2040s: space elevator, 'smart' homes, thought-talking, the
By Dick Pelletier
The fourth of our 5-part series on what to expect as we move
towards mid-century and beyond, focuses on four areas that
promise radical changes for humanity: the space elevator,
'smart' homes, thought-talking, and the Singularity.
"Welcome to the Liftport Space Elevator. Our first stop
is the Bigelow Resort. We then continue on to the
22,000-mile-high geo-orbit where most of you will board a Virgin
hyperspace flight to Moon or Mars. We arrive at geo-orbit in 7
days, so relax in your luxury suite and enjoy the views."
Although this scenario may sound like a sci-fi movie,
developers predict this project will be up-and-running by 2045.
The elevator climbs a 62,000-mile nano-ribbon; lifting payloads
into space at 120 mph. Inexpensive access to space has
encouraged entrepreneurs Richard Branson, Robert Bigelow and
others to become pioneers in an estimated multi-trillion dollar
private space industry.
Most homes boast a nano-replicator that provides food,
clothing, and many household essentials at little or no cost. An
artificial intelligence system maintains security with 'nanodust'
which enters the minds of would-be attackers stifling their will
to inflict harm. This futuristic intelligence system also
creates virtual reality adventures for family members, and
projects movies, TV, Internet data, and cell-phone exchanges on
walls throughout the house.
Thought-talking has become more popular than voice-speak in
the 2040s. Neuron-decoder implants convert thoughts from another
person's mind into clear speech. The system works like this: we
simply focus our mind on the person we wish to speak with – from
anywhere in the world – and with their approval; we're
connected. As we silently thought-talk, we can also allow gazing
through each other's eyes. A brief training session enables most
people to thought-talk with ease.
In The Singularity is Near, author Ray Kurzweil
predicts that by 2045, machine intelligence will become a
billion times more powerful than human intelligence. Advanced
robots will build copies of themselves, increasing knowledge
with each generation. This will create an information explosion
beyond the ability for most humans to comprehend.
The event, called the Singularity defines a time when
machines create technologies faster than our minds can absorb
the progress. These machines possess reason and logic similar to
us, but they share knowledge much faster than we can. At first,
these super-smart 'bots were feared, but J. Storrs Hall, in his
book, Beyond AI, claims these fears are unjustified.
With brain enhancements, he says, we can connect our minds to
the machines and share their intelligence.
Kurzweil agrees. By swapping neurons for faster nano-made
materials; we can connect our brains directly with our silicon
cousins. By blending human knowledge and skills with the greater
speed, capacity, and information-sharing features of machines,
we become more intimate with our creations. Could total
human-machine merges be next? Stay tuned.
The 2040s promise to change how we relate to each other; even
our view of life will be challenged as researchers provide
humanity with mind-boggling technologies. Can this "magical
future" be realized in just 30-to-40 years? Positive futurists
believe that it can.
Next week: mid-21st Century and beyond – non-biological
self-repairing bodies become the norm; intelligent aliens
discovered; nanotech tames the weather; Type-1 Civilization
This article appeared in various print publications and on-line blogs. Comments