It’s easy to make predictions for 1, 2 or 5 years into the future. Let’s go 50 years into the future to the year 2069. How will life on our planet change by that time? How about our presence in our Solar System? Will we have the technology to consider travelling to another star systems?
Nancy Atkinson (Editor at Universe Today, writer for Seeker and author of “Incredible Stories From Space” and “Apollo 11: Eight Years to the Moon” (coming out in July 2019))
What will the world look like in 50 years? It’s anyone’s guess, as the state of future technology is so hard to predict. I’m guessing we’ll continue our attachment to our phones and computers, so much so that somehow, they’ll become integrated into our clothing as wearables or maybe even our bodies in some fashion. I truly hope the “Star Trek” vision of the future is a possibility, where we can eliminate poverty and live in relative harmony on our planet. As far as space travel, I always have maintained that getting humans to Mars is always ten years off into the future, no matter where we are in time. Hopefully in 50 years, we’re at least closer to the perpetual 10-year plan, but I’m actually not too hopeful. I’m predicting robotic missions will only improve to the point where we’ll have live video feeds from around the Solar System, which might preclude the need for humans to take the risks of traveling in space. The big question mark is our planet’s environment. Do we have the political will, the fortitude and sufficient technological advances to make changes now that will ensure that the air, water and land will continue to sustain humanity into the future? The choice is ours.
Graham Lau (Astrobiologist and Communicator of Science (also known as “The Cosmobiologist”))
I once heard an expert in computer science expound that, while many of us could guess about what might be happening in the world in 5 years, even the best scientists and engineers would often be wrong when asked to guess where we’d be several decades out. That said, here are just a few of my guesses at potential trajectories for our civilization by 2069:
– We’re now seeing effects from anthropogenically-driven climate change happening faster than many of us had previously expected. Intensification of storms and increased variability in the weather will likely continue to be driven by climate. The world will likely continue to heat, even if many nations start making drastic changes to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. I think by 2069 that these things will have caused a lot more coastal erosion, property damage, dislocation of human populations, the extinction of amphibians and other at-risk species, and increased desertification in equatorial regions. However, I also think there may also be some positive to come from this as well. We may see new forests springing up, rapid speciation driven by organisms migrating into regions that were previously covered in ice most of the year, and increased vegetation coverage in Arctic regions. Along with the environmental costs and potential benefits of climate change, I think by 2069 we’ll see a lot more people globally accepting our role in the Earth system and we’ll see some of the earliest planet-wide efforts for humans to become better stewards of our biosphere.
– Although it would be nice to say that by 2069 we will have human colonies throughout the solar system and maybe even people travelling off to other stars, I don’t personally think this will be the case. I think by 2069, we will have seen the first human explorers on Mars and the beginnings of a Mars colony. I think we’ll have at least one colony on the Moon and many more people living, working, and even recreating in orbit of the Earth. But I think we’ll still be in the earliest steps of exploring our solar system and still preparing for our greater future in space. I think we’ll have sent spacecraft to land on Titan, Europa, and Enceladus by 2069; we’ll have landers operating in the high temperature and pressure environment of Venus; and I think we’ll have sent out at least one, but maybe several, robotic spacecraft intended to explore interstellar space and travel to the nearest star systems to relay data back to us.
– I think by 2069, we’ll have made positive confirmation of signs of life within the atmospheric biosignatures of exoplanets. We currently know of almost 4,000 confirmed exoplanets. By 2069, that number will likely have grown to well over 100,000. Although it is possible that we’re the only show in town, I personally believe that life must be more common in the universe. I think our explorations of the atmospheres of exoplanets has the greatest potential for revealing signs of extraterrestrial life in the coming decades. I think these detections will rapidly change how we view ourselves in the universe and has great implications for advancements in science, technology, philosophy, theology, art, and other facets of human life and culture.
– Medical science has been making amazing advancements over the previous decades and I think the future holds more of the same. By 2069, I think we’ll see genetic medicine, where you walk into a physician’s office, they run your genotype and check your current gene expression and proteins and metabolites, and then recommend a medicine that is tailored directly to you. I think we’ll also see the earliest large steps in advanced human longevity. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see life expectancies jump to 120-150 years for people living in developed nations by 2069. However, I don’t believe that we’ll have yet seen the “singularity” or the advent of an actual “transhuman” by that time. -A final note, a recent issue of the journal Futures has just been released that considers the future trajectory of our species within the context of astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrial life. All of the papers within this special issue are currently available for free (until April, 2019). You can find more information about the issue and links to each chapter here: https://www.bmsis.org/detectability-of-future-earth/
Joe Lennox (Teacher of space science, history and technology and former President of The New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame)
I believe that in 50 years we will have a base on the Moon and another n Mars. I think we will have developed some type f nuclear rocket fuel that will allow us to reach the distant planets with probes / satellites as opposed to human curation. I think Hubble and it’s succeeding space telescopes will discover countless moons and planets and maybe even solar systems that we are not aware of today. I believe we will have a giant leap in medical technology and research due to space based stem cell research and space based 3 D printing. The benefits to humanity will be massive and life changing.