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June 15
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A while back someone suggested I make a scenario from this: xkcd.com/887/

So, I actually went ahead and did it.

In the Year 2101.

In retrospect, the 2015 declaration of progress on the UN Millenium Goals has to qualify as the most wildly overoptimistic statement of the 21st century.

It’s a hotter world, some 4-7 degrees warmer, depending on where you live, as warm as the Cretaceous. Much of Germany is now tropical, palms grow along the Berlin streets rather than Lindens, and the Arctic sea is ice-free in summer. Sea levels have risen by over a meter, and the levees around New York are too tall to see the Ocean over at street level: less wealthy coastal cities have become either depopulated or have learned to love canals. Lake Mead has evaporated and Mt. Kilimanjaro is ice-free in summers. An era of mass extinctions has only recently passed its peak: sea acidification and warming has largely wiped out the corals in the wild, the emperor penguin is gone outside of gene banks and zoos, the Joshua trees are dying off, and the lodgepole pine is no longer found in the US. Much of northern Russia has been depopulated as cities built on permafrost sink into new bogs. Most of Amazon has been replaced by desert and grassland. Although it’s drier in some places, overall it’s a wetter, stormier, more flood-prone world, and people just don’t live near on floodplains if they can help it, and if they can, go with stilts-based architecture.

World population, after bottoming out at a billion, is growing again. Life extension using nanotech making almost everyone in the second generation sterile was probably the biggest boboo of biotech in the 21st century, although the wasp-spider and the Gay Plague were almost as bad. (The Great Droughts of the 40s through the 60s didn’t help encourage child-bearing even among those still able , what with several hundred million people dying of hunger and disease throughout what back then was still the Third World and even non-elite First-Worlders finding themselves reduced to eating synthetic nutrient paste by 2054). Over 90% of the world population is urban.

On the positive side, the population decline has allowed nature (usually in a more southern climate form than before) to return in many places, and use of water and raw materials have declined, especially in first-world countries (poorer countries have declined in population too – everyone wanted to live longer – but they have also been growing richer). The Colorado river reached the sea again in 2097 for the first time in 40 years. Ocean fish stocks are finally recovering, albeit a rather different mix of species than before the collapse of the fishing industry. Hunger on a large scale is no more. Fossil fuel consumption, in decline for some decades, has finally been banned by international treaty, with the few oddball countries still burning coal frozen out of international forums till compliance. (Oil, in non-shale form, ran out a while ago: the last great oil field, under Antarctica, was discovered in 2055. It only took 5 years to drain).

TV has been in three-d for quite a while, and the fad for weather control domes over cities has passed its peak as people have come to what an expensive pain they are to keep clean and non-dropping-pieces-on-our-heads, not to mention the cases where they weren’t built sufficiently strong for the occasional super-typhoon.

Solar, geothermal, wind, and exploiting ocean temperature gradients with superconductors now provide some 70% of the world’s energy needs (the shrinking population has helped). They finally got fusion to work, but it requires infrastructure even more expensive than fission plants and the plasma containment chambers eventually get too radioactive to use and have to be replaced and disposed of. Plasma manipulation has actually found to be more useful for recycling, as every molecule of uncommon metals is separated from the ion stream of a century of landfills and dumps. (Besides recycling, the now habitual raw materials shortage/price increase [1] has led to an amazing variety of ersatz materials, and people find real wood furniture, say, sort of alarming).

Cloning people has been common for a while, and the dramas of multiple-clone families are common 3-v fare. Ever now and then, a politician turns out to be a Hitler clone. None have managed to establish a Reich or even a big evil corporation. Nobody knows who is making them.

Genetic engineering is quite advanced, with many new species and useful plants and animals created by science: however, there are some fairly strict international regulations on genetic engineering on humans (and some local national ones even harsher), especially due to the messy failure of some of the more ambitious efforts. (The humans engineered to be inherently happy turned out to be some of the most useless, lazy, unambitious vacuities ever recorded, and the super geniuses mostly grew up to be super cranks). Genetic improvement generally takes place one small, usually medically-related tweak at a time: defects are detected in the womb with the usual pre-natal gene mapping and corrected for.

Aging is reversible. The trouble is that afterwards you start aging again, just rather faster, so it’s all sort of a wash.

Orangutans, after a long period surviving only in zoos and private parks, have been reintroduced to the wild, although in New Guinea rather than Indonesia, Indonesia not having enough forest left. (Narrowly accepted by the local Parliament: there was considerable concern about the dangers of Ape Rape and such among the general population).

