- Terrorism - Advances in Biotechnology lead to the possibility of relatively small sects producing lethal weapons on a previously unimaginable scale. To counter this threat Information Control is used to mislead, trap, and generally mitigate the danger. Nevertheless a number of new plague diseases emerge which are unquestionably the result of genetic engineering.
- Climate Change - Increasingly variable and severe weather coupled with rising sea levels are experienced. Parts of the Netherlands and San-Francisco bay area are repeatedly flooded. A novel solutions emerges. New housing interconnected by walkways is developed, rising up on stilts to be above the periodic floods. The ground below is used outside of flood time.
- Cognitive Science - Break throughs in psychology and psychohistory arise from a synthesis of AI research and other disciplines. As a result:
- We now understand 'learning' at a far deeper level. Training towards acquire eidetic memory, with a minimum of smart drugs to assist, becomes a realistic goal for over 60% of the population. Education changes from being a baby-sitting service to fulfilling its true function.
- Psychologically motivated features are added to Mobile phones, providing stress/lie-detector analysis of the person you are talking to, allowing adjustments in the 'mood' of voice to be made.
- Advertising becomes vastly more effective, so much so that the newer forms of hypnosis derived advertising technique are banned in many countries, including the US. Resistance (to modern multi-media persuasive technique) becomes the fourth 'R' alongside the three R's - "Reading, (w)Riting, (a)Rithmetic".
- Computing - A Phase Transition In Computing leads to a very sudden increase in computer power. Even so computers do not achieve true AI status until 2070, in part because the 'Turing Test' is redefined. Talking as a convincing human on a phone line conversation is considered too simple a task when any Phone-Bot can 'hold the fort' for its owner for a brief conversation.
The promise of Nanotechnology takes decades longer to materialise than was originally anticipated. However, the rise of 'Micro Machines', complex, cheap, precision engineered devices, has profound effects.
- Smart jewellery becomes common, worn by both men and women. These are beautifully intricate designs, but also functional. They may incorporate functions such as video camera, Mobile phone, Body-monitor (pedometer, calorie/sugar monitor, 'brethalyser'), watch, ID for car/house/credit, pick-pocket watcher, traffic or danger alerter.... Above and beyond the function these are works of art, classic jewellery that changes colour with mood, and how you talk, animal-and insect micro-toys, flowers that bloom or close up following a programmed pattern.
- Micro Machines are used extensively as repair-robots, to repair larger machines, to lay pipes and cables inside walls, to unblock drains, fixing broken zips and buttons on retro-clothing.
- Although most people prefer a human hairdresser, if you want a really cheap and quick haircut, a few hundred micro machines armed with small clippers are up to the task.
The economic impact of micro machine technology is that practically all device that can become smaller do so, using less material and less power.
Whilst in this future fewer skilled craftsmen are required, the new profession of micro-machine designer comes to the fore. Computers are used extensively in refining the designs, but do not have the creativity required for the full task.
- With mosquitoes moving further North and South, people come to accept the increasing number and types of plague as a natural consequence of global warming. Because of information control the general population is unaware of the real reason.
- Great advances are made in medicine thanks to Biotechnology. Medicines are now customised to individuals, adjusted on a daily basis using Smart Jewellery to calculate and even administer the dose.
- An unexpected invention, the Davidson diagnostic lamp, revolutionises understanding of disease and health. Its operation requires an ultra-dark room, the walls and ceiling of which are a continuous panel of very sensitive light sensors. Massive computing power is used and cleverly controlled lighting. Essentially it is an optical rather than an XRay or nuclear cross sectional scanner. The possibility of using light rather than higher frequency radiation arises from new algorithms that are able to compensate for the diffusion of light, rather than the early primitive precursors which needed straight line transmission. These images give an unprecednted detailed view of how the body functions.
- Cosmetic surgery undergoes a change - instead of tummy tucks and lid lifts customers are queuing up for treatment that goes deeper, kidney treatments that will help their skin recover some of its youthful glow. With increased longevity, and the ability through drugs to postpone menopause, age gap relationships are more common and more accepted. Older people in relationships mind less about looking their age, as long as they are in good health.
- Alternative medicine becomes even more mainstream than it is today. New therapies that use knowledge of how emotional stress causes stress in the body and hence illness, become immensely popular. Practitioners of such touch-based therapies claim that they are reprogramming your muscular skeletal system. For all we know, they are right.
- Far far fewer people commute to work in the early 2050's. For many office workers it has become completely practical to telecommute, though perhaps still visiting the actual office as often as once a week.
