Quantum leaps are jumps from one state to another, preferably from a state of general laziness to one of ultimate productivity (har-har) or from our good old boring present, to the fantastic and awesome future. A quantum leap, in an evolutionary sense, is a game-changing amount of progress in a relatively short time.
Humanity has made some pretty awesome quantum leaps in the past, like: the discovery of fire; the invention of the wheel; the printing press; steam-powered machines; electricity; penicillin; atomic power; the internet.
In time, these quantum leaps have become increasingly many and close together. The more we know the faster we learn. And in the future, this will happen even more rapidly. But in what order we’ll achieve these quantum leaps, no one can truly tell.
1. FTL communication
Whether by using quantum entanglement in some way, or hypothetical particles that we’d eventually discover, or through some yet unsuspected means of breaking the light-speed barrier respectively bridging enormous distances instantaneously, FTL communication will very likely happen one day. If only because we’re incessantly looking for ways to achieve it, and our understanding of quantum physics is ever-growing.
2. Interstellar travel
Whether we achieve superluminal travel or not, is highly debatable, as it would violate so many currently held physical laws as to make any scientist nauseous, but interstellar travel doesn’t necessarily have to be superluminal. We could (and likely will) develop generation ships, or auto-piloted vessels with cryogenized passengers aboard.
3. Artificial ecosystems & advanced hydroponics
Hydroponics are the agriculture of the future. They will be necessary if we are to spend any lengthy period of time off Earth — on space stations or space ships. In larger settlements, like off-world colonies, we will likely develop artificial ecosystems that are as much self-sustained as possible, introducing insects and small animals into hydroponic farms, and even means of producing and recycling soil out of organic and inorganic waste.
The next stage in colonizing other planets (or moons), will be to terraform them — the long-term modification of the local ecosystem to sustain Terran life, including ours. It would involve modifying the local atmosphere, temperature, topography and ecology to achieve a biosphere as similar to Earth’s as possible.
Ever-lasting youth by means of artificial renewal of cells, organs and ultimately the entire body. Whether it’s by altering the genetic code on cellular level, transplantation of cloned or lab grown organs, the insertion of nanites that can take over the function of deceased cells, or some other yet unsuspected technology, rejuvenation is very high on our list of things to invent. Because we’re still scared shitless of our own mortality, and the more we achieve, the more we want to tamper with it.
Today, cryogenics is basically only a deep-freezing of human heads with a high probability of cellular decay before the achievement of means to resuscitate the individuals those heads used to contain. But in the future, cryogenics will evolve into viable means of stopping the aging process (or at least reducing it to a glacial pace). Why would you want to get deep-frozen? To bridge the time to your interstellar destination, to arrest the evolution of a yet-incurable disease, to shortcut into the future (just because you can).
7. Human-computer merging
The uploading of human consciousness into an artificial neuronal network; advanced cybernetics and mechanical augmentations of the human body; or a merger of the two at an almost 50% ratio. We’ve already come a very long way in terms of cybernetic prostheses and have even successfully combined animal neuronal output with electronic neural networks (just think of the rat brained robot). One day we might not be able to tell whether we’re talking to a machine or a human, and I don’t mean over the internet.
One of the classic brainchildren of science-fiction are miniature robots—also called nanites—that operate on sub-cellular levels. Although nanorobotics is a field that’s continuously growing, we might yet be a good stretch away from the nanites of sci-fi. And when we’ll get there, I’m not so sure things will go as smoothly as we hope. Something so small, potentially capable of infesting mechanical as well as organic organisms, potentially able to repair and reproduce itself… we might be releasing a nano-plague upon humanity. Stargate’s Replicators, anyone?
a.k.a. The Singularity *dun dun duuunn*
Creating Artificial Intelligence is only a matter of computing power, and we’re getting there bit by bit (Get it? Ha-ha. *snort* Whatever.) Will we even be able to tell when the singularity hits? How far will we have advanced by that time, as homo sapiens, or as transhumans? It’s all a matter of interminable speculation.
10. Clean energy sources
There will undoubtedly come a day when we extract energy solely from clean sources, such as wind, water, geothermal and solar power. Clean, in this sense, refers to a source of energy which cannot be diminished or depleted, and does not produce waste (that’s why nuclear power doesn’t belong to this category).
We’ll get there, sooner or later, because we have no choice. All the other energy sources we have will eventually become depleted since our demand increases exponentially (coal, petrol, natural gas, biologically produced gas). Nuclear power has a very good chance of remaining a viable option, especially if security is increased, but it’s likely to be overruled by the cheaper and safer “clean” energy sources.
11. Perfect recycling
Perfect recycling means that the material in all objects we create will be entirely reused to create other objects, the terminus of this process being the use of the resulting material in combination with mineral and organic material (waste) for the creation of soil. This kind of perfect recycling will become necessary when we achieve interstellar travel in generation ships, and off-world colonization, where we’ll be stuck in small, closed ecosystems that can’t get much catering.
12. Deliberate genetic programming
From preventing genetic diseases by engineering embryos, to curing cancer by reprogramming cancer cells, to — obviously — creating perfect pets, perfectly beautiful babies (depending on the definition of beauty that’s all the rage at that time), and so on.
13. Human cloning
This is a double-edged sword: on one side, you could have a dumb, unconscious organ dispenser in a lab somewhere, to harvest whenever you need, or you could be snatched out of your home and be replaced with your duplicate and watch your life in ruins. Okay, that might only happen if you’re Schwarzenegger, but whatever.
I believe the main advantage of human cloning — if and only if the clones are not sentient* — would be the possibility of transplantation of own organs, and the freedom to make human experiments for future drugs and medical procedures, without having to actually harm any “people”.
* the sentience of a clone is a huge matter of speculation and debate, right alongside with the moral issues of cloning people. Would a clone be intelligent or have only rudimentary neurological functions? Would it be a real person? Would it be a person’s identical copy, in personality as well as body? Would it evolve differently from it’s “parent”, if it were placed in a different social environment? Would it be considered a non-person if it were kept in an artificial coma its entire life? etc.
Bonus –> 3 science-fiction tropes that will likely never become reality, due to various scientific impossibilities
1. Traveling to the past
While time travel to the future might be theoretically possible, if you’re traveling at close to, or over the speed of light — but only in relation to people and things not traveling along with you (cue: temporal relativity), travel to the past is physically impossible. Time does not have the same properties like space, it’s not a medium you can travel through. The “past” is not a point on a line you can bend and warp; it’s a collection of states of all things in existence in the universe that is no longer a reality. And you can’t go there since it no longer exists.
2. Beaming (Star Trek style)
The systematic deconstruction of a body cell by cell, particle by particle, and reconstruction thereof elsewhere based on an exact blueprint of every single particle, which is sent along with the deconstructed matter (and even if the matter isn’t transported, but reconstructed from available matter at the target destination), AND this reconstruction instantly reigniting full cellular activity, organ function and consciousness upon completion, without the individual suffering from any biological or psychological short-circuits, is and will likely always be impossible. Do I even need to tell you why?
3. Inter-dimensional travel
Not only are multiple dimensions a thing of fiction, and highly unlikely to be real, but even if we discover another dimension of existence, it’s so highly unlikely that it’s anything even remotely similar to a copy or alternate version of our own reality, that traveling between the two via some portal or superpower or whatever is simply impossible.
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This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2014.
In 2012, my Q post was — Questions Rule