droughts are affecting nearly one-third of the planet
average temperatures during the 21st century soared by over 6°C.
Positive feedback loops triggered the melting of Siberian permafrost,
in turn releasing vast amounts of methane - a greenhouse gas more than
20 times stronger than CO2. Among the many environmental effects has
been a substantial increase in droughts.*
• Moderate droughts, affecting up to 25% of the Earth's surface
in 2010, now affect up to 50%.
• Severe droughts, affecting up to 8% of the Earth's surface
in 2010, now affect up to 40%.
• Extreme droughts, affecting up to 3% of the Earth's surface
in 2010, now affect up to 30%.
environmental conditions have led to a substantial population die-off,
with billions of deaths over the last few decades.** Entire regions now lie abandoned - with agriculture made impossible,
once mighty rivers having dried up, and gigantic wildfires engulfing
larger and larger areas.
technology has rescued some countries, but in many others it has failed
to meet demand. Efforts to reverse climate change on a global scale,
using various geo-engineering techniques, are proving to be insufficient.*
intelligence is being vastly amplified by AI
regions - such as Canada, northern Europe and Russia - have continued
to grow and prosper. Large-scale automation in these countries has led
to vast swathes of human employees being replaced by virtual or robotic
counterparts. AI systems now occupy almost every level of business,
government, the military, manufacturing and service sectors.
than being separate entities, these AI programs are often merged with
human minds, greatly extending the latter's capability. For instance,
knowledge and skills on any subject can now be downloaded and stored
directly within the brain. In addition to basic information and data,
this includes a range of physical abilities. A person can learn self-defence,
for example, become an expert in any sport, or be taught to operate
a new vehicle, all within a matter of seconds.
is being transformed by this fusion of people and machines. The vastly
greater power of AI means that it has become, at the same time, both
master and servant to the human race.
of this human-AI merger require the extensive use of implants, however
- something which a significant minority of the population still refuses
to accept. Compared to transhumans, these non-upgraded humans are becoming
like cavemen - thousands of years behind in intellectual development.* Unable to comprehend the latest technology, the world around them appears
"fast" and "strange" from their increasingly limited
is creating a major division in society.
floating cities are roaming the oceans
the dawn of the 22nd century, many of the world's cities lie partially
submerged due to rising sea levels.* Despite some attempts to build flood defences, even famous locations
- such as New York, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney - have been
10% of the world's population living on coastlines, hundreds of millions
have been forced to migrate. However, disruption of inland food and
freshwater supplies - caused by drought, disease, war, overpopulation
and other factors – means their journeys often end in vain. Some
of the worst-hit countries have been plunged into a state of anarchy.
Vast uninhabitable wastelands now cover the equatorial regions, with
desperate streams of refugees moving from city to city, fighting over
what little scraps remain. There is widespread damage to buildings and
US, formerly prosperous breadbaskets in the south have been turned into
lifeless deserts, while coastal areas are frequently battered by storm
surges, category 6 hurricanes and other freak weather events.*
the once mighty Amazon rainforest has been reduced to a few oases of
greenery surrounded by parched scrubland and dried river beds.
number of citizens are abandoning their homelands altogether and attempting
to reach more northerly or southerly latitudes. However, borders are
becoming ever more difficult to cross. Limited food, resources and housing
are forcing many governments to drastically rethink their immigration
are exploiting this, by offering a new means of living which does away
with national boundaries altogether. This comes in the form of floating,
artificial islands - wholly self-sufficient and capable of cruising
around the world indefinitely.*
provide the kind of comfort, safety and security that many of their
occupants have never experienced before. In addition to a continuous
supply of food, freshwater and energy, a number of facilities are available
– including state-of-the-art virtual reality suites, android servants/companions,
industrial-scale nanotech assemblers, landing pads for anti-grav vehicles,
swimming pools and other amenities. Carefully maintained arboretums
featuring real trees can also be found on board (flora which are becoming
increasingly rare these days).
amphibious ships are especially popular in southeast Asia, which has
been hit hardest by the effects of climate change. Some of the largest
craft measure over a kilometre in diameter with tens of thousands of
residents. Whole new cultures are forming on these "micronations",
based on sustainable ways of living and a mutual respect for humanity
typhoons have increased ten-fold
annual number of strong typhoons - whose winds exceed 194 kph (120 mph)
- has increased tenfold, due to the continuing trend of global warming.
Typhoons similar in strength to the 1959 Typhoon Vera (which killed
over 5,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless) are now striking Japan
each and every year.* Many parts of
East Asia have been long since abandoned due to these and other disasters.
