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Why the future is always uncertain


In writing 2101: Spark of Hope I researched past predictions of the future and tried to understand why predicting even the near future is so difficult. Contrary to my expectations, chaos theory taught me that every system will at some point becomes unstable. It is often a new, or unexpected variable that leads to dramatic change.

Right now, the world is experiencing war in Europe, record heat waves, record floods, a persistent pandemic, record level of inflation and disruptions to supply chains. What might be some of the unexpected variables that could completely change the trajectory of climate change?

  1. Energy generation: Fossil fuel consumption in 2021 continued to increase, despite renewable energy reaching 10% of generation. Growth in energy demand is currently outpacing renewable growth. A potential game changer is fusion. Based on the commercialisation path of nuclear fission commercially viable fusion energy generation could be less than 20 years away. Another interesting concept is harnessing plant networks to provide low intensity electricity.

  2. Food Shortage: The war in Ukraine has highlighted how little surplus capacity exists in the global food supply chain. Unseasonal weather variation has disrupted food production. Fishing fleets need to travel further over longer distances to fill their holds. Inflationary pressure is contributing to societal distress and unrest. The United Nations highlighted that tens of millions of people may die of starvation in the next year. Food shortages have the potential to dramatically shift the status quo.

  3. Climate change escalation: For many, conjecture about climate change has turned to reality. Record wet, record hot, frequent out of season storms along with large scale wildfires are affecting everyone. The stalling of the polar currents with reduced ice melt could intensify the degradation of ocean ecosystems. Ocean degradation along with frequent wildfires will escalate the rate of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide level, with drastic and sudden consequences to habitability of highly populated areas.

  4. Nuclear war: Arguably, the belief that the use of nuclear weapons by one side will lead to a wired in reciprocal use by the other side, has curbed major conflict. However, Russia raised the threat level through its actions in Ukraine and there are many actors who could conspire to trigger a nuclear attack. The saying, "if it can go wrong, it will go wrong at some stage" is true. Should a nuclear war eventuate, it's almost certain to be triggered by a mistake or by unhinged thinking from unexpected quarters.

  5. Asteroid Strike: Earth's history suggests an asteroid strike changed the planet's ecosystem, wiping out the dinosaurs. There are many asteroids yet to be identified, and it is likely one will be on track to hit Earth at some point. In 2101: Spark of Hope, the need to manage the risk of an asteroid strike, brought people together to build a defense system. It's possible an external threat like this could lead to the establishment of true global governance.

  6. Disease: Covid has shown two things: 1- new diseases may impact populations at a faster rate than in the past, 2- Human ingenuity is creating more in-depth understanding of complex life and how to combat disease. Rapid degradation of oceanic and land ecosystems has potential to liberate more exotic and prehistoric pathogens that can spread globally within days.

  7. Controlled transition away from fossil fuels: It is still possible that humanity does manage to limit the amount of Anthropocene warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Chaos theory suggests that a steady climate transition over decades is unlikely. Government leaders don't have the tenure to take a long-term perspective. Everyone looks for someone else to do the heavy lifting. The economic imperative for growth isn't compatible with putting the ecosystem first. A paradigm shift is needed. In 2101: Spark of Hope, it's the rise of more empathetic female leadership that brings about change.

  8. Influence of AI: Without question, machines are accelerating our rate of learning. Connecting to vast amounts of data with blinding processing speeds, advanced learning algorithms build, test, and apply new theories faster than ever. In 2101: Spark of Hope, machine intelligence evolves to make decisions independent of humanity.

  9. Divine intervention: For many people belief in science seems incompatible with believing in a higher power. However, historical writings and current day belief structures provide anecdotal evidence that a higher power could intervene and change the course of history.

  10. Space Colonisation: It seems more likely than not that the colonisation of the moon and Mars may commence within the next 10 years. How might this change the psyche of humanity? Space colonisation may lead to greater global collaboration or alternatively it may spark renewed competition and conflict. Without doubt the perspective of humanity will be changed with direct consequences for Earth from space colonisation.

  11. Discovery of origins of UFO's: It seems astonishing to consider how little is known about these intelligently controlled objects that have been recorded moving at speeds and in ways we cannot explain. Governments no longer deny that these observations are real. The frequency of observations near nuclear weapons has led some people to speculate these objects might intervene to prevent nuclear war. Without doubt these UFO observations highlight that we have much more to learn. 2101: Spark of Hope explores the implications of an unexplained craft called the Spark.

Discussion: In researching and writing 2101: Spark of Hope I wanted to interpolate where the world might be in the near future. From history I learnt that there are always unexpected influences that emerge to disrupt the predicted trajectories of systems (Chaos theory). Humanity is currently learning and innovating at rates faster than ever before and I am certain that the next 80 years be transformative.

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