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Technology - the future in 50, 100 and 150 years

Beyond the horizon / the editors – What scientific and technological milestones can we expect in 50, 100 or 150 years?


Back to the Future movie poster, starring Michael J. Fox
Back to the Future movie poster, starring Michael J. Fox

Every two months we get the chance at Scientific American Israel to look into the past, to things that people wrote 50, 100 and 150 years ago. We can do this because Scientific American has been putting its readers (in English) at the forefront of science and technology for more than 167 years. For example, in the October 1962 issue, Francis Crick, the discoverer of the structure of DNA, wrote about the meaning of this wonderful molecule, and the psychologist Leon Festinger explained his intention with the term "cognitive dissonance".

A strong past serves as a good basis for looking to the future. In this spirit, we asked our writers to imagine what the world might look like in 50, 100 and 150 years. Can cars fly? Will we still have computers, and if so, what will their role be? Will nuclear weapons go away from the world? Will our technology save us from a changing climate, or will it worsen the situation? What will be the fate of tigers and other wild animals in an increasingly crowded world? To what extent will we manage to control our genes and prevent diseases? And if we ever leave this planet, how will the journey change us?

You can find answers on the pages before you. Not the answers in this news - we do not offer predictions, but perform thought experiments based on scientific facts, in order to illuminate the world of today and stimulate thought about what is to come.


UAV in every house / Mary Cummings

The only way to market flying cars to the masses is to leave the flying work to the cars themselves


When in 1956 the American Civil Aviation Administration approved the operation of the Aerocar, it was seen, at least in the eyes of aerospace engineers, that the road to a flying car as a routine item in every private home was short and inevitable. But this did not happen. The Aerocar, which looked like a winged car and was able to take off from a short runway, was too expensive to justify mass production. Aerocar International built only six such vehicles, and the promise of the flying car remained unfulfilled - except for what we saw in the Siloni cartoons.

More than 50 years have passed, and the flying car is back. Two models completed one or more test flights. The Transition, manufactured by Terrafugia in Woburn, Massachusetts, is a light aircraft whose wings fold and is capable of carrying two people on their cargo. To fly it, you have to drive it to an airport (because it needs a normal runway). The PAL-V ONE (English acronym for "Personal Air and Ground Vehicle"), which is manufactured by PAL-V Europe in Ramsdonksveer in the Netherlands, needs a runway of only about 200 meters for takeoff. It resembles a hybrid of a tricycle and a helicopter. Its thrust comes from a rear propeller, while an upper free rotor generates lift. Both cars fly at a speed lower than 180 kilometers per hour for a reasonable distance (the Transition flies with a full tank of fuel up to a distance of 725 kilometers and the PAL-V about 500 kilometers).

Even so, these cars will not fulfill the promise of the flying car in every home. Even if the manufacturers were able to lower the expected price, about $300,000, to a more reasonable amount, the market is still limited by the amount of cars that will take off from the roads into the air and land back. The airports are already having difficulty coordinating the take-offs and landings of several thousand planes. If every car could fly, there would be chaos in the sky.

Today, flying car pilots can take advantage of the relatively new category of light sport aircraft. In the USA, all that is required to fly them is a valid driver's license, good health and a sport pilot certificate (which includes a requirement for only 20 hours of training). This category requires, for good reasons, the pilots to stay away from crowded flight areas, and limits flying to personal use only: the license does not allow any business activity.

This licensing system only works well because relatively few people fly their own private aircraft. If many drivers take off, the congestion will become dangerous. Flying cars will therefore continue to serve only small market segments before it is possible to truly integrate them into the airspace.

In order to achieve such a transportation breakthrough, which would place an airplane in every home parking space, we must overcome our need for control and let the airplane fly itself for us. Private and commercial aircraft will therefore have to be more similar to unmanned aircraft (UAVs).

Military drones are operated by people who are not certified pilots. In fact, one of the great advantages of drones is reducing the need for a huge investment in pilot training.

Today's drones are sophisticated enough to fly wherever they are sent, and research being done now will bring them closer to the ability to draw human conclusions to the extent that they will be able to deal with emergency situations on their own. A similar vision is behind Google's robotic car. And given the tendency of human drivers to be distracted, talk, text and eat while driving (and flying), a future car that drives and flies itself may be a safer form of transportation.

There are many technological challenges that need to be overcome before we can create mass-produced passenger drones at an affordable price. We will have to establish reliable and safe communication networks, as well as reliable autonomous flight control systems that will guide the flying cars in their air routes.

We will also have to integrate all of this into the country's air traffic control network. Given the number of failed attempts to change the system, this is perhaps the most threatening obstacle facing a personal air transportation system. However, the basic technological building blocks already exist. The experience accumulated so far around the world in flying drones and drones and controlling them could serve as a basis for personal air transportation in fifty years. What we need to do now is figure out how to connect all the pieces of the technological assembly.

