average temperatures have risen by 4°C*
Vast stores of methane, released from melting permafrost, have triggered
an abrupt change in the Earth's climate.* The atmosphere has now shifted to pre-glacial/interglacial conditions
which last prevailed over 34m years ago.* CO2 levels have reached almost 700 parts per million: two and a half times
pre-industrial levels.** This has resulted in a global average temperature increase of 4°C,
with the Arctic seeing rises as high as 15°C.*
In many parts
of the world, the limits for human adaptation are being exceeded.* Despite attempts to share food and resources between nations – and to
accommodate the surge in refugee numbers – the sheer scale and speed of
this disaster is presenting enormous challenges, even with the technological
base of the 2070s.
The use of
heavily modified GM crops, hydroponics, desalination and other techniques
have allowed some regions to maintain a degree of stability. Nanofabricators are also being utilised in the more advanced societies.
others, however, it's becoming impossible to sustain any kind of agriculture
at all, due to the water loss,* resource
depletion and level of environmental destruction now being experienced.** The frequency and intensity of freak weather events has increased exponentially
– with hurricanes, severe storms, extreme flooding and droughts becoming
widespread. A number of countries near the equator have been simply abandoned,
their people scattered. City-scale flooding disasters are now commonplace* as sea levels have risen a full metre,* sweeping
away trillions of dollars' worth of real estate.
of displaced persons is overwhelming the ability of international organisations
and governments to cope. Although many refugees are surviving and resettling
in higher or lower latitudes, even greater numbers are unable to complete
the journey, or are denied border entry. An alarming drop in the global
population is being witnessed as millions perish due to hunger, conflict
and adverse environmental conditions. Traditional free market capitalism
is facing collapse, as civilisation struggles to adapt to this new and
rapidly changing world. Resource-based economies are evolving to take
For too long,
humans exploited their environment with little appreciation for the long-term
consequences. Nature is finally beginning to redress the balance.
power is widespread
leading countries now have at least one fusion plant either operational,
or in the process of construction.* These reactors offer a clean, safe
and abundant supply of energy. Alas, they have come too late to prevent
runaway global warming.
in developed nations are becoming highly automated and self-sufficient.
In addition to robots, a typical new
build home now includes the following:
localised power supply. Energy can be generated by the building
itself, via a combination of photovoltaics and piezoelectric materials.
Walls, roofs and windows can absorb almost all wavelengths of light
from the Sun with organic solar technology, turning it into heat and
electricity. Friction generated by the occupant's footsteps – and various
other kinetic processes – can also produce energy. This is converted
and stored in any number of ways, from hydrogen to batteries. In countries
where sunlight is less frequent, microturbines may be used in place
water production and waste management. Rain is captured by
external guttering, then stored and converted into drinking water using
nanofiltration systems. This is especially useful in regions prone to
drought (which includes a substantial portion of the world by this time).
If local water is in short supply, houses can serve as miniature reservoirs
and filtration systems. Meanwhile, plastics and other kitchen waste
can be placed in recycling machines, ground into extremely fine powder,
then later re-used in nanofabricators.
multi-layered building envelope which provides a variety of dynamic
effects. Windows can self-adjust their size and position –
as well as their opacity – to optimise the level of natural light. In
some of the more upmarket properties, the entire façade can morph
its texture and appearance through the use of claytronics.
Depending on the tastes of the occupant, this could transform into an
art deco style, a classic Victorian building, or something entirely
different. This form of "programmable matter" can even be
designed by the occupant themselves and changed on demand.
purification systems. Air within the home is kept fresh, purified
and completely free of dust and microbes.
surfaces. Holographic generators cover the whole interior of
the property – including walls, doors, worktop surfaces, mirrors
and shower cubicles. These intelligent surfaces can track the position
of the occupant and display information whenever and wherever necessary.
A person can read emails, see news reports and access the online world
using virtually any surface in the house as a touch screen or mind control
interface.* Detailed, real-time information
on their health, personal lifestyle and daily schedules can also be
displayed. This system has a variety of other functions, e.g. it can
be used to locate personal items which may have been misplaced.
appliances. Appliances that don't repair or maintain themselves
in some way have become largely obsolete by now. It is very rare for
a human engineer to be called to the house.
modest size. The world is becoming an ever more crowded place,
with available land continuing to shrink due to overpopulation and environmental
decline. In city centres, apartments tend to be highly minimalist and
compact, with small footprints utilising every inch of space. Full
immersion virtual reality is one method of adapting to this. Another
is flexible room layouts that reconfigure themselves on demand. In earlier
decades, this was achieved in some homes by using a sliding wall system.* Today, it can be done with morphable claytronics.
