Six Wild Predictions For The Future Of Humanity
Illustration by Mr Giordano Poloni
Why space is the place to be.
We have seen the future, and it involves sports on Mars, robots having babies, and elevators that you can ride into space. No, we do not possess a crystal ball, just a book, called The Future Of Humanity by the American theoretical physicist and futurist Mr Michio Kaku. In his latest book Mr Kaku, who has already written three New York Times bestsellers about futuristic theories, tackles the dilemmas facing humanity when it comes to advancing our species. Concisely laying out a bounty of thoroughly-researched predictions about where on Earth (or, more pertinently, off Earth) humanity is going and how we’re going to go about it, Mr Kaku’s latest work is chock full of futuristic theories worth pondering, six of which we’ve listed below.
WE’LL HOLD A MARTIAN OLYMPICS
Nasa announced in 2004 that it had two rovers on Mars that were searching for past life, and states on its website that it plans to send humans to the Red Planet by the 2030s. When astronauts finally do set foot on Mars and begin to colonise it, they will need to exercise to maintain their health. Because gravity on Mars is slightly more than a third of the gravity on earth, we would be able to jump three times as high. Aerodynamics on Mars is wildly different too, meaning that ball games would have to be modified. Mr Kaku writes that, in the far future, we could even host an Olympic games on the planet, incorporating new sports that are not physically possible on Earth.
ROBOTS WILL SELF-REPLICATE
At present – and despite Sophia the humanoid AI being given citizenship in Saudi Arabia last year – we have not been able to create robots that are self-aware. But self-awareness is not the only goal that robot engineers have when it comes to AI. If we could build robots that can replicate themselves, writes Mr Kaku, and deployed them to Mars, for instance, they could grow exponentially: “We could soon have a fleet large enough to do the work of altering the desert landscape. They would mine the soil, construct new factories, and make unlimited copies of themselves cheaply and efficiently… building laser batteries on the moon, assembling gigantic starships in orbit, and laying the foundations for colonies on distant exoplanets.”
WE WILL RIDE ELEVATORS INTO SPACE
Consider the vehicle with which humanity travels into space. A rocket? A space ship? What about an elevator? A concept originally explored by the Russian physicist Mr Konstantin Tsiolkovsky after he saw the Eiffel Tower in the 1890s and thought “why not go higher?”, the idea didn’t take off until recently, when the International Academy of Astronautics issued a 350-page report predicting that we may have space elevators as early as 2035, provided there’s enough funding. Mr Kaku writes that “Space elevators would revolutionise our access to outer space, which, instead of remaining the exclusive territory of astronauts and military pilots, could become a playground for children and families. They would offer an efficient new approach to space travel and industry, and make possible the extraterrestrial assembly of complex machinery.”
HUMANS WILL BECOME DIGITALLY IMMORTAL
While humans now live longer than they ever have, the idea that we will eventually be able to pause or even reverse the ageing process of our bodies seems impossibly far away. Another pathway that scientists around the world are developing is uploading the human consciousness to a gigantic database. While having your consciousness confined to a computer is the premise of multiple episodes of Black Mirror, the idea does mean that, technically, we would be able to transcend our withering human bodies and exchange them for identical robotic ones.
THE FIRST ALIENS WE MEET WILL BE ROBOTS
Speaking of robots, Mr Kaku says we can assume that if we do encounter evidence of advanced and intelligent extraterrestrial life in the future, it will almost certainly be robotic: “A civilization more advanced than ours will most likely develop artificial intelligence, so they would send robots into space.” This, Mr Kaku says, means the first signs of intelligent life we encounter will likely be mechanical rather than biological, and this may also explain why we don’t pick up their radio transmissions on earth. Sci-fi screenwriters take note.
HUMANITY WILL SPLIT INTO NUMEROUS BRANCHES
Because the Earth will eventually be swallowed by the sun, the continued survival of humanity depends on us leaving our own planet and starting life on another one. If we do manage to migrate across the galaxy, though, it will potentially take centuries to travel from one planet to another, which means that our race may become increasingly disconnected, which could make for some interesting developments in evolution. “[We] will eventually lose contact with other worlds, and new branches of humanity may emerge that can adapt to radically different environments,” writes Mr Kaku. “Colonists may also genetically and cybernetically modify themselves to adapt to strange environments. Eventually, colonists may not feel any connection to the home planet.”