A Profile of Predictions
(Copyright 1996 by J. C. Sprott)
I've been delighted to have received numerous, fascinating
As of December 26, 1996, the respondents' average age
is 32. The youngest person is an 11-year-old girl from Malaysia. The oldest
person is a 55-year-old-man from Canada.
The ratio of male to female respondents is about 70-30.
Most respondents are from the U.S. -- with the UK and
Canada strongly represented. (I suspect that the demographics will change
Ark for the 22nd Century
We'll ask them to line up two by two,
Our contradictions, opposites, contrary
Categories--all that we've fought
Over for the centuries--
What else to do but bequeath
Our own polarities?
Either shyly takes or's hand,
Hard-headed finds soft-hearted,
Right lines up with wrong,
East with West, North with South,
Rich takes poor, for better or for worse,
Decimation asks for progress.
We'll close the hatch and lock it,
Set them adrift in an acid rain
Long enough to hope
For children of hybrid vigor
From those contentious
Unions--polyglot both, all,
When the dove returns
With the olive branch
And the doors open
On our one precarious world.
--Robin S. Chapman
205 N. Blackhawk Ave.
Madison, WI 53705
Sampling of Predictions I've Received for The Future Project
From Alan M., a 26-year-old unemployed male from Montreal:
- Within the next hundred years I think the changes we
can expect will result from two developments. First, there will be an appearance
of a machine whose intelligence exceeds that of man. And second, the capitalist
system will grow in a self perpetuating fashion toppling anything which
stands in it's way including socialist systems and even governments.
- While I'd like to believe that the advances in technology
will solve more problems than they create, I'm not so certain this will
be the case. While it may be possible to navigate through the future without
disaster I think that we're going to face the most difficult problems in
human history. One misplaced footstep in the coming century could easily
spell disaster for mankind.
- This sounds rather bleak, but I believe it is the case.
In the past, advances and societal change could usually be planned for
and dealt with (despite the occasional revolution when change appeared
too slowly for someone's liking). However, today the process of technological
change far outpaces the ability of human beings to adapt to it. Our antiquated
notions of government, law, and economy are being changed around us. This
process is not going to slow and can only continue to accelerate. We are
no longer guiding the course of human progress but are adapting to it as
- Up till now I've talked about the future in very general
abstract terms. Here are some of the things which I expect will happen.
- Government: Government over territories will become obsolete
as global economic trade, freedom to change citizenship, remote work, and
virtual worlds all mean that people are less dependent on their physical
location. It is not unlikely that virtual governments begin to spring up.
- Technology: sometime within the next 100 years a machine
intelligence will be created which exceeds that of the average human being.
This machine will possess all the things we think distinguish us as human,
including emotions, feelings, and intelligence. Perhaps this machine will
be of a neural-net type architecture or maybe something else. This will
be a great crossroads for mankind. While machines gradually replace labor,
knowledge will be the sole protection against having a job become redundant.
Ironically, some labor and service positions may be the last to be made
redundant because of the "human" touch these services provide
and because many abstract labor-intensive tasks will be quite resilient
to replacement by machinery. When eventually all of human labor can be
replaced by intelligent machinery, the value of human labor will decline
in parallel to the cost of the replacing machinery. Ownership of capital
will become very important in this new environment if people are to make
ends meet. When, at some stage, machines begin competing amongst themselves
for resources such as land, the human element will have much less of a
stake in how allocations will take place. At the end of 100 years, human
intelligence will appear infantile in comparison to our machine counterparts.
Wonderful technologies and tools will make their appearance in a golden
age of knowledge . Human labor will not likely have anything valuable to
contribute economically to the machinery we have created. However, we will
also have access to the products of our machines which, although they have
no economic value to the machines, will be of tremendous value to us. More
or less like taking a discarded bicycle and bringing it back to Roman times.
Humanity will survive on the "crumbs" which are not worth worrying
about by the self-perpetuating machinery we have created. We must simply
be sure to keep out of the way.
- Economy: The global economy will have truly arrived.
