Traditional employment is becoming obsolete
The average citizen today is likely to spend the vast majority of their time in a virtual reality of some kind. Physical society and culture still exist – but most eschew them, in favour of the Godlike abilities they can experience online. It is very rare to meet a friend or colleague in person now. You are far more likely to encounter a form of artificial intelligence today, than you are a living, breathing human. Urban centres have become eerily deserted, with most people to be found in their homes* – or in digital libraries and entertainment venues – engaged in complex simulations that offer perfect recreations of the real world. To observers from earlier centuries, these virtual environments would appear truly dazzling in their speed and complexity, with an almost unimaginable level of detail, creativity and ingenuity.
A trend which began during the Industrial Revolution has now reached its ultimate conclusion. Working hours had gradually declined over the centuries, thanks to a combination of technology, automation, improvements in working conditions and employee rights, changing labour demands and a shift in the cultural zeitgeist. By 2050, the average person in a developed country was employed for under 30 hours per week and this fell to 20 hours by 2100.* Working hours continued to fall in the 22nd century as machines – including life-like androids – took on ever more complex and sophisticated roles.
As humans began to enhance their cognitive abilities, the nature of work itself was changing. More and more people were moving from "drudge" jobs into their own personal, creative and intellectual pursuits. The line between work and play was beginning to blur. Some roles, for example, were now taking the form of extremely challenging "games", based on subjective anomalies and problems resulting from discoveries for which AI programs were unable to offer adequate explanations. Alongside this, average spending on various household items and utilities, when measured as a percentage of disposable income, was steadily declining.*
By 2200, this trend is complete. In most countries, basic items such as food, energy and clothing are now essentially free, with little or no need for the average person to work in order to acquire them. Recent advances in replicator technology provide an abundance of resources – eliminating famine, disease and the need for war. Literally everything has been automated, digitised and made easier. Take the emergency services, for example. Hospital visits are rarely required now, as practically everything a person needs in terms of treatment is available at home, or within their own body. Police forces are dominated by robots and, in any case, physical crimes have been largely eradicated. Firefighters are no longer needed, since they are robotic too, while building regulations and nanotechnology materials can prevent most fires occurring in the first place.
This process of falling employment was, of course, by no means a smooth transition. It caused profound economic and political disruption throughout the 21st and 22nd centuries. By 2200, however, the world has fully adapted to these changes and is entering a period of artistic and cultural splendour the likes of which have never been seen before. Whether as explorers in space, or designers of entire new worlds in cyberspace, humans are free to pursue their greatest dreams and personal aspirations – unshackled from the confines of traditional economic and monetary systems.*
A global rewilding effort is underway
Human activity in the 19th through 22nd centuries led to catastrophic damage of the natural world. Of the approximately 30 million known species of flora and fauna, more than half were lost as a result of pollution, climate change, deforestation, mining, agriculture, urban sprawl, overfishing and hunting. Extinctions on this scale had occurred only five times previously in Earth's history.
Various wars, nuclear attacks, industrial accidents and nanotechnology experiments also played a role in making large tracts of the world essentially lifeless. Permanent damage was done to countless habitats. The Amazon rainforest, perhaps the most egregious example, shrank to become mostly desert by 2100. Meanwhile, ocean acidification caused by rising CO2 levels resulted in the decimation of coral reefs. The Arctic became devoid of ice during summer months, while melting in Greenland, Iceland, West Antarctica and elsewhere led to sea level rises of nearly two metres by the 22nd century.
All of this occurred despite an in-depth scientific knowledge of the processes underway. Long term sustainability and sensible management of resources were sacrificed in favour of short-term profits, political influence and personal gain. By the time most governments began to enact serious measures, it was already too late.
Biodiversity fell away to such an extent that, for those born in the late 20th century, the planet became unrecognisable. Younger generations growing up in this new world found themselves bitterly resentful at what their predecessors had allowed to happen. Many in Asia, Africa and South America would never get to experience a real forest, or come face to face with animals larger than a domestic dog, or witness the range of colourful and exotic species that were commonplace before – except in zoos, or virtual reality. Older members of society came to be vilified. Some nations even organised "crimes against nature" trials, leading to the conviction of former politicians and fossil fuel executives.
By the 23rd century, however, technology was advancing to a whole new magnitude of power and possibilities. Superintelligent entities were now dominating business and government, formulating policies to benefit everybody rather than the few. Meanwhile, a new and gigantic system of orbital infrastructure was being planned, allowing man to directly control the Earth's climate. Consumer devices were also becoming available that could reproduce food and other items without needing to plunder natural resources.
An idea began to emerge that quickly gained momentum. It would require an international, concerted effort over a number of generations, but it had support from across the political spectrum.
"Pre-Holocene Rewilding" had been discussed in the past and even attempted on a small scale, but global versions lacked the necessary consensus mainly due to the costs, technical challenges and social issues. However, the enormous wealth and prosperity now emerging on Earth – along with perfection of certain biotechnologies – meant that such a megaproject was becoming feasible.
