Saturday 24 September 2016

The Five to Five Thousand Challenge - Michael Brookes

Welcome to the Five to Five Thousand Challenge - a new feature here on The Cult of Me blog. It's inspired by the notion that science fiction can be good (or not so good) at predicting the future. With that in mind the challenge is to describe aspects of the future in 5 years, 50 years, 500 years, and in 5,000 years time. Over the coming weeks and months, science fiction writers and other futurists will take part, but to kick things off I will be the first.

Let us see what I think awaits us in the future...

By Mrazvan22 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

In Five Years

Of all the time periods in the challenge I found this one the hardest. Perhaps because it's the easiest one to be proved wrong! Just watching the news, it's easy to extrapolate that some events are going to get worse before they get better. Climate change will continue as a major issue not being equally, or properly addressed on an international level. This, combined with continuing fighting in Syria and Iraq (and other hot spots) demonstrate that the United Nations isn't sufficient to lead the world in tackling critical issues. This vacuum will continue to be filled by the most powerful nations (no great surprise there), but I can see that China will become a bigger player in mediation.

With entertainment technology there has been a recent resurgence in virtual reality. I'm a big fan of VR, and working on Elite: Dangerous has really highlighted the potential for immersion. If you've not tried it yet then give it a try for yourself if you can. Exciting as VR is, I think it's going to be augmented reality that really makes an impact.

Augmented reality has been around for a while, most notably on mobile phones and provides another layer of information when viewing the world. A simple example is looking at a restaurant and seeing people's reviews for their food and service. Its limiting factor so far has been the presentation technology, Mobile phones are relatively common , but quite clumsy for this purpose. Wearable items such as Google Glass need further development to bring the cost down and make them more practical.

Holographic technology, and heads up displays in cars will also provide another route for augmented reality to enter our lives. While I doubt that the technical challenges will be solved in the next five years, there will be enough movement to start seeing its potential.

In Fifty Years

In fifty years we'll see ever increasing impacts of climate change. Hopefully they will be enough that real action is taken to counter it, but unfortunately it will be too late. There'll be some grand engineering schemes to try and counter the changes, and one of those will be a renewed purpose for space industrialisation. Asteroid mining will have started by this point, still at an experimental stage, but developed enough to provide a basis for shifting heavy industry into space. This is not only to counter environmental effects, but also to support a growing population.

It won't come from a single project, but will still require an unprecedented level of cooperation between nations, businesses and public agencies. This will true for efforts to tackling the worsening world situation. It won't be an easy process, and in some cases may well trigger more conflict.

Fuel and water grow scarcer, so provide more points on contention, and in some cases armed conflict. The only long term solution will be better collaboration on an international level. I'm going to be optimistic here and suggest that we'll achieve this, although it will have its rough spots. Some benefits for traditionally poorer countries is their source of sunlight, with vast solar arrays providing power and an economic boost for them.

For technology I think the greatest boost will be from functioning quantum computers. Combined with vast data analysis this gives us the tools for the complex planning needed to combat the threats the world faces.

In Five Hundred Years

Half a millennia will no doubt see an array of technical wonders, but I see the biggest change being that of society. By this point humanity will be an interplanetary society, and with such extensive automation that the need to work has been removed from daily life. This requires huge changes to the economic structure of the population. Commerce is now responsible for ensuring that everyone is given sufficient money to live a comfortable life. Plentiful, and cheap power, alongside drastic price reductions in common goods helps make this feasible.

With lives no longer focused on daily subsistence the nature of human behaviour changes. A greater emphasis is placed on individual creativity and learning. The population is connected by a super-internet, capable of supporting AI and virtual life, as well as sharing complete mind states of its human users. Human society will exist as much in this virtual realm as it does in the physical world.

Although most of the human population remains on Earth, a large proportion will live in space, either in orbital stations, or in colonies on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This expansion develops a frontier spirit which many people have adopted and dedicate their lives to.

Thanks to AI and more human focus the time stands as a golden age for scientific and human development. It's not quite a utopia though. There is still a great deal of inequality, and the international bonds begin to break down as technology removes the need for cooperation. The development of new populations also increases divisions in society, reflecting the same trends in the virtual world. This sees the first conflicts in space, and wars waged in the virtual world.

In Five Thousand Years

Here we start seeing some esoteric changes to humanity. We can be found all over the Solar System, most of the population now lives in space, or colonies on various moons and planets. We've started reaching out for the stars, but up until this point humanity has remained much the same being as throughout history. By this stage humanity gains the ability to transform itself. Some of this occurs through natural means, from adaptions to new living environments such as different levels of gravity.

The greater changes come from personal choice, and social pressure. To operate in this sophisticated world requires an intelligence beyond the human norm. This forces many people to accept certain improvements to function, and also to adapt children with the same before they are born. The human form can also be drastically changed, and become a new form of expression. Medical advancements and the genetic editing of the body allow for much longer life spans.

This behaviour is most prevalent in the off world populations. On Earth there is friction between more traditional people, and the new diverse expressions. Earth becomes ever more isolated by these divisions, so much so that there is conflict between the two camps. The off world colonies mostly cut ties with their home world, and continue to expand further into space.

As the populations become ever more diverse, the common human culture weakens, and eventually fragments. It's not humanity that expands into the galaxy, but a new range of peoples whose physical evolution is in their hands.

You can read more of my thoughts about the future in Faust 2.0:

The Internet witnesses the emergence of a new entity.

Is it the rebirth of an ancient evil in a new realm? Or something more dangerous?

A sexy looking avatar is granting wishes for people across the Internet. But nothing is ever truly free and for those accepting the gifts a terrible price must be paid.

Sarah Mitchell must learn the truth of this creature and stop it while it can still be stopped. She must also find out why a mysterious lawyer is present at every step.

Faust 2.0 is the first book in the new Mitchell & Morton series.

Review Highlights

" Brookes has penned a very different kind of work that is reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s themes with astounding clarity of thought and a lucid, impeccable, swift and precise narration."

"An interesting, modern take on an ancient tale."

"Over-all, this book is a compelling thriller, which also serves as a warning about letting computers play too big a role in our lives."

"The book has excellent characters, a great plot and a steady pace that always leaves you hungry for more."

"There should be a genre for CRACKING GOOD READ. This book would surely fit in here.
Looking forward to the next!"

Faust 2.0 is available from these online stores:

Buy now from Amazon (US):
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