In Huntsville, a few summers ago, when I was home from China, I was standing in a park by the railroad tracks when a train stopped in front of me. It was a long freight train, running north to who knows where. But right in front of me- I mean directly in front of me, and only a few meters away- was an empty boxcar, with the door wide open. Almost like an invitation. It seemed to offer itself like an alternate future. All I had to do was take a few steps, jump inside and close the door.
It's something I've read about, and always dreamed of trying. A real Jack Kerouac kind of thing. Riding the rails like a hobo in the '30s. I must have stared at the door for a good 15 minutes, while all these thoughts went through my head. All the reasons not to, against the impulsive desire to just go!
Somewhere, in a parallel universe, I imagine another me as a drifting hobo. I wonder, is he happier?
No-one can know the future with certainty, unless he keeps that secret to himself. For in telling, he might change the future, or his own actions might inadvertently prevent the foreseen future from happening. This is why prophecies are always cryptic. Still. Since hardly anyone reads this blog anyway, allow me to hazard a few guesses.
It all began with spectacles. Which lead to contact lenses, then laser eye surgery. False teeth, made from ivory, which became teeth implants, and soon may be replaced by real teeth that the toothless grow themselves, with a gene implant. Wooden legs, which became titanium-alloy, jointed legs, to be replaced by...?
So far, our additions to the human body have been caused by medical necessity. We were trying to restore injured or imperfect bodies to their 'healthy' state. Yet our science is progressing to the point where we may be able to go beyond repairing damage, and 'improve' on nature. If you could see as clearly and as far as a hawk or eagle, hear what only bats and humpback whales can hear, and smell as well as a bloodhound, would you want to? Because in twenty or thirty years, you might have that choice. The ability to fly, or breathe underwater, or do a number of things that only "X-men" can do in fiction now, could be possible for everyone by the end of this century.
Yet all that is trivial.
The real breakthrough, which when it comes will make all the discoveries and inventions of the past century seem like nothing, will be when we find a way to make ourselves smarter. It is intelligence which sets us apart from all other animals, and it will be super-intelligence, not super-strength or extra senses, which will set homo sapiens futuris apart from [soon to be extinct] homo sapiens sapiens.
I don't believe the 'next step in evolution' will come by chance, or a mutant virus. I think it will be the result of deliberate scientific research. It will be available to all, and it's effect will be dynamic, leading to further advances and ever-escalating intelligence, as each generation of scientists will be smarter than the previous one.
Just imagine a world of Einsteins. Where getting a Ph.D. at fifteen is normal.
Health care is so expensive, largely because of the high salaries of doctors. Why? Because few people have the intelligence and perseverence to become doctors, and it takes years to train a doctor. But in the future, medical students will graduate in 6 months, knowing more than doctors today will learn in a lifetime of medical practice. Anyone could become an M.D., and some people will study medicine just as a hobby, the way some study flower-arranging or Tai Chi in night classes now.
So many problems today are caused by human stupidity. It's a well-known fact that most criminals are stupid: perhaps in a world of geniuses, there will be no criminals. Meanwhile, the average person in a developed country spends 13-14 years in school- and that's just until he or she graduates high school! Including college, that's almost a quarter of your life! As a teacher, myself, I've seen how much of teaching is simply repeating lessons until the students (finally!) remember them. If students remembered everything the first time, they could learn in a quarter of the time.
We can't fully envision what a society of hyper-intelligent people would be like. The problem, of course, would be that somebody would still have to wash the dishes, and pick up the trash. (Give that job to the bozo who has an I.Q. of only 160!) What could such a society acheive? Perhaps they would break the light-speed barrier, and explore and colonize space. Or perhaps their superior intelligence would cause new social problems, and lead to catastrophe.