For hundreds of years humans thought death was their destiny and one day the grim reaper would simply come and take them away;today people have very different views: death is a technical problem that science and medicine can fix. In the future, the very rich may become amortal, which means unless they die in an accident, they will effectively live for ever. These people won’t age or die from disease, for example. There are a few animals which scientists are interested in because they already live for a very long time, such as the immortal jellyfish which can regenerate, and the hydra which doesn’t appear to age during its 1400-year life.
Some scientist believe amortality will be achieved by 2200, others by 2100, but in Silicon Valley a few entrepreneurs believe they can live forever. Bill Marris (the founder of Google Ventures) says “If you ask me today is it possible to live to 500, the answer is yes” and backs up his bold vision with a lot of money. Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal) also aims to live forever. If scientists can increase lifespan by a large amount, would you want to live forever?
We have known manipulating certain genes can alter the aging process but to do it safely is tricky. One method involves “switching on” certain genes, which are linked with stem cells known as the Yamanakan factors, to turn any cell into an unspecialised cell (an induced pluripotent stem cell or iPSC). When a cell goes through this process it appears younger, however, if you turn too many cells into unspecialised cells then organs will stop functioning in the way they need to. A group of researchers in Salk Institute of Biology in California have developed a technique to extend the life of mice by 30%. Instead of fully changing the cells they gave them some of the age-defying effects. Humans are too complex yet but it is likely to be a reality one day.
Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, which means he can only see in greyscale. He has turned himself into a cyborg by attaching an antenna to the back of his head which measures light frequencies. When a chip in his head receives a signal, it plays a note for the colour he is looking at. He then hears this through bone conduction.
We are already using technology to help people with disabilities so why not upgrade able-bodied people? In the next 100 years we could have improved memories, strength, enhanced organ functionality and more, so we can live longer and survive in tougher environments. In labs we will be able to grow organs which we can use to replace worn out cells. On the other hand, the upgrade will be for the very rich so we may also spark old racist ideologies but this time the difference will be manufactured. Will we change ourselves so much we are no longer humans but something else?
Samsung predicts that in 100 years from now, as our city space becomes more squashed, we will build higher and dig deeper to make super skyscrapers, which will dwarf our current buildings. There will also be earth scrapers which will go down 25 storeys beneath the ground. Samsung also predicts we may build underwater aquatic cities which will make breathable air using the water, and we will travel on holiday by personal drones. Some drones may even take house on holiday!
In the future, we may also be moving on from Earth – to the moon, Mars and beyond. NASA predict that it would cost $10 billion to colonise the moon as soon as 2022. However, most scientists aren’t very interested in the moon, for example Chris McKay (NASA astrobiologist) thinks it is “as dull as a ball of concrete”. But, arguably, the moon will be easier to colonise and act as a “blueprint” for Mars. Previously, government run space companies have been breaking records, but it is likely private space companies will be leading the space race. Many private companies such as SpaceX are pushing for space tourism and are trying to get tourists around the moon by 2018.
We regularly hear about global warming but what kind of effect will it have on us in the next 100 years? Already, we are noticing slight changes, 2016 has been the hottest year and gardeners are cutting their lawns later in the year, but soon it could start to have a significant impact. In the 2050s, the UK could be regularly experiencing temperatures of 35 degrees celsius and although some might like this idea, we will also see more summer droughts. In the winter, we will have many flash-floods due to an increase in storms. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have vividly illustrated what hurricanes do and unfortunately, with warmer waters, there will also be more hurricanes and typhoons.
By Will Marriatt