In 2010, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a program called Transformer that aims to build a vehicle for four people, which will be able to travel on roads and take off and land vertically. In fact, it is a UAV with passengers that a simple soldier with no background in flying will be able to operate much more easily than what today's UAV technology allows. The agency hopes to fly a prototype in the coming years. Such progress in the field of drones, together with today's most advanced commercial personal planes such as the Transition and PAL-V, may give in the next 50 years a plane to every home that we will not have to fly ourselves as the members of the Siloni family did.


Mary "Missy" Cummings is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and director of the Laboratory for Humans and Automation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).




The nuclear question / Ron Rosenbaum

If the world does not succeed in getting rid of the ultimate weapon by the middle of the century, we may face extinction


Even when we look back, from the perspective of the day the decision to dismantle nuclear weapons was made, August 8, 2063, it is still difficult to understand how the "small" nuclear war broke out in 2024. What is clear is that the moment the oil broke out, things changed. The survivors learned that nuclear war is no longer an imaginary threat, and nuclear annihilation is a scenario that may materialize next time. They understood that warnings could fail, that accidents could happen and that terrorists could steal nuclear warheads. An atomic bomb from an unknown source could explode and ignite a devastating war. A billion people could die.

Dismantling nuclear weapons was the only way to get rid of a threat that nothing else could prevent from happening, because if there was a "next time" it would lead to extinction on a global scale.

More than fifty years ago, a group of nuclear strategists (even Henry Kissinger) broke with tradition and surprised their colleagues by calling for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons, a situation that later became known as "Nuclear Zero." It took more than half a century for this, and now everything is ready for a decision that will be made in a few minutes and will determine if we will actually reach it.

The process of "final dismantling", as it was called in the last decade, was planned in detail, including the monitoring and enforcement protocols that would ensure that the process would be complete, complete and simultaneous, so that no party could delay, possess the remaining nuclear weapons and use them to control the nations that fell into the trap and disarmed earlier.

And yet, we have to deal with the "unknown unknowns". Is the program immune to mistakes? Can all parties be trusted? Is it possible that nuclear material suitable for making weapons has escaped even the eyes of the global satellite system for tracking and detection? Have one or more nations realized the worst-case scenario and dismantled their nuclear weapons in such a way that they could rebuild their nuclear arsenal at any moment?

All declared nuclear nations have reduced their arsenals to a minimum by 2063. The time has come for what the media has called "Final Disposal," where all these nations will dismantle, destroy, and dispose of all remaining nuclear weapons, simultaneously and under supervision.

In 2011, there was one pessimist who wrote: "The only way the world might wake up and realize it can't continue to live with nuclear weapons is an event that will change human nature, maybe even a small nuclear war (if we're lucky)."

We accepted the war, and we were "lucky": it was quite small. But has human nature changed enough?

The time is getting closer. All the screens in the world are focused on the last council conference, the heads of the (declared) nuclear states have taken their seats, and some of those present are recalling the milestones that led to this moment in the fifty years that have passed. A historian might begin with this:

February 5, 2018: Finally, all the provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (the New START Treaty), signed between the USA and the Russian Federation and ratified in 2011, have been implemented. As a result, the number of arrowheads was reduced to 1,550 on each side.

However, attempts to start a new round of reductions that would include other declared nuclear states have failed because of issues such as the importance of anti-ballistic missile systems, the opposition of hawkish politicians in the US Senate to START and their ongoing dream of building a satellite-based "Star Wars" system, and the desire of Politicians are hawking Russia's Defense Ministry to build a new generation of missiles with multiple warheads. And at the same time other countries continued to try and develop their own nuclear capability.

The two major nuclear nations could have drawn up another arms reduction treaty, or discussed lowering the warning levels, so that the underground missile launchers would no longer be in a state of readiness for immediate launch and landing a pre-emptive strike, or could discuss the elimination of other dangerous strategies that could act following warnings or unintended use of weapons . Instead, they chose to invest billions in developing ballistic missile defense systems. These unproven warning measures included satellites armed with nuclear weapons as well as "satellite killers", which were placed in Eastern Europe (on behalf of the USA) and the Arctic region (on behalf of Russia).

August 8, 2021: On the date chosen for symbolic reasons, one of the most feared scenarios materialized. The elite international and anarchist organization of computer hackers, "Anonymous 4.0", penetrated the command and control systems of a nuclear missile launch facility in Montana and another facility in the frozen steppes of the Vladivostok peninsula.

One missile is launched from each site. No one knew if they were equipped with activation codes until the moment the missiles landed in the "sea of ​​garbage", an area of ​​the North Pacific Ocean the size of the state of Texas, and crashed without exploding. What was even more troubling was the failure of the interceptor missiles launched by the satellites that missed the nuclear missiles by miles. As a result, no country could rely on its C3 (command, control and communications) technologies anymore.

