Thursday, 25 July 2013

Good Possibilities

This is my last installment of my three part series: Chris Predicts the Future click the link to read it from the start.

There is a looming demographic crisis throughout the Western world with the proportion of working people that pay taxes compared to those of retirement age declining. There just won’t be enough working age people to care for the elderly population. The economic burden will be too much for western economies. I do not believe the solution is large-scale euthanasia. The solution will be robots - lots of robots. Large-scale automation will allow western countries to compete in manufacturing while eliminating the need for large amounts of low paid workers.

These robots could also be used to care for the elderly in a way that they want. Automated cars will drive them around to shopping centres and appointments. Retirement homes may not be necessary for many elderly people. In some cultures the elderly are cared for in the home by relatives. This could be done here with advanced robots taking the place of relatives. This would give the elderly and disabled far greater quality of life and independence. Robots also do not need to be paid after a large initial investment - is this that will save us from economic ruin.

Wide adoption of renewable energy. Solar panels are getting cheaper and cheaper. Soon it will be silly not to have them on your roof. I do not believe it will be long until almost every roof has solar panels attached. The adoption of solar panels may make other forms of renewable energy more palatable with windmills appearing throughout suburbia.

Electric cars. Sooner than you may think electric cars will be commonplace. It will be a while before they can match the range of efficient petrol cars and charging will be a problem on long journeys. But for 99% of journeys this will not be a problem. Electricity is still a hell of a lot cheaper than petrol. With solar panels getting cheaper and more efficient, you could plug your car in and charge it using the solar panels on your work place’s roof. Driving a car could be free. Electric cars also have far fewer moving parts meaning they do not need to be serviced nearly as often. It is for these reasons that electric cars will become increasingly popular.

The industrialisation of space. There are many new space companies out there such as SpaceX. The CEO and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, has a goal of making the human race interplanetary. As anybody who has ever heard of an asteroid or a super volcano if the human race is to survive into the distant future we need an insurance policy. The combination of robotic and robotics advanced robotics and additive manufacturing will allow the industrialisation of space. Simply land a spacecraft on an asteroid. Advanced material processors and 3-D printers could to the material of the asteroid to make virtually anything. They can build machines that could harvest the valuable materials on the asteroid and also build a large spacecraft that could transport them to low Earth orbit. These materials could be further processed and used to make space habitats. Earth millionaires would be willing to pay a lot of money for real estate in space with the most incredible view you can possibly imagine.

If we work out how to mass manufacture carbon nanotubes out of asteroid material we could manufacture a space elevator. Carbon nanotubes have the highest tensile strength out of any known substance. It is the only things that could span from the earth’s surface to 36,000 km to geostationary orbit. Such a large object cannot be built from the ground up - instead it will be manufactured in space and gently lowered through Earth’s atmosphere and secured to the surface.Such an elevator would give access to space to anyone can afford a small aircraft journey today. If the human race manages to exploit the vast resources solar system - there is nothing that can stop us.

Back to the present.

Whatever happens, if I am able to successfully predict the future or not, the not too distant future is going to be very interesting. We are all lucky to be alive in this time.

This is my last installment of my three part series: Chris Predicts the Future

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