I would love to live to mid-century. Sure, there are the obvious reasons: spend more time at work, with loved ones, at play. But also, I'm very curious about how today's core issues will play out:
The decline in good jobs. My optimistic side predicts that improved education and gene editing to improve intelligence will result in many innovative businesses that require many employees, just like electricity, the automobile, TV, computer, and Internet created millions of jobs. My pessimistic side predicts that ever more jobs will be automated, forcing most people to live on a lot less. The silver lining in that may be that more people will enjoy the pleasures that cost little: creative activity, relationships, voluntarism. On the other hand, work is so central to one's sense of value, not to mention survival, that the decline in good jobs could incite not just isolated firebombings, but wars.
Stubbornly ineffective education. I've often written that despite the U.S. spending #1 per capita on education, it flounders near the achievement bottom among the world's developed nations. By mid-century, we'll finally accept that we've been just nibbling at the problem: that making kids sit through longer school days with the same teachers, no matter how high their expectations, or raising those teachers' pay, let alone building nicer buildings, will not begin to prepare most kids for the highly-advanced technical world they'll need to be hirable in. By mid-century, I believe that most kids will take SuperCourses: touchable holographic representations of the world's most transformational teachers guiding highly immersive, gamified, individualized classes. A live person will be in the classroom to provide the human touch, tutoring, and classroom discipline.
The gender war. I predict women will continue their gains in the gender war. Having largely taken control over society's mind molders (the schools and media,) the belief will solidify that man is the inferior sex and thus the two sexes will be more polarized than ever. One result will be that the rate of heterosexual romantic cohabitation will decline while lesbian cohabitation will increase. I believe the trend to marginalize men to highly technical, very time-consuming, and/or dangerous occupations will continue.
Terrorism. That will fade as its shock value decreases. The West will finally learn the lesson of the millennia from King Cyrus through Churchill in the Dardanelles through our recent debacles in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, that its attempts to influence the Middle East will almost certainly fail. So except for providing medical research findings, humanitarian donations of food. water, medicine, etc., the West will largely stay out of Middle Eastern countries' affairs. That will be made easier as the West reduces its dependence of oil, Middle Eastern and otherwise.
Energy. While the evidence for the cost-benefit of attempting to cool the planet will remain unclear, we'll err on the side of caution—even at great cost and inconvenience to humankind (Think gridlock) and we'll move to far greater use of clean energy. But physics limitations will preclude solar and wind from being more than a minor contributor to the energy mix. Safe, compact nuclear energy will dominate—powering our homes, cars, and businesses.
Gene editing. Companies such as 23andMe in collaboration with universities and government will have identified gene clusters powerfully associated with major physical and mental diseases and will also give parents the option of enhancing average functioning to superior functioning: whether resistance to cancer, high intelligence, or abiding altruism.
Medicine. We'll know which preventatives make enough difference to be worth doing. Is vigorous versus moderate exercise worth it? How about veganism? Mindfulness meditation? The answers will be clear. And cures will be individualized. One-size-fits-all treatments will be replaced by customized ones based on the person's genome and biochemical assays.
Transportation. At long last, we'll get around in flying cars. That provides the freedom of the car without traffic jams—there will be thousands of percent more traffic lanes. Flying cars will be nuclear-solar hybrids. Of course, taxis, trucks, buses, trains, and planes will be driverless.
Recreation. Most homes will have a virtual-reality room: The walls are screens and a person can choose an environment (jungle, outer space, ancient Rome, whatever) and interact with holograms that feel like people and objects—they'll befriend, have sex with, fight with, negotiate deals with, etc. People will still have pets but they'll have to fight animal rights organizations that will argue that pet ownership is specieist and mass incarceration.
Communication. We'll access the internet, as physicist Michio Kaku predicts, with smart, voice-recognizing contact lenses and, I believe, ear-implanted nanospeakers. And that Internet will be vastly improved. For example, Internet searching will be much more individualized—results mediated not just by our location, which is done now, but by a detailed profile of us—if we opt-in. Similarly, advertisements,will be extraordinarily customized to know what we want, need, and even when.
The Singularity. The optimist in me believes that because humans are programming the computers, even if they're self-teaching, they will never, as Hollywood movies predict, take over, let alone destroy the world. That said, no less than Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates worry that's possible.
The Palestine and Arab vs Israeli conflict. That will remain unsolved. Why would anyone think that after 3,000 years of enmity, there would be a permanent solution in the next 25. As I've written, I believe the best chance is to offer Israelis the option of moving to a New Israel: an Israel-sized sliver of U.S. land that would be ceded to Israel. A version not requiring ceding sovereignty: subsidize Israelis to move to the U.S.
Do these predictions increase or decrease your desire to be around in mid-century?
As always, I welcome all constructive comments: agreement, amplification, and disagreement.