The 21st Century, What’s in Store?
If Nostradamus can string together nonsense words and sentences and be recognized as a prophet by all and sundry, why shouldn’t I take a stab at it? Hell, I can even try to make sensible predictions, so I should have an even better chance of becoming famous for all eternity. Right. For one thing, predicting the future is impossible except in extremely limited circumstances. And secondly, Nostradamus’s fame and fortune was a fluke by any definition of the word.
However, there a few predictions I will make about the coming century. Maybe I’ll prove prescient, who knows, but I’ve studied history enough to know that some predictions can be made. As long as one avoids details, general trends can sometimes be discerned. For example, there were people who said in 1918 that the Treaty of Versailles would be the cause of the next war. Turned out they were a lot closer to the mark than the people who came up with the treaty.
In any event, for what it’s worth, here are my seven predictions for the 21st century:
1. The metal ages will end in the 21st century. By the end of the 21st century everything from cars to bridges to buildings to kitchen utensils will be made out of synthetic materials lighter, stronger, and cheaper than metal and concrete. (OK, there are very few concrete kitchen utensils.) It’s a no-brainer prediction in a way, still, a lot of folks don’t realize just how anachronistic steel cars and concrete structures already are. In just a few decades, people will look back at us as if we lived and worked in log cabins. Cars made of steel especially will only be seen in Museums.
2. Humans will colonize space. I know, seems obvious. However, the space colonies and flying cars so confidently predicted in the 50s were wildly optimistic, fantasies really. Space is really really hard to live in, and incredibly expensive to boot. I think it will be centuries before humans are seriously colonizing other planets, but I think it’s reasonably safe to predict that there will be a few manned human outposts further than Earth’s orbit by the late 21st century. I hope.
3. There will be no flying cars. Well, let me rephrase that, flying cars will not replace regular cars in the near future and probably not the far future. It’s not that we can’t build a car that flies, it’s just that safely moving around millions of flying vehicles is an engineering problem of enormous scope. I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
4. By the end of the 21st century almost every manufactured item will be “smart.” I don’t mean smart in a human sense, but smart in the sense that human intervention not only isn’t required, it won’t even be considered. Lights will turn off when you leave the room. You won’t be able to drive your car into a tree if you tried. If you leave your kid in a closed car, an alarm will go off and the windows will open. Power tools will shut off if they come anywhere near flesh. Yeah, you’ll still be able to hit your thumb with a hammer, some things never change, but if you injure yourself bad enough … your cell phone will call 911 for you.
5. The aliens will not be landing. For a number of reasons, I’m pretty sure if aliens were hanging about nearby, they’d have introduced themselves by now. Maybe people will still be looking, but I think that by the end of the 21st century most people will have realized that aliens are in the same class as fairies and Santa Claus. And are as about likely to be real as same. Who knows though, maybe UFO watchers will evolve into the next great religious movement, that could be fun. I mean, thinking that aliens are going to show up and safe us from ourselves is so close to certain fundamentalist Christian beliefs that it’s not funny. (Well, I suppose Jesus landing in a UFO would be funny in a way.)
6. Balkanization will continue. I know a lot of people think that world government is right around the corner. I think the trend is in the opposite direction. Things like the UN, Nato, and the EU are zombie remnants of the colonial era, and sometime in the 21st century they will collapse into dust. New technologies, computers especially, but smokeless gunpowder and IEDs will play their role, are making it easier for small groups to insist on independence. Granted I could write multiple posts or a book on my thinking along these lines, but I’ll suffice it to say here that the collapse of the Soviet Empire was a precursor of things to come. The west’s attempt to control the world through military power is doomed to failure.
OK, I could only come up with six. Seven if one counts the idea that people will continue to be people. There will still be criminal gangs, organized government, wars, murders, social injustice, and all those wonderful things that separate us from the beasts of the forest. There will probably be fewer beasts and forests too, but predicting that is like shooting fish in a barrel.
(The above image of the world’s largest digging machine is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. The machine is built by Krupps, no idea who holds the copyright on the image. I selected it because it looks so cool and futuristic. Will there be other giant machines in the future? Probably, but I think the trend will be for both larger and smaller machines, talk about hedging my bets, eh?)