August 29 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other Year: General Rating: 6 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
By some fortuitous circumstance I was born on October 26, 1930, the day the government announced that world population had exceeded two billion people, so I figure that was me.
In the early 1930s, President Hoover announced that “Prosperity is just around the corner,” but he could not have been more wrong. One-eighth of the population owned seven-eighths of the nation’s wealth – a formula for disaster – and the “Great Depression” was on.
My five siblings and I were raised on a farm near Hermiston, Oregon. Our home had no electricity and few modern conveniences. We bathed in a small tub in the kitchen with little privacy, drank water from a hand pump in the back yard, and made bathroom trips to a two-seater outhouse.
In 1938 we finally connected to the electric grid and quickly replaced the outhouse with an indoor toilet, installed electric lights throughout the house, and built an indoor shower. Then in 1939, another miracle arrived – our first telephone was installed. The world was looking better.
Jet travel didn’t exist in the 1930s; a five-day ocean trip was the main way to go from America to Europe, and wireless meant the wood-paneled Zenith radio in the living room.
But America’s mastery of the physical and biological world would grow tremendously. Life expectancy soared from about 50 years in 1930 to nearly 80 today, and the Green Revolution transformed agriculture, which now provides food for a world population that exceeds 6.5 billion.
In late 1930s, President Roosevelt, emboldened by his “New Deal” legislation which ended the depression, authorized the “Manhattan Project”, an aggressive effort to build an atomic bomb and use it to hasten the end of World War II.
Developing atomic energy led to nuclear energy and prompted a demand for machines that could crunch numbers and arrange information; this eventually produced the PC and Internet. Thanks to advances like these, worker output in the U.S. increased an average of 2% per year, raising our standard of living to the highest in the world.
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that computers would double in cost/performance every two years. His correct prophecy became known as “Moore’s Law”, and experts now predict that all technologies advance exponentially.
So a fair question would be: If over the last 78 years, technology changed our lives so radically, what might we expect in the future? The following predictions offer some amazing possibilities:
• By 2020. Regenerative medicine, the ability to use organs built from stem cells and modified by genetic engineering, could enable replacement of most body parts damaged by disease and aging.
• By 2030. Molecular nanotech could provide replicators that supply food, clothing, and necessities at little or no cost, and nanobots that rejuvenate cells, allowing middle-aged and elderly people to regain their health, strength, and youthful beauty.
• By 2040. Robots with massive artificial intelligence could outthink humans, sparking human-machine merges. Some refer to this as becoming “transhuman”; others say it is simply the next step in our evolution.
Could this “magical future” become reality? Experts believe these miracles will be driven by human needs and could happen in time to benefit many of us alive today.