In 1973, science historian James Burke was asked to predict what the future would look like in 20 years. He didn’t get it completely right. Some of his predictions took twice the amount of time to materialize, but he was famously right about the advent and use of the personal computer.
Burke tackled a similar question in a recent interview in Emirates’ Open Skies magazine, and admitted to sticking to the same philosophy: computers will continue to make life easier for us and get things done faster. He believes nanotechnology will transform society in the next 40 years the same way computers have revolutionized our existence to date.
For starters, computers could be as small as a dust mote and embedded in everything. They will be able to judge our individual consumption patterns and anticipate our needs. We’ll never forget anything.
Burke predicts the development of the nanofabricator. A device that will create anything you want. Just add carbon. Everyone will have one. As a result, we will shift from an age of scarcity, to an age of abundance. We won’t want for anything. We’ll live in small communities rather than cities.
As he says: “I can imagine Earth like a giant, untouched jungle dotted with gardens, which people would tend for the good of their souls, not because they need anything to eat.” Sounds like Grasmere to me.
Burke is basically predicting an entire restructure of the planet. So how right will he be this time? History suggests human nature can’t handle utopia. How can it get there?