In essence, it would involve the recreation of extinct animals and plants, brought back to life by a combination of fossil records, DNA samples, computer models and molecular engineering. Once grown or reproduced in sufficient numbers, these would be distributed back to their original native environments: as close as possible to how they lived prior to human industry. They would then be managed in such a way that people could cause them no harm – and vice versa.
This rewilding effort became the single largest environmental project in history. Entire deserts were transformed back into lush edens, fed by artificial rain and other forms of weather control. Vast areas of abandoned wasteland became rich ecosystems teaming with life; even ancient megafauna such as mammoths. Toxic lakes and rivers were made clean. The oceans were de-acidified, cooled and made habitable once again to countless fish, molluscs, crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates. Urban sprawl in cities was dramatically reversed and scaled back, with a focus instead on highly compact vertical structures.
Slowly, the Earth recovered. Humanity had reached an equilibrium with its surroundings. Though it would take another few decades, the final elements were falling into place to ensure the future preservation of biodiversity.
Mind uploading is available to a multitude of platforms
The mind uploading process of a century earlier has been perfected by now, giving citizens access to a dizzying array of options.
A person of today can choose from a plethora of artificial bodies into which they can "sleeve" themselves depending on their mood or the situation. These might be human, or robotic, or some other more exotic design. The most extreme examples can even take the form of animals, or mythological creations. An individual may upload themselves into the body of an eagle, for instance, and go flying for a few days. Or they could travel to an underwater locale and utilise a mermaid-like body, complete with gills and a tail.
This process is being used extensively in the global rewilding efforts, to improve the monitoring of animal populations and ensure their successful integration back into the environment. Some of the more committed environmentalists are choosing to abandon their human bodies altogether, devoting their consciousness entirely to the natural world.
Humanity is fracturing into all sorts of bizarre and surreal forms during this time, due to the genetic enhancements and cybernetic upgrades now available.
Mind transfer is now possible almost anywhere, at any time, thanks to the miniaturisation and portability of the technology, together with the supporting infrastructure which has developed on Earth and elsewhere. The space industry routinely has people uploading to massive robots, in order to carry out large-scale engineering work. This is especially true of asteroid mining stations.
Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune
Pluto takes 248 Earth years to go once around the Sun. Its orbital characteristics are substantially different from other planets, which follow nearly circular orbits around the Sun close to a flat reference plane called the ecliptic. In contrast, Pluto's orbit is moderately inclined relative to the ecliptic and moderately eccentric (elliptical). This means that for periods of 20 years, it comes closer to the Sun than Neptune. The last time this occurred was from 1979 to 1999; it happens again between 2227 and 2247.*
As Pluto moves closer to the Sun, ice on its surface begins to warm slightly and sublime ("evaporate" from solid to gas, without passing through an intermediate liquid phase). This forms a thin atmosphere that consists mostly of nitrogen (N2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO). At between 6.5 and 24 μbar, it is roughly one million to 100,000 times less than Earth's atmospheric pressure. As it moves away from the Sun, the gases cool and the atmosphere begins to refreeze again, eventually disappearing completely as temperatures reach a low of -240°C (-400°F).
It is now three centuries since the dwarf planet's discovery in 1930. Both Pluto and its five moons have been thoroughly explored and studied in complete detail – the focus has shifted from scientific analysis, to resource exploitation. While lacking the precious metals and minerals found in the asteroid fields and elsewhere, Pluto nevertheless holds useful quantities of frozen nitrogen and water.* In addition to surface operations, the interior of the world is being transformed with large-scale automation and robotics drilling down.
Despite Pluto's orbit appearing to cross that of Neptune when viewed from directly above, the two objects' orbits are aligned so that they can never collide or even approach closely. They are always separated by at least 17 AU. The next time Pluto moves closer to the Sun than Neptune will be in the year 2475.
The fastest of today's spacecraft are now capable of sustained travel at between 0.9 and 0.99c (90-99% lightspeed). This is fast enough to reach nearby stars within relatively short timeframes. One of the more common ship designs is a "ring" containing matter-antimatter fuel, purposefully collided to release vast amounts of energy for thrust. This energy is also used to maintain stability and project fields around the craft, protecting it from meteoroids and other incoming hazards. Many deep-space missions are now underway, including trips to Earth-like planets within 100 light years. Most of these ships are unmanned, but a small percentage contain human pilots. These are invariably transhumans with heavily modified bodies and brains, more able to cope with long journeys than natural, unaided humans.
Interstellar space vessel of the 23rd century.
Christianity is fading from American culture
After centuries of decline, Christianity is on the verge of disappearing from American culture. The vast majority of the US population is now atheist or agnostic.* This same trend was witnessed in Europe at a far earlier date. However, religion was so deeply embedded in the American psyche that it took substantially longer to reach this stage.
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1 Worldwide decline in physical activity,
Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 27th April 2014.
2 See 2099.
3 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:
Accessed 27th April 2014.
4 The Neutral Zone,
Star Trek TNG:
Accessed 27th April 2014.
Accessed 19th July 2015.
6 Internal structure of Pluto,
Accessed 19th July 2015.
Easter, Smaller Percentage of Americans Are Christian - Americans more
likely now than in previous decades to say they have no religious identity,
Accessed 11th February 2009.