A cybernetic Sword of Damocles hovered above the world.

August 2024: The sword fell. Everyone thought it would start with China vs. Taiwan, Iran vs. Israel or North Korea vs. South, but after a few last-minute events at the very beginning of the century, it happened: India vs. Pakistan. A nuclear bomb of unknown origin (except for a dubious e-mail whose sender could not be traced) exploded in Mumbai. The Indian government chose to blame a Pakistani terrorist organization, which led both sides to pre-empt and deliver a pre-emptive strike.

We finally knew what it was really like, and it was even worse than we imagined. People were shocked to the core by the sight of the melted bodies and the cries of the babies burned by radiation. It turned out that early estimates predicting as early as 2010 a "small" nuclear war between India and Pakistan (which includes 50-100 atomic bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima) were terrifyingly accurate: about 20 million people were killed immediately from the explosions, the raging firestorms and radiation poisoning.

The prediction of a global "nuclear winter" following a local war also turned out to be tragically accurate. The impact and the fire raised ash into the upper atmosphere that covered the earth in shrouds, cooled and destroyed huge amounts of food crops. Almost a billion people starved to death.

Millions more died soon after the war, when three continents sank in the eruption of the much-feared Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). The pulse caused by the explosions in the upper atmosphere destroyed the power grids. Large parts of the earth degenerated into disorder followed by plagues, mob rule and in large areas even a return to a way of life like in the Middle Ages.

2031: Against all odds, civilization came back and rebuilt itself. An entire world suffering from nuclear post-traumatic stress disorder demanded that no government could exist unless it promoted with all its might a treaty for the total disarmament of nuclear weapons.

But will it succeed? Has human nature changed?

March 2035: The world reached its first official agreement on a nuclear disarmament treaty, which was based on the four-step plan drawn up by the Global Zero movement back in 2010. The devil hid, of course, in the small details, but he also lived in radiation and diseases. This time the nations of the world chose to risk and trust each other. Trust that the agreement will be fulfilled, that it must be fulfilled, and that it is possible to prevent cheating and make sure that the trust is not violated.

Progress has been made in the technologies of supervision, monitoring and enforcement. Highly sophisticated brain scans were conducted on all workers at the nuclear facilities, to detect conspiracies. The effectiveness of satellites in detecting and intercepting missiles has been proven. "Star Wars" became a reality, but it was still necessary to ensure that it was infallible.

June 2049: Every (known) nuclear nation on Earth has reduced its nuclear arsenal to a dozen warheads or less, declaring the amount of radioactive fuel it has on hand to make bombs. The data was handed over to the World Committee for the Elimination of Nuclear Power, which had in its hands advanced and draconian test technologies and controlled strong enforcement forces armed with conventional weapons.

The plan was to halve the number of remaining weapons by 2055, and halve the remainder again by 2060. Then the agreements failed due to audit and enforcement issues.

December 2056: The last missing part of the attachment was placed in its place. For a long time, the inability to locate nuclear submarines in the depths of the ocean has been a fundamental technical obstacle. Now, a new generation of laser-equipped satellites have succeeded in realizing the dream of "making the ocean transparent". No submarine was able to disguise itself - at least that's what we hoped.

Will a global monitoring and enforcement system achieve the goal? Can we deploy it before any nation has time to hide its dangerous resources? Will the destruction of nuclear weapons increase the chance of a conventional war, and the chance that the losing side in such a war will turn in the nuclear direction?

August 8, 2063: We are finally about to find out the answers. The time has come. It was the highest stakes poker game ever. All the leaders of the nuclear nations sitting around the control panel have to do is press a button to activate the final final elimination mechanism. All buttons must be pressed before the process of destroying the remaining arrowheads begins. All the leaders are smiling.

Sooner or later - probably sooner - we will know if one of those smiles hid malicious intent. It will take a long time, years or even forever, to know if the system is immune to failure. If human nature can ever change.


Ron Rosenbaum is the author of seven books, the latest of which is: "How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III" (Simon & Schuster Publishing, 2011).


A cure for every disease / Ricky Lewis

After the initial obstacles, gene therapy changed the face of medicine and got to the root of many diseases


The year is 2063. You enter the clinic. The nurse takes a sample of saliva, blood or fetal cells and places it in a hand-held device on a chip the size of a letter on this page. After a few minutes, the device displays the test results. The colored light patterns on the display indicate the presence or absence of DNA sequences, each of which causes one of the more than 1,200 diseases caused by a single gene or affects it. Fortunately, the authorities have approved a cure for each of these diseases: gene therapy.

