Traditional employment is becoming obsolete
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.*
global rewilding effort is underway
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
uploading is available to a multitude of platforms
mind uploading process of a century earlier has been perfected by now,
giving citizens access to a dizzying array of options.
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.
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.
is fracturing into all sorts of bizarre and surreal forms during this
time, due to the genetic enhancements and cybernetic upgrades now available.
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.
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.