Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Response to silly predictions

Referring to this article at the BBC

1. Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish (Jim 300)
I wouldn’t say “extensively”. We are going to have to do more ocean farming for a lot of reasons; most importantly we are reducing fish populations to dangerous levels, and if we want to have fish as part of our diet we will have to have managed ocean fisheries.
2. We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission (Dev 2)
No. We’ve made great leaps in thought control, but we’re still decades away from using it as anything but a novelty. While I can conceive of scenarios where we use thought to direct transmissions and actions, direct thought transmission is still a long way off if it is possible.
3. Thanks to DNA and robotic engineering, we will have created incredibly intelligent humans who are immortal (game_over)
Doubtful. Slowing or stopping aging will likely happen. We will live longer, healthier lives and be more productive. We will grow replacement organs in a few years rendering most organ donation to the dustbin of history.  I expect engineered blood, ending the need for most blood donation.
What DNA engineering will do is allow us to eliminate specific genetic diseases, and probably not much more.
Average intelligence may increase if we can agree on a eugenics-type path as a species, but I don’t expect a great deal of change knowing human nature. Intelligence is complex, and very often genius in one area comes at the cost of deficiency in another making any kind of meddling for advancement complicated and morally difficult.
As for robotic engineering, there will be some artificial organs, where we can engineer a better replacement or a cognate to assist. Eyes, ears, and limbs are to be expected as the technology is already in testing. People will likely even have robotic interfaces even when they don’t need them.
4. We will be able to control the weather (mariebee_)
I expect some control. Due to the large amount of energy required don’t expect anything like a Thursday Rain from 2-4 AM. What we will see is structures built to absorb or reflect heat, and structures to alter wind currents. There are proposals to create power plants that are essentially columns of heated rising air, and they can easily be used to influence weather patterns.
5. Antarctica will be "open for business" (Dev 2)
I don’t expect great changes in the Sothern continent. If global warming continues and there is significant land exposed at the coast, expect some exploitation, perhaps even some settlement. The Antarctic is governed by complex and overlapping treaties, and the politics involved for major exploitation are prohibitive.
If anything I would expect it to be governed by complex international bodies just like space or the oceans. The technology will arrive far before the politics allow its use.
6. One single worldwide currency (from Kennys_Heroes)
I don’t expect we’ll ever get people to agree on something like that until we have independent space colonies. Until then, we’ll just muddle along. It isn’t outrageous to expect multiple economic zones like the Euro, but I don’t even expect the Euro to be around as we know it in 100 years.
It is beneficial to economies to have different currencies to allow governments to lend and borrow, to allow them to invest in their infrastructure, and to separate them when an economy collapses, a lesson we are now relearning with difficulty.
6.5. Will deserts become tropical forests? 
(see below)
7. We will all be wired to computers to make our brains work faster (Dev 2)
No. This kind of idea is pure fiction and has been predicted for the last 100 years. I expect the trend to continue.
We will interact with computers differently, they will be in glasses giving us augmented reality. They will speak in our ears. They will control artificial limbs and replace damaged eyes and ears, but they will not be wired into our thoughts.
If we can claim to completely understand the human mind in 100 years I will be impressed, we have been trying for thousands of years and are just beginning to tease out how things work.
8. Nanorobots will flow around our body fixing cells, and will be able to record our memories (Alister Brown)
I expect some form of very tiny medical robot to exist, and to assist in surgeries. Larger robots will take over large portions of surgery too.
Our problems are that semiconductor technology is near its limit and quantum computing is just a pipe dream. There is no practical way to create and control nanobots that can perform complex tasks in the foreseeable future.
As for recording memories, don’t expect anything like that. The way a brain works and the way a computer works are very different. It makes for great fiction.
9. We will have sussed nuclear fusion (Kennys_Heroes)
I would expect that we will have successful commercial nuclear fusion in 100 years. We are moving ever closer to successful sustained reactions, and the science describing it is complete and sound. We are to the point where we are perfecting the reactors.
It may take most of the next 100 years to get there, or it may be here in fifty, but it is certain to come.
10. There will only be three languages in the world - English, Spanish and Mandarin (Bill Walker)
With a renewed sense of nationality I don’t expect it. While there will be fewer spoken languages in the future, I expect that many people will be multi-lingual as well. English, Spanish and Mandarin are likely second languages, and so are Portuguese, Russian, and Hindi.