The chemistry of Earth's oceans has been radically altered
emissions in the 19th through 21st centuries lowered the pH level of
the oceans by almost 0.5 compared to the natural level. This increased
the acidity of seawater, drastically reducing the availability of calcium
carbonate which many creatures needed to build shells and skeletons.** Entire regions are now devoid of life - unable to support plankton,
molluscs or crustaceans. Food chains
have collapsed, with many whales and other large species dying off.
Penguins face extinction
centuries, Emperor Penguins were the best-loved and most recognised
symbol of Antarctica. By the middle of this decade, their numbers have
dwindled to almost nothing because of melting sea ice, depletion of
krill and industrial activity.* Small populations continue to exist for several more years, by adapting
their breeding habits, but even they will eventually disappear.
Penguins aren't the only birds vanishing during this time: thousands
of other species are disappearing too, as many ecosystems around the
world face permanent collapse.*
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of Mars is underway
no physical processes have been introduced yet, the first serious plans
are being drawn up for the planet's gradual transformation, with the
ultimate goal of making it habitable for humans. Exactly who will be
given control of Mars and its resources - or if the planet should have
complete independence - is the subject of much debate and speculation
around this time.
fields are in military use
combination of several unique technologies - stacked together in layers
- has led to a radical new form of protective shielding.* To observers from the previous century, this would resemble the "force
fields" depicted in science fiction movies. When activated, it
provides an instant, near-impenetrable field withstanding hits from
all but the most powerful weaponry.
layer consists of a supercharged plasma window, shaped into a dome or
sphere by electromagnetic fields. This is hot enough to vaporize most
layer underneath contains millions of curved laser beams, producing
a high-energy web that captures projectiles fast or powerful enough
to bypass the plasma window.
layer consists of a "lattice" made from trillions of carbon
nanotubes. These microscopic structures are woven together in an instant,
forming a diamond-hard shell repelling objects missed by the other two
layers. If necessary, it can be extended to cover a larger perimeter,
at the cost of decreased strength. Conversely, it can be reduced in
size to provide an even denser and more durable barrier.
described above can protect against the majority of bullets, bombs and
projectiles. However, they are almost useless against lasers. A fourth
and final layer takes care of this problem. It uses photochromatic particles,
which change their properties when exposed to laser light, effectively
neutralising most directed-energy weapons. An early form of this technology
was seen a century previously, with sunglasses that changed colour when
exposed to sunlight.
to warzones, these multilayered force fields are being used in various
other situations. National borders, for example, are being made more
secure - as are many sources of food and water production. Corporate
spaces and luxury dwellings owned by the rich are also utilising them.
A number of satellites are being fitted with this technology too.
on the scale of quadrillionths of a metre (10-15)
is becoming possible around this time.* This is three orders of magnitude smaller than picotechnology and six orders of magnitude smaller than nanotechnology.
at this scale involves working directly with the finest known structures
of matter - such as quarks and strings - to manipulate the properties
of atoms. This development is a further step towards macro-scale teleportation,
i.e. transportation of objects visible to the naked eye. Significant
breakthroughs in anti-gravity and force field generation will also result
area that will see major progress is in materials technology. For example,
metals will be produced which are capable of withstanding truly enormous
pressures and tensile forces. The applications for this will be endless,
but perhaps one of the most exciting areas will be in the exploration
of hostile environments - such as probes capable of travelling within
the Sun itself, and tunnelling machines that can penetrate the Earth's
crust into the layers of magma beneath. Longer term, this development
will pave the way for interstellar ships and the massive forces involved
in lightspeed travel.
exotic materials are becoming possible - including wholly transparent
metals, highly luminous metals, frictionless surfaces, and ultradense
but extremely lightweight structures.
many areas of science, femtoengineering is being guided by advanced
AI, which is now trillions of trillions of times more powerful than
unaided human intelligence.
Papantoniou | Dreamstime.com
control of earthquakes and tsunamis
now, geophysicists have mapped the entirety of the Earth's crust and
its faults, extending some 50 km (30 mi) below the surface. Computer
simulations can forecast exactly when and where an earthquake will occur
and its precise magnitude. With a "scheduling" system now
in place, comprehensive preventative measures can be taken against these
people know when to stay out of the weakest buildings, away from the
bridges most likely to collapse and otherwise away from anything that
might harm them. Rescue and repair workers can be on duty, with vacations
cancelled and extra workers brought in from other areas. Workers can
be geared up with extra equipment ordered in advance to fix key structures
that may fail in an earthquake. Freeways can be emptied. Dangerous chemical
freight can be prevented from passing through populated areas during
the quake. Aircraft can be stopped from approaching a potentially damaged
runway. Weak water reservoirs can have their water levels lowered in
advance. Tourists can be made to stay away. All of these measures can
substantially reduce casualties and economic disruption.
some nations are going one step further and creating additional systems,
in the form of gigantic engineering projects. To protect the most earthquake-prone
regions, a network of "lubrication wells" is being established.