- Many jobs that were previously regarded as skilled work, being an interpreter, a lab assistant, checking of architectural drawings, are now handled by simple Artificial intelligences. Also driving down pay, worldwide competition for office work has evened out many regional inequalities. Even so, people are generally better off - the cost of most manufactured goods has gone way down.
- Work that requires creativity, human skills, athletic prowess or physical attractiveness has become more important. The training to be a GP now focuses on the human skills. Anyone can look up their own symptoms on the web.
- In most cities tram and public transport systems are excellent. It's considered a very long time to wait if you have to wait more than two minutes for a tram.
- Cars are fewer, self-drive, and mostly (bio)diesel-electric, using the same efficient principle used by trains. Naturally the biodiesel comes from high yield genetically modified plants. It is still much more expensive 'gas' than pumping it out of the ground was.
- Bicycles have experienced a come-back. Custom manufacturing means they can be precisely made to your arm and leg length. Micro machines repair them if they go wrong. Bicycles are popular too because people are aware of their need for exercise. The flat reclaimed land of expanding coastal cities is also ideal for bicycles.
- Thanks to the very visible effects of Climate Change and other social changes, people are more concerned about health and the environment than they once were. It's regarded as mildly anti-social to own your very own car. Many people share a company vehicle. Rather than park it on arrival, it will self drive to a less expensive parking location, possibly picking up paying non-company passengers en-route.
- The days of cheap air travel are gone - the rise of micro machines has done little to bring the costs down. Travel licenses are difficult to obtain, and must be renewed at 3 year intervals. For many people it's more trouble than it's worth.
- Air travel itself has become a much pleasanter experience. Security check in with full body scanning is quick and non invasive. Real people look after you from entry hall of the airport through to the door of the plane. Thanks to in-flight VR the journey can pass quickly. If you don't need to work on the flight, VR drugs (rhohypnol family) that are tailored to your metabolism can mix euphoria, relaxation, eroticism and solve jet-lag.
In this section we can only sketch a few of the changes that happen. It is easy to give an impression of uniformity, but in fact there are many different styles and approaches to modern living. Each city still has its own unique character. Nevertheless general trends can be picked up too.
- Interlinking bridges between high-rise buildings are common. These are suspension bridges, usually wide and with shops lining them. Many cities standardise on 60 meters, and 120 meters as the interconnect levels. Trams and cable cars run at these public levels.
- Trees are much more in evidence, not just at ground level. Building managers take pride in their roof-top gardens and interior to the buildings the fish-pools with glowing fish and bonsai-parks.
- The split between city centre and suburbia becomes even more marked. There are more out-of-town warehouse depots than there once were. These wholly robot-run depots are built on cheap land with little in the way of services other than an excellent transport link into the city. The increase in these depots can be directly traced to internet purchasing.
- Multi-purpose conference centres become more prevalent and the definition of a conference gets increasingly stretched. Large flexibly designed conference rooms are re-purposed for everything from film festivals to roller-blading contests on different days. These are the social centres of the city and one of the main reasons for coming into the city.
The Next Step
If you look through the previous sections, you'll see a general trend of increased technological achievement and prosperity. These are incremental steps, one might wonder what they are all for. Mankind needs something more. Mankind needs a dream, the Terraforming of Mars. It is only because of the technological progress and prosperity that such an enterprise is possible.
- The Mars project acts as a focus for technological innovation. It acts as an alternative to investment in weapons, enabling countries to keep a specialised military workforce busy, without increasing already unacceptable danger levels. The 'not putting your eggs in one basket' argument for humanity has widespread popular appeal.
- Technology from the project is used to reclaim large tracts of desert land. Success of these reclamation projects depends heavily on very careful control and choice of plant species.
- A base on the moon that is nine tenths automated and one tenth for human habitation demonstrates that remote manufacturing is a viable way to set up a remote from Earth colony.
- With many problems solved, an inelegant solution is found to a key problem, bulk transport of missing raw materials over the much larger distance to Mars. Carbon and Nitrogen rich ice-blocks, silvered to reflect the heat, are launched from high orbit, taking them on a slow trajectory towards the planet.
- In 2207, with much press coverage, a crew of five chosen women of different nationalities set off from the Earth orbital space station for Mars. This mission, including the Mars base, is right at the then limits of what Earth technology of that time can achieve. It has involved often acrimonious collaboration between many nations. Assumed to be a one-way journey, only time will tell if technology will advance sufficiently rapidly to allow any of the five to return to Earth within the next 120 years.