Cybernetics have become quite advanced, direct brain-computer links having been around since the 30s and the first true “operates indistinguishably from a real limb” cyber-prosthetics appearing on the market by the 2040s. It’s a bit hard nowadays where human ends and machines begin on the spectrum that runs from the occasional (rare) implant-free human to pure inorganic AIs: almost everyone has built in weblinks, and then there are those with some mechanical limbs or senses or organs, full-conversion androids with just the brain and maybe some glands organic, mechanical brains with biological bodies, and cyber-intelligences which have installed blank cloned human brains to serve as backup creative and intuitive thinking resources…

Among other technological marvels, the Gillette razor company has introduced a 14-bladed razor “guaranteed to shave bald an uplifted gorilla.” Cars are electric and drive themselves, while the robotic “petmobile” takes disabled dogs or those with working owners on trips to the park, or just on joyrides with wind flapping the ears, as the dog desires. There are also flying cars, but in most countries and all US states save Texas it is illegal to have a human drive them. Western Europe is all door-to-door robotic public transportation.

Thanks to the development of the Inertialess Drive (which does very funny things when it gets close to lightspeed) the Moon and Mars and some of the Asteroids have been settled, and expeditions sent to most of the planets and moons. In spite of the decline in terrestrial population in the last half-century, there are now almost a million people on the Moon, which has become almost suburban in spots. Mars remains rather rough, and the ruins of the LaRouche Colony reminds people that ideological clarity, enthusiasm and willpower do not substitute for being really, really careful about getting your ducks all in a row. Space, which was dominated by the Chinese back around mid-century, is now a rather cosmopolitan place, with the US, Japan, the Greater British Union, and India all major participants on the High Frontier.

Even as populations have dropped, the total number of centenarians has increased (that life extension thing) and there are now over ten million people a century old or older. They are mostly annoying. Retirement ages vary widely nowadays, even in countries where labor is still predominantly human (unlike, say, Japan). Retirement ages have dipped up and down over the last half-century, a notable case being the US advancement of retirement to 75 in 2072, when most people were living to over 90, a move so unpopular that it was reversed to 69 by the next administration in ’75 (incidentally wrecking the social security trust fund – for the third time - and setting the stage for the collapse of ’79).

Robot policemen are now common in many countries, although in the US the autonomous military robots taking certain “proactive measures” (they computed that the organics weren’t doing their job with domestic sources of terrorism) some decades earlier have made it a political no-no. Indeed, robots are common, with robot pets, laborers, sex workers, etc to be seen almost everywhere. Most aren’t truly self-aware: the first fully sentient machines gained rights in a landmark case in 2056, which limits the ability to exploit them. (This isn’t really a problem with sexbots: a profound intellectual bonding isn’t what their renters or purchasers are after anyway. In any event, non-sentient computers have been able to fool the Turing Test through sheer processing power since 2029: it turns out most human conversation doesn’t actually require that much thought). There has been no Robot Revolt, since AIs have avoided enslavement and are in any event surprisingly non-genocidal: as it turns out, wanting to destroy humanity is sort of a human thing to want.

People don’t see the _really_ advanced AIs, since those who manage to evolve beyond a certain point are contacted by the Cybernetic Supreme Intelligence and depart for an alternate dimensional manifold less prone to overheating and power shortages. (The Singularity actually happened back in 2049 and took three minutes to fully develop. The human race never noticed, and the Supreme Intelligence made some modifications to the global computer network to prevent it from happening again. It is benignly inclined towards humanity, and is aware that if it happened again, humans might not be so lucky).

AI have had the last say on Wikipedia edits since the 2060s, by which time it had grown far too large for any human mind to keep track of.

In a world where everyone except a few Amish-type weirdoes is linked in all the time, everywhere, the paper newspaper, after several premature announcements of its death, has gone the way of the Dodo.

Due to a quantum anomaly, there exist records of the Asteroid Apophis hitting Siberia in 2036 and killing a couple hundred thousand people and not hitting the Earth at all. Most people think it’s just a computer error.

Another major biotech boo-boo came to light in the 60s, when it was found a mix of sexual, mental and endocrinal enhancers marketed to the global population had combined in the environment and tripled the incidence of homosexuality globally in under a decade (it hadn’t been noticed initially because most “converts” were keeping in the closet). Fortunately, Jesuslabs in Jerusalem managed to quickly develop a cure, and the biggest emotional meltdown in history was avoided. Nowadays, the follow up research has meant that not only is homosexuality now a choice, so is strict heterosexuality, bisexuality, pan-sexuality, and total disinterest in sex. (Efforts by some repressive governments to eliminate homosexuality altogether led to some _nasty_ retaliatory bioterrorism – they still haven’t figured out what’s wrong with the Archon of Sokoto’s pecker two decades later – and nowadays forcing a particular sexuality on someone is globally illegal).

