For over a century, people had been watching horrible conflicts on the evening news, wondering why the world could not be free of conflict. Then the same wonderers would go to their PTA meetings or local soccer organizations and double cross each other. With so little at stake, negativity would permeate their souls. It was eventually realized that unless people developed the ability to resolve petty, local conflicts quickly and consistently, there would never be any hope for a benevolent but powerful world government, the only organization that could avert war and other severe breakdowns in communication.
In the year 2100, being an amputee was a temporary condition. In the early 21st century, newts were thoroughly investigated. It was discovered that this animalís rare ability to regenerate limbs was due to cellular differentiation. Cells would revert to an embryonic state and then specialize again to regrow the missing limbs. In mammals the necessary genes were missing. The key genetic material came from newt segments previously thought to be nonsense DNA, but these segments controlled the timing by which other genes were expressed. In mammals there was also a related lack of extracellular signals that were necessary to initiate the dedifferentiation process.
Through a combination of gene transposition and synthetic protein factors related to those found in newts, cellular dedifferentiation in mammals became a reality. People who lost limbs to either accident or disease had them restored within two to three years. Even small segments of spinal cords were regenerated.
Many learning disorders and most migraines were eliminated because they had a common root: the endogenous production of carbon monoxide(CO). Whenever heme is degraded in the body after the death of blood cells, the first step in the metabolism of heme involves the production of CO, the same pollutant emitted by cars. Normally the small amounts of CO produced are no problem (the poison is the dose; moreover, in small amounts CO is a neurotransmitter playing a role in memory and breathing-regulation). But it was discovered that in some individuals the rate at which CO evolves is high enough to cause migraines in adults. In the womb, elevated amounts of CO generated internally affected the brain's frontal lobes and led to learning disabilities later in life.
By administering the right inhibitors, heme metabolism was slowed down in affected individuals, significantly lowering the incidence of both migraines and learning disabilities.
By the year 2047, the LHA class of 2003 had left an indelible mark on the world of science. Forty four years ago they had consisted of a musical talent who laughed a lot, a big guy who temporarily wanted to become a fireman, an artist who for a short time distracted himself with a donut-job, a peace-loving girl who dyed her hair red for the prom, another musical talent who actually read the Crystal Ball reports, a bright girl who could easily persuade her less motivated boyfriend to study, a girl who took caffeine to dance more gracefully, a modest guy who had the most analytical brain the school had seen in the 21st century to date and of many more noteworthy students.
Although they managed to open windows into the neurochemistry behind motivation, musical talent,logic, ambition, and temperament, the LHA class of 2003 found that the brain is like the sky and weather: intricate, beautiful, stormy, partly predetermined, and in the long-term unpredictable. Whether they approached a subject at the level of the organism or at the molecular level, their probes themselves had an impact on the human brain, not to mention the countless other factors that shaped each person along the way. Are all the possible outcomes of personality being played out somewhere in an infinite universe? The other versions of the red-haired girl and her classmates may be unfolding, as we speak.
Most autistic people, like most people in general, do not have a special talent. A minority, the so-called autistic savants, have a phenomenal memory for specific things such as music, numbers or smells. As a renowned psychologist had pointed out at the turn of the century, it was as if the rest of the autistic brain was overcompensating for its dysfunctional part.
Years after, it occurred to educators that in most people, the parts of the brain responsible for social behaviours---the same ones that are limited in autistic patients--- are too active, limiting the average person's capacity for both logical and creative thinking. Through a combination of mental training, proper diet, self-discipline and psychoactive substances released and controlled by internal computer chips, people in 2046 became capable of turning the loud voices of fruitless thinking into a feathery whisper. On demand, the brain no longer occupied itself with commercial and political propaganda; when necessary, it shut off thoughts of gossip and finances. It then had far more energy to create art and to listen to the sounds of science.
Crystal Ball: 2045
In the late 20 th century, the common fruit with the most protein had been the avocado, and it was only 2.4% protein according to USDA analyses. The genetically modified avocado had even higher ratios of protein and lowered our dependence on meat, dairy, fish and poultry. Of course, fruits with higher protein contents were just as irresistible to insects, and to other predators. But since the products were introduced with ecological and humanitarian priorities in mind, the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.
That the universe was about three-quarters dark energy had been known for over 40 years. But in 2044 (How is it that the "Crystal Ball" sees all these great discoveries as occurring in consecutive years!?) the first serious attempt to harness dark energy was reported by a team of NASA scientists. It was reported as the most viable way for a craft to approach relativistic speeds while an artificial field of negative gravity avoided the crushing effects awaiting matter at such high velocities.
The Empathy Assistor was invented in 2043. Using only two consenting participants with a minimum age of 15, for three nights the two people involved would experience manufactured dreams based on each others' fears, hopes and aspirations. Each person would wake up knowing what went on in the other person's head and soul as the latter experienced anything from taunting to ice cream, from math to television drama. It was more efficient than any other therapy or method for resolving inter- and intrapersonal conflicts. Like most new technologies in the last two centuries, it was initially vehemently opposed by Neo Luddites but after implementing strict controls and guidelines, positive applications became the norm and potential for abuse greatly diminished.