Gene therapy utilizes the natural biological mechanism of viruses to carry normal versions of genes into the cell nucleus, with the aim of replacing a mutation that causes the disease. The idea was put into practice shortly after the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, but the road to its realization into a real treatment was full of bumps. The first attempts were rarely, if ever, successful. In 1999, an 18-year-old man who underwent gene therapy for a metabolic problem died after the virus that carried the genes triggered a fatal immune system response in the liver. Two toddlers who suffered from hereditary immunodeficiency received treatment with retroviruses that year. The genetic sequences carried by the viruses found their way not only into their target cells but also into cancer-causing genes, and they developed leukemia.

Following these failures, those involved in gene therapy were immersed in debates that dealt with the question: which viruses can be used as safe vectors (carriers of invasive genes).

After the difficult beginning, the genetic healing began to gain achievements. In 2012, the European Commission approved the first gene therapy treatment against lipoprotein lipase deficiency, a syndrome that disrupts the ability to digest fats.

Then, in 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved treatments for a type of hereditary blindness (Leber's retinal degeneration - LCA), immunodeficiency (adenosine deaminase enzyme deficiency - ADA) and a genetic defect affecting the brain (adrenoleukodystrophy - ALD) . Although these diseases are rare, their treatment is relatively easy.

These approvals reinforced the position of the AAV virus as the vector of choice. Most of us already carry it in some part of our bodies, meaning the immune system ignores it. Retroviruses, on the other hand, have been genetically modified to destroy themselves, but they can still cause cancer, as happened to toddlers treated for immunodeficiency. Lentivirus retroviruses, which include HIV, have not been successful, despite FDA approval, because patients have refused to be injected with HIV, even though the AIDS-related genes have been removed from the viruses.

The economic value of the technology was proven in 2016, with the start of gene therapy for hemophilia B. A one-time gene therapy at a price of $30,000 replaced lifelong injections of clotting factors - a treatment that can add up to an expense of $20 million over many years.

The ability to control the response of the immune system against the vector marked the overcoming of the most difficult technical barrier of all: the chemical package that was inserted into the patient's cells not only brought genes to be replaced, but also improved the immune response to cancer and infections, and weakened the characteristics of the response that may cause the viral vectors to be rejected.

The dam was breached. Because the retina is cut off from the immune system, the first protective treatments focused on about 100 types of blindness. A dozen children, who suffered from an extremely rare disease of neurodegeneration, neuropathy of the giant axons (GAN), became pioneers in 2019 by receiving gene therapy through the spinal cord. Next on the list were people with spinal cord injury, motor neurone disease (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Intravenous infusion of gene-carrying AAV viruses crossed the blood-brain barrier and prevented Parkinson's and other brain diseases. It was no longer necessary to drill holes in the skull, as was done at the beginning of the century.

Over time, researchers realized that the best treatment for certain diseases did not involve replacing genes. In the case of cystic fibrosis, for example, drugs that were able to dissolve proteins with a defective structure proved to be more effective, because genetically modified cells found in the lungs and airways do not survive for long. In Duchenne muscular dystrophy, activating dormant genes was easier than inserting normal genes into all the muscle cells in a child's body.

Each success opened the door to additional treatments. By the middle of the 21st century, the new treatments were no longer focused only on rare diseases of a single gene, but also on more common diseases that combine genetic and environmental risk factors, such as mental illnesses, diabetes and most heart diseases.

The ability to use genetic testing to predict the subject's future health, combined with genetic therapies, has reached an unprecedented level of accuracy by 2060. The talk had far-reaching consequences. Diseases were completely curbed, and the costs of medical care plummeted with the emergence of a healthier and longer-lived population.


Ricky Lewis (Lewis) is a doctor of genetics whose last book "The Eternal Fix: Genetic Healing and the Child Who Saved It" was published in 2012 by Saint Martins. She also wrote several textbooks on genetics.


The Tsunami Wave of Extinction / Thomas Lovejoy

Lions, tigers and other prominent species will disappear from the world by the end of the century, or will be kept only in zoos


In 1980, I submitted to the US President at the time, Jimmy Carter, the first prediction that dealt with the extinction of biological species. The conclusion of that report was that if we continue to lose tropical forest areas due to cutting down trees and development at the same rate we will lead to the extinction of about 15%-20% of all animal species by the year 2000. The calculation was not far from reality. Today, according to the Red List of Endangered Species, managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, it can be estimated that 13% of bird species, 25% of mammal species and 41% of amphibian species face possible extinction.

Many species are close to becoming what scientists call "living dead": populations are so reduced that their extinction is inevitable. In a hundred years, it is likely that most of the large carnivores, including lions, tigers and cheetahs, will exist only in zoos, or in small nature reserves almost like a zoo. A similar fate awaits all species of rhinoceros and elephants, as well as our relatives in the natural world: the two species of gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees.