Money, capital, and labor will flow easily across any physical barrier.
This will have obvious impacts on government. While it will bring more
power to the people, it will put wealth into the hands of those who are
good at accumulating it and cause ever-increasing hardship for those who
are unable to. While social systems are permitted in closed economies,
truly global economies will form pressures which all but eliminate systems
of wealth distribution which take from the rich and give to the poor. Anonymous
currencies will become part of this process. Taking care of the less fortunate
will be forced out of the powers of government and into the powers of individuals.
We can only hope that individuals take up the gap in this environment.
Eventually, corporate, capital, and machinery (computing) will be the mainstays
of the economy. Individuals will be forced to react to the flow of capital,
and power will be put out of the hands of the very same governments and
institutions which are presently trying to keep these forces at bay.
- Society: If the present century has brought this far
we can expect explosive changes in the future. Virtual worlds will captivate
many. Entertainment will become a driving force in many people's lives.
Physical discomfort will be exchanged for "windows into cyberspace".
While this may seem farfetched, this is already happening as many people
choose to live in cramped quarters yet spring for a 24- inch television
set with stereo sound and a hi-fi VCR. As virtual worlds become more appealing
than the physical, many will be drawn to live, work, and entertain themselves
from within the attractive confines of cyberspace. While today's city inhabitants
hardly know their immediate neighbors (unthinkable years ago), tomorrow's
city inhabitants will hardly know the people they share the same house
or apartment with. Those who can afford it will have access to more worldly
experience through the eyes of cyberspace than anyone today can imagine.
Tomorrow's non-conformists will be those people who embrace the physical
world and choose to live within it... a prospect which will become increasingly
risky as the power for physical violence increases in the hands of individuals.
The hand weapons of tomorrow will give any individual with access to them
enormous destructive capability. The no-win games of violence which exist
in the physical world will make force--not reason--the order of the day,
making a retreat to a non-physical existence in cyberspace far more attractive
to the majority.
- I generally get pretty depressed when I think about the
future of mankind. It's unfortunate, but I believe that society will increasingly
become unable to control its ultimate destination. Our best weapon of the
moment is to become aware of the processes taking place so that we are
equipped to deal with these occurrences as they manifest themselves. While
there are many changes which will occur, the danger will not come so much
from the changes themselves as from the instability that being unprepared
for these changes will cause. This is what I believe will be the greatest
difficulty which we will face in our journey through the future. I'm quite
glad to hear of your project for this reason. The more that people are
prepared for what may come, the better they will be equipped to deal with
it in an orderly and reasonable fashion. In the end resistance to certain
change is going to create much more problems it will solve. A willingness
to adapt to changes and make use of them as they arrive will produce a
much healthier future in the end.
From S. Lim, a 26-year old male data analyst from Singapore:
- I would like to venture some opinions about businesses
in he future. And it is simply this:
- The theories of many economists of the past would prove
to be correct by the dawn of the 22nd century.
- The explosion of the communications industry (Internet,
Convergence of Telecommunications, Broadcasting and IT towards the era
of Data Communications) will have already moved the world to the age of
- It is thus the age of perfect information and perfect
competition. The business model will be one where power is in the hands
of the consumer. Consumers never have to buy anything the producers put
in front of them. This will be the age of Mass Customization. Everybody
buys exactly what he or she needs - the product will fit to the T. The
concept where a person owns anything that has features or functions that
is not needed would be a totally alien concept.
- Also because of perfect competition, companies and work-force
alike would not need to put up with less than anything perfect for their
needs. Simply put, companies no longer need to stay put with an employee
who is not perfectly suited for their needs. And similarly employees never
have to put up with staying with an employer they are not comfortable with.
- In fact, by 2099 the concept of "companies"
may be non-existent. Every individual works with a team of people who are
all experts in their own field, coming together for projects of profit
and disbanding when the projects are complete. Like the craftsman of the
medieval era. The 22nd century will be one giant global village where everyone
is an expert (read: craftsman) in his/her own right. People can only make
money selling their expertise.
- The globalisation of identity will result in the fusion
of cultures. This will cause individuals, towns, states, countries to exert
their own identity even more intensely. Huge nations with multiple cultures
like China, India and even the USA will break up (albeit very likely to
be bloody) into smaller entities. For all you know there will no longer
be the concept of "country", "nation" etc. Individuals
may exert their own identities to that extent.
- Already this world has a large number of people born
of multiple parentage. Many people can longer be labeled as "I am
Chinese" or "I am French". A person can be of "German-Irish-Chinese-Russian-etc-etc"
- Science and technology will bring developments to levels
currently imperceivable. For example, RAM chips on PCs are now a standard
of some 32 MB. This is a growth from some 240 KB of only less than 10 years
ago. At this rate by 2005 we are talking about RAM in TB - i.e. Terabits
or trillion bits. By 2099.....whew!
- Medical science via genetic engineering and such developments
will have long found a cure for ailments like cancer, AIDs, and the common
cold, but will bring medical ailments like we don't believe as well. For
example the Bubonic Plague of the 13th Century would never occur with today's
medical technology, but AIDs made the Bubonic Plague look like candy floss.
Similarly diseases like AIDs, ebola, and cancer would look like marshmallows
compared with the diseases of the future. But the average life-span of
a person would probably rise by some 20 to 30 years. Because of this the
world population may (1) explode causing social problems to grow to scales
way beyond controllable levels like today or (2) global wealth will cause
individual families to consider smaller household sizes resulting in a
world where the mean age is much higher than today.
- This is an optimistic scenario. Pessimistically, If you
compound the social ills of today we may be talking about self-induced
genocide as a result of the collapse of society with advancement slowing
down. But I think that is unlikely.
From Ken R., a 42-year-old retail store manager from Oregon:
- The more things seem to change, the more they will stay
the same. If we ever go so crazy as to have another world war, the resulting
world will have finally learned from its mistakes and be much more progressive
From Bob M., a 39-year-old systems manager for a financial
institution in England:
- The biggest change that took place during the 21st century
was the death of the cities. Developments in communications enabled people
to telecommute and work where they wanted. Coupled with this, advances
in transport, including the development of 'walking machines', much like
those featured in the Star Wars movies, reduced the need for roads, highways,
and so on.
- The countryside reverted to a greener model, with small
villages, hamlets and isolated homesteads connected electronically, and
serviced by large, mostly automated depots which deliver goods ordered
'on line'. As the infrastructure of cities is no longer required, so the
overall work load decreases, enabling people to spend more time developing
their own skills, as artists, or artisans, or by growing their own produce.
A new economy based upon barter developed.
From Alexander K., a 55-year-old Canadian stockbroker
and self-described anarchist:
- Within five years Quebec will try to separate from Canada.
This will cause a severe upheaval in eastern Canada as the Indians and
the English-speaking will say "no way". The Canadian dollar will
drop precipitously, causing severe economic dislocation in the rest of
Canada. The Canadian army will move in an attempt to restore order. The
US army will go on alert in case the conflict spills over the border but
the US will have no intention of getting involved in Canada's affairs.
Eventually two of the economically strongest western provinces, British
Columbia (Pacific rim, mining, forestry, tourism, agriculture, fishing)
and Alberta, (oil wheat, agriculture) will form some type of association
with the three western states (Washington, Oregon and California). This
region will be called Cascadia.
From Alan L., a 25-year-old senior computing officer from
- I have three things to say: Integration, Standardization,
- Integration is becoming increasingly likely in the fields
of both hardware design and information presentation. The development of
better display technology and forthcoming network computing, coupled with
ever-improving data communication into both the home and work place, will
lead to the more-or-less inevitable integration of phone, voice-mail, e-mail,
Internet, WWW, TV, video, hi-fi etc. This development will provide the
necessary platform for true multi-media information systems.
- This mass integration of hardware into one consumer-friendly
box will lead to the establishment, I hope, of concise standards for the
required range of deliverable features. This will help to ease the burden
on the coming generation of multi-media engineers, because the standardization
will enable them to concentrate on working with the information and not
get caught up in the issues of binding the types of information onto the
various types of proprietary dedicated hardware.
- This final abstraction of the information from the physical
display and processing hardware will aid true portability of the information
constructs and services that are created.
From a 31-year-old male chemical engineer in Berlin:
- Although I would consider myself being generally optimistic
and would like to see things becoming better, I am also a realist to state
that the future conditions for nature and mankind will become narrower.
- Ecology and nature as we know it: Obviously diversity,
an indicator for the stability of ecological systems, is decreasing worldwide.
This is mainly due to human activities. I think the human population on
earth will not decrease at least till the year 2030, when the annual energy
consumption will also reach its top.
- These two indicators (energy use and population) seem
to be the main factors in the destruction of the existing ecological systems
and will have destroyed vast landscapes. In Africa there will remain only
small forested areas as internationally protected zones. In the Amazonas
region there will still be larger forests which are also protected by international
support but are in area only half of what they are in1996. The blue whale
has died out, only some rhinoceroses are preserved in international zoos.
Ocean fishing has become uneconomic.
- The water level has risen by 50 cm. Twelve billion people
will live on earth in 2030.
- Accessible Energy: There will still be fossil fuel in
2030, there will still be cars and planes but less of them. Travel is more
a luxury then before; poor people in colder countries will not be able
to afford heating anymore. The international trade of large bulk goods
is restricted to only that necessary because of the high transportation
cost. This causes less traffic, but not less international communication.
Although electricity will become more expensive by the factor six related
to an average salary, network communication and virtual travels will replace
the human desire for global contacts.
- Because energy becomes very much more expensive, all
goods with a large energy share will be dear, and the living standard in
industrialized countries will therefore decrease. The situation will be
incredibly bad in countries that haven't achieved widespread welfare by
the year 2000. These countries will not develop an infrastructure which
makes effective transportation or production possible. The little money
these governments have they will be spent to protect their dictatorships
or to feed the most urgent hunger.
- Hunger and thirst will be the normal condition for half
of mankind in 2030. This will also be the limiting factor for the twelve
billion. War, murder epidemics, and cannibalism may describe the situations
which goes beyond my imagination.
- Economy: As long as there is oil to carry them, there
will also be reasons for an exchange of goods. The sellers want something
in return. But what about those who have nothing to sell? Till 2030 there
will not be any large breakthrough in science which can cause an economic
wonder like the vast utilization of fossil fuel has brought the 20th century.
Also rationalizing the production (by semiconductor technology) was already
achieved to a very extent measure in the outgoing 20th century, so that
not a really big push can be expected till 2030. If you look at science
today, where is the field which could bring such a new move into a down-sizing
global economy? Cold fusion? Not seriously believed in. Martian settlements?
Haha- -science fiction from the seventies. Internet? Not really productive.
Gene technology? Maybe, ... , consequently going further into the dilemma.
- Human soul: Different religious sects will become very
attractive. There will be a large diversity of communities, individualistic
beliefs, Christian sects... and others I cannot think of yet. Anyway, the
21st century there will be a comeback of spirituality.
- I am still hoping idealism will bring further insight
and understanding for the future and lead to better things than appears
From Waldemar O., a 19-year-old male astronomy student
- I think computers will be huge in the future. Space travel
will become common, and people will be working on transporters (Star Trek).
Physics will be taken to new levels of understanding, and we will see how
strange but simple the universe is. Nature will get better with better
technology. And maybe these things will happen if we don't nuke ourselves.
From Zahira S., an 11-year-old girl from Malaysia:
- I predict...
- I predict that I will be famous, I predict....
- I predict that there will be no wars, I predict....
- I predict that the whole globe has Internet, I predict....
- I predict that kids like me will be presidents, I predict....
- I predict that my best friend will like me more, I predict....
- I predict that I will continue predicting, For as long
as I live, Never stopping.
- I predict....
From Nicole S., a 33-year-old female programmer from Brazil:
- One thing I have been considering about our future is
the partition of ethnic "tribes" as has been occurring all over.
The idea of a global unity seems to be vanishing along with the wealth
distribution; rich getting richer, and poor getting poorer. Technology
is not the panacea some people reputed some years ago; the greatest problem
today is the lack of inner sight, and one of the symptoms is the witch
hunting on smokers and other groups that, even doing something bad for
their health, are not responsible for the spreading of selfishness and
intolerance. After so many millions of years in evolution, we today are
still unable to accept the fact that some behavioral patterns remain, blaming
groups or pointing individuals as the central point of endemic facts, as
in the Middle Ages. It is not easy to be optimistic about the future when
I remember that people who eat three times a day can be considered from
the elite and some men treat children as sexual partners, against all rules
of Nature. Maybe the greatest goal in the future will be to achieve real
self-respect, as humans, as mammals, and as part of the world.
From Alice K., a 36-year-old female Internet junkie from
- The environment will be a mess. Everyone will have to
wear hats and sunscreen in order to go outside because of damage to the
ozone layer. Littering will be a felony, recycling mandatory. (We will
finally have figured out the consequences of soiling our own nest). The
government will be pretty much the same as it is today. I don't think anything
would happen in 100 years to change that. The economy will still be a disaster.
Unless there is some threat to the planet that would unite the human race,
I think there would still be fighting amongst groups of people. Basically
I can't see anything short of alien invasion, the often-predicted end of
the world, or nuclear war ending the strife that seems to be the hallmark
of our race. It goes without saying that technology will be more advanced
than can be imagined. I think there will be a whole subset of people who
live in a virtual world...it will be a much more complete and total escape
from reality than it is now. It will contribute to the isolation of individuals.
From Anand S., a 22-year-old male software engineer from
- This place looks nice. I don't have to take out my car,
drive, and give myself a heart-attack. Little roboticized vehicles drive
me through the air. Roads? There are none. My aerial path is filled with
advertisements of the 3-D kind--stuff that I feel and smell as I pass through
it. I like this perfume so much I'd like my girlfriend to look at it. I
call her (not too loudly, though). She pops up. Not physically, of course
--just an image. But I can't tell the difference. She smells it and approves
of it. I nod at the ad, and the perfume pops into her hand. That reminds
me: I've got to credit some goodwill into the bank. Maybe I'll give away
my next dream free.
- I compose dreams. You might call me a director, but dreams
aren't movies. You can't feel a movie within yourself. You CAN change the
course of a dream. Many of my dreams are about feelings.
- I live in a 4'x4' cubicle. That's OK, because I'm actually
in virtual space. I design my house as large as I want and as posh as I
wish--and move about perfectly normally. It takes a lot of power to do
something extravagant, but I can afford it.
- I usually spend time looking through other people's virtual
space--especially children. It gives me a lot of ideas. My neighbor's kid
is fighting with a Samurai now. His elder brother's space is hidden, but
I can guess what he's doing. Their dad's materializing varieties of nuts
and tasting each one--probably planning dessert.
- I like this place. But is it fundamentally different
from the past? I think so. People try to love each other. There are still
clashes, but we improve. But somehow, I'd rather be in 1997, trying to
do my little bit to get us to 2100.
From Ben J., a 19-year-old male from Australia:
- I don't think the planet will survive that much longer.
Since the beginning of time, human nature has been one of destruction,
and I can't see that changing all too quickly. Besides making faster computers,
I hope they will start to experiment with brainwave-computer interactions--if
not controlling them, then recording them and playing them back. In the
immediate future the Internet will go through the roof (even more than
it has already). It will probably replace TV, phones, the post, banking
etc., most of life really. Links carrying hundreds of megabytes per second
will be running into every household in the civilized(?) world, thus giving
us no reason to leave the house anymore. I can't really see a good future
ahead of us--then again, I am not an optimist.
From Trudy S., a 45-year-old female writer and master
chef from Arizona:
- I can see the horrible consequences of the so-called
"War on Drugs" beginning to be realized in the next few years.
As the governments of various smaller metropolitan areas see too many of
their police officers being killed and their social services stretched
beyond their limits, they will begin to balk at accepting more federal
dollars to enforce prohibition. Women will begin to have more power in
corporations as well as governments, because they can physically handle
the stress of modern life better than males.
From Anthony D., a 55-year-old male psychology professor
- There will be a widespread realization that power comes
from thought, and schools will be training children in thought technology
(psychotechnology). Much of casual conversation between friends will be
about fine tuning the internal environment such that personal outcomes
in one's life are more desirable.
From Brad M., a 50-year-old male webmaster from New York:
- The social order has got to change. The compound acceleration
of the pace and complexity of work in increasingly arcane and difficult
technical areas, combined with unemployment or employment in menial service
work for an increasing majority, is not a sustainable trend, not to mention
the increasing global population and its consumption of resources, production
of waste / pollution, etc.
- The outcome may be massive collapse due to a lack of
social management which strives to provide meaningful work and community
for all and reduces the pressure on those in socially critical jobs. Alternatively,
the damage we have done to the environment may cause our species to be
destroyed through pestilence, famine, plague, lack of oxygen, etc., no
matter how well we try to plan.
- If the environment remains livable (even if not pleasant
to live in), then the answer may be Fascism, hopefully of a benign kind
(a super-Roosevelt New Deal, as opposed to something like the Nazis...).
- The dependence on ultra-complex technologies will need
to be reduced, so that the breakdown of a computer system nobody can understand
does not result in inability to provide basic necessities of life (e.g.,
food) to large numbers of people.
- The most likely scenario is probably (to use a post-modernist
word:) bricolage: most things falling apart in a haphazard way and some
things being recombined in a jerry-built way which keep falling apart and
patched back together, with most people living in insecurity and probably
at lower standards of living than the last 40 years.
- Maybe Europe and other parts of the world will do better
than the United States, which may increasingly become an unpleasant place
- I am not optimistic for the 21st Century, although resources
(e.g., Habermas, Gregory Bateson, Husserlean Phenomenology, Gadamerean
hermeneutics, Jacques Ellul, and many others) are available if those with
the power to do something have any interest beyond capitalizing on junk
bonds and cutting costs by cutting payrolls (and overworking those who
- My opinion: Damn what a tragedy!
From Nancy P., a 29-year-old female photographer and teacher
- I'm not sure I have any predictions, but I do have a
few cautionary notes: History is not an objective subject and we only manage
to figure out the present once it's become the past...in the English language,
we don't even have a verb form for the future tense, we modify the present
tense to indicate the time of action......the information highway/net scares
me...if only one percent of the world has access (as is the current case),
what about the five billion or so others...if Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates
own the channels by which we communicate, what good does it do to be prime
minister or president? In England, one thing Margaret Thatcher said really
haunts--England could survive on tourism and service industries.... If
the country does indeed go that way, then it will find itself 3rd world...
How many other 1st worlds will find themselves 3rd? We have to feed, clothe
and shelter ourselves... How will we be able to sustain this in a world
polarized by the wired class and the vast unwired underclass? Will the
wired class be able to consume enough to sustain exploitation of the unwired?
Will the unwired fall back into the dark ages? A period not unlike the
fall of the roman empire or the middle ages, both times set off by economic
collapse.... In the western world, the separation of place of work from
place of residence has fueled the dependency on gadgetry.... But in order
for technology to work in society, it must be both necessary and socially
acceptable.... The danger of the Internet is that it's growing so quickly
and it remains in the hands of those with economic power that society hasn't
been able to test drive it to see if it works....
- How can I deign to predict the future when, as I type
this, the radio advertises a back- in-history party--back to the music
- Scared, that's what the thought of the future does to
- Scared of technology that doesn't give the social space
an opportunity to evaluate and mediate....
This is just a sample of the many predictions I've received.
Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. Tell your friends. Someday
I can make these all available for the world to see, and don't worry, your
anonymity will be preserved.
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