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2038 timeline contents




Older computers are at risk of experiencing major software malfunctions

The Year 2038 problem (also known as "Y2K38" by analogy to the Y2K Millennium bug) gains considerable public and media attention this year. It affects programs written in the C programming language. These were relatively immune to the earlier Y2K problem, but suffer instead from the Year 2038 problem. They use a library of routines called the standard time library. This takes a stored, 32-bit integer and interprets the current value as the number of seconds which have passed since 00:00:00 UTC on Thursday, 1st January 1970.

Because of the limited number of possible values that can be derived from this 32-bit integer, the farthest time that can be represented in this way is 03:14:07 UTC on Tuesday, 19th January 2038. Any times beyond this point will "wrap around" and be stored internally as a negative number, which these systems interpret as a date from 1901, rather than 2038. This is called integer overflow.

For older computers that still use this system, major problems begin to arise with file systems and databases, due to erroneous calculations. Fortunately, most systems have been upgraded by now, and little overall damage is done.


year 2038 problem computers



The New Horizons probe is 100 AU from the Sun

The New Horizons probe was launched in 2006, arriving at Pluto in 2015.* After surveying the dwarf planet and its five moons, the spacecraft headed towards the Kuiper Belt where it studied a small, icy body. This phase of the mission lasted until 2022,* after which New Horizons began journeying to a boundary known as the outer heliosphere, where the solar wind meets the local interstellar medium. By 2038, it has reached 100 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun* – equivalent to 100 times the distance between the Earth and Sun – and is moving in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius that includes the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

Even though it was launched much faster than any outward probe before it, New Horizons will never overtake Voyager 1 or Voyager 2 as the most distant human-made object. Close flybys of Saturn and Titan gave Voyager 1 an advantage with its gravity assist. When New Horizons reaches 100 AU, it is travelling at 13 km/s (29,000 mph), around 4 km/s (8,900 mph) slower than Voyager 1 at that distance.


new horizons timeline future 2038 technology



Capital punishment has greatly declined in use

At the start of the 20th century, capital punishment was used in almost every part of the globe – including the most developed nations. In the latter decades of the century, however, many countries abolished it. The last guillotining in France was conducted in 1977, while in the UK, the death sentence for treason was ended in 1998.

Americans' views on the issue varied significantly,* but the number of executions performed in the US showed a consistent long-term decline. Peaking in the mid-1930s, they fell dramatically thereafter, briefly rising in the 1990s before dropping again in the 21st century. Between 2000 and 2010, executions in the US plummeted by over half.** It had also become far cheaper to imprison people for life.*

By 2010, nearly 50% of countries had outlawed the death penalty for all crimes.* This reflected concerns over the possibility of executing the innocent, as well as the morality of such brutal punishments in modern civilised society. Public opinion continued to shift in favour of bans – a trend fuelled by growing access to information brought by the Internet, media and technology in general. This included mistakes revealed by DNA evidence, for example, as well as high-profile media investigations, and the work of international human rights organisations such as Amnesty.

Another factor sustaining this trend was the growing urbanisation and democratisation of the planet,* with cities tending to favour more liberal and progressive policies than smaller, traditional rural communities. Yet another factor was the ongoing influence of feminism in society, with women tending to oppose it more than men.**

However, capital punishment remained entrenched in some regions: notably China, which held more executions than the rest of the world combined, killing thousands of its citizens every year. Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen were also notorious for their executions, sometimes carried out for highly dubious reasons (e.g. sorcery*).

By the late 2030s, virtually all nations in the developed world have abolished the death penalty – while a minority of repressive and pariah states continue to practice it. Though its prevalence has fallen in Muslim society as a whole,* the global abolition of capital punishment remains elusive, for now.


death penalty timeline trend countries world global abolition capital punishment future



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. By the late 2030s, the first complex organic molecules such as DNA and proteins are being teleported.*


teleportation of molecules future timeline technology 2030 2040 2050
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The FIFA World Cup trophy is replaced

The current trophy has been in use since the 1974 World Cup. There is only space for 17 countries to be engraved on its base. In 2038, the final name plaque is filled in, and a replacement cup is commissioned with a new design. Like its predecessor, this is made of 5 kg (11 lb) of 18 carat gold.*


FIFA world cup trophy 2038 names engraved replacement



The space industry exceeds $1tn worldwide

By the late 2030s, the worldwide space industry exceeds $1 trillion in size.* This represents a quadrupling compared to 2010* and a tenfold increase since the start of the 21st century. The rapid growth in this sector has been fuelled, in large part, by explosive demand for high-speed Internet services, including the recent establishment of a global, quantum-encrypted satellite network for ultra-secure communications.* However, a number of other areas have started to boom now, including space tourism (via space planes and very high-altitude balloons) and resource extraction from near-Earth asteroids. The latter, while still accounting for only a tiny fraction of global commodities, is now considered a relatively routine activity as the industry is sufficiently mature in technology.

In 1997, private investment in space overtook government spending for the first time. This trend continued into the 21st century, with space becoming more and more commercialised. Access to space was being made cheaper and easier by a new generation of launch vehicles. These and other technological innovations were enabling even small companies to compete and do what only big government agencies had done in the past. Some of the most famous entrepreneurs to emerge during this time included Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Peter Diamandis, Robert Bigelow and Richard Branson; but many less well-known individuals and groups were also taking advantage of the changing industry landscape. Crowd-funding, for example, meant that even casual Internet users could now have a stake in the development of space projects – like the new class of "CubeSats". These tiny spacecraft could hitch a ride and piggyback alongside the larger and more expensive missions.

While private commercial enterprises are the dominant driving force, government space agencies still have a role to play. NASA has been developing its manned Mars program and this decade sees its astronauts walking on the Red Planet for the first time. In addition, a number of huge telescopes are being built that dwarf any previous observatory. China, Europe, India, Japan, Russia and other agencies have also made progress in human exploration, with an international collaboration to establish the first base on the Moon.* Meanwhile, new countries are now appearing on the scene and establishing their own national space agencies, as their economies become advanced and rich enough to do so. The number of countries with independent launch capability has also continued to increase.


space industry future size 2030 2038 2040



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1 See 2015.

2 See 2022.

3 New Horizons Salutes Voyager, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory:
Accessed 18th July 2015.

4 In U.S., Support for Death Penalty Falls to 39-Year Low, Gallup:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

5 Facts about the Death Penalty, Death Penalty Information Center:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

6 Capital Punishment Declined In 2010, Huffington Post:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

7 To execute or not: A question of cost?, MSNBC:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

8 Figures on the death penalty, Amnesty International:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

9 Global Trends in Governance, 1946-2009, The Center for Systemic Peace (CSP):
Accessed 5th February 2012

10 Race, gender, and the death penalty, big think:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

11 Who Supports the Death Penalty?, Gallup:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

12 Saudi Arabian woman executed for "sorcery", CBS News:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

13 Shariah Law Should Not Deter Abolition, Inter Press Service News Agency:
Accessed 5th February 2012.

14 Such a feat may be possible "within a few decades", according to Michio Kaku (specialist in string field theory).
See Physics of the Impossible:

Accessed 11th August 2009.

15 FIFA World Cup Trophy, Wikipedia:
Accessed 11th July 2010.

16 Morgan Stanley predicts space industry will triple in size: Here's how to invest, CNBC:
Accessed 22nd October 2017.

17 Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos licked by James Lick in space race, Forbes:
Accessed 22nd October 2017.

18 Entangled photons sent between suborbital space and Earth, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 22nd October 2017.

19 See 2035.




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