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of Moon bases
on the success of the Helium-3 extraction programmes, additional new bases
are appearing on the Moon. Other resources are now being mined including
precious metals and minerals which are increasingly rare on Earth. Perhaps more
importantly, this is being combined with on-site processing and production,
to build new structures and facilities around the original bases. Solar
panels, tools and other equipment, for example, can be manufactured without
needing to be delivered from Earth, whilst entire new buildings can be
created with the help of robots. Paths can be carved out from the lunar
regolith, with solar roadways built on them using materials extracted
locally. Small hydroponic
farms are providing a continuous supply of food and water to the astronauts. All of
this is producing the critical mass needed for a thriving, self-sustaining
presence on the Moon.
Five-year survival rates for liver cancer are approaching 100%
In the early 21st century, liver cancer was the third most common cancer death in the world. Nearly 700,000 people died from the disease in 2008, accounting for 9% of all cancer deaths. Major risk factors included chronic infection with hepatitis B and C (accounting for 54% and 31% of cases, respectively), consumption of foods contaminated with aflatoxin, and heavy alcohol consumption. It was nearly three times more common in men than in women.
In 2009, Japanese researchers began efforts to map the complete genome of liver cancer.* This paved the way for blood tests to spot tumours earlier, whilst also yielding new drug targets. The increasing use of nanoparticle carriers – and eventually nanobots giving precise control and delivery of drugs – also greatly improved survival rates.
Despite the global chaos unfolding at this point in history, scientific knowledge continues to advance incrementally. By 2070, five-year survival rates for liver cancer are reaching 100% in many countries.**
Advanced nanotech clothing
Fifty years have passed since the mainstream appearance of nanotech clothing. During that time it has made extraordinary improvements in utility, power and sophistication. Modern fabrics have built upon the abilities of previous generations, perfecting many of the technologies involved. Today, a complex blend of nanotechnology, biotechnology, claytronics, metamaterials and other components has yielded a type of clothing previously confined to the realm of science fiction. Though mostly restricted to specialised personnel, government forces and the elite, a number of these suits are finding their way into the mainstream.
Construction via self-assembling nanotechnology has been around for a number of decades. Until now, the process was only practical using bulky and/or conspicuous machinery, nanofabricators, or objects suspended in tanks of catalytic fluids.* However, recent advances in nanorobotics have allowed for more subtle and rapid construction of macro-scale objects in a more compact form-factor and with less impact on Earth's natural resources. As happened with early nanotech adoption in the 2020s, one of the easiest and most common applications has been in fabrics. Today, a high-end home "closet" may consist of simply a thin surface or pad built into the wall or floor, concealing a mass of nanobots and molecular building materials. A user can stand on or touch this surface and issue instructions to the machine (through voice command or virtual telepathy) for what to create. Each nanobot is then programmed with the final clothing design and set into motion.
The process begins with each nanobot organising and categorising each building molecule, based on the aggregate material needed and where each piece will be located in the finished product. The nanobots – also called "foglets" – then begin interlocking with themselves, forming a basic "skeleton" on which building molecules can be attached.*
As more and more nanobots and molecules are added on, thousands of individual fibres begin to form out of the machine's surface. These grow up and around the person's body, crossing each other to create a weave pattern, before finally taking the shape of traditional clothing. The result is a basic structure around which nanobots then construct the more advanced and customised features. Depending on the outfit's function, the original fibres can be interlaced with photovoltaics, piezoelectric nanowire, carbon nanotubes, metamaterials, claytronics or any number of other useful materials. Tiny electronic devices can be added for communication or medical purposes. This whole process is completed in a matter of seconds.
With such detail and control, fabric of this nature confers the wearer an array of conveniences. In earlier decades, this technology was limited to relatively simple functions, like colour and texture modifications.* Today, it is almost indistinguishable from magic. Complete wardrobes are no longer necessary, since one garment performs the function of many, transforming into an endless variety of styles and shapes. Most outfits are self-cleaning, self-fragrancing and rarely if ever need to be washed.** They can instantly adjust themselves in emergencies – becoming harder than steel to stop a knife or bullet; cushion-like in the event of accidents or falls. If a person is injured, the fabric can administer life-saving drugs and medical nanobots, or contract to seal a wound.* A drowning person can be made safe. Fire-fighters and other rescue workers are completely protected from hazards such as fire or radiation. This is also useful in space, protecting people from sudden changes in air pressure, micrometeorites, cosmic rays and other hazards. Medical devices included in these outfits monitor for disease at all times, catching the earliest signs of cancer or infection and alerting the wearer before any damage is done.* Whatever power is needed for the various functions is supplied by a combination of piezoelectric and photovoltaic components embedded throughout the clothing material.
