THE FUTURE OF ENERGY
Over the past hundred years, we have relied heavily on fossil fuels, and we are starting to pay the price environmentally. Burning of fossil fuels produces 2.3 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. Prior to the late 18th century, windmills and water mills provided energy for mechanical devices, and wood for domestic heat. During the industrial revolution, coal was used for steam engines, and gas lights using natural gas or kerosine were used for light.
Fossil fuels are formed from natural processes, such as decomposition of dead organisms millions of years old. They contain high percentages of carbon and include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Kerosene and propane(methane) are derivatives of fossil fuels. In 2007, the Energy Information Administration determined that the world’s consumption of energy consisted of 36% petroleum, 27% coal, and 23% natural gas. Renewable energy sources were a mere 0.9 %.
Although in the past there were claims of fossil fuels running out, domestic oil consumption has increased 65% in the past six years. By 2040, China will contribute 40% of global consumption. Even if we exceed regulations for emission controls, other countries would most likely not go along with us. As long as they are available, it is unlikely to assume we will switch completely to more renewable energy sources. By 2040, it is predicted that only 21% of energy will be renewable, not nearly enough to stop global climate transition, and will result in rising temperatures, powerful storms, forest fires, and droughts.
Renewable sources are those which naturally replenish such as sunlight, wind, rain, water, and geothermal heat. Stations can be established anywhere on Earth, are a more secure form of energy, better for the environment, and more economically beneficial, especially to poorer countries. Wind power is growing 30% annually, and is widely used in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Power generation from windmills provide 21% of the world’s electricity. Solar thermal power stations operate in the United States, and in Spain. Biofuels such as Ethenol, provide 18% of automotive fuel in the United States.
Cars also are able to run on solar power, electricity, and one day, Hydrogen based systems. Hydrogen based energy is a process in which a fuel cell combines Hydrogen and Oxygen to produce electricity, heat, and water. They are renewable as they provide electricity and store it, making it available for later use. the only byproduct is water vapor, which in itself can be renewed. One day, one Hydro cell can provide energy to one’s entire home and two vehicles as well. Hydroelectricity has been used for years in the form of hydroelectric plants in over 150 countries, using the power of flowing water. Geothermal energy from deep within the Earth has been used through hot springs for bathing since neolithic times, and later for electricity.
One final form of energy is nuclear fusion. Although it is not considered a renewable form of energy, it is much cleaner than its counterpart-fission. Fusion reactions are high energy reactions, in which 2 lighter atomic nuclei fuse to form one heavier one. The fusion reaction fuels a steam turbine that drives electrical generators. Fusion reactors may someday be a form of energy, much right now it is decades from being a practical form, even in its intended purpose, space travel.
Our future is grim, unless we change our selfish habits towards energy. By the end of the 21st century, if corrective action is not taken, we may not have a planet to live on anymore. Global warming will make our world inhabitable, with greenhouse gases turning our planet into a sweltering, poisonous place to live. If we can change our course, and go green, we may be able to replenish it as it was 100 years ago.
Tomorrow, we will continue our series on the future of mankind with the future of population growth. Until then, here are today’s links.
IS THE WORLD GETTING TOO CROWDED?
The world’s population will be close to 9.6 billion in 2050. Will we be ready to accommodate such growth? By 2050, global population will increase 38%, and the United States alone will increase to an alarming 401 million. 1.5 billion people will be 65 years or older, mostly in areas such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany. Most other countries will see a growth of younger people, including the US. Africa’s population is expected to increase the most, at a 25% increase. India will be the most populated at 1.6 billion, almost equal to the United States and China combined. Each day, there are over 400,000 births a day, and 200,000 deaths a day, so you can see what the problem is.
Factors such as birth control, disease, famine, natural disasters, and war work together to regulate the population, but it still manages to climb above the norm. Fertility rates in underdeveloped countries tend to be higher, and add exponentially to growth. Population growth and the above factors add to create food shortages worldwide. In less than 40 years, shortages will cause serious implications for people and governments.
