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21st century technologies will create major changes for human life

By Dick Pelletier

      "Two billion years ago, our ancestors were microbes; a half-billion years ago, fish; a hundred million years ago, mice; ten million years ago, arboreal apes; and a million years ago, proto-humans puzzling out the taming of fire. Our evolutionary lineage is marked by mastery of change" – Carl Sagan.

      Life may appear to change slowly, but today, biotech, nanotech, information technologies, and cognitive science are progressing at breathtaking speeds. Futurist Ray Kurzweil calls this "The Law of Accelerating Returns," which explains why the future is moving so fast. Within three decades, experts predict that technologies, because they are advancing exponentially, could eliminate sickness, aging; even premature deaths.

      The following timeline offers a glimpse at what to expect as we move through the 21st century:

      2010-2019. Doctors become proficient with stem cell and genetic engineering therapies and can now rejuvenate aging bodies by repairing damaged tissues, bones, muscles and organs. Affordable patient genomes are available by 2012 as medical care moves from reactive to proactive. Cancer and diabetes become manageable by 2015, and most heart diseases, the number one cause of death today, are preventable by 2019.

      2020-2029. Driverless cars have become the main travel mode in the 2020s. By mid-decade, nanobots travel through our bodies maintaining health 24/7. All illnesses are now curable; however Mother Nature is creating new diseases to replace the old ones, so forward-thinking scientists are talking of one day, replacing our entire biology with non-biological materials in order to gain immunity from this evolutionary backlash. But ethicists wonder if living in non-biological bodies would make us "non-human." Proponents argue that because our minds won’t change, we will always consider ourselves "human" beings.

      2030-2049. Futurists saw it coming: "Machines would one day outthink humans." By 2035, powerful supercomputers surpassed human intelligence. This milestone event encouraged the enhancement of minds and bodies with non-biological nanomaterials that allow us to interface with our silicon cousins and share their intelligence. In this manner, humans will always remain smarter than their artificial intelligence creations. And living in bodies that can shape-shift into different designs on command – and are protected from death – has provided everyone with an exhilarating sense of comfort, security, and well-being.

      2050-2074. Space settlements became self-sufficient on the moon in late 2020s and Mars in 2040s. This fostered a rush to space, fueled by lucrative asteroid mining which produced the world’s first trillionaire. By 2070, work began on an artificial habitat, a huge rotating cylinder located near the L-5 lagrangian point above Earth, where residents can gaze down and see home planet activities from on high or just enjoy the wonders of space life.

      2075-2099. Scientists can now harness all of the solar energy striking our planet, which increases 2008 energy supplies by 100-billion. Warp-drive propulsion systems are prompting a huge migration to space. These developments have helped create an affluent, peaceful society where it is no longer viable to waste energy on intra-global conflicts. Now, society is ready "to boldly go where no one has gone before."

      Could all of these events happen so quickly? Every scenario mentioned in this article is within the capabilities of human accomplishment. Welcome to our "magical future."

This article appeared in various print publications and on-line blogs. Comments always welcome.

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