January 21, 2012

Twenty predictions for 100 years from readers of the BBC News

BBC News - Last week BBC News asked readers for their predictions of life in 100 years time. Inspired by ten 100-year predictions made by American civil engineer John Elfreth Watkins in 1900, many readers wrote in with their vision of the world in 2112.

I will review those predictions. A common problem to many of the predictions is that most not properly qualified. Without proper qualification and context it becomes nearly impossible to judge whether the predictions will be correct or not. Several predictions are saying the majority of people will choose to make societal changes to foundational institutions like marriage which people have shown consistent strong resistance to any minor alterations.

I will update and finish thus review later.

BBC Reader Prediction 1. Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish (Jim 300)

Seaweed farming has began in Japan as early as 1670 In 1997 it was estimated that 40,000 people in the Philippines made their living through seaweed farming. Cultivation is also common in all of southeast Asia, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States.

Seaweed production in Indonesia alone should be over 10 million tons in 2010

State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010 (88 pages) 15.8 million tons of aquatic plants were produced in 2008.

Shrimp farming is already over 1.6 million tons per year The growth rate of worldwide aquaculture has been sustained and rapid, averaging about 8 percent per annum for over thirty years, while the take from wild fisheries has been essentially flat for the last decade. The aquaculture market reached $86 billion in 2009. Aquaculture is at about 55 million tons. It is mostly fish and 20 million tons of it is marine (ocean farming versus inland water farming).

For this prediction to be meaningful, there has to be some quantification.

World production of seaweed will exceed the production of corn. This would address food production and being more important for biofuel.

World production of ocean products will exceed land based agriculture and biofuel.

These are both quantifiable and take out the scenario where biofuels get wiped out by say some kind of cold fusion.

2. We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission (Dev 2)

This is already here in a weak form in the lab. Technical feasibility is not a question. The questions are how useful will it be and how widespread will it be adopted ?

There should be a significant gaming and entertainment market.

There will be interesting applications for trusting couples to explore greater intimacy.

Regular communication will still dominate. It would require mental discipline to communicate on a regular basis with thought transmission. Mediated mind machine communication where brains are integrated with cybernetic or noninvasive systems and then the machines communicate seems likely. So not uncensored communication of thoughts.

3. Thanks to DNA and robotic engineering, we will have created incredibly intelligent humans who are immortal (game_over)

Needs quantification. The defeat of aging to the point where the death rate is flat and does not increase with age.

4. We will be able to control the weather (mariebee_)

Needs clarification and quantification of the level of control

5. Antarctica will be "open for business" (Dev 2)

6. One single worldwide currency (from Kennys_Heroes)

Wrong. Euro is breaking up. This will not happen

7. We will all be wired to computers to make our brains work faster (Dev 2)

IP: Likelihood 10/10. We can expect this as soon as 2050 for many people. By 2075 most people in the developed world will use machine augmentation of some sort for their brains and, by the end of the century, pretty much everyone will. If someone else does this you will have to compete.

NBF - This makes a version if prediction #2 true as well. I agree that brain.augmentation will happen.

8. Nanorobots will flow around our body fixing cells, and will be able to record our memories (Alister Brown)

PT: Good chance. Right now, medical nanorobots exist only in theory and nanotechnology is mostly a materials science. But it's a rapidly growing field. Nanorobots exist within the realm of possibility, but the question of when they will arrive is another matter

IP: Likelihood: 7/10.

If nanmedicine happens and I believe it will that delivers extreme life extension as well. It also handles a massively better economy, automation and nano augmentation.

9. We will have sussed nuclear fusion (Kennys_Heroes)

IP: Likelihood 10/10. This is likely by 2045-2050 and almost certain by 2100. It's widely predicted that we will achieve this. What difference it makes will depend on what other energy technologies we have. We might also see a growth in shale gas or massive solar energy facilities. I don't think that wind power will be around.

NBF - I believe thus happens by 2020. And then gets widespread by 2035. Exceeding power generation from hydroelectricity

10. There will only be three languages in the world - English, Spanish and Mandarin (Bill Walker)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. This does look like a powerful trend, other languages don't stand a lot of chance. Minor languages are dying at a huge rate already and the other major ones are mostly in areas where everyone educated speaks at least one of the other three. Time frame could be this century

NBF - this will not happen. Hindi, Japanese, French, and several other languages will persist.