By the year of 2042, the last of the private schools of the 20th century closed down. Education had already seen unanticipated but welcome reforms a decade earlier ( see 2031). As was the case in the previous century, the private tutors at the end of online connections and the private teachers at the resource centers were no better than the ones paid by the government. The fact that everyone had access to quality education greatly democratized society and increased tolerance. Parents were also happy to see the end of mediocre institutions who had just used education as another excuse to churn out a profit
By 2041 the WTA and ATP had merged into one. Women tennis stars were able to compete with men by benefiting from a heavy alloy which was used only in men's rackets to take that boring big-serve out of their game. The ladies' lighter rackets eliminated gentlemen's muscular advantage, so that if the latter wanted to beat the opposite sex they had to do so with stamina and finesse, both of which were acquired and not inherited traits.
By the year 2040, virotherapy used cancer-killing viruses with the following characteristics:
Two important viral strains were identified in the year 2039. The first, ITOS,had been especially rampant in the 1980's and 1990's. Lodging itself in specific pathways between the cerebral cortex and brain stem, it was responsible for the urge to create workshops and seminars for white collar workers. ITOS was especially effective because of the action of its companion-virus, SIBS, which over a short period of time made people even more likely to accept untested ideas in education and industry.
Since the viral epidemic, millions of dollars and worker hours had been surrendered to gurus who roamed the continent, preaching about high-school semestrial courses and downsizing. But once the vaccination program was launched in the spring of 2039, these gurus found themselves in unemployment lines, without even the urge to persuade those ahead of them to let them pass.
In the year 2038, a label on any food item looked like a page out of a biochemical journal. Not only were analyses done for saturated and unsaturated fats, but trans-fats were also listed. Essential amino acids were reported for vegeterians, and for those wanting to help prevent cancer, the whole array of carotenoids ( lycopenes, cryptoxanthins, leutin and all carotenes) were listed.
With more and more consumers knowing the jargon and making rational choices, the food industry was indirectly pressured into including more nutritious ingredients. The true test would come in a generation to see if rates of diet-related cancers would indeed fall.
In the 1960's the race to put a man on the moon was not fueled by a desire for knowledge. Rather the U.S. and Russia invested billions of dollars and millions of man-hours in a struggle for power. In the year 2037, NASA's budget was not doubled so that we could learn more about Io's geology. Instead, missions were planned to the wildly volcanic Jovian moon so that the Earth could get rid of its nuclear waste and stockpile of Rap CD's.
In the last five decades of the twentieth century, prized "free time" was in principle supposed to allow people to derive more pleasure out of life. But people had allowed themselves to fall into more traps during their most precious hours. For instance, in order to create more leisure, they would pay people to mow their lawns and shovel their driveways. And rather than take a time-consuming walk to the grocery store, they would take their cars. But of course by doing so they found that they were not getting enough exercise, so they chewed up part of their leisure hours by joining health clubs to fiddle with dull and costly machines.
In that same time period, Movie-Megaplexes and video stores mushroomed on an astronomical scale because people had no time to engage in storytelling or thoughtful conversations. Without the patience and the energy to plan for adventures, and by engaging in limited concrete activities, they had wasted too much of their leisure in adolescence watching television. Bereft of imagination and without an eventful agenda, they had to live vicariously through Hollywood's products.
But all of that had changed by 2036. The way people looked at leisure had been revolutionized. Megaplexes and Nautilus clubs were closing daily. People strolled regularly, admiring foliage, observing scars on pruned trees, and examining stars and planets above them. They raked their own leaves and indulged in cultivating gardens, growing the showiest flowers and juiciest vegetables; they hiked and cross-country skiied in empty lots and forests and swam in ponds and seas. And they always took the time to share their experiences with friends and family in the form of fireside stories and handwritten letters.
Even in China, people had given up tobacco by the year 2035. Instead, everyone smoked math and science. Teenagers would typically carry rolled up brain-teasers in cigarette-sized packages and would distribute them among friends, sharing creative solutions to frown-inducing puzzles.The prospect of being able to do math well into their ripe years made the young less fearful of aging. As a result, they no longer had reason to be rude to the elderly or to commit themselves to an early death by smoking cancer sticks.
By the year 2034, a concrete version of Geocities' virtual world had become a reality. A new suburb was created out of neighbourhoods that were based on general interests, from sculpture to sports. In the sculpture neighbourhood,for example, there was art at every corner, and workshops were given weekly at community centers. If one wanted to talk about the history of the craft with a retired gentlemen sitting on his porch, all one had to do was walk through the particular neighbourhood. A longer stroll would take one out of that realm, and into a different sphere of human activity. All in all, the real Geocity was at least as intellectually diverse as the computerized version, and in addition it provided people with far more exercise and actual human contact.
April 06, 1996