By 2050, a 70 % food increase will be needed to fill the world’s population. The price of beef now is at an all time high, a recent virus has killed 6 million swines , red tide and a mortality virus have affected seafood supplies, and rises in citris fruits and vegetables due to droughts in California and the midwest have caused major depletions in our world’s food supply. Not to mention, ways to curtail the food shortage have been undermined by cutbacks in spending on research.
All is not grim, however. Ideas such as urban farming have replenished some countries supplies, and hopefully one day, we will even be able to carry farming to outer space. Only until we realize our priorities as a race, will we able to move forward with population growth and be able to feed the world. Parents need to limit how many children they have, countries to need to teach their people how to grow their own food, and governments need to care more about supporting their own people and the world than fighting each other. It will be a long path to success, and it is only one of the many problems that we have to face as a race.
Tomorrow, we will explore one of the many issues in this equation-the future of health. We will investigate advances in medicine, and setbacks as well, and how one day we’ll be able to live longer, be healthier, and live a more active life. Until then, here are today’s links:
THE FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE
Just 50 years ago, if you were told you had breast or prostate cancer, you would have looked at a death sentence. Just 25 years ago, most surgeries would have been done with a scapel, stitched or stapled together, and you would have to undergo a long healing process. Now, they are done with laparoscopic surgery, making just two or three small incisions. Diseases such as Polio, small pox and measles have nearly wiped out massive populations in the past; today they have been almost erradicated. Things have definitely changed since I was a kid. And they’re about to really change within the next 25 years!
Super viruses such as Ebola, Swine Flu, and Avian Flu have replaced some of these old viruses, but scientists are rapidly combating these super flues as soon as they develop. Unless we find a cure all solution, viruses will always be with us, but at least in the future treatment will be quicker and simpler. Technology will be the driving force in preventing illness and disease. 3D printers that use living cells to output a transplantable kidney are currently in research, as well as virtual dissection tables, which allow students to touch a screen on a stretcher sized device that displays and dissects body parts and systems. There will be advances in surgery, such as ultrasound, that uses a MRI to find trouble spots, such as brain lesions and cancerous growths. Color coded surgery uses a molecular marker to make tumors light up in neon green, showing surgeons where to cut. Dr. McCoy would be proud of the development since his last visit in “The Voyage Home”, when humans were using “stone age” technology.
Genetic and DNA research has helped us to determine diseases that are susceptible to heredity. Synthetic organisms are already being developed in labs, such as artificial skin that could sense touch, humidity, and temperature. Robots will also play a significant part in healthcare’s future, as doctors will have more access to data through computer systems and portable robotic devices that are able to perform human tasks, such as surgery, and injections. Bionics is already making significant breakthroughs, with artificial limbs that function as real limbs, capable of sensory functions, grip, and touch. We will soon be living as two races: humans and cyborg humans.
This, in a way, is a good thing. People who never walked are able to walk, those who could never see could be able to see. There are current technologies using sonar and bionics that would allow one to see again, but they are extremely expensive. Longevity drugs will one day allow us to live much longer, and be much healthier. But again, research is extremely expensive.
Which brings us to real question of healthcare-can we afford it? Some say yes, some say no, some say we can’t afford not to. Which brings us to tomorrow’s topic-The Future of World Economics. Until then, here are the links:
THE FUTURE OF GLOBAL ECONOMY IS NOW
In just 150 years, we have gone from a country that was self built and relied heavily on exports, to a country that is dependent and relies heavily on imports. The United States has gone from the highest creditor to the highest debtor, with a current account deficit that exceeds 8.5 trillion dollars. Let’s face it, the industrial revolution died when we started outsourcing our jobs in the late seventies and early eighties. Now foreigners have invested trillions of dollars in US stocks, bonds, factories, and real estate. We’ve sold ourselves out, and private investors are on the rise, grabbing a bigger piece of the pie, and shrinking the middle class out of existence.
