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Arbeit: The Future Life and Science
If you try to write about life and science in the next hundred years, it is not like writing about history, where you are just telling facts. Nobody knows what the future is going to be, so you always have to guess what will happen.
If you look back at what the futurologists wrote about our present time, a hundred years ago, you will see how difficult it is to make good predictions, even for scientists. They thought that there would be moonbases now, where everybody could travel to, like travelling to foreign countries. Although we were able to send people to space, and even to the moon nearly thirty years ago, we have not made a regular connection yet.
The futurologists were wrong, because they did not know anything about the problems and obstacles there would be. The problems are to find good material, good means of transport and the biggest problem of all: The money.
These scientists predicted that there would be artificial, human-made hearts, too. They thought the heart could not be too difficult to design and implant, because it is just a simple pump. They did not know what happened if you tried to implant them. The body is not able to work correctly with the artificial organs, because of the material. This is the major problem engineers have to solve now.
So if I try to tell you what the future is going to be like, I cannot give exact details. I am only able to describe the tendencies referring to the future.
In this chapter I am going to write about how the life of humans could be in the next century. I think it will be an exciting time. Many people are frightened if they are thinking about the future, perhaps because they cannot imagine what will happen.
We are living in a century where everything is changing quickly. Cars, planes, computers, genetic engineering, transplantation of hearts and even Rock’n Roll are products of this century. We had wars followed by long periods of peace and we had revolutions in policy, art and society in the last hundred years.
How should we know what will happen next? The pessimists are afraid of the bombs, the pollution and the genetic engineering. The optimists only see the disarming of the superpowers, the fall of the Iron curtain and the introduction of ecologial issues in policy. They are looking forward to medicine that can heal people who are suffering of cancer or AIDS.
Cities and Homes
During the industrial revolution in Europe millions of people went to the cities and left the countryside. They tried to get better jobs there. Today it’s reversed. Many people are starting to move out, because they do not want to be in the cities anymore. They want to live in a cleaner and greener environment. Another reason is that the modern transport allows higher distances in less time. So many workers live in little towns and commute every day.
The result of this will be spread cities, which means that you will live up to one hundred kilometres away from the city centre. So many small cities will be connected by hi-tech transport and communications. The cities will build one big urban area.
The homes of tomorrow will be very different. There will be a central computer, which controls everything referring to the house. It starts with the control of energy. The computer switches automatically from ordinary electricity to the power from the solar panels whenever possible.
The next feature is, that you will be able to turn on everything only by telling the computer - for example "Computer, turn on the light" or "Computer, turn on the hi-fi". Another important feature is the security system. There will be smoke detectors, burglar alarms and a video camera at every front door.
You will have special fibre optic cables, too. They will connect your TV, phone and computer to the whole world, which allows international communication. This means, that you do not have to leave your house for voting, shopping, banking, working, studying and so on.
In Japan scientists are developing a new shiptype the "Technosuperliner". It will travel at 100 km/h and will carry thousand tons of cargo. This is only one example for new ideas in the world of transport. There are more like solar-powered cars or E-mobiles. An example for an idea which is already realised is the channel tunnel. It's only for trains, but there are plans for a road tunnel.
The Thinking Car
Another idea is the thinking car. There are some models that are tested now. These cars will be able to show you a map of the area you are at the moment, on a screen. These computerised cars will be able to show you the shortest way and give you information about hotels, restaurants or telephoneboxes. It will keep you far away from traffic jams. Perhaps once the computers will steer your car, and you only have to tell the computer where you want to go to. The Information needed could be taken from traffic signs, computers beside the roads or even satellites. This computer would be able to prevent traffic jams and accidents and the need of fuel could be reduced.
Fitter, Taller, Faster, Older
People nowadays live longer and healthier than ever before, but there are still many medical problems without a solution. Now I am going to tell you something about the prospect for breakthroughs and cures for tomorrow.
Fivehundred years ago most people died before they were fifty years old. Now many countries have got an average life expectancy that is over seventy years. The reasons for this increase are fewer deaths of babies, a healthier diet better housing and working condition and fewer fatal diseases.
We are breaking other barriers, too. Athletes are breaking records all the time and the IQs are rising by between 5% and 25% every generation. In spite of it many Doctors think that there are genetic limits. These limits are the lifetimes of our organs, that seem to be programmed for about eighty years.