Some of these aforementioned comforts had already been available in earlier decades, but were simpler and fewer – usually limited to just one, or a small number within each item of clothing. Today, however, all of them can be fully integrated and combined together into a single suit, created and maintained via swarms of intelligent foglets. As this technology evolves further, it becomes a permanent part of some peoples' physiology, almost like a second skin.*
is becoming practical
on the scale of trillionths of a metre (10-12) is becoming
practical now.* This is orders of magnitude
smaller than the nanotech of earlier decades.* The structure and properties of individual atoms can be altered via the
manipulation of energy states within electrons, to produce metastable
states with highly unusual properties, creating new and exotic forms of atoms.
Green Wall of China is completed
environmental project to halt the advancing sands of the Gobi Desert
is finally completed this year.* Beijing and other cities along China's northeastern border are now protected
from desertification by a 4,500 km (2,800 mi) barrier of newly planted trees.*
it, the government established a plan involving three approaches. Firstly,
aerial seeding over vast swathes of land where the soil was less arid.
Secondly, the paying of farmers to plant trees and shrubs in areas requiring
greater attention. Thirdly, the construction of a huge fence along the
this gigantic new forest, sand-tolerant vegetation was arranged in optimised
checkerboard patterns to create an artificial ecosystem that stabilised
the dunes. A gravel platform held sand down and encouraged the formation
of a soil crust. The government also funded research into genetically
engineered plants, chemical dune stabilisation, grass strains bred in
space, and even farming techniques that allowed rice to grow in sandy
soil. Prior to
the erection of this barrier, the Gobi had been advancing south at 3 km (1.9 mi) per year.
first space elevator is becoming operational
The idea of a space elevator had been around as early as 1895, when Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky first explored the concept. Inspired by the newly-built Eiffel Tower, he described a free-standing structure reaching from ground level into geostationary orbit. Rising some 36,000 km (22,000 mi) above the equator and following the direction of Earth's rotation, it would have an orbital period of exactly one day and thus be maintained in a fixed position.
A number of more detailed proposals emerged in the mid-late 20th century, as the Space Race got underway and manned trips to Earth orbit became increasingly routine. It was hoped that a space elevator could drastically reduce the cost of getting into orbit – revolutionising access to near-Earth space, the Moon, Mars and beyond. However, the upfront investment and level of technology required meant that such a project was rendered impractical for now, confining it to the realm of science fiction.
By the early decades of the 21st century, the concept was being taken more seriously, due to progress being made with carbon nanotubes. These cylindrical molecules offered ways of synthesising an ultra-strong material with sufficiently high tensile strength and sufficiently low density for the elevator cable. However, they could only be produced at extremely small scales. In 2004, the record length for a single-wall nanotube was just 4 cm. Although highly promising, further research would be needed to refine the manufacturing process.
It was not until the 2040s* that material for a practical, full-length cable became technically feasible, with the required tensile strength of 130 gigapascals (GPa). Even then, design challenges persisted – such as how to nullify dangerous vibrations in the cable, triggered by gravitational tugs from the Moon and Sun, along with pressure from gusts of solar wind.**
Major legal and financial hurdles also needed to be overcome – requiring international agreements on safety, security and
compensation in the event of an accident or terrorist incident. The insurance arrangements were of particular concern, given the potential for large-scale catastrophe if something went wrong. In the interim, smaller experimental structures were built, demonstrating the basic concept at lower altitudes. These would eventually pave the way to a larger and more advanced design.
Click to enlarge
By the late 2070s,*** following 15 years of construction,* a space elevator reaching from the Earth's surface into geostationary orbit has become fully operational. The construction process involves placing a spacecraft at a fixed position – 35,786 km (22,236 mi) above the equator – then gradually extending a tether down to "grow" the cable towards Earth. It also extends upwards from this point – to over 47,000 km (29,204 mi) – a height at which objects can escape the pull of gravity altogether. A large counterweight is placed at this outer end to keep it taut. Locations that are most suitable as ground stations include French Guiana, Central Africa, Sir Lanka and Indonesia.
As with most forms of transport and infrastructure in the late 21st century, the space elevator is controlled by artificial intelligence, which constantly monitors and maintains the structure throughout. If necessary, robots can be dispatched to fix problems in the cable or other components, from ground level to the cold vacuum of space. This is rarely required, however, due to the efficiency and safety mechanisms in the design.
space boom is now underway, as people and cargo can be delivered to
orbit at vastly reduced costs, compared with traditional launches. Over 1,000 tons of material can be lifted in a single day, greater than the weight of the International Space Station, which took over a decade to build at the start of the century.*
Although relatively slow – taking many hours to ascend* – the ride is much smoother than conventional rockets, with no high-G forces or explosives. Upon leaving the atmosphere and reaching Low Earth Orbit, between 160 km (99 mi) and 2,000 km (1,200 mi), cargo or passengers can be transferred to enter their own orbit around Earth. Alternatively, they can be jettisoned beyond geosynchronous orbit, in craft moving at sufficient speed to escape the planet's gravity, travelling onward to more remote destinations such as the Moon or Mars.