We now how our future in going, because it’s in our everyday life. Lack of jobs, lack of opportunity, lagging behind in technology, and lack of exports is causing our country, that was one of the most powerful in the world, to become a third world nation. Unless, we can find a way to turn that around, the whole world could be in jeopardy. We provide over 50% of our funds for defense of over 100 nations around the world, and food for half the world. One area that we have an advantage, however, is the fact that new deposits of oil and natural gas have been found to fuel our economy into the 21st century. The global energy crisis of 2000 could have been avoided if legislation for new drilling had been approved earlier.
Learning from our failures, other countries are rejecting the US financial capitalist model. Emerging market countries, such as China, India, and Brazil currently provide half the world’s economy. Nanotechnology, industrialization, and robotic systems are emerging there, and soon they will catch up with our economy and even surpass it. Globalization is a double edged sword, promoting trade and spreading modern technology throughout the world, but creating stagnation in other countries and lack of development. One prediction suggests this could slow the world economy for a very long time.
So will the world go broke? Probably not, but unless we are more competitive, we certainly will. Half of our country now is on social programs, another quarter work for the government, and the other quarter are either self employed, or work for a private employer. The middle class is slowly shrinking, and the housing market has staggered for years. And countries such as China and India can barely feed themselves, let alone the rest of the world. Russia’s economy crashed, and we know what the result was; disorganization, chaos, and war. Some people, such as preppers, are preparing for another revolution. They have good reason to be concerned; respect for politicians and authority is at an old time low, as we have seen in the rise of racial strife with white police and Afro Americans.
Will there ever be a size fits all monetary system, such as a global credit system? The bible warns us that this is the sign of the Anti-Christ, and the beginning of the Apocalypse. Whether that is true or not is purely speculation, but one thing is sure. If there was such as a thing, and it went broke, who would the world borrow from? Tomorrow, we will explore the future of peace and warfare. Is there any way we can save ourselves from destroying each other? Until then, here are today’s links:
WAR AND PEACE
Will this world ever be as visioned in the bible, a world where the lion lays down with the lamb, or mongooses lay down with serpents, or where man can live together in peace? As a species, we have been “civilized” for roughly 10,000 years, since neolithic times. In those 10,000 years, we have probably waged war against one another at least 9,800 of them. The only reason we’ve had peaceful intervals is because what every society was built was destroyed even quicker. Einstein hit the nail right on the head when he said WW IV would be fought with sticks and stones. The progression of events in the last fifty years has raised the capability of us destroying ourselves.
Since the developments of the nuclear arms race in the 50-80’s, to cybernetic technologies that will soon be used, warfare has come a long way, and not for the better. Chemical weapons have already been used in Syria and Iraq, and cyber-attacks happen everyday throughout the world’s computer systems. Even germ warfare is hypothesized, although there is no proof it has ever been used.
Current technologies used and underdevelopment by the US, China, and Korea include: small drones can be used to create a pack of robotic units that can work as a swarm to attack a target, camouflage suits that can bend light, making them invisible, electronic rail guns that use an electromagnetic field to launch a projectile at long range and at velocities up to 5,600 mph, faster than conventional chemical based rockets, and an X-51A hypersonic cruise vehicle, capable of launching a cruise missle anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes.
Then, there are robotic systems such as exoskeletons, allowing soldiers to be stronger and faster on the battlefield. Russia and Korea have begun using armed robots, capable of firing weapons without hesitation at their enemy. The United Nations has called for a moratorium on the testing, production, assembly, transfer, deployment, and use of sentient robot soldiers. We now know that the terminators and sentients from science fiction are not as far fetched as they once seemed.
The Stategic Foresight Group is an international think tank that has worked with 50 countries on four continents to try to work towards building a framework of peace. It is commonly believed that factors, such as racial and religious inequality, poverty, and lack of freedom are triggers for conflict. We are entering a time of competitive extremism in world religions is on the rise. By 2040, much of the world will face the risk of conflict that destabilizes societies. We have already seen this is Syria, Egypt, and Afghanistan, and in Israel.