These are only a few examples for cures in the future:
Drug implants can release drugs into the body very slowly and controlled. A small pump inside the body can help people with diseases like cancer or diabetes.
Artificial blood will make life easier for hospitals everywhere. It would not be necessary to donate blood anymore, and the artificial blood can be kept longer.
Doctors think that they will be able to cure two thirds of cancer patients with new drugs, operations or new ways of helping the human immune system.
In most of the science fiction films the innovations in technology are described best, and the effects on humans are not that important. Even in the dossier Future Life, technology plays a major part. So here are the prospects for the next century written by a technicians few. Everybody can come up with his own thoughts about the effects on human life and on his own life.
The Gene Revolution
Scientists have started to decode the complete genetic system of humans. When they have finished their work in several years, there will be a complete map of mankind's genetic identity. We may improve our knowledge about cancer, AIDS and inherited diseases. Perhaps we can see the connection between body and mind.
The knowledge could be very dangerous, too. We could create perfect humans, stop people from growing old or clone people. Cloning and splicing are two major parts of genetic engineering. Splicing means that you put together parts of different genes. Results of this technology are animals that produce more wool or meat, do not catch certain diseases or give milk that contains important medical drugs.
Freedom is the name of a $30 billion American and European project. It will be the first permanent space station and it will be launched in 1998. Separate sections will be sent five hundred kilometres into the orbit via series of 20 spaceshuttle flights. Freedom will weigh over two hundred tons and will have 5 living modules for 10 astronauts at a time. Astronauts will stay in the stations for several months. They will carry out scientific experiments and repair satellites and other spacecraft.
Moonbases will be built mainly to carry out big scientific experiments, and as a starting point for longer journeys into the solar system and perhaps to find huge amounts of metals.
The base will be finished in 2010. It will be built for only about 30 scientists. To improve the working conditions, it will be necessary to have water and oxygen under a large roof. If these experiments show that humans can live on the moon, there could be lunar cities later. These are the same prospects which people had a hundred years ago. So let's see what really happens.
Mars: The Next Frontier
The engineers think that it would cost about $700 billion to put an astronaut on Mars. Scientists hope that this most expensive journey of all times is going to take place in the next 25 years. They have got a plan of five stages:
1. A large petrol tanker leaves before the astronauts themselves. This craft goes into orbit around Mars once it arrives.
2. The second craft, with the astronauts, makes the journey starting at the space station "Freedom". It will last for about seven months. They will have to recycle about 70% of everything they use.
3. In the orbit of Mars the manned craft is refuelled by the petrol tanker.
4. A manned craft flies to Mars and stays there for about two weeks.
5. After that, they reenter orbit to the big craft, and fly back to earth via Freedom.
If this journey really takes place, humanity is ready to launch something like "Star Trek".
I do not want to speak too much about computers. We all know what they are able to do, and what they are used for. I just want to say a few words about fibre optics, and after that, a little bit about the next computer generation.
These are small tubes of pure glass that were invented in the 1960s. They will replace the now used copper cables, because you can transmit more information at one time. For example, in one fibre optic you can send TV-pictures, phone calls and computer data at the same time.
The system works by transmitting information first in current and then into light. At the other end the light is transmitted back into the original form. The only problem in replacing the copper cables is the oldest problem of the world, money.
The next generation of computers will be very different from the computers nowadays. They will understand spoken instructions, be able to answer, and maybe be able to think. This is based on our brain that consists of complex neural networks. Computers will have electronic neural networks. They will not be able to work as perfectly as the human brain does, but these computers can do smaller parts of our thinking. They also will be able to learn without the help of humans.
The problem is that our society depends on electricity. The question is how the energy should be produced in the future. Now, most of the energy is produced in coal, gas, oil and nuclear power stations. If we want to stop the pollution and make sure that we have energy in the future, we should use power stations like wind farms, wave machines or solar panels.
They will be used to reduce the resistance in wires, which causes a big loss of energy. Scientists are working to find the best material, that has no resistance at the highest possible temperature. At the moment, this temperature is at about minus 170° centigrade, and is reached with superconductors made of ceramics. It is not too expensive to reach this temperature, so this technology has got a big future.
This was my speech about the future. I hope that you can imagine now, that the future will look like, and how yours, and your children's lives are going to be. And never forget that the future is not written yet. You have to work for your future and your future is going to be as you like it to be.