Expect Welsh, and Gaelic to make a comeback as the UK diversifies or breaks up. Hebrew has already re-asserted itself on the world stage. The trend will be for states to teach in and preserve one or several languages that it deems to be culturally significant and to teach one or more trade languages.
This will be assisted by computers. Translation is already very good, and will likely be in everyday use in 100 years allowing people to communicate more easily and without so much pressure to abandon their own language.
11. Eighty per cent of the world will have gay marriage (Paul)
I expect that what we now consider the “western” countries will have it, and many “eastern” countries will as well. Africa and the Middle East may still not believe in it. Culture and beliefs are difficult to change and take a long time, and to expect that everyone will follow the same path we have is foolish.
Just look at the histories of Women’s rights or racial inequality in the world to understand the length of time it takes such an idea to take hold in a culture.
12. California will lead the break-up of the US (Dev 2)
The United States has been through rougher periods. We had a real Civil War over the right to break up.
I don’t expect it to happen. The U.S. has a unifying culture, stable borders, and despite current problems a stable government. It’s unlikely, but I would expect states to divide or combine long before we get to the point of a new U.S. civil war.
13. Space elevators will make space travel cheap and easy (Ahdok)
Barring a technological breakthrough in energy or propulsion, it is very likely that space elevators will be built to provide useful and inexpensive transportation into space.
14. Women will be routinely impregnated by artificial insemination rather than by a man (krozier 93)
Not very likely, people seem to enjoy the old fashioned way. DNA screening and repair will adapt to human nature, not the other way around.
15. There will be museums for almost every aspect of nature, as so much of the world's natural habitat will have been destroyed (LowMaintenanceLifestyles)
There are some rough times ahead for the natural world, but following the lead of Teddy Roosevelt it seems unlikely that vast stretches of nature will continue to exist, although perhaps with a slightly more managed view.
It seems likely that with current energy technology that we will be less dependent on nature for our energy supplies. Furthermore, I expect population to stabilize and then decline in the future. China is managing population growth intentionally, and Western countries have a declining birthrate. I expect these trends to spread and stabilize world population.
16. Deserts will become tropical forests (jim300)
I wouldn’t expect something so drastic, but there is a great deal of research going into a sustainable conversion of desert into arable land. It is possible that we will one day soon be able to affect local climates.
17. Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract (holierthanthou)
Marriage has changed. In the past it was a contract between the husband and the bride’s father, or between families. Now it is based on individual attraction. It the future it will continue to change as societies change, but I don’t believe it will be replaced.
18. Sovereign nation states will cease to exist and there will be one world government (krozier93)
If anything I would expect more nations to exist. It is likely these new, smaller nations will form zones, unions, or similar groups.
Many states we have today are conglomerations of diverse people that were grouped together through empire or colonialism. These constructs will fracture and recombine in new ways as their people move beyond the borders that had been forced upon them and seek to define themselves.
19. War by the West will be fought totally by remote control (LowMaintenanceLifestyles)
Machines may become remote-controlled or autonomous, but people will be involved due to their nature. War without people is just a video game.
20. Britain will have had a revolution (holierthanthou)
I don’t expect anything so drastic. I do expect that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will become independent countries, leaving Britain. Weather they remain Commonwealth Nations is another matter, and one harder to predict.
It will lead to new directions in law in the British Isles, but it seems unlikely any kind of great revolution is going to happen.
More readers' predictions:
English will be spelled phonetically (jim300)
Perhaps there will be another round of spelling reforms, but it is unlikely any major changes will come, as English has no governing body.
Growing your own vegetables will not be allowed (holierthanthou)
I just don’t see it.
The justice system will be based purely on rehabilitation (Paul)
We know rehabilitation is much better than the current system, and I expect its use to expand dramatically as we seek to control prison costs. We are also seeing a social shift in that direction, one that has been going on for a couple of centuries now.
However, society moves slowly, and even in another 100 years I don’t expect everyone to have moved there.
Instead of receiving information from the media, people will download information directly into their brains (krozier93)
Highly illogical.
Crops will be grown in sand (jim300)
They are today. I’m not sure what the prediction is referring to.

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