I have been spending a fair amount of time recently reviewing scientific and technological breakthroughs, and some part of it over at Futurism. It has given me quite a bit to think about, and as a writer, more than a little to inspire me. I am starting to feel that sci-fi itch again.
Some really cool things are in the works in the world right now folks, and it all has left me wondering what the world (Solar System?) is going to look like in my lifetime. Inevitably, most science fiction comes out to be speculation. Sometimes we writers get things right, and some times we are way off the mark.
There was an article I read recently here, that talks about some of the inventions that the Star Trek Franchise got right. It is no secret of course that I am a big fan of Star Trek, for a great many reasons. I grew up watching The Next Generation with my father, and that cemented the love of sci-fi in my mind real early. In addition, the amount of science, philosophy, and tackling of complex social issues strikes a special cord in my heart and mind.
But all my gushing about Star Trek aside, I make it a point to (at least) try to keep up with a lot of exciting things that are happening now, or just over the horizon. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of bad in the world, and plenty to come but the ways things are heading, gives me a little room to be optimistic. Maybe not Star Trek optimistic, but cautiously and realistically optimistic.
So the question is what the future of humanity might look like? The podcast shared by Futurism is a good start.
Things like Solar Farms…
And renewable energy more generally. I written here before about some of the problems that we might face in the near future, with oil being a renewable resource and all. Still, there was an article recently by Bloomberg that suggests we might be turning a corner in the near future. The short point being that we might be reaching peak fossils fuels, and not because of supply, but because of DEMAND. I think that is a very important thing. Still, there are some very real problems there, most of them to do with climate change.
I am going to be tracking the Regen project with much interest, because I think we really need to rethink how we structure our cities and our communities. We need to be operating in as closed of loop as possible, from extraction to deposition/recycling. We need to rethink our entire consumer culture, and get as far away from disposable goods as we can. We need to be creating things that can endure, instead of things that are used once and thrown out. On the whole, I also think we need to be creating things that are easier to recycle. Not only should our products last longer, but they should be easier to reclaim once they come to the end of their life. Seriously, check out The Story of Stuff if you have not already.
Things like Vertical Farms…
Part of sustainable communities will come down to land use. While things like Regen are really exciting, not all cities and communities will thrive on that kind of model. In addition, there are 7+ billion people on this planet, and so land use issues and feeding all those people become important considerations. Let’s be honest, agriculture is incredibly land intensive. It leads to things like deforestation, because those pesky trees are taking up all the arable lands.
For the record, I happen to like those pesky trees.
I think vertical farms are one possible solution to those issues, and one way to feed people in urban situations. In addition to things like community farms, and rooftop gardening, vertical (up or down) farms could be one method of feeding populations without the need for more acreage of land. There is also the potential with vertical farms to solve some of the land use issues associated with biofuels. Ethanol and bio-diesels will be needed, at least in the short term. In an ideal world, we would move our transportation sector to full electric, which would be powered with solar, wind and others in the mix. But that might not work for larger vehicles, such as trucks and ships. They might need a little more oompf than electric can provide. Maybe that is where ethanol or bio-diesels can come in.
But we have to face facts, more than just oil is finite on this planet. Livable space, resources such as metals and minerals, eventually we are going to run into limits on many things. No matter how efficiently we recycle our metals, our glass, our plastics, eventually there just won’t be enough to go around. Especially if we can’t get the population rate to stabilize. And even if we do, there is that whole entropy thing, and that waste happens.
Which leads me to conclude, no matter how sustainable our civilization, in the long run one planet won’t be enough.
Which brings us to things like… Starbases
Larger stations and “hubs” for space travel will be essential as we move out into the Solar System. The fact that the ESA already has near-term plans for such things is an impressive feat, especially as things like the ISS are more geared for research than jump-off points. The research is essential of course, and the knowledge and practical know-how learned from the ISS will be used for future endeavors. Plus, there are countless applications for manufacturing and space ship construction without those pesky things like gravity.
Things like the Moon
I have made the case for many years that we need to return to the moon on a more permanent basis. Not only does it have about 1/4 the gravity of Earth (making things like rockets easier to launch), it could also serve as a way station on the way to Mars, or further out destinations. It could also serve as a source of select resources and minerals, and maybe even as a refueling station for farther treks.
Things like… Mars
There are countless Mars-based projects in the works, from Elon Musk to NASA, and more besides. They vary quite a bit in timeline and ambition, but I think that Mars is a logical step in our journey out into space. Like the starbases and the Moon, Mars could be useful as both a waystation, and for resources as well as well research. In addition, it gives easy access to one of the most resource abundant locations in the system. The Asteroid Belt
And things like asteroid mining
I am all for making our civilization(s) as sustainable as possible. Hell yeah let’s go for that green revolution. But at the same time, I still harbor dreams of moving out into space, and for that we are going to need greater access to resources. Whether increased population and development on Earth, or on other worlds, we are going to need these things. Asteroids provide a great opportunity for resource extraction. Many mineral and metal resources are finite, and with asteroids we don’t have to go tearing up ecosystems and habitats to get at them.
As I have said many times before, as cool and as geeked as I get about all the science and technology; those things alone won’t be enough to create the world of the future.
We will need changes in policy that are forward thinking, as well as changes in culture and economics as well. I have made it no secret that I closely align with the ideas in the Nordic model, a kind of social democracy. A big part of that is because I believe strongly that we are in this together, no matter what color our skin, our gender, or our religious beliefs.
And we need to start acting like it. Sustainability, reciprocity, equality, democracy.
That is what I would like to see in the world of tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!