The first report in 1980 was punchy with numbers, but overly simplistic about the forces driving the extinction. These forces have since become stronger and more complex:

The impact of invasive species is increasing. All over Oceania, the brown tree snake devastated the bird population of the islands, including the Guam rail. Aggressive animals are causing a wave of decline and potential extinction of native mammal species in northern Australia. In the US, three new species have arrived in recent years in Northern Virginia where I live: the Asian tiger mosquito, an ant species that attacks electrical cable insulation, and the marbled brown bug. The West Nile virus should also be added to this list. One of the signs of the degree of change in the USA is the publication of a book dealing with pythons in the USA.

Natural habitats are disappearing. Less than 30% of the African savanna remains as it was. The African lion population has plummeted by 90%. Other threats, such as illegal hunting for meat, also affect mammal and bird populations. Poaching for rhino horns and elephant ivory has become so rampant that Interpol has declared it a serious crime. By the next century, the Borneo rhinoceros will be very close to extinction, and may survive only in pictures and bone collections in museums.

Wildlife diseases are spreading around the world. Migration has caused an increase in wildlife morbidity. The filamentous fungus Chytridiomycota, undoubtedly the most serious pathogen today, has caused a wave of amphibian extinctions worldwide. Its impact is particularly severe in the tropical regions of the New World, where an entire group of animals disappears for the first time: all amphibians. Does the extinction of the frogs foreshadow what is to come for other animals? If disappearances on such a large scale continue, we can only wonder if we will also lose the large birds of prey, such as the Philippine eagle and the bald eagle. It seems that the large and impressive eagles of Africa and Asia are already on the way to extinction.

Humans are disrupting the global nitrogen cycle. Agricultural and industrial activity has increased in the last three decades the amount of nitrogen involved in biological activity in nature. This increase in the amount of nitrogen threatens the oxygen in the waterways necessary for the respiration of plants and fish. The carbon cycle has also changed, and it causes climate changes and an increase in the acidity of the oceans.

Climate change is already affecting biodiversity. The annual cycle of many species is changing: some plants bloom earlier and other species have begun to move to new areas in search of a more suitable climate. "Joshua trees" (short-leaved yuccas) are disappearing in Joshua Tree National Park in California and growing outside of it. The retreat of Arctic Ocean ice is forcing the Black Oriole to fly farther to hunt Arctic cod, and one of the species' nesting colonies has already been wiped out. Migratory species, such as the wildebeest in Africa and the monarch butterfly in America, may also become extinct. Salmon species may disappear due to a lack of streams cold enough to spawn.

We are seeing the beginning of a tsunami of extinction in slow motion. Great revolutions are about to take place. All ecosystems, including human culture, have been adapted in the last ten thousand years to a relatively stable climate, and this situation no longer lasts. There is a limit to the adaptive capacity of species on Earth. Species living in high places cannot continue to ascend and climb beyond a certain limit. The inhabitants of the islands are in danger because the water level is rising, but also because they no longer have the possibility to survive in the changing conditions in their habitat.

When the temperatures rise by more than a degree and a half from what they were before the industrial era, and this scenario now seems inevitable, the coral reefs we know will cease to exist: the partnership between the coral and algae, which is the basis of the reef ecosystem, will break down. The conifer forests of the American Northwest may be on the verge of a major change: less harsh winters and longer summers are favorable to native bark beetles that increase tree mortality and subsequent forest fires.

The synergistic interplay between fire, deforestation, and climate change is leading to a tipping point that will endanger the rainforests of the southern and eastern regions of the Amazon, and this will happen faster than climate change alone would. In fact, the dismal results are already felt today, following an increase of 0.8 or 0.9 degrees on average. The increasing acidity of the oceans threatens many forms of life, including molluscs. At some point the integration of the ecosystems will break down, and each species will try to adapt on its own to the changing climate. The survivors will create new ecosystems whose nature is difficult to predict, and which the human race will have difficulty coping with.

We need to come to our senses. A first and essential step is to renew efforts to meet the goals of the Convention for the Conservation of Biological Diversity, which include the official protection of 17% of the world's freshwater ecosystems, and 10% of the oceans by 2020. Another important step will be to reduce the human impact on climate change, something that can Help species and ecosystems. Restoration of ecosystems on a global scale could reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 50 parts per million (the difference between the current level and the amount that would allow coral reefs to survive).

All of this requires political willpower, recognition that the earth needs to be managed as it is, that is, as a biological and physical system, and awareness is also required that the multiplicity of life, and we are among it, is essential for the future of humanity.


Thomas Lovejoy coined the term "biodiversity" and played an important role in the development of the field of conservation biology. Lovejoy is one of the most prominent people who warn about the danger facing the tropical forests.


The fate of an engineered planet / David W. Keith and Andy Parker

Much uncertainty surrounds the ambitious technologies, such as solar engineering, that try to deal with the reality of global warming. To demonstrate how complex the problem is and what challenges we face, we present here three scenarios, contradictory to each other, and somewhat imaginary.

the end of nature


During the great and prolonged economic growth brought about by the robotics revolution in the 20s of the 21st century, the population was more concentrated than ever in wealthy megacities, and genetically modified food grown in containers was the norm. Most people have lost any meaningful connection to nature: who needs the real thing when there is a multi-sensory copy of the world created on a computer and when the experience of being in it is perfected with special drugs? Insisting on wild animals and activities outside the home became an issue for the purists - the type of people who still preferred "physical sex". Compared to the synthetic and perfumed orchids in the city parks, the ecological movement of the mid-20th century seemed like nostalgic longings for a primitive world. Carbon emissions have increased greatly.

In a historic decision in 2047, which is now considered the third great disconnection of humanity from nature, America and the European Republic threw their full weight in favor of the G77 plan for the realization of solar engineering: lowering temperatures by diverting part of the sun's radiation through particles that will be scattered in the atmosphere.

The project drew strong opposition from a coalition of radical environmentalists and energy companies invested in oil exploration in the (now ice-free) Arctic. But nevertheless, the plan was implemented, and since the feared environmental disaster did not occur, it was accepted by everyone.

After the giant balloons sowed the sulfuric salt particles in the stratosphere, which created a reflective fog over the surface of the planet, the urban population began to enjoy economic benefits, such as the improvement of the agricultural harvest which led to a decrease in food prices. Agricultural produce and biological produce benefited, but biodiversity was severely damaged. The oceans, where the acidity caused by carbon dioxide destroyed most coral reefs, suffered the most. The loss of such unique ecosystems was a marginal price for progress. The ones who lost the most were the poor and the native populations who lived on their land. Since they had no political power to defend themselves they were further marginalized.

Towards the end of the 21st century, the World Climate Committee began to change the climate to reduce the temperature difference between the poles and the equator in order to promote new types of economic activity in areas affected by the hot climate. Ultimately, this treaty became marginal, and environmental issues were pushed out of the headlines as intelligent robots escalated their violent rebellion against governments. Discussions about the optimal climate have been limited to a few communities of gloomy experts.

For the sake of the symbolism involved, the Rio+100 environmental ceremony was held in 2092 at the military base in the southern Amazon from which some of the first balloons that dispersed sulfur particles were launched to control the radiation coming from the sun. The large facility, which has not been used for many years, remains as dead as the broken statue of Ozymandias from Shelly's poem: Gilad is alone in a landscape where, as the poem says, "naked sands spread far in their desolation."

The green earth

The events of 2018 sped up the actions to prevent climate change that had been carried out lazily until then. The monsoon rains that did not hit South Asia, the two superstorms that broke the flood dams in the southeastern United States and the drought in China caused the most severe damage. But the most influential image was a shot of the ship Rainbow Warrior III sailing just above the ice-free North Pole - the first vessel ever to do so.

After years of fruitless political business, it was suddenly easy to draft a binding climate treaty. World leaders convened in 2020 and agreed on a framework in which carbon emissions would peak in 2035 and decline rapidly thereafter. The groundbreaking agreement was attacked by the political right as a takeover by force.

Although the short-term costs were high, it soon became clear that the large-scale actions to reduce emissions amounted to less than 3% of the global gross product. Political attention has therefore shifted to more complicated policy issues, such as health care spending which in 2028 will reach 24% of the gross product of the USA.

A new international climate adaptation fund emerged from the IMF. It made targeted investment in infrastructure, combined with microfinance, to promote local, small-scale solutions to the agricultural problems created by rising temperatures. These actions greatly reduced the impact of global warming on humanity.

But there is a limit to the ability to adapt to a changing climate. The long time that carbon compounds remain in the atmosphere, and the persistence of the climate system, meant that even after the historic agreement, the planet was moving towards a rise of three degrees above the pre-industrial average. The creeping rise of sea level and extreme weather events continued to occur in tandem with rising temperatures.

In 2040, the Alliance of Small Island States and the African Union finally managed to convince the international community to carry out geo-engineering operations. With the help of direct support from the economic powers, and the tacit agreement of the others, the dispersion of aerosols in the stratosphere was able to stop, and later also reverse, the warming trend.

After complex negotiations, a target temperature was set for the cessation of geo-engineering operations, but when the last aerosol spraying plane landed in Lagos, Nigeria in 2099, the world's attention had long ago shifted to other matters, including the dispute between Russia and Canada over responsibility for the artificial fir trees that destroyed agriculture in the high latitudes. The trees were an initial product of synthetic biology, planted by Canadian companies to stabilize the deteriorating ecosystems in northern Russia.

Apocalypse Now

The first geoengineering experiments conducted in 2020 accomplished exactly what the skeptics and responsible researchers feared. Engineers who were more interested in scientific freedom than they were interested in the public good conducted the experiments funded by oil giants away from the public eye, in a base established on an island somewhere in the South Atlantic Ocean.

The ecological organizations were alarmed, and their protests hindered the continuation of the research. And yet, taboo or not, geoengineering remains the only known method of stopping the rapid warming of the Earth, and research has moved underground, in government and military facilities.

However, climate change was not the crisis in the headlines. The world was shocked by the emergence of cheap techniques for editing children's genetic information before fertilization. Editing the cells of the embryo promised to improve the intelligence, the health and the appearance of the offspring, and raised the ghost of eugenics (improvement of the race) from the old to the new era. Until 2050, this crisis was at the center of the governments' attention.

Humanity therefore began to split into two separate species: the natural and the upgraded. The members of the upgraded group had additional genetic material, which was integrated into separate chromosomes and gave them much higher intelligence and better health. Asian countries have adopted the new genetic technologies on a large scale, but Western democracies have tried to limit the use of embryonic cell editing out of respect for the religious and moral objections of minorities.

But the climate question has not completely disappeared. By the middle of the century, everyone realized that the climate was very sensitive to the warming effects of carbon dioxide, just as the darkest scientists had warned. In 2045, India and Indonesia teamed up to carry out geoengineering operations, although the research on the subject until then was secret and progressed slowly and cautiously. Within ten years, the drought in the US eclipsed the drought that occurred in the 30s.

In response to pressure from religious organizations, the US outlawed genetic editing, and the country's economy began a slow and long decline that increased the insecurity and isolation of Americans. The great drought pushed the US beyond the breaking point. Although the drought was never proven to be a byproduct of the geoengineering operations, it led to violent hostility toward the booming Asian economies and their upgraded populations. Social tensions thus reached unprecedented proportions.

While the waves of war alternately increased and receded, the geo-engineering operations that were conducted without coordination were accelerated. The warring parties tried to change the local climate in their favor. Weather patterns became even more unpredictable, and climate battles were commonplace. One of the wars culminated in the spread of a genetically engineered virus, which attacked the upgraded and wiped out almost a third of the world's population. In this context, once again the concerns regarding the increase in carbon dioxide levels were forgotten.


David W. Keith is a professor at Harvard University and Andy Parker is a researcher at that university. Both deal with the public policy of large engineering projects that aim to change the Earth's climate in order to address the problem of global warming.


A brave and foolish attempt to predict the future of computing / Ed Regis

What do the current technology prophets say about the day after tomorrow


It's pretty hard to predict what next year's (or next week's) iPad will look like. Therefore, knowing how the world of computers as a whole will look in 150 years, an eternity in terms of technological development, is an almost impossible task. On the other hand, technology prophets, computer pioneers and researchers in the field are not known for their accuracy when it comes to predicting the future. So we thought it wouldn't hurt to ask them, for starters, whether at all Will Computers in the distant future?

"There will definitely be computers," says the nanotechnology oracle Eric Drexler from the University of Oxford. "They are more basic than the wheel".

but Stewart Brand, who deals with technological forecasting as a profession, refuses even to speculate as to their nature. "Perhaps because I am a professional futurist, I know that specific predictions will always seem ridiculous in retrospect, so I avoid them. I don't even like to test other people's predictions. I feel like I'm rummaging through their medicine cabinet, like violating their privacy, and learning too much about their weaknesses and delusions."

George Dyson, author of books on computers and global intelligence, says: “I can tell you a lot about computing 50, 100, and 150 years ago, but I can't say anything about computing 50, 100, or 150 years from now. It is simply impossible to predict. The only thing I can guarantee is that every prediction will be wrong!” Then he gives in and nevertheless provides one prediction: "In 150 years, most of the important calculation processes will be done analogically (for the same reason that most of the important numbers are real numbers but not whole numbers), and the idea of ​​all-digital computing will be just a strange relic."

Ivan Sutherland, the inventor of the Sketchpad, the basis for today's common graphic user interfaces, says: "I have no idea what the world will be like in 150 years. If you want to know what the future will look like, ask the young people who will create it."

"I'm afraid they don't know either!" says his friend Winton surfed, one of the "Fathers of the Internet" who currently works at Google. "Actually, there may be some clues in studies that try to estimate the minimum energy needed, from a quantum perspective, to perform some kind of calculation. It is also possible that the asynchronous parallelism of the kind we find in brain activity will make its way into some kind of hardware - although I am tempted to believe that certain calculations will turn out to be simpler to perform using conventional hardware structures." (An asynchronous computer is a computer whose operations are not controlled by a central clock, which schedules them all.)

Danny Hillis, the inventor of the Connection Machine, a supercomputer that operates using the massively parallel computing method, says: "We will have computers, but they may not consist of electronics. They will be connected to our brains in a more intimate way than today's cumbersome links, through screens and keyboards. Some of them may even be implanted within us, and it will be difficult to say where we end and where the computers begin."

Nathan Mierwald, former chief technology officer at Microsoft, agrees: "Yes, there will be computers in 150 years, but they may be difficult to recognize. If you asked Edison or Tesla this question about electric motors, they too would probably say that they exist in their future, and they were right: there are hundreds of tiny electric motors hidden in everything around us. Every once in a while you see a big engine that is easy to recognize, but most of them have integrated and assimilated into the fabric of our lives. The same will be true of the computers of the future. In a few cases we'll see something we can recognize as a computer, but most will be hidden inside all the other stuff.

"By then, computers will be much more powerful. I'd be surprised if they weren't much smarter than humans. It scares some people who think we have to be smart about everything else. But they used to say the same thing about physical strength, and humans are very weak compared to machines. We managed to deal with it. Already today, computers are smarter than us in limited tasks. They will continue to expand until the computers are smarter in everything."

Michael Friedman, a researcher at Q-Station, a Microsoft research institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara that focuses on topological quantum computing research, says: “Implanted devices will not be popular; As nowadays, beauty and style, and not calculation power, will dictate the choice of physical changes. However, the devices will be small and communicate with the brain directly. For example, special sunglasses or hats will connect directly to the language centers in the brain and give us the ability to converse in a foreign language."

According to Friedman, "Computing will be carried out in the entire environment, and complex tasks (such as translation using sunglasses) will be carried out on computers with low electricity consumption, which will operate in Josephson logic and will be scattered everywhere under conditions of supercooling. The golden age of mathematics, which we live in today, will continue to prosper as the cooperation between man and machine progresses towards a perfect connection. Science fiction writers will worry about making man redundant, but in 150 years people will have more to do, and better ways to do it, than they've ever had before. The world record in the marathon will be one hour, 58 minutes and 59 seconds, and people will climb to the edge of the 'El Capitan' cliff in Yosemite Park without ropes."

Well, maybe. The problem with all these predictions is that they conflict with the principle of calculability which cannot be reduced - an epistemological barrier that inhibits all knowledge about the future. according to Stefan Wolfram, in his book "Science of a New Kind", a system is defined as "computationally irreducible" if "in practice, there can be no way to predict how the system will behave, except through calculation steps whose number is close to that of the development of the system itself." In other words, "there is no general shortcut: there is no way to find out the result without doing the same work as the system itself."

The technological paths for the computers of the future look like such a system. It will be the product of countless human decisions, technological innovations, market forces and consumer choices, among other things, and there seems to be no way to know in advance how these forces and choices will work together to create the future of technology. That is, to know what the computer of the future will look like, we have no choice but to wait 150 years and see with our own eyes.


Ed Regis authored eight books. The latest of them, co-written with George M. Church, is "Recreation: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves" (Basic Books, 2012).

8 תגובות

  1. The more you try to predict the future, the more distorted the forecast becomes. And everyday details disappear from her. Few people even envisioned the network, Pays Pelephone and the like.

  2. Predicting the future of computing in 100 years, without asking Ray Kurzweil about it, is like an article about luxury beds without interviewing Netanyahu.
    In my opinion, the most amazing opinions and ideas in the field are provided by Ray Kurzweil, even if he may be wrong.

  3. Most prophecies do not hold water, but are enough to fill pages in a newspaper.

    For example. Who can predict that in the future there will be every car like and others? After all, in the future there may be almost no physical need to leave the house since most of the work will be able to be done at home through means of electronic communication. Contacts with acquaintances will also mostly be through means of communication, this is a consideration of convenience. You can already see today what is happening with Facebook, which has created electronic social communication as an alternative to physical communication. Only a few of the contacts with acquaintances will be face-to-face, due to a biological need to create physical proximity.

  4. Alon, as you know, the idea is not new and there are already in Japan (and other countries) hovering trains that work on exactly this principle, it seems to me that this system consumes a lot of electrical energy in order to create enough lifting power for the cars, and by the way there is no need for jet engines - the electromagnetic field itself creates the The forward thrust force.

    Another similar idea could be a train that, once it moves at a high enough speed, will create an "air cushion" on which it will float (there are aircraft that work on this principle and fly at a height of half a meter above the sea, search on Google).

  5. flying cars ? almost…. What is my idea: to produce a car with the force of a magnet with a positive the roads with a mixture of a magnet with a positive pole...the car will simply "float". Then..when there is no friction and the car is floating, a small boost from its burning jet engine propels the car forward (and auxiliary motors for turning and stopping). Significant savings in fuel, air pollution (tyres), wear and tear on the vehicle...and it looks cool. What do the learned site members say?

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