What will it take for us to realize that war is not the way? Maybe it will take the second coming of Christ for it to happen, if you believe in Christ. The problem with prophecies are, the people making them want them to happen, and will do anything to make them come true, even create conflict. Just look at the middle east and ask yourself, is it really about oil or control of oil, or are they fighting a 2000 yr old war?
We need real solutions to real problems, and work together to solve them. Otherwise, our race will die on this lonely blue ball in the middle of nowhere, and we will never expand into the universe. We must work together individually, and learn to accept each others’ differences in race, religion, and beliefs. Next week, I will present the second part of our series on the future of mankind. Until then, have a great weekend, and click on the links below for more info:
RELIGION IN THE 21ST CENTURY & BEYOND
Religion has been around since the dawn of mankind in one form or another. In ancient times, humans worshiped the sun, moon and stars. Once civilization became more advanced, belief in gods came into existence, and worship became more organized as well. In ancient Greece and Rome, mechanisms were used to perform apparent miracles, which people believed were true acts of their gods. We know now that these were merely magic tricks performed with gears, levers, and valves. As science progressed during the 1800’s, God and creationism progressed as well. Religion was at first used to explain science, and then the tables turned, and science became center stage.
During the twentieth century, there was an early religious movement. This arose from the declaration of Israel as a nation. As tensions arose in the Middle East, religious tensions even grew stronger. However, after technology took center stage, there became a greater division of the two. As 2000 approached, religion once again took center stage in the form of an alleged upcoming apocalypse. This, of course, didn’t come to pass, and since then a growing number of people are turning away from religion, believing that life ends at death, and there is no god, and no afterlife. Those who don’t believe either believe in humanism, or still have superstitious tendencies, such as believing in ghosts and spirits, astrology, karma, telepathy, UFOlogy, or reincarnation.
Countries with citizens that have more economical, political, and existential stability tend to have more people who are atheists. Although 20% of Americans have no affiliation with a church, but 68% still believe in God, and 37% describe themselves as spiritual. Of Christian faiths around the world, 50% are Catholic, 37% are Protestant, and 37% are Orthodox Christians. Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses make up 1%. Muslims make up 25% of the world’s population, and Christians make up 33%. The others are Buddhists, Hindu, Wiccans, Pagans, and various other religions.
For most religions to survive in 100 years, they will have to become more realistic in their beliefs. Scientists and transhumanists predict of a period when the human mind will be able to be uploaded into a computer, incapable of death, creating immortality, mimicking the rapture. Robots are already capable of answering ethical questions with the best possible solutions; giving they were designed for ethical purposes.
As science gears more towards artificial intelligence, we’ll ask ourselves whether God is real or necessary. This is a sad state of affairs for those who long for spiritual guidance, and there no longer is any. In the next 100 years, thinking robots will be commonplace, and religion may no longer have a place in society. We will ourselves be gods in a sense, capable of rebuilding our entire bodies.
Then there is the question of mere existence. If we know for certain that we were all created from a big bang of sorts, instead of God, what profound affect would that have on mankind? Tomorrow, we will explore the future of technology, and what affect it will have on our everyday lives. Until then, here are today’s links:
ARE WE BECOMING TOO WIRED TO TECHNOLOGY?
You see someone walking down the street, apparently talking to themselves, until you see the Bluetooth in his ear. Twenty years ago, these devices and several others, such as the flip phone, laptops, Ipads, GPXs and even wireless TV were items of science fiction. I can remember watching the movie “Back To The Future” in 1989, and thinking how outlandish some of the ideas were back then, and now some such as Virtual Reality, and touchless screens are now becoming factual devices.
Scientists, writers, and visionaries have long speculated on what the future would be like, ever since the sci-fi movies of the fifties, and even before. Technologically, we are living on the crossroads of a new era, the brink of a technological revolution. Computers play an integral part that future; we already have the capability to put them almost everywhere, and in almost anything. In the next ten years, Neuroscientists at Berkley University will have developed a way to read peoples’ minds by “neurohacking” their mind via computer implants within their brains. Sounds like “Minority Report” written all over it to me!
Virtual reality, holographic television, wireless electricity, nanotechnology, and universal language translators are either here already, or just around the corner. Screenless displays, such as those on “Iron Man” or the TV show CSI are just a notch above already widely used touch screens. It’s just a matter of time before we are completely wired into devices in our everyday life. It is questionable whether man and womankind be able to absorb this much technology and not become technically burned out.
As stated previously in this series, and in others, man is his own worst enemy as far as technology goes. Technological breakthroughs in the military will either make war easier and more widespread, or frighten people enough into using it for peaceful purposes only. Drones have become a big thing, and it’s just a matter of time before enemy forces develop the same technology. It remains to be seen what our path in this area will be.
There are currently developments in travel technology, such as Mag Lev trains that travel at speeds of 300 to 400 mph, and driverless and flying cars that are also in production. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll jump in our car and fly to work just like George Jetson!
Artificial Intelligence is just around the corner; walking, talking, and interactive robots are already in the development stage. In thirty years or so, there will be an android or robot to every three people. This is a scary thought to think robots will have interaction with us daily; your cashier at the grocery store cy ould even some day be replaced by a robot. How would this change our sense of purpose in the world, and will this change what it’s like to be human. If we upload our mind into a robot, does that make us human, robot, both, or something else?
These are ethical questions that will ultimately face, and the answers are dependent on our own human nature as well. Even if computers become intelligent enough to create themselves, it is highly unlikely they would do away with us. As Issac Asimov suggested in his story “I Robot”, it is illogical to kill the creator because the creator is what gives us a sense of purpose. I think this a true statement. For a computer to do this would be like us eliminating God; it just isn’t done. In my new book in process.,there is an android named Cely, who plays an integral part in the story. He shows how sometimes, an android can be more human than a human himself!
Tomorrow, we will start the first of the last three editions of this series. Each day, we will jump farther into the future. First, we will travel to the year 2175, then to the year 2275, and on Friday we will travel to Star Trek time in 2375. Will be as advanced as the Federation of Planets by then, or will we ancient history? Until then, here are today’s links:
LIFE IN 2075
As we have seen previously in this series, life will be very different in the near future. If we had to pin-point a certain year in the future, say 2075, what advances and setbacks could we expect? We already know that energy won’t be a problem, as long as we don’t rely on fossil fuels. If we continue that trend, the ozone will be completely depleted, our polar ice caps will melt, and cause a greenhouse effect that will eventually wipe us out as a species.
But suppose by then, we have solved that problem as well as others, such as war and disease. We will need to achieve some kind of universal peace treaty, for it to work. If we do, what will the world be like? Well, as we have seen, there will still be the problems of overpopulation, and not enough food. We will have to learn to adjust, such as creating urban gardens, both outside, and inside, and learning to become a more vegan culture. As a hardcore meat eater myself, this would be extremely difficult. Animals will become scarcer as we become more developed a society. Large farms will no longer exist, as the Midwest will become populated, and the world may become a huge, green city.
Countries like India and China are now beginning to realize that industrialization has its disadvantages, and are looking for safer alternatives than coal and oil. By 2075, only very economically depressed countries will have food problems. Animals can be cloned safely now, and provide meat for millions. Humans can also be cloned, but will be forbidden due to ethical reasons. Only organs can be cloned, or synthetically engineered for medical purposes. For the very elite, the longevity problem will be licked, because they’ll just upload their mind into a surrogate android and live for another 1000 years.
Homes and cars will be fully automated and voice controlled, running on possibly fusion. Flying cars may become commonplace by now, or at least fully automated on a track of some kind. Space will be colonized by this point, possibly the moon and Mars. By this time, we will have learned how to mine minerals to create fuel for fusion powered engines to run bases, spacecraft, and other essential equipment. Robots will work on much of our space endeavors, minimizing the risk to colonists. Space vacations orbiting the Earth and on the moon will become commonplace, for those who can afford it. Gravitational devices will allow free travel through orbiting space stations, and air will be produced from vegetation within the confines of a station or base. Touchscreens and motion screens will become commonplace everywhere we go, including classrooms, work seminars, and we will have every kind of technological device you can imagine.
