-speak through such a ground-breaking project such as the Human Mind Project.
In the realm of education, public school systems will continue to obtain more and more funding from federal agencies, resulting in the destruction of the myth that private schools are superior. Thus, the latter will wither away and become completely supplanted by public schools. The additional funding will result in the shift away from books toward computers as learning material becomes cheaper to place on the internet than to print.
The Internet will become a place of mass information exchange, and therefore come under increasing government scrutiny and factual checks to make sure that nothing illegal is being posted and to make sure that information is accurate. Thus, the age of Wikipedia is limited, to be replaced by credible contributors capable of ensuring reliability of their submissions.
An educational program, Fountain of Knowledge, will suddenly eclipse the olden method of teaching, schools, and classes. All knowledge to be learned through education will be shared via Fountain of Knowledge, the successor of Wikipedia geared toward pedantic functions. Thus the life of Mediawiki software is limited to when this change occurs.
As globalization proceeds, religious extremists will have increasing difficulty in promoting any purity of belief--the days of the crusades and jihads have ended. In their place are an understanding of others' beliefs, and an acceptance that others hold to religion as tenaciously as oneself does. Gradually, the extremist groups will be purged of their constituents. One notable example of such a phenomenon is the current War on Terror, in which radical Islamic fundamentalists are dying in notable rates.
In contrast to religion stands atheism. With the blending of various religious groups, atheism itself becomes a form of religion and must likewise be tolerated by the communities of believers. However, atheism, despite its supposed scientific backing, will not destroy even a single religion because the faiths have evolved to compensate for their supposed lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, the political stance on religion--whether to incorporate religious law and customs into the government--will be handled as they have always been, depending on the culture, and is one of the few factors that will not alter significantly.
Ideals will also change, but like culture as a whole it changes only gradually, after generations have passed. The general trend will involve cultures adapting to technological and social change. There is a possibility that societies will gradually become matriarchal; unless a conservative Christian America can transform the CIA into the Ministry of Love and somehow prevent women from gaining more civil rights in the United States of America. A Conservative Christian America would allow police officers to kill alleged suspects instead of prosecuting them and turn firefighters into people who burn buildings and books containing information that would be useful to the cause of matriarchy and global unity.
In most nations, as technology becomes ever more complicated, the venerated people in each society will be those who have mastered this ever-changing body of knowledge to a significant extent and who have been able to contribute to society. This change is already under progress, as the receivers of Ph-D's and MD's are awarded copious salaries. This shift will become even more noticeable as some form of Establishment consisting of the highly educated form the vanguard of scientific inquiry and technological application.
There will also be a debate over whether intelligent animals and artificially intelligent computers should have the privilege of being entitled a "person". Sports will also undergo considerable change, including NASCAR.
As computer capacity continues to "double every eighteen months", even breaking hyperprime text encoding becomes extraordinarily easy, and programs capable of performing simulations will become crucial in understanding the world. Correspondingly, there will be a sudden change in the methods of computing. Meanwhile, the world's computing power will be devoted to coordination, communication, and office work as before. The ability to communicate with computers will be enhanced by speech recognition. In addition, computers will be installed in various appliances to facilitate their ease of use. With the advent of quantum computers comes the possibility of unlocking even more rapid computing capacity. This development will further the research into artificial intelligence. The advent of monitoring technologies will bolster the abilities of totalitarian states. Gradually, work originally done by people will be performed by robots, the price of which will steadily fall as a group of engineers devise an algorithm for those robots to replicate. This change will result in the destruction of jobs for humans, which must be compensated by shifting our attention towards research and leisure.
The computer interface will become more flexible and agreeable. The field of virtual reality will expand as technologies for accurately portraying the real world become more and more representative. This development will aid in improvement of computer games. With the invention of the eye jewel--an electronic implant into the eye that allows people to see a computer screen superimposed on the surroundings--comes abandonment of education and the ability to obtain information instantly. The next step is the development of thought communication through the Human Mind Project, made possible with the advent of mind maps. In such a world, thoughts would be uploaded into a computer, forming a brain-computer interface.
As we reach Hubbert's Peak in oil and nonrenewable resources continue to decline, we are faced with the need to turn to other stores of energy. The future will become even more dependent on fuel, and the rate of technological expansion is such that no amount of renewable resource power plants (other than solar) on an size-unchanging Earth will be enough to fulfill humanity's ever-growing needs. We therefore turn to a few other methods of gaining the electricity that we need. According to Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity is Near, only 0.3% of the nearly infinite energy of the Sun is needed to power today's buildings.
Faced with skyrocketing prices, consumers will favor the return of nuclear power despite its myth of danger, and its expanded use will lead the populace to believe that nuclear power was not as dangerous as previously surmised. Gaining solar power through transmission via satellite is also a proposition, tapping onto much more energy for the same cost as solar power and with nearly no pollution. Fusion power plants are also currently underway, and involve the use of a tokamak, with the first one soon to be built under the name of ITER.