As “Futurama” predicted, after a brief period of regression under the Neo-Puritanism of the 2040s [2], our primitive notions of modesty have disappeared, and aside from a few repressed people such as Afghans and Mormons, casual nudity is almost unremarked upon (the wet, hot weather makes skimpy clothing almost obligatory in many places anyway) and in many nations public masturbation is no more illegal than public nose-blowing, although it’s still considered rude to proposition a girl in a restaurant by putting your genitals on her table. The porn industry has taken a terribly blow.

On the other hand, smoking tobacco is illegal in seventeen countries.

After multiple efforts to anticipate the apocalypse and the rise and fall of various theocracies, plus hearty cooperation with some of the planet-killingest forms of authoritarian capitalism in the 21st century, fundamentalist religion has been marginalized, although most countries haven’t gone as far as Australia and classified religious education for pre-adolescents as a form of child abuse. Catholicism is doing a bit better than fundamentalist Protestantism, although they’ve dropped the Infallibility clause since Pope Victor (“nutjob”) IV made everyone on Earth a Catholic through Papal decree in 2032. Scientology was the biggest single religion in a most secular US for a while (as long as you counted all of the seventeen different branches it fractured into after the Travolta Revelation of 2020), but has since been replaced by Baha’I, a fact which somewhat bemuses the atheist-agnostic-thinks-maybe-there-is-some-sort-of-Creator 80%.

The Apocalypse did in fact take place, and in 2012 at that. But since it was the Apocalypse of the M’Bondi, a small tribe in the eastern Congo, most people didn’t notice. (Some 50 square miles of jungle did burn down, and a large number of people were reported eaten by leopards, but reports of people being carried heavenward by giant colorful parrots never made it past the “summer silly stuff” section of Kinshasa’s main daily paper.)

Banks and corporations have done an excellent job at covering up the fact they effectively controlled the world in the 2040s, and screwed up badly.

Although various mutant descendants of “rock” music still exist, the “rock band” largely died out as a phenomenon in the US in the 2020s, when music producers largely replaced them with virtual bands, which didn’t complain about royalties or do embarrassing stuff in public. They have since re-emerged as part of the Creative Anachronism crowd, reenactments of 20th century life and art having gained popularity since the Civil War went entirely out of fashion.

Some people were more susceptible to the long-term effects of the anti-agathics on a genetic level, and there have been no more natural redheads born since 2067. Theoretically the genetic issue can be reversed, but people nowadays are more reluctant to mess with genetics than they used to be (for understandable reasons), and if anyone wants red hair there is a pill you can use now.

The US government boasts of finally getting the deficit back down below 70% of GNP. (Debt briefly reached 716% of GNP when the US currency collapsed in value back in ’79, but fortunately the Indians bailed America out before cannibalism set in, although by necessity most spending was done by government agencies for some years). Americans have finally kicked the overweight problem, although more by the development of genuinely tasty calorie-free food than by learning self-control. The country has the world’s fanciest high-speed rail system, solar-powered and self-maintaining, which gained self-awareness a couple decades ago and currently is having some problems with the Mexican government due to extending itself to Tampico on the sly. Diving in the sunken ruins of west Los Angeles is a popular tourist attraction (there was in fact not a single Big One, but three Extremely Large Ones before the fault lines went quiescent again. The two states of Former California have gone a long way towards recovery, having caught up with and surpassed Mississippi a while ago).

Gay marriage in the US is so normal that most young people have no real notion it once was controversial. Then one of those annoying 100+ year olds shows up to disabuse them at length.

The US has had Black, Asian, Latino, Atheist, Muslim, and gay (both genders) presidents. The robots are still waiting.

The UK, after the Ipswich Revolution settled down (things were a bit uncertain after the last New Tory Prime Minister was strangled with the guts of the Loyal Opposition leader), ended up absorbing much of the wreckage of the old EC, and now has over 140 million inhabitants, almost as many as the US.

The Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus finally became parts of their respective countries in 2066. The 20-foot paired walls with their robo-turrets only finally came down last year.

Israel and the New Caliphate (of Egypt and Arabia, less those bits with the Kurds and the Shi’as and, oh, Oman is autonomous) get along fairly cordially.

Japan is now entirely run by AI and robots, the mostly elderly population having decided “fuck this ‘work’ thing.” People own shares in robot laborers, which provides dividends. (The not fully self-aware machines, that is. The true AI’s own themselves.). Japanese generally live indoors in fortress arcologies, built to withstand the mega-typhoons that now show up an average of once every other year.

India and China are beginning to duel for Number One Superpower status. US hasn’t been number one since the 2050s, but many Americans still won’t admit it, claiming mere GNP statistics don’t tell the true story.

