are a common feature of homes and workplaces
are now widspread in mainstream society, appearing in a wide variety of forms and
functions.* Androids are especially
popular among the elderly, widowed and those who are disabled or incapacitated
– in which role they serve as companions, guides and carers. They are
also popular amongst the lonely and socially anxious, who can develop
relationships without the fear or hang-ups normally associated with
human company.* Those seeking "alternative" lifestyles are also making use of androids.*
enthusiasts are making use of robots – as running partners, for example,
on squash and tennis courts, and in certain fighting/fencing games where
they can simulate world-class players. Countries such as Japan and Korea
have even started broadcasting their own "Robot Olympics", attracting millions of viewers.*
android models are available for less than $1,000 now, and are stocked
by many high street retailers – including hardware stores, department
stores and electronics shops. Some of the more advanced models feature
lifelike skin, hair, eyes, lip movement and other features. All of the
personal information required to cater for their "owner" is
pre-programmed into the android's brain.
legislation regarding these machines is complicated – and requires years
to be fully implemented – but in every country, without exception, the
machines adhere to three basic laws. These were postulated almost a
century earlier by the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human
being to come to harm
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by humans, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as
such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law
locations, robots are usually powered by wireless energy transfer. In
more remote outdoor environments they can utilise internal super-batteries
and photovoltaic polymers coated on their bodies. Piezoelectric meshes
in their skins – which generate small amounts of electricity through
movement – provide a tertiary source of power.
Factories and warehouses in the developed world now have operations
run entirely by robots – which can navigate through aisles
and shelves, identify products and load them onto delivery vans with
little or no human intervention (and at speeds and efficiencies which
far outpace the latter). Even most delivery trucks are now automated,
thanks to advanced AI and road traffic systems, with robots unloading
goods when the vehicle has reached its destination.
fad at the moment is for robot cats, dogs and other domestic pets with
highly realistic movements and behaviour, often indistinguishable from
the real thing. These have a number of advantages – such as never getting
sick or dying, never requiring food or water, never scratching or biting
their owners, and never leaving a mess around the home. Certain species
of tropical fish are also popular in robot form, especially those which
have recently become extinct. In museums and outdoor exhibitions, breathtaking
recreations of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life are now on display.
Robert | Dreamstime.com
Robots are now present in many corporate environments – from wheeled
models which distribute post, to those in reception-based roles which
meet and greet visitors and assist with queries, to more advanced models
capable of handling security and maintaining facilities.
delicate procedures involving nanotechnology devices are given over
exclusively to robot machinery, capable of far greater precision than
and food production is heavily reliant on robots. With much of the world's
arable land turning to desert, hydroponic "vertical farms"
are a common feature of urban centres. These carefully controlled environments
are tended by robots and automated systems, often requiring the analytical
skills of machines rather than humans.
side of military operations is handled extensively by robots now – on
land, in the air, and at sea. Formidable humanoid machines equipped
with a plethora of devastating firepower are sent deep into enemy
lines, left to operate autonomously for months at a time if necessary,
and serving in a wide variety of roles: from solitary patrol and scouting
missions, to offensive strikes involving many machines working
in unison. Human enemies stand little to no chance against this kind
of onslaught, which is giving developed nations an overwhelming advantage
over terrorist renegades.
robots have probed and explored hundreds of moons in the outer solar
system, and are playing a key role in the Moon colonies.
Dead Sea is drying up
Sea is a unique geological feature. Located between Israel and Jordan,
it is the lowest point on Earth. With an extremely high content of mineral
salts (20%), over six times greater than any ocean, it is completely
devoid of life, except for extremophile bacteria. The salts are so concentrated
that swimmers can float like corks, without using a life vest. The water
of the sea is also purported to relieve pain and treat several different
skin conditions and arthritis. For these reasons, it has been a world
famous tourist attraction.
late 2040s, however, the sea has almost vanished. Its main supply of
water – the River Jordan to the north – has seen extensive diversions
for industry, agriculture and domestic use. This has reduced its flow
to just a trickle by the time it reaches the Dead Sea, far from adequate
to replace the water lost by evaporation.
the Dead Sea has plummeted in depth. The problem is compounded by rising
global temperatures, which have accelerated the evaporation of water,
and the growing population in the region. By now, little more than a
pond remains. This is despite efforts to divert water from the Mediterranean and nearby Red Sea.*
The effects of heat stress on labour capacity have doubled
In the early years of the 21st century, peak summer months of heat stress were cutting human labour capacity to around 90 percent of its full potential. By the middle of the century, this figure has dropped to 80 percent.* Rising global temperatures are now having a major impact on those who work outside, or in hot environments – particularly in mid-latitude and tropical regions like South and East Asia, North America and Australia. This trend has occurred despite heavy reductions in man-made CO2 emissions.
Although robots are now handling many human roles, it nevertheless remains a serious issue for the economy and society in general. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and other conditions are increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. Many sports and leisure activities are being abandoned due to excess heat and humidity, with people forced to spend more and more time indoors. This has boosted the appeal of virtual reality to replace the physical world.
Credit: U.S. Army
The Fukushima disaster is cleaned up
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a catastrophic failure at a Japanese nuclear power station on 11th March 2011,* resulting in a meltdown of three of the plant's six nuclear reactors. It occurred when the plant was struck by a tsunami triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake. Substantial amounts of radioactive materials began to leak, creating the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 and the second (after Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Although no short term radiation exposure fatalities were reported, some 300,000 people were forced to evacuate the area, nearly 16,000 died in the earthquake and tsunami, and 1,600 deaths resulted from evacuation conditions, such as living in temporary housing and hospital closures. The disaster prompted some countries to re-evaluate their policies on nuclear energy. Germany and Switzerland, for example, abandoned this technology altogether, shutting down their last remaining plants in 2022 and 2034, respectively.
In the wake of the plant meltdowns, a huge cleanup and decommissioning process was initiated. This presented enormous challenges, with massive amounts of radioactive water spilling out – some finding its way into the Pacific (along with debris*) and even reaching as far as the U.S. West Coast.* Methods used to contain this water included a frozen underground barrier, with coolant fed into pipes at -30°C (-22°F). Robots were required in some parts of the facility, as radiation levels were often too high for humans. In 2014, it was estimated that sealing every reactor off would cost tens of billions of dollars, taking 30-40 years. Sure enough, by the end of the 2040s, this operation is finally reaching its conclusion.*