Not small and not far away


A cow, quite far away

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (January, on this blog), I posted some insights into a possible future, 100 years from now. It was based on predictions made by the American civil engineer, John Elfreth Watkins in 1900, with others submitted to a BBC poll which asked what the world might be like 100 years from now and judged by an expert panel to be likely.

As a science fiction writer, I read a lot of science fact, theories and research. As such, like most sci-fi writers, I have ideas about what could happen in the future worlds I write about. Anyone with the time and resources to do their own research would conclude that sci-fi writers are pretty good at predicting the future.

It was about ten years ago (before I was a writer) that I predicted that some gadgets would most likely be consolidated to some extent: Mobile phones, computers, music listening devices, TV, the internet… And of course, we not only have smart TVs but all kinds of other smart devices as well. As a sci-fi horror writer, I see the many potential dangers of the latter: devices which are connected to the internet but not secure in the same way that our computers and smart phones are; Smart devices which are prone to hacking attacks, which the owner may be oblivious to. Because these attacks won’t be against an individual device, but rather, using it and millions of others as slaves for many dark cyber scenarios.

As I write stories for my second collection (I may have mentioned that the first is available from all good book stores), I’m looking more at the very near future, especially as the world is changing so rapidly at present. We may well be witnessing the beginning of World War 3, a conflict which would always be fought differently to our conventional understanding of such things. It doesn’t take a sci-fi writer to see that: Anyone even vaguely aware of the stories behind the headlines, and with an interest in geopolitics, can see that the current uneasy state of the world could collapse towards an extinction event alarmingly quickly. But before that happens (or while it’s going on), there are positive things within our grasp.

I and many others have said before that if as much had been spent on science and exploration, as has on religion and war, the human race could be an exciting one to be a member of. Unless something changes, we could all be fucked. There is already a growing groundswell of previously silent voices. The current state of the world has at least made us think: We let this happen. We can change it, if we think differently. (Incidentally, it’s a fact that every article on Wikipedia eventually links back to philosophy, if one clicks on the first hyperlink in any Wiki entry. It’s a degrees of separation thing, a little like Kevin Bacon. The article with the most clicks required to eventually get to that philosophy segment, is 42 clicks away. I don’t need to explain the significance of 42).

These little (very) near future predictions came about during a conversation with some friends and some good weed:

Living where I do, some of my friends have to undertake a two- or three-legged journey to visit and return home. Wouldn’t it be cool if all they had to do was use an app on their smart phone to have an electric, driver-less cab pick them up on-demand? I predict that this will be the norm in 5-10 years from now.

To qualify this, I’d refer to recent advances in both electric and driver-less vehicles. Through my research, I know that Uber are investing millions in research into exactly this. Of course, humans will become redundant, which is exactly what Uber and other technology companies want. Gradually, humans are being made redundant by technology, just as the industrial age replaced many humans with machines. Eventually, we will need to look at quite radical new ways of running economies, as there are gradually becoming fewer jobs which only a human possesses the ability to be more efficient in than an AI. When we reach a point where a government benefit like JSA becomes redundant, because there are no jobs for job seekers to seek, we will have to look at models like a Universal, or Basic Income scheme, and all the advantages it could represent, if properly managed: With everyone paid a living wage, they will be free of the main challenge in life: Food and shelter. Thereafter, they can better concentrate on improvement, with a view to employment in the remaining professions, or simply to be creative; to be thinkers. The argument for legalising cannabis for recreational use then slots into this beautifully.

In the same time frame, we will be able to order pretty much any goods, on-demand. Most online orders are already delivered on the same or next day, and drone deliveries are being tested. If we look at the air transport industry and familiarise ourselves with current airship technology, we can see that it’s not too much stretching of the imagination to see that we’ll have floating warehouses in strategic locations (something Amazon has already patented). From these, drones would collect goods and deliver them to us within minutes.

Around 20 years from now, we’ll quite probably have built a space elevator, providing a cheap, sustainable means of staging space exploration projects. In space itself, the ongoing development of the RF resonant cavity thruster (EMDrive) will vastly reduce transit times in outer space. Mars would be a mere 60-70 days away, and our nearest stellar neighbour, just a generation.

So, in a few years, based on progress in existing technologies, we will live in a largely driver-less society, and “Car bots” will ferry us around. Transport, leisure and shopping will evolve, saving us time, making us more efficient and allowing us to have more quality time as humans with our fellow human folk. We will have evolved, become more intelligent, and better off. Mark my words, for I am a sci-fi writer and I have seen this future world.

I’m not a conservative, in politics, nor in a wish to conserve things, as some thought Brexit would return the “United Kingdom” to some glorious bygone age. So the thing to consider is, all this technology is available but at a hidden cost. It’s going to rely on smart people and the erosion of ignorance.


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