Futurists, sometimes called futurologists, attempt to systematically predict what the future will look like. Since the future hasn't arrived yet, these predictions always expose the biases or beliefs of the predictor. These biases or beliefs are never stated explicitly, so they reside mostly in the unconscious of the predictor or the society at large. Exposed bias makes it informative, and sometimes highly entertaining, to watch futurist films.
My own view of the future is based on my understanding of Human Nature. The future will resemble the past. Since hunter-gatherer times during the Ice Ages and the early Neolithic, a time during which many expressions of Human Nature were not yet enabled, we have always had organized warfare. This was the world after the invention and spread of agriculture and the first cities. It is thus reasonable to conclude that we will have organized warfare in the future. These new wars will be made more lethal by humankind's astonishing technological prowess.
Since hunter-gatherer times, we have always had hierarchical societies run by elites. We will therefore have such societies in the future. Truly "free" trade as described in economic textbooks has never existed. It will not exist in the future. In the past, we have always exploited the natural world to increase human populations and economies. We will continue to do so in the future, though with little success, I fear—Nature always bats last, as the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan attest. I could enumerate such examples ad nauseam.
I have two futurological film clips today. The first, called The Near Future Of Our World (2011-2200), is interesting in the sense explained above. The second one, called The Astounding World of The Future, is simply one of the funniest things I have ever seen. I will not comment on this second one, which is so true to human life as we know it. You'll see what I mean.
The first clip presents an extraordinarily optimistic vision of the future. Indeed, it is characteristic of futurist films that they expose the optimism bias which seems to be built right into human cognition. This strong psychological tendency is also described as overconfidence bolstered by positive illusions. The filmmaker obviously believes that global warming will have disastrous effects—rising sea levels, severe droughts, etc. But even as he predicts these disasters, the March Of Progress goes on and on! For example, by 2115—
- Nomadic "floating cities" are roaming the oceans since many of the world's cities lie partially submerged due to rising sea levels.
So, how would we terraform Mars? It sounds like a momentous task when you consider it. Mars has an average surface temperature of minus 60ºC, and so to make it viable for plant and human life you would need to raise that to above freezing, to roughly 5ºC. And of course you would need an atmosphere to breathe. This would require heating up the entire planet by 65ºC, and forming an atmosphere consisting of trillions of cubic metres of air. It is nothing short of an incredible task, but we plan ahead, and we've got a lot of time.
Of course, Homo sapiens will successfully terraform Mars when Hell freezes over. For example, where is the energy going to come from to heat up the entire planet to 60ºC? We're lucky we can still fill up our gas tanks—at an ever increasing cost over time.
The hidden assumption revealed here is what I have called The Assumption Of Technological Progress, which I first stated on DOTE in Technological Progress And The Oil Leak. I recommend you read that post, and the background links if you are interested in understanding this important aspect of human optimism.
I shall have to devote a separate post to this subject. An examination of Human Nature says our species is very technologically clever, but says nothing about what progress we might make along those lines. For example, where are the alternative energy technologies that will replace fossil fuels at the vast scales we require? They don't exist, regardless of what Al Gore thinks. Perhaps they never will. I think that is the likeliest outcome.
And now, without further ado, the films.