These man-made channels penetrate deep underground, to the very edge
of the mantle. They work by injecting nanotechnology-based fluid or
gel into fault lines, making it easier for rock layers to slide past
each other. Explosive charges can also be dropped at strategic points,
in zones where the lubrication might be less effective. Instead of sudden,
huge earthquakes, the network induces a series of much smaller earthquakes.
Using this method, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 can be buffered down
to magnitude 4.0 or lower, causing little or no damage to structures
on the surface. In coastal locations, tsunamis can also be prevented.
a carefully controlled process - requiring heavy use of AI - and is
by no means perfect. There are complex legal and liability issues in
the event of accidents. For instance, damage from human-induced earthquakes
cannot be excused as an "act of God."
these technical and legal hurdles, it would seem that mankind is gaining
the power to control even the most destructive aspects of nature.*
solar system is passing through a million degree cloud of gas
Sun is approaching a boundary between the Local Cloud of interstellar
gas and another cloud of extremely turbulent gas - the latter is the
remnants of supernova explosions that occurred millions of years ago.
of this medium is sufficiently low to pose no threat to Earth or any
other planets. The heliosphere is reformed slightly, and the level of
cosmic radiation entering the magnetosphere increases, but nothing more.
spacecraft and satellites may be damaged by these high energy particles
unless they are upgraded.*
Credit: SRC/Tentaris,ACh/Maciej Frolow
uploading enters mainstream society
Adequate hardware to support human-level intelligence was available
as far back as the 2020s, thanks to the exponential progress of Moore's
Law.* This made it possible to form
simulations of neural processes.
the underlying software foundation required for mind uploading
proved to be a vastly greater challenge. Full transfer of human consciousness
into artificial substrates posed enormous technical difficulties, in
addition to raising ethical and philosophical issues.
complexity of the brain, and its inherent fragility - along with the
many legislative barriers that stood in the way - meant that it was
nearly a century before such technology reached the mainstream.
occurred in the latter decades of the 21st century, with partial transfer
of memories and thought patterns, allowing some limited experience of
the mind uploading process. However, it was only through the emergence
of picotechnology and strong AI that sufficiently detailed scanning
methods became available. This new generation of machines, being orders
of magnitude faster and more robust, finally bridged the gap between
organic human brains and their synthetic equivalents.
tested on monkeys, the procedure was eventually offered to certain marginalised
people including death row inmates and terminally ill patients. Once
it could be demonstrated as being safe and reversible, the project garnered
a steady stream of free and healthy volunteers, tempted by this new
form of computerised immortality.
red tape and legislation followed, including some of the strictest regulations
ever enacted into law. Religious and conservative groups voiced their
objections to what they saw as a fundamental violation of God's will.
At times, this threatened to postpone the technology indefinitely. Eventually
though, like so many other breakthroughs in science, the zeitgeist moved
on. The level of demand for mind uploading proved to be enormous, and
the treatment was made commercially available in the 2120s.
citizens have access to special clinics in which their biological brains
can be literally discarded in favour of artificial ones. Rather than
simply "duplicating" a mind, the machine physically shifts
the consciousness, like a sponge soaking up water. The brain is gradually
replaced - piece by piece - so the original personality remains intact
during the transition. This vital aspect of the procedure assuages the
fear which many have of losing their identity.
wealthiest individuals, entire new bodies can be grown, into which the
synthetic brains can be transplanted. These bodies may themselves be
artificial, with options for partially cyborg or fully robotic replacements.
Externally, they are often indistinguishable from real human bodies,
but include many hi-tech add-ons and internal features boosting physical
and mental abilities.
is opting for these types of treatments, however. A significant percentage
view them with extreme suspicion, as though somehow immoral and dehumanising.
With each passing year, society is becoming increasingly fractured,
with an ever-widening divide between those who seek to enhance themselves,
and those who prefer to eschew such technology.
© Kts | Dreamstime.com
International Space Elevator is operational
from the Pacific Rim, this mega-structure is thousands of miles high.
Decades in the making, it has been built entirely from carbon nanotubes.
