Extreme computing science, and what the future holds

Just before New Year’s day, we were watching an episode of Tomorrow’s World, the BBC production that loosely predicted future technology. Filmed in 1989, the show presented the home of 2020, and considering its age, it was fairly accurate. But it made us think, what’s in store for the next thirty, fifty, or even several hundred years?

Somewhere, some technology boffin is at this very moment in the throes of creating the next step in computing evolution. No doubt he or she is locked in a laboratory of some significance, deep within the bowls of NASA, the Navy Research Center, or some other organisation where having the technological edge means the difference between controlling the resources of the future, or not.

But what is this next step likely to involve? What will it be? How will it possibly work? And, what could it be used for? We had a little dig around the deeper side of the internet, and made contact with some futurologists to see what could be around the corner, and what’s likely to appear in a hundred, two hundred and even three hundred years’ time. It’s all hypothetical, of course, but there could be an element of truth behind each of these bold future claims.

2020 to 2050

Bioinformatics will be the word on everyone’s lips in the five years from 2020 to 2030, in particular Personal Genome Sequencing.

Thanks to the increasing power of the computer, the introduction of Quantum state computing at a lower price than ever before, means that all 3.3 billion base pairs in the human genome will be identified and mapped in a matter of minutes. What’s more, the use of exotic technology such as nanopores and nano-meds now means that by 2030 the genome sequencer could possibly be a portable device, and will offer humanity the ability to identify any possible risks of disease later in life; so treatment to cure the ailments can start years or decades in advance of the disease showing up.

Virtual reality will no doubt make an appearance again, however this time around it’ll be somewhat better than ever before thanks to the likes of the Oculus Rift, faster processing, on-person hardware and the next step in internet evolution. The serious applications for VR will help doctors, surgeons, engineers and others who need to get ‘in to’ an object to repair or enhance it, but it’ll be led primarily by the games industry who will create entirely new worlds where people will get lost for hours in.

By 2040 it is believed that the first of the Solar Updraft Towers will be completed, or near to completion. These eight hundred metre towers will generate over 200 Megawatts of clean, solar power as well as creating a clean greenhouse of modified crops that will feed thousands.

The towers work by heating air in hot desert sun in a large greenhouse around the base of the structure; the air then rises through convection up the inside of the tower, like a chimney and drives the turbines which creates electricity. By 2050, the hope is to have thousands of these towers dotted around the desert regions of the Earth, and with each one removing the pollution equivalent of 220,000 cars the end result is a much cleaner planet – and, the technological start for off-planet dwellings. On the computing side, massive data centres can be housed at the base of the towers, with the heat generated swept up the chimney and powered through the solar energy gathered in solar panel arrays throughout the complex.

The next generation of microprocessor technology will be released by Intel, with transistors using a 1.4 nanometre manufacturing process. Billions of transistors will now be packed onto a single chip, and Moore’s Law will soon be at the absolute limit as the effects of quantum tunnelling start to degrade chip performance. Traditional integrated circuits will reach their limit in 2040, with a new process emerging through the use of ‘stacked’ 3D circuits, made from carbon nanotubes, Graphene and other exotic materials.

2050 to 2099

Holographic TVs are thought to now be in production and available to the public. Thanks to the vast improvements of processor, read/write speeds of media and laser technology we could be seeing true, super-definition holographic systems that display at over 100 frames per second. By 2075 futurists think that personal holographic hardware will be carried on your person, and ‘phone’ calls, virtual meetings and online gaming will be conducted through a holographic representation of yourself or avatar.

Additional to the holographic technology, by the end of 2099 we’ll be using holograpghy to walk through the then equivalent of Google Earth, which will be mapped in real time thanks to the new generation of super-high resolution satellites and combining street level cameras.

Robotics has entered a new era of functionality by 2050, with AI now reaching that of a human level, a robot will be capable of being left alone to complete a task or job and self-evaluate any problems it may encounter during the course of the day. As a result, most of humanity is now in the last leg of potentially being out of work, as robots can successfully do any job a human can do faster, more accurate, without break, payment, holidays or environmental concerns. In fact, robots are now being sent to the Moon mining facility, first set up by the Chinese in 2030, and near-Earth asteroids to mine for valuable minerals. And, the first robotic ‘settlement’ is created on Mars to help prepare the planet for terraforming and human habitation.

