Eighty three years is a mere blink in history’s eye, but since my birth, October 26, 1930, I’ve watched many technology advances and medical research breakthroughs take place; some that have altered the way we live.
My five siblings and I were raised on a farm in the wilds of Oregon with no electricity and few modern conveniences. Coal oil lamps and kerosene lanterns lit the night. We bathed in a small tub in the kitchen with little privacy, drank water from a hand pump in the back yard, and made bathroom trips to a two-seater outhouse, using Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Wards catalogs for toilet paper.
For entertainment, we gathered around the battery-powered Zenith radio in the living room, listening to programs like The Shadow, Hit Parade, Jack Armstrong, and Richfield Reporter.
In 1938, we were finally connected to the electric grid. We quickly installed an electric water pump and built an inside shower and toilet. My siblings and I were amazed at how electricity had improved our lives.
In 1950, TV arrived in the area providing moving pictures in our home. This represented a game-changing new dimension in communications. Healthcare and medical products could now be presented to the public through programs and commercials; an important factor that many future followers believe was a major force in raising average life expectancy from 50 years in 1930 to nearly 80 by 2013.
Jet travel didn't exist in the 1930s; a five-day ocean trip was the main way to get to Europe. We rode horses and wagons in the early days; then as family finances improved, we were able to purchase a brand new '39 Desoto, which mostly ran on unpaved roads; but compared to our horse-drawn buggy, this was a dream. In contrast, today, we drive cars on superhighways loaded with the latest creature comforts.
After the Stock Market Crash in 1929, President Hoover announced that his stimulus plan of 1931, would save the nation; but he could not have been more wrong. America was about to enter "The Great Depression," which brought about soup lines, 25% unemployment, and an economy that nearly destroyed most working families. Crime, violence, and suicides made headlines almost daily.
In the late 1930s, President Roosevelt, emboldened by his fireside chats, the New Deal legislation, and an improved economy strengthened by the oncoming war in Europe; authorized the Manhattan Project, an aggressive effort to build an atomic bomb and use it to hasten the end of World War II.
Understanding atoms drove our nation's hi-tech prowess, launching the semiconductor industry, which in turn, created the personal computer that spawned the development of Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, whose products have revolutionized our lives.
America's mastery of the physical world grew exponentially during the last century. Today, PCs, laptops, tablets, and 'smart' phones connected to an information-loaded Internet make intelligence available to everyone, which was a major influence in the recent Arab Spring rebellions against dictators.
So, if technologies have affected lives so drastically over the last 83 years, what might we expect as we trek through the future? The following predictions describe incredible possibilities:
2020s – Stem cell therapies, genetic engineering and bio-printers could replace damaged and aging organs, curing some diseases and adding healthy years to every lifespan. Dr. Anthony Atala explains.
2030s – Nanorobotics could be installed in countertop replicator machines that provide household necessities such as food, medicine, clothing, and appliances with no labor involved and low resource costs. In addition, according to nanotech expert Robert Freitas, tiny intelligent nanorobots could swim through our bodies, inspecting cells, making repairs to faulty DNA, eliminating nearly every disease.
Some say these 'nano miracles' will not just heal our ills; they will actually improve on nature. Bones, muscles, eyes, and ears will become stronger. We will enjoy daily life in bodies that would be considered 'superhuman' by 2013 standards. Green Lantern, Captain America, and The X-Men have arrived.
Moreover, Freitas says, by mid-2030s, nanorobots could eliminate aging and allow older people to recapture their youthful health, strength and beauty and enjoy an extended lifespan.
2050 – By mid-century, we can expect development of non-biological body parts, immune to disease, accidents, and violence. Should a disaster occur, consciousness could be transferred to a new 'housing unit' allowing life to continue. Patients would wake up in their new body not even realizing they had died.
2075 – Forward-thinkers predict that by 2075, nanobots could be launched into the sky to change the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, allowing the weather to be controlled. Say goodbye to dangerous storms and hello to "weather-on-demand." Sunshine and rain can now be directed to fall where needed.
2100 – Now, humanity could achieve what some describe as a Type I Civilization. Society will evolve from separate squabbling cultures into a peaceful global village working as one voice eager to explore the cosmos. We now utilize 100% of the sun's energy that strikes our planet, allowing development of warp-drive spaceships with faster-than-light-speed travel capabilities.
As we begin scattering our populations to the stars, real time forays to other Earth-like planets are now possible. By 2100, more than two billion people live or work offworld.
2150 – As advancing technologies enhance life's comforts and abilities in the high frontier, more people are opting for space life. Biological bodies can be genetically-engineered to adapt to the extreme temperatures, gravity requirements, and atmospheres of different space colonies. Those who have selected non-biological 'housing units,' can easily alter their bodies with voice or thought command.
Five billion people now call space home, leaving four billion on our third rock from the sun. One day, possibly by millennium's end, some predict there may be no humans left on Earth.
Will our world and lives unfold in this futuristic manner? Positive thinkers believe that most of the events suggested in this article could become reality within the time-frames suggested.
And here is the best part: technology breakthroughs predicted for the next three decades could enable nearly everyone alive today to remain in good health and personally experience this remarkable future, all the way through the 21st century and beyond. Anti-aging guru Aubrey de Grey believes the first people to achieve a 1,000 year lifespan are alive today. He could be talking about you. Get ready to be wowed!
Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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