These are hundreds of times stronger than ordinary steel and capable
of withstanding the enormous tensile forces involved. The elevator is
controlled largely by AI, which monitors any stresses or unusual conditions.
obstacle to the project's completion - aside from the initial outlay
- was the need for international agreements on safety, security and
insurance in the event of an accident. Although the technology was available
as far back as 2040, these issues (and others) delayed construction
by many years.
space boom is now finally underway, as passengers can be delivered to
orbit at vastly reduced costs, compared with traditional rocket launches.*
civilian settlement of the Moon is underway
a result of the International Space Elevator, huge numbers of Earth's
citizens now have rapid, affordable and safe access to space. Dozens
of permanent Moon colonies are now being established, funded by various
cooperative groups. Nanotechnology self-assemblers enable these habitats
to be constructed in hours or days.* Most are concentrated in the southern polar region, which has greater
access to water.*
in genetic engineering mean that humans can be fully adapted to the
gravity of the Moon. In any case, scientists are developing a form of
artificial gravity that will soon become available.
to basic exploration and surveying, the main occupations for colonists
at the moment are scientific and technological research, mining, agriculture,
energy production, communications and transport/infrastructure management.
Many tasks are handled by robots, giving more leisure time for the human
is now a booming industry, with many thousands of people arriving on
the Moon's surface each year for guided tours - even though VR simulations
can recreate the Moon's environment. The most popular destinations are
Mons Huygens (the highest mountain), Tycho (a prominent crater visible
from Earth) and the Apollo landing sites.
large telescope is also operational, for long-distance astronomical
observations. The lack of atmosphere and other conditions gives it a
tremendous advantage over Earth-based telescopes.*
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North American Union is taking shape
21st century witnessed a dramatic rebalancing of America's power,
much of it shifting to China and India. However, there were also developments
closer to home, with a remodeling of the relationship to her neighbours.
stagnation of the white population, and simultaneous growth of Hispanics,
offered the first hints of what lay ahead. This trend would continue
long into the future, with Latin American immigrants eventually dominating
the southwestern states. By the late 21st century, territory had been
ceded to Mexico - which had itself become a fully developed, industrialised
this, Canada began to experience a population and economic surge almost
unparalleled in its history. Soaring global temperatures were providing
access to a treasure trove of natural resources, previously locked
up in the frozen north - even as the US was being ravaged by drought,
flooding, wildfires and other adverse conditions. With Canada's environment
now vastly more favourable, newcomers flocked in their millions to
its cheap, wide, green lands.*
decades of further homogenisation and cultural interchange between
each of the three nations, US power has continued to wane, both at
home and abroad. Meanwhile, national borders are becoming increasingly
irrelevant in the world at large. Ongoing globalisation, the birth
of a single world currency, the dominance of artificial intelligence
in government, a defection of citizens to online "virtual states",
and other technological advances have contributed to this. Europe
has already formed its own superstate, while parts of Asia are now
of all this, the USA begins talks with Canada regarding a North American
Union. With a more globalised, supranational sentiment emerging, they
are gradually unified under a single political system - strengthening
the power and influence of both.
eventually joins too. In later decades, further expansion of the union
occurs with even Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other parts of the
Caribbean seeing integration. By the end of the 22nd century, the
whole of North and South America has joined to become the "American
Union", paving the way for a truly united world government in
the 23rd century.
"Perfect" simulations of one cubic metre
In the early 21st century, supercomputers used a simulation technique called lattice quantum chromodynamics, performing calculations by essentially dividing space-time into a four-dimensional grid. With a resolution based on the fundamental physical laws, they could simulate only a tiny portion of the universe accurately – on the scale of one 100-trillionth of a metre, slightly larger than the nucleus of an atom.*
At best, algorithms were able to demonstrate the strong nuclear force among protons and neutrons and its effect on nuclei and their interactions. This was achieved in femto-sized universes where the space-time continuum was replaced by a lattice, with spatial and temporal sizes on the order of several femto-metres or fermis and whose lattice spacings (pixelations) were fractions of fermis. Lattice gauge theory revealed new insights into the nature of matter, but was still fairly limited in scope.
However, computer power and information technology in general were growing exponentially. In fact, they had followed a remarkably smooth and predictable trend throughout the 20th century.* This growth rate continued its consistent path in the 21st and 22nd centuries.*
By 2140, a region of space measuring 1 cubic metre can be simulated in near-perfect detail, down to the smallest quantum unit.* This landmark in physics has profound applications. It soon paves the way for larger simulations of two metres, providing absolutely accurate representations of the entire human body. Scientific experiments on these and similar-sized objects can now be literally as controlled as they can be – with data obtained far more reliably and much faster than in real-world and real-time settings.
Holodeck-style environments become possible in the latter half of this century, as these simulations continue to increase in detail and spatial extent, reaching tens of metres and greater. This offers a level of realism that was unavailable with full-immersion virtual reality. To an observer placed in these miniature universes, it would be almost impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy.