Friday, January 21, 2011


In 2050 I'll be an old man. These are my expectations:

  • The Chinese will have sent humans to the moon.
  • A manned mission to Mars will be Real Soon Now.
  • We'll have strong evidence for life on some number of extrasolar planets, but I doubt we could conclusively tell if that life was "intelligent" or not.
  • We'll have some blotchy extrasolar planet surface images, once we build a Luciola-class hypertelescope.
  • The kernel (name unknown) will be many gigabytes of C source, taking a whole minute to compile.
  • C will still be a "dying language". Java who? Oh that's those old guys who work for insurance companies?
  • Rich people will be able to live essentially forever, through pharmaceutical / surgical interventions.
  • Most cancers will be manageable. You'll expect to die from something other than cancer even when diagnosed with it. Getting a cancer diagnosis will be a bit like getting an HIV diagnosis today if you're in the first world: totally bummed, but you know life will go on for a while, as long as you keep taking your pills.
  • We'll have finally outgrown the x86 instruction set, except in some niche legacy-dependent contexts. A bit like the PDP-11's status now. I doubt that that means we'll be using amd64 instead, because I think we'll increasingly outgrow the need for instruction-level backwards compatibility. Most of your desktop apps will be implemented in an interpreted language, or perhaps in a JVM-style monitor.
  • There will be one or two asteroids we know we'll have to deflect at some point in the next 1000 years.
  • All of our deserts, and then some, will be covered in solar panels. Whether PV or solar thermal plant, I don't know - probably some equilibrium based on weather conditions.
  • Commercial fusion power will become available Real Soon Now.
  • We will, or will have, spent another order of magnitude of money on a moar biggerer particle accelerator.
  • Space cadets will still be dreaming about space elevators, while decrying the inefficiencies of chemical rockets, which somehow still just get the job done, and mostly reliably so.
  • Africa will be suffering a dozen or two civil wars, and most of its countries will be bad places to live: you'll be poor, exposed to crime, and basically every one of David Bullard's stereotypes will be proving themselves true.
  • We'll still be driving cars, albeit fewer of us, and we'll still be moaning about the price of fuel, yet we'll still drive 500m to the shop.

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