this time, various private commercial spacecraft are sent to Alpha Centauri,
Barnard's Star, Wolf 359 and other neighbouring star systems. The fastest
of these are capable of achieving 0.08-0.1c (8-10% lightspeed), requiring
around 40 years to reach their destination.* A variety of propulsion systems are being utilised – from nuclear pulse
propulsion, to solar sail technology, to other more experimental methods.
these vessels are crewless, with only a handful of humans daring enough
to attempt such a voyage. However, each craft is equipped with powerful
AI, automated systems and robots which do a better job than any human
could, in any case.
from incoming meteors is provided by cone-shaped force fields, projected
from the front of each craft. This streamlined shape allows such debris
to simply drift by without causing any damage.
decades of interstellar travel, the majority of probes successfully
rendezvous with their destinations. Each returns a treasure trove of
data and visual information. Among the many discoveries is a planet
similar in size to Earth, with over 90% of its surface covered in liquid
water, though no life forms are detected. Another, much larger and rockier
world is discovered in the same system, with a highly active geology
and volcanism. A host of interesting and unique moons, asteroids, ring
systems and other astronomical features are catalogued.
of these missions acts as a catalyst, further accelerating the current
boom in space travel.
physically indistinguishable from real humans
have been appearing amongst the general populace for many decades already.
However, it is by the middle of this century that they achieve a truly
lifelike appearance, mobility and interaction, making them indistinguishable
from real people. Millions are now employed in service-based roles.
android of today would appear somewhat calm and subdued, however. They
would rarely (if ever) express any strong emotions. Their cognitive
abilities would be geared towards hard facts and objective data, rather
than subjective views or emotional reasoning.
reason, most are still regarded as servants at this point in history. However,
advances will be made in the coming decades enabling them to replicate
even the subtlest of human traits. With androids playing an increasingly prominent
role in society, a civil rights movement begins to develop, mirroring that
which dominated America nearly 200 years earlier.*
observer from the previous century – walking through a newly developed
city of today – would be struck by the sense of cleanliness and order.
The air would smell fresh and pure, as if they were in 20th century
countryside. Roads and pavements would be immaculate: made of special
materials that cleaned themselves, absorbed garbage and could self-repair
in the event of damage. Building surfaces, windows and roofs would be
completely resistant to dirt, bacteria, weather, graffiti and vandalism.
These same coatings would be applied to public transport, cars and other
vehicles. Everything would appear brand new, shiny and in perfect condition
at all times. Greenery would feature heavily in this city, along with
spectacular fountains, sculptures and other beautification.
telegraph poles, signs, bollards and other "clutter" that
once festooned the streets have disappeared. Lighting is now achieved
more discretely, using a combination of self-illuminating walls and
surfaces, antigravity and other features designed to hide these eyesores,
maximising pedestrian space and aesthetics. Electricity is passed wirelessly
from building to building. Room temperature superconductors – implanted
in the ground – allow the rapid movement of vehicles without the need
for tracks, wheels, overhead cables or other bulky components. Cars
and trains simply drift along silently, riding on electromagnetic currents.
are obsolete – all information is beamed electronically into a person's
visual cortex. They merely have to "think" of a particular
building, street or route to be given information about it.
would also notice their increased personal space, and the relative quiet
of areas that, in earlier times, would have bustled with cars, people
and movement. In some places, robots tending to manual duties might
outnumber humans. This is partly as a result of the drastic reduction
in the world's population. However, it is also because citizens of today
spend the majority of their time in virtual environments. These wholly
convincing, simulated realities offer practically everything a person
needs in terms of knowledge, communication and interaction – often
at speeds vastly greater than real time. Limited only by a person's
imagination, they can provide richer and more stimulating experiences
than just about anything in the physical world.
rare occasions when a person ventures outside, they are likely to spend
little time on foot. Almost all services and material needs can be obtained
within the home, or practically on their doorstep – whether it be food,
medical assistance, or even replacement body parts and physical upgrades.