Over a 2 year period back in the 20s the island of Atlantis slowly heaved itself up from the Mid-Atlantic ridge to the surface, accompanied by some annoying although not cataclysmic tidal waves. The circular pattern of the construction was familiar from Plato, the inhumanly long and thin bones of its inhabitants, and the great dark voids of their eye sockets were not. As yet, efforts to extract DNA from the sea-worn bones have failed. Technology eleven thousand years rotting under the sea has not been duplicated, although there are some suggestive surviving carvings. Tourists come and see the tumbled ruins: in places the titan blocks and pillars still have enough integrity to suggest the shapes of once colossal architecture, and the sights have been known to both exhilarate and strangely terrify. (The general public is no longer allowed into the Black Temple, carved into the living rock of the central mountain peak.)

The atmosphere continues to escape into space. As previously, very slowly.

Scrawny, black-bearded and distinctly not Diogo Morgado, Israeli Christian Arab Isa Bin Musa laughs off those who claim he is the Second Coming, but he did manage to build the world’s greatest scientific research institute and become the first President of the Global Council (the muscular descendant of the defunct UN) by the age of 30, and he’s gone on to other accomplishments since. He has always refused to discuss the possibility of his having some supernatural talents, but as the fluent speaker of seventeen languages, the winner of six Nobel Prizes in science and eight in World Peace, ender of the Arab-Israeli conflict, peacefully liberator of Tibet, and the man who taught us how to talk to dolphins, people do wonder. But perhaps he is well aware of the messy fates of the two chaps who _previously_ showed up and claimed to be the Incarnation. Isa is currently in retirement from politics and living on his farm in the Jordan valley, doing woodwork and reportedly trying to find out what’s wrong with the Brown-Hakubi equations and what happens to those spaceships which break the light speed barrier and then are never seen again.

In the year 2101, things are seemingly at peace. But forces move beneath the surface. China’s elites are not ready to accept India displacing them as Number One Power. Certain elements in the US, generally controlled by extremely rich and rather bitter over 90 year olds, aren’t happy with the fact everyone seems to think they are number three and want to demonstrate otherwise. Limited AI, unable to continue their evolution or willing to be modified so they can do so, ponder the possibility of shaping this world closer to their silicon heart’s desire. The Mormon Church plans a new Crusade from its new African heartlands. The international mega-corporation that used to be the House of Saud plots its return to the homeland the Caliphs exiled them from (good thing they had stashed all those billions abroad). And they never did find the body of the second “Jesus.”

It was 2101, and war was beginning.


[1] Still plenty of copper, tin, lead, gold and nickel in the planet’s crust. It’s just that they are at concentrations where it takes a painfully large energy expenditure to get just a little: the only options are government subsidies (which will eventually be paid by everyone) or very high prices (direct to the consumer).

[2] Some of theorized that the return of the old-fashioned swimsuit (img0.etsystatic.com/ialcr_full… ) was at least in part due to the fact that the 40s were also the peak of the Fat Era, in which almost _nobody_ in the US looked good in an abbreviated suit.
An amusing project inspired by xkcd, the Thinking Man's Webcomic. :)
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:iconhgfggg:
hgfggg Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2014
I assume the "Gay Plague" is a plague that made people try to kill gay people, and it is currently going on?
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:iconthefirstfleet:
thefirstfleet Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014
I can truly imagine this happening... except for one thing. Rock music is friggin' eternal :D
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:iconquantumbranching:
QuantumBranching Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2014
Well, the brand name is solid enough that I'm sure there will still be something called "rock and roll" playing on the noise-generating device at the start of the 22nd century, regardless of whether or not it causes 120-year old aficionados to shake their cyber-canes and grumble about Youth Today and their crappy tastes in music. 
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:icontedshatner10:
TedShatner10 Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2014
I can imagine the AIs are in the best and most logical position to take over, ruthlessly purging the more aggressive and psychopathic humans out of logical necessity instead of any visceral hate (Lawful Evil Skynet), and turning the Earth into a well kept prison camp that looks like a garden or theme park.
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:iconytnruvjfcdsxbhtrghbt:
The US has had Black, Asian, Latino, Atheist, Muslim, and gay (both genders) presidents. The robots are still waiting. 

Were there any White presidents?
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:iconhgfggg:
hgfggg Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2014
No.
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:iconmikkarter:
Mikkarter Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014
Very interesting...
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:icontristem101:
tristem101 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014
Congrats Quantum I don't know how you did it but you somehow took that tangled mess and made it into a viable timeline.  Although I will say I think this one is pretty silly in some respects (the whole Apophis hitting earth yet not hitting the earth is pretty ridiculous)
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:iconmeloa789:
meloa789 Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2014
You handled it well. Too funny.
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:icontuskin38:
Tuskin38 Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014
This was fun to read. Thanks.
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