2052 – The Hawking Plan is a work of near-future science fiction that depicts the affects of globalization and advancing technology on the life and liberty of people several decades from now. Unlike some sci-fi that deals in weird fantasy, this novel is intended to portray serious, science-based predictions.
The following is an overview of issues of life and liberty by chapter. [Page numbers refer to the printed version of the novel where the issue is first mentioned. In comments, please refer to the specific prediction by its number and letter.]
ISSUES OF LIFE AND LIBERTY:
1 - Dominance of Transnational Corporations
2 - Robot and Human Space Travel
3 - Positive Identification Society
4 - Suppression of Religion-Based Terrorism
5 - Peaceful Age
6 - Cash-Free Society
7 - Transnational Generation
8 - Stabilization of Global Warming
9 - Social Effects of Globalization
10 - Genetic Engineering
11 - Nuclear Weapons
12 - Energy and Economic Issues
13 - Compromise on Abortion
14 - Worldwide R&D Planning and Funding
15 - Hierarchy of Leaders with Special Powers
16 - Electronic Shrines
17 - Worldwide Information Network
18 - Privacy Issues and "Persons of Interest"
19 - Seek and Track Systems
20 - Passengers on Long-Distance Flights will Sleep as they Fly
21 - Robots as Affordable Intelligent Agents
22 - Automated Stores
23 - Ever-Present Connection to the Worldwide Information Network
24 - Religious Belief is Career-Limiting
25 - Directed Panspermia
26 - Children Safe at Home Alone
27 - Home of the Future
28 - Embryo Catalog Children
29 - Computer Network Security
30 - Peephole View on TV
31 - Online Shopping for Perfect-Fit Items
1 Dominance of Transnational Corporations [p1]
Prediction a: Transnational corporations will effectively rule the world. Local, state and national governments will continue to outsource functions to management corporations. These firms will consolidate into gigantic transnational entities that will come to dominate the governments they serve. (In the novel, the “Transnational Alliance for Better Business – TABB” has replaced the United Nations as an effective world government, with both beneficial and deleterious consequences.)
Prediction b: A form of representative democracy will spread worldwide. Voters will choose the management corporations to which they outsource government functions.
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2 Robot and Human Space Travel [p1]
Prediction a: Robots will replace humans for all (or nearly all) space travel by 2025. They will prove to be as capable as humans. They will also be quite a bit less expensive than humans because of the lack of risk to human life and the option of staging one-way missions.
Prediction b: By 2050, the idea of human space travel will be resurrected, based upon a re-reading of what famed physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking wrote in 2001: “I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years. Unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.” (In the novel, the “Infinite Future Branch - IFB” of TABB, located in Orlando, is headed by Stephanie Goldenrod, the flawed heroine of the novel. IFB is charged with advancing technology for the “infinite future”. She believes she is the great-granddaughter of Steven Hawking and is on a mission to spread human life and civilization into space as a hedge against natural or human-caused disasters that he predicted might wipe out life on Earth.)
Prediction c: By 2040, a number of natural and human-caused disasters will have occurred on Earth. This will include the effects of climate change, economic upsets, a nuclear exchange in the Middle East, and a few genetic engineering disasters that will kill tens of millions of people and displace hundreds of millions. By 2052, powerful transnational technology corporations, mainly located in North America, East Asia, and Europe, will promote the idea of space travel to save human civilization. Their main motivations will be to gain lucrative contracts, but the result will be a brilliant plan to spread human life and knowledge far and wide into space. The plan will not involve sending living human beings or animals on the space missions. (In the novel, this is called “The Hawking Plan”.)
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3 Positive Identification Society [p4]
Prediction a: By 2015 it will be clear to almost everyone that privacy and anonymity are lost causes. Even in the first decade of the 21st century, those of us with homes, jobs, cell phones, credit cards, internet access, and other necessities of modern life leave dozens of computer records and videos of our locations and activities on a daily basis. RFID chips that may be tracked from a distance are already in new driver’s licenses, passports, and many products. Within a decade, each of us will “voluntarily” carry several of these devices because they add convenience to our lives.
Prediction b: Most retail establishments and many public streets and roads already have video surveillance. In response to threats of terrorism, and to reduce common crime, governments will mount RFID readers, video cameras and proximity detectors on major streets and at entrances and exits of highways. They will also monitor location and time records for cell phone calls, internet usage and credit card transactions. All of this computerized data will be associated with the individuals who own or operate these devices. This will effectively produce a record of our daily path and activities for use by governments to track and identify “persons of interest”.
Prediction c: Despite opposition from privacy advocates, it will turn out that personal identification devices (RFID-equipped cards, jewelry, and implanted devices) will become a necessity of future life. The Personal ID (PID) devices will serve as universal credit cards, driver’s licenses, gate passes, and keys to the office, home, auto, and so on. They will positively ID cell phone callers, text-messagers, and web-surfers. They will leave minute-by-minute tracks of where the owner has been in public places, and when.
