When today’s millennial generation has children of their own, they could live in a world filled with flying cars and robot workers while having the option to travel through space to distant planets.
They could be known as the Star Trek generation.
Science fiction buffs know the Star Trek universe takes place in the 23rd century when the Earth is at peace, humans have given up their desire for money, and mankind has developed colonies on other worlds.
That’s a mere 200 years from where we stand today, an insignificant time period in the history of the world. Looking at the technological achievements of humanity today, it’s easy to see how such a world might become reality.
An AI Workforce
While humans will always be a part of the Earth’s labor pool, it’s easy to see how smart robots will one day push large numbers of men and women out of the workforce. Already, we have restaurants that deliver food without human interaction and driverless cars are almost ready to hit the road, which could put millions of truck drivers out of business.
Some jobs will remain forever in human hands: the caring of an infant and maintenance of the elderly, but other positions will be phased out with the advent of intelligent machines.
Machines are better suited to factory work and humans are better off not performing repetitive slavish tasks like robots, but the change to a non-human workforce might be jarring for society, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes told NPR.
“I think there is a sense that our economy is broken in many ways. But rather than try to restructure our economy so it looks like the 1950s, I think we have to be honest with ourselves.”
Universal Basic Income
When machines push humans out of the workforce it will become necessary for society to cure two problems: families must still provide for themselves and people will need to find something else to center their lives around, as Elon Musk told CNBC.
“People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things. Certainly more leisure time. And then we gotta figure how we integrate with a world and future with a vast AI.”
The idea of a basic income provided to all citizens isn’t new; six U.S. states experimented with the idea in the 1960s and Switzerland considered implementing the practice this summer, but decided to hold off.
It’s an issue our society will have to deal with at some point. Technofuturists like Murray Shanahan argue society is quickly approaching the time of the “singularity” when humans are overtaken by thinking machines, according to the MIT Press.
“Whether we believe that singularity is near or far, likely or impossible, apocalypse or utopia, the very idea raises crucial philosophical and pragmatic questions.”
Elon Musk tells us that in a few decades it will be possible to transport people to Mars in large numbers and a hundred years after that we can expect a fully functioning colony on the red planet to be self-sufficient.
Once Mars has an established human outpost, there’s nothing to stop mankind from establishing colonies on the clouds of Venus, distant asteroids or even the moons of Jupiter.
NASA is partnering with international groups and private companies to expand humanity’s presence in space and establish a new economy in orbit above Earth. In our lifetime, there is a very real possibility that hundreds or thousands of people could be living and working in space in what can only be dubbed a Star Trek-like environment.
There’s also the flip side of the future. The Pentagon is already preparing for future wars in a world devastated by the effects of climate change, but recycling technologies are also taking a leap forward.
In a world deeply divided by the gap between rich and poor, it’s easy to see how the American military could be engaged in a never-ending war against citizens of developing countries holed up in megacities, as reported by The Intercept.
“Urban conflict is written deep into the Army’s histories, but in tomorrow’s conflict these megacities are orders of magnitude greater in complexity.”
“Even our counterinsurgency doctrine honed in the cities of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan is inadequate to address the sheer scale of population in the future urban reality.”
One of the only remaining jobs left to humans could be leading robot drones into battle against the disenfranchised citizens of a third world country rioting against the government.
It seems like a science fiction story told by novelists like Marko Kloos in his book Terms of Enlistment, but it could easily become a reality.
One thing is certain, with the rise of today’s modern technology, society is poised on the doorstep of another social revolution that will change the world as much as the Industrial Revolution changed civilization.
Where will you be when the Star Trek generation comes of age?
[Featured Image by sdecoret/Shutterstock]