Does all of this sound a lot like science fiction. It should, because at one time or another, these ideas have been used in science fiction. But this is only one vision of the future. What if we don’t succeed? What if the world becomes a war torn, impoverished, barren wasteland, like that of the “Mad Max” series, or a flooded world, such as “Waterworld?” What hope can humanity have then at reaching other worlds, or even surviving as a species? 2037 is our next rendezvous with an asteroid, and another in 2063, which will graze our atmosphere. Can our scientists figure out a way to deflect them by then so our planet doesn’t turn into a giant fireball. We have already seen what a small one can do in Russia recently, and luckily no one was killed.
As Joe Strummer once said, the Future is unwritten, the world is worth fighting for, and all we need to do is build the framework. If we can set aside our differences, we can do amazing things. Tomorrow, we will take a trip to the 22nd century to the year 2175? What new developments will the human race achieve in the next 100 years? Stay tuned, and find out. Only one link today:
TO THE STARS AND BEYOND
Today’s final blog about life in future isn’t backed by research or links. It is purely speculative, and my vision as how I perceive the distant future could be. We know from previous entries, that man is in control of his own destiny, and nothing is written in stone. If we can set aside our religious and cultural differences, the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek doesn’t seem as far fetched after all.
By 2175, I believe that if we have achieved peace, protected our environment, and found alternative forms of energy, we will move on as a race. Space colonization is essential to the expansion of mankind, and before long it will become reality. We have much to gain by colonization, including valuable minerals and other resources either not found on Earth or in limited supply. By 2175, huge settlements on the moon and Mars will be stepping stones for expansion to other planetary bodies in the solar system. Mars is a perfect place for terraforming, providing we’re able to do it in the first place.
Scientists expect to find evidence of life on other worlds soon. I surmise by 2175, we will know whether we are alone or not. Even if only microscopic life is present, it could have profound implications on how we look at our own solar system. By this time, fusion powered craft will be powered using Hydrogen as their main fuel, the most abundant element in the universe. Fusion is a slow method, but it is much faster than the old fashioned chemical rockets and ion powered craft. Unless an alien civilization contacts or comes to us, it will still be at least another 200-300 years before we’ll even be capable of reaching other stars that are immediate neighbors. I think if we ever contact an alien civilization, it will be after we achieve light speed, say in a couple thousand years or so, if ever.
But even if we are the only space seed within the vicinity, we still have great potential as a species. By 2175, I’m sure we will be well on our way to colonizing other moons, such as Titan and Callisto. Mining colonies will be set up all over the solar system on orbiting asteroids and moons. Our biggest challenges will be overcoming the problems of zero gravity, such as muscle fatigue, long periods in space, and radiation from deadly cosmic rays.
Back on Earth, no land will remain untouched, although keeping things environmentally safe will be a big factor. Underwater bases will be ran on water regulated turbines that convert it to fusion power. Any forms of transportation will be completely environmentally safe, and food will be plentiful, due to imported vegetation from space stations, colonies, the ocean, and world itself.
By 2275, we will not be flying off to have battles with Klingons. Light speed will still be hundreds of years away. By now, we will still only be a class I civilization. I don believe by this time, we will at least have colonized the solar system, and maybe a little beyond. By this time, we will have made the leap to the next star, even though it will take 40 years to get there. Any candidates for interstellar travel would have to be either generational, or suspended animated. This, as I see it will be the only methods that are logical.
In my book, the characters travel at faster than light speed, as in Star Trek. My explanation of this is that the human responsible for such a feat was 1000 years ahead of his time. There is an essential element that offers an explanation to this; however, it will not be revealed until the third book in the series, which I will begin writing in 2016 or 2017. You will have to stay tuned until then. Have a good weekend, and I’ll be back Monday with a brand new series.