In 2050 digital storage has grown to such an amount that a device the size of a Micro SD card is now capable of storing the equivalent of over three times the brain capacity of the entire human race. Hyper-technology, like Picotechnology, is capable of creating electronic pathways to within a trillionth of a metre, 10-12, with the help of artificial atoms and quantum energy states within exotic electrons. As a result, the first human upload experiments are being conducted, where the entire contents of a human brain, all memories, experiences, knowledge etc. will be uploaded to a secure digital storage facility for such a time as when it’s possible to download into a new body, either grown from the host tissue, cloned, or robotic.

By 2090, computing power has grown to such an extent that a traditional ‘computer’ of the time is now more powerful than that of a billion human brains. So, to help humans integrate better with their technology neural implants are now commonplace. With digital storage being faster than the electro-chemical impulses of the human brain, a secondary processing unit is now needed, surgically implanted in the brain, along with enough digital storage to last a hundred lifetimes to upload and download information from the future internet and processed through a normal working day. Which inevitably leads to the first prime examples of a cyborg, and the eventual immortality of a human being.

Although the environment is stabilising thanks to renewable energy and advanced terraforming technology, the sea levels are rising due to the damage done and the melting of the polar ice caps. Antarctica is now a single major city, by 2099, and floating, almost nomadic cities are adrift on the oceans of the world. The advances in space technology have allowed humanity to construct Gateway (NASA’s major forecasted space station for the next century) where all space-led technology is derived from thanks to the unique properties of Zero-G and vacuum manufacturing.

2100 to 2199

The twenty second century sees some magnificent technological and engineering achievements, but potentially at the cost of our own humanity.

The dehumanising of our species is now complete, with most of humanity opting to augment their bodies with robotics and cybernetics. Where AI and robots of the previous century were created to work for us, the advantages of being non-human became so apparent that a merging of the two was inevitable. Now a Transhuman can work in environment that would otherwise kill a fully organic human, thus leading to the conquest of the local solar system.

The Moon and Mars are now populated, with Mars entering its last few decades of terraforming and environment engineering, although most Transhumans can survive in the atmosphere already, the planet is being prepared for other biological lifeforms. The Moon is a vast mining centre, producing all the minerals to build the next generation of hyper-computers and Picotechnology state processing units.

Human uploading has reached a point now where the downloading of previous lives into artificial bodies is possible. People who died many decades ago are now being ‘re-born’ into cybernetic humanoid forms complete with all their previous memories and experiences. Also, due to the faster than light quantum state of paired particles, it is now becoming possible to upload the entire human brain to an artificial body on a different planet (Mars, or the Moon) in a matter of seconds. Thus eliminating the need to travel the vast distances involved (NASA and other space agencies are actually asking for funding for this concept even now!).

Away from Tranhumanism and robotics, the hyper-computer now has the processing power and digital storage speeds capable of successfully re-creating a perfect simulation of one cubic metre of the universe.

Using lattice quantum chromodynamics, by dividing space-time into a four-dimensional grid, the hyper-computer of the 22nd century is able to produce a single cubic metre of space down to the smallest possible quantum unit. This gives rise to the production of true quantum pairs within the real universe which can be ‘sent’ to the farther reaches of the solar system, and eventually beyond. When these exotic pairs are matched, anything sent through one will emerge from the other almost instantly. What this basically means, in theory (we think) is that by the mid to end of the 22nd century, humanity could traverse the solar system in an instant. With a significant boost in Quantum Communication Complexity trillions of pairs can be sent to other start systems and create a kind of worm hole effect, or as NASA are trying to produce in lab environments: a Jump Gate, which will create instantaneous travel throughout the galaxy, eventually.

The hyper-computer will also start to offer near perfect virtual reality through the manipulation of semi-solid holograms (which can rearrange matter accordingly). The end result is a virtual world where it would be very difficult to distinguish between what is actually real and what isn’t. The best example of this is of course the famous Holodeck on board the Starship Enterprise.

