We assembled some of the most progressive thinkers of our time at a retreat in the Swiss Alps. Sequestered far from interruption, our "tank of thinkers" spent two weeks debating the likely course of events over the next half-century. Pausing only for sustenance, sleep, and occasional trips into town to go antiquing, they cast their minds into the future, and returned to tell us what they saw.
The date is June 15 ... 2059.
The world ran on fossil fuels for centuries, but now looks elsewhere to shoulder the load. Renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro, temperate fusion, and chaos-fire now make up half of all energy consumption. Most remaining fossil fuels are comprised of "überdiesel," an amalgam of traditional diesel, natural gas, and hydrogenated corn syrup. Majestic expanses of solar arrays and windmill forests are a common sight. The 300-meter Arecibo Radio Telescope now stands atop the Chrysler Building to act as a solar reflector, the telescope itself having been replaced by a two-inch plate of selenium with eight times the dish's radio capacity. Japan generates most of its electricity from volcanoes, which turns out to be even more bad-ass than it sounds. Natural lighting is more prevalent than ever with the development of building materials that behave like Transitions® Lenses. Flexible solar panels can be found on on hats, backpacks, strollers, pet clothing etc., with USB adapters to charge electronic devices on the go. Not all parts of the world are as ready to embrace renewable energy sources — China has built four coal plants, each the size of Toronto.
Automobiles are alive and well, though most are more modestly sized than some of their 20th century ancestors. Motorists in dense metropolitan areas favor two- and three-person "subcars," which can be linked together for more efficient propulsion. A new breed of carpooling emerges as neighbors join four and five cars at a time on their way to work. Calling "shotgun" now means being the lead subcar — an archaic term, as shotguns were long ago replaced by arc-plasma repeaters. The greatest advancement in transport has come from matter teleportation. The technology still has a ways to go, and can only be used safely on inanimate solids. No liquids or gases, and certainly no organisms. However, international shipping has undergone a revolution. Cargo vessels returned to port by the dozen, trucks came off the road by the hundred. Thousands of truck drivers lost their jobs, but were re-tasked either to operate transporter units, or to clean stray animals out of the solar arrays and windmill forests. They still wear leg-mounted devices to urinate freely.
A vocal minority among our "tank of thinkers" feel that we are morally (perhaps even legally) obligated to mention jet packs. There are none. Get over it.
The airwaves crackle with cellular frequencies, joining distant corners of the Earth in conversation. They literally crackle, many people have been needlessly killed. Communicator devices are no thicker than a few sticks of gum and weigh only a few ounces, yet each has the processing capability of five Cray supercomputers. Location- and activity-aware applications keep all of your friends and family up to date with a real-time feed of your status, whether they want to know or not. Tiny microchips embedded in contact lenses let you control your communicator via eye movements. Everyone you meet can be added or blocked on your list of social contacts by blinking one or both eyes, giving rise to such lingo as, "I thought she was into me, but she gave me the full blink." Nerds are used to the full blink, jocks not so much. Each household is networked from top to bottom. Homeowners have 24-hour access from anywhere in the world, and can start the laundry, get a pot of coffee going, check what's in the fridge, or activate their workerbot. Workerbots hardly ever go on murderous rampages anymore.
Physicians now diagnose diseases prior to their contraction by a statistical algorithm that factors vital signs, environmental factors, and genetic predisposition. Patients learn of their impending illness by teleported mail, then receive medicine and lollipops. Freed from 99% of patient contact, doctors seldom wear pants. For limb and organ replacement, there are two options. Fully organic limbs are grown in "arm farms," made possible by synthetic stem cells. Meanwhile, cybernetic implants offer a more stylish, high-end alternative. The cyberlimbs come with special features and abilities, such as mood alteration fields, a place to put your keys, or a GAU-8 Avenger. The result is that the affluent and trendy have brand name cybernetics, while low- and middle-class workers — many of whom lost their limbs operating matter teleporters — have generic cell-grown replacements that don't always resemble the recipient. Wearing the latest in cybernetics is known as "dropping tech." Still no cure for the common cold, though.
With the television broadcast system taken completely offline to free up frequencies for controlling the swarm of giant weaponized bees (a division of the Coast Guard), all entertainment is delivered through the Internet. The only thing distinguishing TV shows from movies or webisodes is length. Many popular programs are less than three seconds long. Full-immersion 3D technology allows anyone to experience any performance live. Artists from around the world reach audiences in the tens of thousands, who are represented at the physical venue by holograms resembling the crowds in "Guitar Hero." Sports teams enjoy the same exposure, with the intriguing side-effect that allegiances are no longer strictly tied to geography. A random sports fan from Anytown USA might follow the Houston Rockets for basketball, the Chunichi Dragons for baseball, the Miami Dolphins for American football, FC Barcelona for world football, and Dynamo Moscow for hockey. Anytown USA, of course, being the state-less district established to house irradiated "sorrowgazers" from the Uranium Wars of the '30s. Advertising is delivered in pill form. Reality programming remains staggeringly popular, especially shows about antiquing.
Tourists regularly make trips to the International Space Station Mark II. ISS Mark II, funded by a global tax on heroin, has a hotel and casino, featuring new zero-gravity betting games like Dual-Axis Craps and Endless Twirling. There is a mining settlement on the Moon with a population of around thirty. All United Nations members take turns sending their best and brightest for 18-month shifts. This is seen as a privilege or a sentence, depending on the country. A coalition of the US, South Korea, and the EU-5 maintain an outpost on Mars operated by robots. The robots perform the exact same tasks as the astronauts on the Moon, though they send messages to the lunar colony along the lines of "Hey, can you build us some more robots? There's some really cool shit going on out here and we could use an extra pair of hands" and "Good morning! We're on Mars and you're not."
LIFE IN GENERAL
Global warming has slowed but not yet abated, save for the Ice Age of 2028 that meteorologists agree was just a statistical anomaly. Military conflicts became more and more urban, culminating in a mid-scale war that was fought entirely indoors. A sentient computer made tabloid headlines by giving birth to quintuplets. Paper money still exists, but changes value depending on how much available funds you have in your account. Children are paired with a genetically engineered companion animal, which protects them and serves as a tutor. Venice has been rescued from its slow descent into the sea and sits upon a new system of stilts, putting it at the same altitude as Denver. Parts of California fall into the Pacific Ocean once per year, as decided by popular vote among the other 49 states. There have probably been no alien attacks, but don't hold us to that.