11. Eighty per cent of the world will have gay marriage (Paul)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. This seems inevitable to those of us in the West and is likely to mean different kinds of marriages being available to everyone. Gay people might pick different options from heterosexual people, but everyone will be allowed any option. Some regions will be highly resistant though because of strong religious influences, so it isn't certain.

NBF - I do not think this will happen. The 80% legalization and recognition is the key factor.

12. California will lead the break-up of the US (Dev 2)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. There are some indications already that California wants to split off and such pressures tend to build over time. It is hard to see this waiting until the end of the century. Maybe an East Coast cluster will want to break off too. Pressures come from the enormous differences in wealth generation capability, and people not wanting to fund others if they can avoid it.

NBF - No way. Doubt the US will break up and if it happens Texas will lead the way.

13. Space elevators will make space travel cheap and easy (Ahdok)

IP: Likelihood 8/10. First space elevators will certainly be around, and although "cheap" is a relative term, it will certainly be a lot cheaper than conventional space development. It will create a strong acceleration in space development and tourism will be one important area, but I doubt the costs will be low enough for most people to try.

NBF - Space elevators on Earth are borderline feasible with full molecular nanotechnology and J Stores hall space piers would be more likely. There are other ways to get to space access for cost of electricity. Fusion powered space planes. Magnetic launch.

14. Women will be routinely impregnated by artificial insemination rather than by a man (krozier 93)

PT: Pretty close. At the very least, more couples are choosing advanced fertility techniques over old-fashioned conception. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, in which an artificially inseminated embryo is carefully selected among other inseminated embryos for desirability, is becoming increasingly common in fertility clinics. Using this technique, it's now possible to screen an embryo for about half of all congenital illnesses. Within the next decade, researchers will be able to screen for almost all ,congenital illnesses prior to embryo implantation.

IP: Likelihood 5/10.

Needs quantification of routinely. How OS it more routine than today ?

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)

PT: Pretty close. I cannot comment on the museums but the Earth is on the verge of a significant species extinction event. Protecting biodiversity in a time of increased resource consumption, overpopulation, and environmental degradation will require continued sacrifice on the part of local, often impoverished communities. Experts contend that incorporating local communities' economic interests into conservation plans will be essential to species protection in the next century.

IP: Likelihood 2/10.

NBF - Vague.

16. Deserts will become tropical forests (jim300)

IP: Likelihood 7/10. Desert greening is progressing so this is just about possible.

NBF - the deserts are being greened and thus will continue. Do not see the need and motivation to turn them into tropical forests.

17. Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract (holierthanthou)

IP: Likelihood 6/10. I think we will certainly see some weaker forms of marriage that are designed to last a decade or two rather than a whole lifetime, but traditional marriage will still be an option. Increasing longevity is the key - if you marry at 20 and live to well over 100, that is far too long a commitment. People will want marriages that aren't necessarily forever, but don't bankrupt them when they end.

NBF - This would be living together and would be less than a commited civil union. There is a lot of resistance in the USA to redefining marriage. There is also legal and tax implications. What would be the societal benefit from rent a marriage ?

18. Sovereign nation states will cease to exist and there will be one world government (krozier93)

PT: Great try! However, I think that the trend is in the direction of more sovereign nations rather than fewer. In the coming years, corporations or wealthy private citizens will attempt to use earth-moving technologies to build their own semi-sovereign entities in international waters.

IP: Likelihood 2/10.

NBF - no way.

19. War by the West will be fought totally by remote control (LowMaintenanceLifestyles)

IP: Likelihood 5/10.

NBF - I see military power getting more equal with China and India catching up on a per capita gdp basis. if there is molecular nanotechnology and nuclear fusion and very good AGI then war on a mass scale would be very crude and unlikely. I see more subtle takeovers where control is obtained without public conflict. A more evolved version of the shadow war with Iran.

20. Britain will have had a revolution (holierthanthou)

Revolutions can span a wide range. It would also be good to define if it is a successful revolution or a failed one.

I would say no disturbance larger than riots in France over the last few years.

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