Recycling sterilised organic particulates and through hyper-computing, it’s now becoming possible to print an object from virtually nothing. The raw resources are stored in containers, recycled from matter thrown out by the mass consuming humanity, then added with femtoengineered components to require the least amount of quantum manipulation. The result is the possibility of asking a 22nd century 3D printer to print anything, and within a few minutes you’ll have the object in your hands.

The 3D printing of the future won’t be limited to just plastics and other non-biological materials, as everything that is recycled will be broken down into its atomic components, and then re-assembled into the object at the quantum level. So, in true Star Trek form, you could ask for a bowl of cereal and one will start to ‘print out’ ready for you to eat.

Thanks to the cybernetics of the future, and the secondary processing units now implanted into every human brain, the need for the spoken word is starting to diminish, as nearly everyone utilises and embraces digital telepathy (something that many military research centres are working on at present). The speed at which the exotic processor implanted in the brain can communicate with another is far faster than any form of speech. In theory, an entire encyclopaedia’s worth of information can be transmitted in seconds between two Brain-CPUs. What’s more, the entire Transhuman race is capable of sharing ideas and communicating via ‘The Cloud’ of the future, on Earth as well as on the colonised planets of the solar system. So no longer can you smile at someone while simultaneously questioning their parentage without them knowing what you’re thinking.

And finally…

After trawling through this lot you can be forgiven for considering that it’s well beyond our current thinking, and that we’d most likely be pushing up the daisies long before any of this actually happens. But, you could be wrong.

It is thought that someone who is now 13 or 14 and reading this, in other words someone who is born in the year 2007/8 could very well be alive and well in the 22nd Century due to personal genome therapy which will offer them an increased lifespan of up to 150 years. Plus, after that, the advanced cybernetics, artificial implants and robotics, not to the mention the memory upload, could see the teenager of today being fully capable of walking around the world of 2150 and beyond.

So despite most of this being pure science fiction, it could be, although very remote, possible that our children or grandchildren who read this article will be able to fully appreciate the transition of humanity leaving the biological and embracing the artificial to become Transhuman and to walk the surface of Mars, or even other worlds. After all, why not? In our timeline alone we’ve seen humans walk on the Moon, create vast digital living worlds that we enjoy in the comfort of our living rooms, and allow us to live longer than we ever thought possible a mere fifty years ago.


Providing humanity manages to survive the next couple of hundred years, what’s in store for the 23rd Century? Well, futurologists and those gifted with foresight think that 99% of all humanity will be integrated with AI, and that most of the time what’s left of the human side of us will be spent inside vast virtual reality realms, where we can experience God-like abilities and fulfil our most ardent desires.

The internet, or whatever it’ll evolve into is a vast global hive mind containing the collective thoughts and memories of all humans since mind uploading was possible. Everything is automated, nanotechnology exists in everything and can manufacture at the molecular level. Everything can be synthesised quickly; in the future, personal possessions mean and are worth virtually nothing.

In such a world, the driving force is the accumulation of ideas and knowledge. Information is the GDP of the 23rd Century. Religion is non-existent, as humanity itself is almost god-like in its abilities and life means very little. After all, you can never die, you’ll never grow old, you’ll never have the pleasure of childhood, and you could rarely experience anything new since every experience is already available online. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, whether it’s worth it or not.

The far-flung future

Boffins predict that the far future, as in 2300 and beyond, will consist of humanity’s expansion into deep space, since all earthly experiences have already been accomplished and the urge to ‘sell’ new experiences will over-power the economy of the future.

Things like flying into the Sun, or into the depths of Jupiter and other such suicide runs will be a favourable market commodity, especially since death became obsolete. The expansion into the galaxy will lure billions of humans beyond our solar system in search of new stimuli and it’s thought that eventually probes, that are in essence the thoughts and minds of humans, will spread out into deep space to colonise other planets.

It’s a sobering thought, and one that’s in some ways a little depressive. Of course, the future isn’t set in stone, so who knows what’ll happen. What do you think? Let us know below.

David Hayward

David has spent most of his life tinkering with technology, from the ZX Spectrum, getting his hands on a Fujitsu VPP5000/100 supercomputer, and coding on an overheating Raspberry Pi. He's written for the likes of Micro Mart, Den of Geek, and countless retro sites and publications, covering reviews, creating code and bench testing the latest tech. He also has a huge collection of cables.

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