European nations, the number of people considering themselves to be
non-religious has increased from around 30% in 1980, to over 90% now.*
large numbers of Muslims populate the continent, a substantial portion
are now only "culturally" Muslim, rather than having a literal
interpretation of the Koran. Mainstream Islam has begun a reformation
and modernisation in recent years – aided by vast improvements in education,
combined with the broad homogenisation of culture resulting from globalisation,
the Internet, various international agreements and other factors.
advances are undermining religion as a whole, by greatly diminishing
the fear of death, while developments in AI, robotics and biotechnology
are beginning to trivialise the miracles on which many ancient religions
are based. The increasing presence of androids in society – along with
other forms of sentience – is adding a whole new dimension to the way
humans view themselves and their place in the Universe. The ability
to communicate with certain artifically enhanced animals (such as dolphins,
monkeys and domestic pets) is also contributing to this trend.
continues to play a role in European cultures – but is now based more
on nature and physical reality, rather than myths, dogma or supernatural
still lags far behind Europe in terms of atheistic belief, however.
It will be another century before America reaches the same level; even
longer for certain parts of Asia. Even then, a small percentage of citizens
will continue to worship a God (or Gods), well into the next millenium.
These people will tend to be those who reject science and technology,
or have purposefully chosen to isolate themselves from the rest of the
Hypersonic vactrains are widespread
Significant areas of the world have established a hypersonic, evacuated tube transport system connecting their major population centres.* Its routes primarily extend throughout Russia, Northern Europe, Canada and the US. These trains are more advanced versions of the slower, simpler prototypes first introduced decades previously.*
This form of transport works by combining the principles of maglev trains and pneumatic tubes. The trains, or vactrains as they are called, travel inside a closed tube, levitated and pushed forward by magnetic fields. After passing through an airlock, the train cars enter a complete vacuum inside the tube. With no air friction to slow it down, the vactrain can reach speeds far beyond that of any traditional rail system. The fastest routes can reach speeds of around 4,000 mph (6,400 km/h)* – or around five times the speed of sound – compared to a 300 mph maglev train a century earlier.*
With speed of this magnitude, any city within the network can be reached in just a few hours, even if located on the other side of the planet. A number of new routes are in the planning stages as well, including a system of truly massive transoceanic connections. This is possible thanks in part to the relative cheapness (10% the cost of high-speed rail), as well as its energy efficiency. Since the train cars simply coast for most of the trip after being accelerated, slowing down also allows most of the energy to be regained by the track system. The modular design of the tubes also enables construction to be completely automated.
One of the main issues designers had to contend with was the problem of safety. At such high speeds, even the slightest bump in the track or misalignment could end in disaster. In addition, the sheer size of the tube systems means that engineers have to deal with the movements of tectonic plates – a particular problem when crossing fault lines. In order to deal with this and disasters such as earthquakes, an immense system of gyroscopes and adjusters are maintained along the length of each route. These are controlled by an automated system of computers receiving constant streams of weather and seismic data, adjusting and bracing the track in real time. Leaks into the vacuum are managed through a combination of self-healing materials and redundant plating.
The late 21st century is a bleak, fragile time for humanity, with much rebuilding to do. However, the resurgence of international travel (following a collapse in earlier decades) is contributing once more to a homogenization between stable countries, with ease of transport bringing the world closer together. One particular area in which it helps is the rapid movement and resettling of refugees affected by climate-related disasters.
Antarctica is among the fastest growing areas in the world
continent today would be unrecognisable to observers from the 20th century.
Its northern peninsula is now home to a multitude of towns and conurbations,
with a total population numbering in the millions.
of surface ice has resulted in conditions appropriate for large-scale
human settlement.* Even farming and
crop growing is now possible in some of the most northerly areas. Air
temperatures in the polar regions have increased more than anywhere
else in the world, meaning that parts of Antarctica are now comparable
with the climates of Alaska, Iceland and northern Scandinavia.
of immigration are now underway from countries all over the world that
have been affected by climate change, creating a diverse mixture of
people and cultures flocking to this new land of opportunity. In some
ways, the settlement of Antarctica is similar to that of America in
the 18th and 19th centuries. The highest density cities are becoming
cultural "melting pots" similar to New York and London.
of the world's languages are no longer in use
accelerating pace of globalisation has seen the number of human languages
decline from around 7,000 in the late 20th century, to less than a quarter
of this figure now.*
sayings, customs and traditions are being abandoned or forgotten, as
the world becomes an ever smaller and more interconnected place. Changing
social and economic conditions have forced many parents to teach their
children the lingua franca, rather than obscure local dialects,
in order to give them a better future. This is especially true in Africa
homogenisation of culture has been further propagated by the stunning
advances in technology which have swept the world. Many people in developed
countries, for instance, are abandoning their native tongues altogether,
instead relying on mind control interfaces for their everyday communications.