A "shop" in the developed world is likely to be run entirely
by AI. It will know exactly what you need before you even set foot in
it, and will have everything ready upon your arrival (if you even arrive
at all, since robots can deliver most goods and services). The same
goes for hospitals and other amenities.
gatherings in the real world tend to be infrequent – usually reserved
for "special" occasions such as funerals, for novelty value,
or the small number of situations where VR is impractical.
almost non-existent in these hi-tech cities. Surveillance is everywhere:
recording every footstep of your journey in perfect detail and identifying
who you are, from the moment you enter a public area. Even your internal
biological state can be monitored – such as neural activity and pulse
– giving clues as to your immediate intentions. Police can be summoned
instantly, with robotic officers appearing to 'grow' out of the ground
through the use of blended claytronics and nanobots, embedded into the
buildings and roads. This is so much faster and more efficient that
in most cities, having law enforcement drive or fly to a crime area
(in physical vehicles) has become obsolete.
safe and clean, some of these hi-tech districts might appear rather
sterile to an observer from the previous century. They would lack the
grit, noise and character which defined cities in past times. One way
that urban designers are overcoming this problem is through the use
of dynamic surfaces. These create physical environments that are interactive.
Certain building façades, for instance, can change their appearance
to match the tastes of the observer. This can be achieved via augmented
reality (which only the individual is aware of), claytronic surfaces
and holographic projections (which everybody can see), or a combination
of the two. A bland glass and steel building could suddenly morph into
a classical style, with Corinthian columns and marble floors; or it
could change to a red brick texture, depending on the mood or situation.
solar eclipse in London
rare total eclipse takes place in Britain this year, with parts of London
experiencing totality.* The last time this
occurred was in 1715; the next will be in 2600 AD.
century has passed since the peak in global extinction rates.* Biodiversity has declined to such a low level that there are now few
species left to go extinct. With food chains having collapsed, only
the hardiest and most adaptable lifeforms survive today.
fauna is therefore dominated by rats, flies, cockroaches and canines,
while plant life is composed largely of weeds, cacti and other wild
the world lie abandoned cities and decaying infrastructure surrounded
by vast, polluted wastelands. Small pockets of "rich" biodiversity
can still be found – but most of these are contained within artificial
environments protected and sealed from the hellish conditions outside.
What remains of humanity has fled to the high latitudes, where climates
are favourable enough to sustain the hi-tech
cities described earlier.
world's first bicentenarians
people who were born in the 1960s are still alive and well in today's
world. Life expectancy had been increasing at a rate of 0.2 years, per
year, at the turn of the 21st century. This incremental progress meant
that by the time they were 80, these people could expect to live an
additional decade on top of their original lifespan.
the rate of increase itself had been accelerating, due to major breakthroughs
in medicine and healthcare, combined with better education and lifestyle
choices. This created a "stepping stone", allowing people
to buy time for the treatments available later in the century – which
included being able to halt the aging process altogether.*
power plants are coming online
century after the global deployment of fusion, new forms of power production
are becoming necessary in order to cope with the exponential rise in
energy demands on Earth and elsewhere.
A new generation
of power plants is becoming available, capable of harnessing the energy
released in matter/antimatter collisions. The reactions involved are
1,000 times more powerful than the fission produced in nuclear power
plants and over 300 times more powerful than nuclear fusion energy.*
civilian expansion into the solar system – and the increasing ease of
access to space technology – has led to the emergence of a new and deadly
form of terrorism. This involves the sabotage or hijacking of spacecraft,
for use in the purposeful redirection of asteroids towards Earth, Mars
and the Moon.*
colonies in the outer solar system are also being targetted. These are
particularly vulnerable, since they tend to lack the orbital infrastructure
and defences necessary to deflect these huge incoming objects. At least
one major colony around Jupiter is devastated during this time.
to religious extremists, there is a growing anarcho-primitivist movement.