In the decades ahead, additional space elevators become operational above Earth, the Moon, Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System,* with a considerable reduction in costs and technical risks. Construction is also made easier by lower gravity: 0.16 g for the Moon and 0.38 g on Mars. Further into the future, space elevators are rendered obsolete by teleportation and similar technologies.
ozone layer has fully recovered
(CFCs) were invented in the 1920s. They were used in air conditioning/cooling
units, as aerosol spray propellants prior to the 1980s, and in the cleaning
processes of electronic equipment. They also occured as by-products
of some chemical processes.
natural sources were ever identified for these compounds – their presence
in the atmosphere was found to be almost entirely due to human activity.
When such ozone-depleting chemicals reached the stratosphere, they dissociated
by ultraviolet light to release chlorine atoms. The chlorine atoms acted
as a catalyst, each one breaking down tens of thousands of ozone molecules
before being removed from the stratosphere.
layer prevents most UV wavelengths of sunlight from passing through
the Earth's atmosphere. In the late 20th century, huge decreases in
ozone generated worldwide concern. It was suspected that a variety of
biological consequences – such as increases in skin cancer, cataracts,
damage to plants, and reduced plankton populations – resulted from the
higher levels of UV exposure due to ozone depletion.
to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol – one of the single most successful
international agreements of all time, which banned the production of
CFCs, halons and related ozone-depleting chemicals. Although this ban
came into force in 1989, the molecules had a longevity of several decades.
In 2006, the ozone hole was the largest ever recorded, at 10.6 million
square miles (pictured below). It was not until 2075 that it fully recovered.*
Thames Barrier is upgraded
just the latest of many cities to radically upgrade its flood defences
in the wake of devastating floods and sea level rises.* The original
barrier was raised a total of 62 times between 1983 and 2001. It was raised
with increasing frequency as the decades went by. Towards the end of this
century, its successor needs to be raised over 200 times every year
to cope with the combined impact of stronger storms and sea level rise.*
Accurate simulations of viruses
Thanks to advances in lattice quantum chromodynamics, the vast majority of viruses have now been accurately modelled and simulated down to the quantum level.* This provides what is essentially a complete picture of these tiny organisms, which average 20-300 nanometres in size, with millions of different types. As this area of science continues to advance, ever larger and more detailed simulations become possible,* providing new insights into the nature of matter.
probes to Sedna
is a trans-Neptunian "dwarf planet", similar in size and composition
to Pluto.* Discovered in 2003, it became
the most distant object yet observed in the Solar System, and the largest
solar body to be found in over 70 years. Its orbit
is highly elliptical, going from 76 AU to about 975 AU over the
course of 12,000 years. In 2076,
it reaches perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) and a number of
unmanned probes are sent to explore it.
flying cars are widespread
propulsion has been under development for almost a century now.* Initially seen in military applications, it eventually found its way
to the consumer market. Advances in AI, room temperature superconducters, microjets
and collision avoidance systems have led to the dawn of a new era in
personal transportation. By the end of this decade, it is not uncommon to see
moving through cities.
these are light-duty vehicles based on earlier military VTOL (Vertical
Take-Off and Landing) craft, but with slimmed down functionality and
costs. They come in a variety of models and sizes, but are typically
around 4 metres wide, and limited to a maximum of one or two passengers.
By the end of this decade, they are becoming cheap, safe and numerous
enough to be regarded as a mainstream form of transport.
have a number of advantages over established forms of mobility. Since
they float above the ground, they can access terrain and environments
that would easily defeat traditional automobiles. This makes them popular
with adventurers and explorers. They are also substantially faster than
normal cars, able to reach several hundred kilometres per hour if necessary.
They are more versatile and manoeuvrable than aeroplanes and can utilise
a much greater volume of airspace. Since the traffic they generate is
decentralised and there is so much available airspace, this makes them
safer than both cars and aeroplanes, too. Collisions are almost unheard
of, in any case, due to the onboard software and AI.
they use considerably less fuel than earlier forms of transport and
require less maintenance.
the more expensive models are capable of reaching low Earth orbit for
short periods. Others feature striking designs, often personalised by
their owner – such as holographic decals and other accessories. These
craft are being used by many businesses too (especially for rapid delivery
of goods), as well as police and ambulance crews.
developments in anti-gravity will lead to bigger, more sophisticated
versions – including recreational vehicles serving as truly mobile homes.
Many previously inaccessible parts of Earth will become inhabited thanks
to this, such as mountains and remote islands.
solar eclipse in New York
rare total eclipse takes place in New York this year.*
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