China is slated to emerge as the greatest world power by year 2020 if current trends are true. India is slated to supplant China in turn as the greatest world power by year 2030. In addition, the European Union will rise to be a world power within a few years. Buffetted by the Western Powers, the Islamic states will merge to form a New Muslim League. In response to these superstates, the other nations will form a Nuclear Alliance to urge for nuclear power. This development would result in attempts by the nuclear powers to break the Nuclear Alliance by giving nuclear technology to some states which will then form an Anti-Nuclear Alliance. Thus will end any hopes of keeping nuclear proliferation in check. Thus by year 2050 the world is divided by around seven superstates (the other being the United States.
The modernization of many third world countries will take place as well. This is seen currently in cities such as Lagos, Nigeria where the population is growing at immense rates. Third world countries are starting to get access to the internet, which enables them to learn, communicate, and trade, as well as become more self subsistence.
In the olden times, a balance of power ensured that warfare would be kept to a minimum. In the ninteenth century, this was ensured through the formation of alliances. Then in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a "diplomatic revolution" resulted in the formation of multinational organizations (NGO's) such as the United Nations. Soon the balance of power will return, facilitated by the reunion of many nations into smaller, closely knit groups, each holding more and more influence in the world as a whole.
In addition, the "lost kingdom" of Mustang will enter the global community and possibly will be annexed by China. The gradual warming of the earth will also result in world nations realizing that something must be done.
Unlike what the novels of science fiction writers may suggest, "megascale engineering" will likely not occur because the time and effort needed for such a project would dwarf any technological advancements which could definitely lead to the obsoletion of the engineering project. Instead, construction will certainly occur on the ordinary scale, and very likely on the nanoscale. The results of nanotechnology--tiny machines--will see a flood of various uses. Custom manufacturing will become less profitable and will cease.
In terms of civil engineering, construction projects will lead to the construction of larger and larger buildings, taller and taller skyscrapers, and various public facilities and research institutions. Friction will be reduced as trains levitate on their rails.
Space travel at last becomes possible for the vast majority of the population, at least on a minor scale. Relative cost will continue to decline, as the technology in this field continues to improve. While demand will forever outstrip supply in this sector, the addition of more spaceports will facilitate the colonization of space.
When the colonization of space begins in earnest halfway through the twenty-first century, a blueprint of how to colonize space will be placed into effect; its overall effect is the exponential increase in the rate of space-borne settlements.
Space will become more and more important to the survival of nations, and therefore will be militarized despite the calls for continued peace in space. Should a "war in space" occur, it will certainly result in the victory of the first nation to militarize in capturing the entire world, as such is the power of a spaceborne military. There is also the possibility that a war will not begin, should two or more military organizations simultaneously metastasize into space.
Barring the discovery of some "new element" or "new force", travelling at faster than the speed of light will remain impossible and--despite the wills of science fiction writers--not come to pass. Instead, the colonization of other star systems will trail behind the colonization of our own solar system by many decades to come.
Further developments in biology in the twenty-first century, the "age of biology", will yield various chemical products available only through genetically engineering primitive organisms such as bacteria and food products such as corn. The chemicals extracted will then be used in the field of medicine, which will see continued improvements in the ability of doctors to treat patients with new drugs such as some fourth-generation platin, Potentiplatin. Meanwhile, biological studies will grant us additional insight into the causes of disease and aid humanity in preventing, curbing, or mitigating illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
As in vitro fertilization becomes gradually accepted, the chosen method of reproduction will shift toward this safer method. In another field, biotechnology will also be employed for cosmetic treatments.
Further engineering could lead to the creation of new species, such as the introduction of french fries without carbohydrates. Strains of crops resistant to various plagues would be effective in ensuring a steady supply of goods to prevent mass starvation resulting from a Malthusian scenario population bloom. The possibilities of bioengineering are truly endless, and their applications even more so. As the century progresses, new methods of analyzing the body will yield ever more complicated and unusual strategies for biological manipulation. Meanwhile, the prolongment of life will come under careful scrutiny, as various reports with experts attest.
Another clade of bioengineering involves the creation of bio-informatics, which would allow easier communication, sharing of thoughts, and obtainment of knowledge so much desired in our ever more complex world. This advancement will require the further development of neuroscience. When this field has been sufficiently developed, cybernetics will be merged with organisms to create the first "cyborg". Taking this event one step further will yield a "transhuman body" involving components of both computers and biological organisms.
Scenario: Chig-Human War offers an extension of the Standard Timeline. Cataclysm presents an alternate world devastated by an asteroid collision. The BT futurology unit has compiled a list of "200 futures for 2020".