This consists of small underground cults opposed to the increasing dominance
of AI in the running of world affairs. They deplore what they see as
forced, unnatural changes and technologies sweeping humanity – instead
favouring a return to more traditional lifestyles and cultures. They
are prepared to resort to whatever means necessary to achieve this.*
replication devices are available for the home
the end of this century, home appliances are becoming available which
can instantly reproduce almost any known substance, at quantum fidelity.* This is achieved using a combination of femtoengineered components and
exceedingly complex fractalised software, capable of handling the stupendous
number of calculations involved. These devices are just one of many
spinoff technologies resulting from the development of macro-scale teleportation
in previous decades.
used in factories, science labs and corporate environments, the machines
were big enough to fill entire rooms, and often required huge amounts
of power. They worked well for large enterprises but were completely
impractical for the consumer market.
much like the IT industry, exponential progress in this field led to
a rapidly shrinking form-factor. Combined with power conservation and
heat dissipation techniques, a new generation of replicators began to
evolve that were ultra-compact. Eventually they became small enough
to fit on kitchen worktops.
these devices are as cheap and commonplace as microwave ovens were in
the late 20th century. They are most commonly used as food synthesisers,
but a variety of other household items can be reproduced.
resources – in the form of sterilised organic particulates – are stored
in compartments within the machine. To save energy and computational
power, these have been specially formulated to statistically require
the least quantum manipulation. The user inputs their choice either
via mind control, or voice activation. Molecular analysers then scan
each and every subatomic particle, while trillions of Heisenberg compensators
maintain cohesion as the object begins to materialise, held in place
by micro force-fields. The process takes a matter of seconds and can
be repeated indefinitely – resources are beamed in from an external
supplier, like tap water.
database containing information on food, clothing and other objects
is constantly maintained online. This is automatically downloaded into
each machine, and contains many freely available programs.
will play a major role in eliminating poverty, disease and hunger throughout
the world. Traditional agriculture, manufacturing and distribution will
become obsolete, replaced by purely information-driven systems that
are completely decentralised.
languages are becoming few in number now; education has been vastly
world has become so homogenised as a result of globalisation that only
a handful of languages remain in existence.* This compares with over 7,000 languages in the year 2000.*
word has been relegated to a secondary function. Mind interfaces have
become the preferred method for in-person communication. These are transparently
embedded in clothing, or directly in the body. This form of digital
telepathy has been available for over a century – but has now been perfected,
so that colossal streams of audio-visual data can be sent and received
in addition to basic thoughts and feelings.
all education and training is now achieved in this way. Schools have
become obsolete, with teaching instead taking place in a home environment.
The learning process has been accelerated to such an extent that a child
of today could learn the entire curricula of a 20th century classroom
in a microsecond – just by connecting to the "global brain"
of the Internet.
is facilitated by a combination of genetic engineering and neural upgrades
– applied before birth – which extend the brain's capacity and throughput
by many orders of magnitude. To an observer from the year 2000, a typical
child of the late 22nd century would appear like a miniature Einstein:
an expert on virtually any subject, capable of conversing fluently on
everything from quantum mechanics to the inner workings of a spacecraft.
West Antarctic ice sheet is beginning to disintegrate
average temperatures are now 8°C higher than pre-industrial times.
CO2 emissions fell sharply in the mid-21st century, positive feedback
loops had already been triggered, making it too late to prevent global
warming. By the end of the 22nd century, a whole series of tipping points
is being reached. Most significant is the West Antarctic ice sheet –
containing 2.2 million cubic kilometres of ice – which is now beginning
to disintegrate. Substantial melting is also being experienced in Greenland
and Iceland, contributing vast quantities of additional water.*
have risen nearly 4m as a result of all this, radically altering the
geopolitical map of the world.*
becoming a desert planet, with a highly volatile climate and fluctuating
extremes of weather. Most of civilisation is crammed into dense vertical
cities around freshwater locations, far away from the coast – and highly
dependent on advanced technology.
compares with around 40 thousand years for space
probes of the early 21st century.
2The Star Trek: TNG episode, The
Measure of a Man, is an excellent portrayal of how this scenario may
unfold. It features a trial involving the android Commander Data, in which
his sentience is challenged. His status as the "property" of
Star Fleet is brought into the debate.