Since our civilization’s official arrival into a period we can finally call “the future” with the release of the iPhone, we’re going to have to start struggling with some important questions about technology. Questions like: will robots replace our labor class? What will we allow the robots to do? And who builds the robots – Mexicans?
With preparedness in mind, I’ve put together five predictions about technology that will probably come sooner rather than later.
1. Designer Babies (Like in “Gattaca”)
Scientists will one day crack the genetic code and be able to mold your children for you – do you want dark or light hair, what color eyes, how tall should they be, etc. If there’s a gay gene, you can also ensure your son or daughter will be 100% straight.
This is an extremely tough moral issue to deal with. Even an atheist has to wonder about the ramifications of abandoning the DNA that shaped us. Though we could potentially become a race of superhumans, it’s difficult to predict what home-grown qualities we might lose, such as the natural balancing of gender (I assume the Chinese will become a 100% male nationalitu and subsequently die out).
What will probably happen, though, is the government will regulate it well before it becomes popular enough to affect things on a mass scale. The religious right won’t allow scientists to play God, and in the future, there would be quite the controvery between pro-Gattacas and anti-Gattacas, kind of like the stem cell debate.
2. A Unified Field of TV, Phones, and the Internet
I remember when I first saw YouTube technology on a regular web page – I couldn’t believe someone had put a TV on their web page. The quality of YouTube video will get better – good enough to put on TVs.
Microsoft, always the visionary, will try to get in on this, until your computer and your TV cease to be separate things. You can turn on NBC on your computer, minimize it, and then play World of Warcraft. You’ve already played DVDs on a computer at some point, right?
This will allow you to transfer shows and games easily between TVs, as well as download videos and video games from Blockbuster.com instantly. Tell me this doesn’t make you the least bit excited about the future.
Your major communications will also be conducted on these TVs, including the use of webcams for Star Trek-like communications potential.
3. A Decline in the Labor Class
Did you watch the Democratic AFL-CIO debate recently? Tons of union workers showed up to complain about how the unions should wipe their butts and powder them afterwards whenever there are layoffs. I think some people even wanted to continue to get paid after a layoff. What?
Imagine this old-school, post-New Deal generation of idiot, lazy labor-class members losing their jobs to robots. You know it’s inevitable. You don’t have to pay robots after you build them.
The futurist Paul Saffo said that solar technology is the way to go for energy: only the labor costs are too high. Once robots become economical, we can have vast fields of solar panels in deserts maintained by robots. Other energy industries would have massive layoffs.
Like with the current outsourcing of U.S. jobs to Mexico and overseas, the labor class will complain, politicians will make empty promises about fixing it, but the problem won’t be stopped, simply because capitalism dictates that robots are better labor-class workers. This would hopefully lead to an education revolution in which everyone admits humans need to learn things that AREN’T useless in order to impact the robot-powered economy. Some union members will probably die once the teat of the Labor Union runs dry.
4. Nanobots Will Increase Quality of Life Exponentially
Speaking of dying, nanotechnology will be able to prevent it for long periods of time. If you’re unfamiliar, nanotechnology is basically microscopic-sized robots that can be sent in your bloodstream to fix problems: theoretically, they’ll be able to eat up cancer, scrub your arteries clean, and repair nerve damage. If you lose an organ, the geneticists will grow a rat with a human kidney on its back.
Once nanobots reached an advanced level, it’s conceivable they could help with nutrient ingestion (allowing you to eat McDonald’s and only extract the vitamins and healthy calories; no longer will you have to worry about what to eat & what not to stay healthy or to keep your cholesterol ratio under control 🙂 ) and muscle hypertrophy – building up your muscles without you ever having to exercise, replicating the process your body already naturally does when you work out.
These are really far off, I think – way past the Unified Internet Field. But it’s fun to imagine, and quite possible that people would eventually have to die in car accidents or get struck by lighting if they don’t want to live 1,000 years.
5. Impending Disaster will cause Space Technology to Spike
Necessity is the mother invention, and nothing says “necessity” like a 5-mile-wide asteroid headed toward Earth. Should a possible disaster befall us, the United States will finally get serious about NASA. We’ll be so strong in space by the time the Asteroid gets close that we’ll easily shove it aside.
Subsequently, after some years of preparation, we’ll find that space isn’t as hard to deal with as we thought – once you give it an honest effort. Whoever leads the charge on the asteroid will be the dominant space power on Earth for years to come, and will make First Contact with the Vulcans some time in the 21st Century.