Two or three decades from now I foresee the freeway next to my house carrying quiet, streamlined buses and trucks as well as small, streamlined cars. Most will run on electricity, many with additional power generators using fuel cells, natural gas, hydrogen, or something newer. Most will be running in an attended autopilot mode, staying in their lanes, avoiding collisions, and optimizing energy use on a continuous basis. I won’t be traveling as much, however, as much more of my life will be carried out in a virtual way over the internet. I will work at home, walk or take public transport almost any time I need to go somewhere, and will take a high speed train a couple of times a year to see my daughter and brother-in-law in the Carolinas. What else might change, and how much?
My house will not be too different from today, though it will have a new and extremely efficient heating and cooling system. The roof may be re-shingled with solar cell shingles, and the outside may be painted with a solar paint that also generates electricity from light and possibly heat. My lawn will finally be gone (good riddance), replaced with a vegetable and flower garden and some attractive ground cover. Mulch will possibly be used to feed a bio-reactor in the back of the house that will provide some form of fuel.
My clothing, car (if I haven’t switched to just renting one when I need it), and appliances will be more sophisticated and of much higher quality than today, designed to last and work perfectly for decades. Some of my food may be delivered by a low cost service in biodegradable and reusable containers, the latter of which I will buy once and then rotate through the system (and they will fit and work perfectly in my cupboards and high efficiency refrigerator). The rest will be from my own garden, canned the old fashioned way or frozen in an extremely efficient storage freezer. Houses will be retrofitted with modern equivalents of the old fashioned root cellar for inexpensive storage of seasonal foods. The food storage systems of a century ago required practically no energy at all, but provided many foods for months after their harvest seasons.
The world will be more crowded than today, but the population will be slowly dropping as governments and individuals the world over will have had to come to terms with serious problems, all traceable in some way back to overpopulation. Most national governments will have had to recognize that they can no longer operate in a vacuum, and that the world’s problems cross borders and must be dealt with in collaboration with others. Literacy rates and education levels will have increased and, combined with almost universal low cost internet access, produced a savvy and in-touch electorate that is a lot harder to hoodwink than it is today. Corporations will operate under a more uniform regulatory structure that permits a lot less malfeasance, corruption, and disregard for the environment. Universal health care will be the standard in every developed country, and most of the developing world, as it makes simple economic sense.
Of course, all will not be milk and honey. People and especially corporations always look for ways to optimize their situations, and ethics and laws vary, so legal systems will be kept busy dealing with the never ending creativity and self interest of people and organizations. There will always be new problems, needs, and opportunities to deal with, and fluctuations in economic and other systems that need solutions. In general, however, lives will be a bit longer than today, people will be healthier and work farther into their later years, and birthrates will be much lower in the developing countries and a bit lower in the developed world. Energy may be provided by highly efficient, low environmental impact, fusion-based plants, or by some new technology that would only seem crazy today, but that is the way the world works: Tomorrow’s great ideas always seem crazy today, or we’d already be using/doing them.
This is my dream, some will call it utopia, of where we might be in two or three decades if we play our cards right. If we don’t dream, turn our dreams into plans, and carry out those plans with personal action, we will have to take what fate gives us. You can help “move the needle” in the right direction. Make a habit of writing to your government representatives to set their priorities straight, thinking about the distant future, and working to make your life better and more efficient and effective in every way.
As always, I welcome your comments. – Tim