« L'Europe se fera dans les crises et elle sera la somme des solutions apportées à ces crises »—Jean Monnet
In a recent conversation with my friend and brilliant philosopher Lisa Herzog, it was suggested I suffer from a form of pathological optimism. I must say I do agree indeed: I see many reasons to be optimist if I look to what may unfold in the next 100 years. Here’s a short list of what is, and might, go very much well in the next 100 years or so.
1. worldwide poverty is rapidly decreasing, as is famine and illness. Education, consumption, investment are rising. Africa has begun to leave the poverty trap. We are on track to meet many, if not all, our Millenium Development Goals. Wow!
2. Technological advances in energy generation and storage are getting pace: we have already started to phase out fossil fuels through renewables, and there are great margins of improvement for solar in particular. Cheaper and more efficient solar power, coupled with mass energy storage, will help scaling up desalinisation, bringing new life into desertified areas. Morover, fusion research is beginning to give some results, especially looking at small, modular designs; battery research and production is also gearing up for the new century.
3. Robotics is scary and many believe that technology would “steal our jobs”; this is possibile, but also it will help to make ageing societies (a nightmare for the west) more sustainable. It will also contribute to shift humans’ labour towards more creative production (thinking, arts, design) and to increasing free time. Robots may also help reducing costs of many functions of today’s welfare states, making it more affordable and sustainable.
4. Developments in space applications are impressive: They might soon enable the harvest space resources. Unlocking the riches of the asteroids is essential, because -given the bottomless thirst of humanity for resources- they constitute the only feasible alternative to the environmentally-catastrophic deep-sea mining.
5. Direct-energy weapons will render useless quite rapidly physical projectiles, including ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.. There is no known way a laser can reproduce nukes’ scale devastation, but we are only few decades away from anti-ballistic and anti-warhead laser weapons. This will remove the single larger threat to humanity’s survival.
6. age-delaying research is in its infancy, but it’s attracting large investment and may soon begin to unlock the secrets of ageing, increasing humans’ active lifespan.
7. Advancements in multi-material 3d printing will help “relocalise” production, strengthening the payoff for creativity and eventually unlocking a new era of diffused goods’ production; a new Golden Age of the Artisan.
8. Political integration may increase, regionally and worldwide: this will bring about unity in umanity, providing the required condition for a global welfare policy (the only one that can work in a globalised world: domestic welfare is not efficient any longer due to globalised markets’ competition). The need for inter-national violence may begin to fade along with the vanishing of the Nation as the specific locus of political life.
9. Advancements in genetically-engineered crops may revolutionise food production, making productive areas of the world totally dead today, like most of the globe’s deserts; lab-cultured meat is on track to take over the meat production in a not-so-far-fetched future, decreasing humanity reliance on animal killings.
The list could continue, of course: but these are sufficient motivations for being reasonably optimistic. There are many things that can go wrong, of course: Skynet (or another kind of blind, malevolent super AI) could take over; poor lab practices may release a “Grey Goo”; nuclear war could begin before countermeasures are in place. But many more things can go right, and are actually developing in the right direction; if only few actually succeed, world in 2100 will be a far better place to live than today.
Microgravity environment for social thinkers