The young especially are utilising this form of digital telepathy. Most
teenagers in the 2090s spend almost their whole time interacting via
electronic devices, rather than verbally speaking. The latter can be
almost an inconvenience in some situations due to the longer time intervals
many tribes people and isolated communities have lost their homelands
due to war, climate change, deforestation and changing land uses. This
forced migration and assimilation into the wider world has led to many
ancient and rural languages dying out.
Mandarin and Spanish remain the lingua franca of international
business, science, technology and aviation.
success of the Jupiter missions proved that long range, manned exploration of the solar system was possible.
Several further missions are now underway, including the first
trip to Saturn – this time using pulsed fusion drives.
These allow spacecraft to travel billions of miles in a matter of weeks.
to orbiting the planet itself, the astronauts conduct close-range observation
of its moons and rings. Robots are dispatched to the surface of Titan,
with samples being taken of its atmosphere and oceans.
efforts to halt climate change, it came too late to save many lowland
areas of the world. Sea levels rose nearly two metres by the end of
the 21st century, displacing hundreds of millions of people.* The Maldives were especially hard hit, with most of the nation disappearing
underwater completely.* Countries
around the globe were forced to begin large-scale evacuation and resettlement
programmes, while trillions of dollars were spent on coastal defences.
80% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost
to the combined impacts of logging, drought, forest fires, desertification,
agriculture and industrial expansion, less than one-fifth of the Amazon
now remains.* In addition
to mass extinctions of flora and fauna, many indigenous peoples' communities
of the Amazon rainforest, 2000-2009. Flash animation by Will Fox, using
imagery from NASA.
The average employee works less than 20 hours per week
In the early 1800s, most people in America and Europe worked shifts of 70-90 hours per week, or even longer during busy periods.** Conditions were often cramped and dangerous, pay was low (or non-existent in the case of slaves) and workers had little in the way of rights.
Later in the 19th century, a growing labour movement led to improved workplace regulations. A series of laws were introduced to improve safety and to limit the hours worked by employees – particularly women and children – while slavery was abolished throughout much of the world.
Further progress was made in the 20th century with the introduction of minimum wage laws, the emergence of five-day workweeks and continued growth in union membership. In 1900, a typical U.S. citizen worked 57 hours per week and this had fallen to 49 hours by the 1920s. Working hours fell sharply during the Great Depression, especially in manufacturing, but rebounded during World War II.
In the post-war boom years, the average length of workweek in the U.S. continued to fall, but at a slower rate than before, hovering at around 40 hours. There was a faster decline in Western Europe, however, and in the OECD as a whole. On both sides of the Atlantic, union membership declined substantially in the 1970s and 80s, though progress continued to be made in employment law.
In the 21st century, these trends continued. In the first few decades, this occurred alongside further changes in the workforce, with telecommuting and flexible business hours making work in developed nations more dependent on worker preference and efficient productivity.** In addition, this period witnessed the gradual loss of traditional labour as computer intelligence and automation proliferated.* This led to serious disruption as employers attempted to adapt productivity to the growing surplus of workers.
The growth of personal manufacturing in the form of 3D printers and nanofabricators, alongside increasingly common means of local power generation, began to significantly alter the economy itself. As production became more and more decentralised, work became less and less of a requirement for basic living. Spending on necessities like food at home, cars, clothing, household furnishings and utilities – as a share of disposable functional income – had already declined from 55% in 1950, to under 35% by the 2010s.* With such items becoming producible on a personal and community scale, work hours in many places were gradually becoming a matter of choice rather than need.
This revolution in manufacturing, combined with exponential growth of computer intelligence, would eventually change the nature of work itself. With an ever-growing share of the economy based on information technology, the average job was becoming more creative, personal and intellectual. By the latter half of the 21st century, artificial general intelligence had penetrated much of the business world, allowing workers to share tasks with computers able to operate with little or no human intervention.
Finally, a gradual cultural shift – in which more value was placed on free time and creative pursuits rather than work or material gain – began to emerge during the last decades of the century.* This grew largely out of the global response to climate change, but was also a consequence of technological advancement and the mounting costs of unchecked materialism. While by no means a rapid or ubiquitous trend, this also helped to reduce the need for traditional working jobs.*
All of these factors contributed to an ongoing net reduction in global working hours. By the 2040s, the average workweek had fallen below 30 hours. This trend continued, falling below 20 hours during the closing years of the 21st century.*
2 "Swiss company Acabion sees such vacuum tube-based mass transport systems becoming a reality by 2100 and ... envisages a global network that would let users circle the globe in less than two hours and make transcontinental journeys possible in less than the time it currently takes to get across town." See Around the world in 0.083 days: Acabion's vision for future transport, gizmag: http://www.gizmag.com/acabion-streamliner-future-tube-transport-system/17735/
Accessed 14th February 2013.
16 Spending on food at home, cars, clothing, household furnishings and housing and utilities, as a share of disposable functional income, 1950-2012, US Bureau of Economic Analysis: http://imgur.com/BWB95oN
Accessed 15th October 2013.