Prediction d: Google and other internet sites already gather and make public a tremendous amount of data about each of us. They will gain access to the PID data stream by offering badly-needed revenue to government agencies. They will induce people to voluntary “opt-in” in return for free access to their own data and a cut of the fees they will charge marketing companies. Eventually, all details of our locations and activities in public places, as well as our communications from home and offices will be considered “public information”. That data will be available to anyone willing to pay the fees. Governments will pass laws requiring the data-gathering companies to provide a free alert to the subject, letting them know the name and location of the individual or organization that has targeted their information.
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4 Suppression of Religion-Based Terrorism [p4]
Prediction a: By 2040 religion-based terrorism will be nearly totally suppressed. This will be accomplished by a combination of Positive ID technology and secret programs.
Prediction b: By 2040, virtually all written material will be in the form of e-texts. Hard-copy books will be consigned to museums.
Prediction c: The secret anti-terrorism programs will include covert, subtle modification of religious e-texts. (In the novel, the “TABB Bureau of Investigation – TBI” is a worldwide FBI-like organization. The TBI secret program is called “máquina del tiempo - time machines” which exploits e-text technology to modify the holy texts of one particularly rabid religion to help moderate imams discourage suicide bombings.)
Prediction d: By 2050, secret programs will be exploited to promote human space travel. (In the novel, the “máquina del tiempo” concept is misused by proponents of “The Hawking Plan” to encourage religious leaders to support human space travel. When discovered, this unethical activity almost scuttles the plan.)
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5 Peaceful Age [p5]
Prediction a: By 2040, the effects of globalization and advanced technology will have solved the climate change problem.
Prediction b: Democratically-selected corporate rule will replace all large-scale military conflicts with “free market, fair-play competition”. As a result, virtually all citizens of the world will enjoy peace and security along with relatively higher living standards and happier lives.
Prediction c: Despite the downside of corporate rule, most people worldwide will accept it as the best compromise between individual and group “rights” and responsibilities. (In the novel, TABB uses the term “the New Age of Confidence” to promote the peaceful age of dominance by transnational corporations.)
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6 Cash-Free Society [p9]
Prediction a: By 2030, credit-card transactions will become the norm. A system of e-money will be established worldwide. Cash will be relegated to museums.
Prediction b: By 2040, anyone attempting to use cash or barter items of value will be regarded as a “person of interest” subject to further investigation by the authorities. Legal ownership rights to any item will be based on the purchase history, making it problematic for anyone to claim ownership of an item obtained by cash or trade. (In the novel, cash and barter transactions are perfectly legal, however any evidence collected via the Personal ID system about such unusual dealings trigger a police investigation.)
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7 Transnational Generation [p9]
Prediction a: National and racial differences will continue to dissolve in the face of globalization. Virtually all young people in 2050 will consider themselves members of the transnational generation. Martin Luther King’s 1963 I have a dream will finally come to pass and people will be judged by the content of their characters rather than the color of their skins or their gender or nationality. (In the novel, this high tolerance for diversity does not extend to religious believers, whose activities are prima facie suspect. In most jurisdictions, literal belief in any religion is career-limiting. )
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8 Stabilization of Global Warming [p9]
Prediction a: Global Warming will turn out to have been the result of a natural cycle of the Earth’s orbit and tilt and cyclic increase in solar activity, augmented by human over-production of greenhouse gases. By 2015, scientists will realize it has been over-hyped and that the climate of the Earth was never near a “tipping point”.
Prediction b: Average temperatures and mean sea levels will increase by about a half degree Celsius and a half-meter between 2001 and 2031. By 2050, temperatures and ocean levels will go down to the 2021 ranges.
Prediction c: Many of the world’s great coastal cities will suffer a fate similar to that of New Orleans, losing large portions of their populations. Levees and dams will prove no match for Mother Nature. She will reclaim millions of acres of formerly high-priced coastal real estate. Most rivers will no longer be artificially restricted as human population centers accommodate to Nature rather than the reverse. Agriculture will suffer in areas closer to the equator, but will be enhanced in some regions formerly too cold or dry.
Prediction d: An economic boom will be triggered around 2040 by the rebuilding of many seaside cities under strict standards that prohibited most types of structures from being built below high sea level.
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9 Social Effects of Globalization [p9]
Prediction a: Globalization will have some unexpected beneficial effects that will swamp out the downsides.
Prediction b: By 2020, social effects of globalization will reduce reproductive rates below replacement levels. It will no longer be fashionable to have more than one or two children. A third of the population will have no children at all. An inexpensive pill will prevent or safely terminated pregnancy when taken monthly. It will also protect against nearly all forms of venereal diseases.
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10 Genetic Engineering [p9]
Prediction a: Genetic engineering will turn out to be a mixed blessing.
Prediction b: Several genetic engineering disasters prior to 2040 will kill tens of millions of people. Worldwide population in 2050 will be half of that in 2000. Tens of millions will die as a result of gene-based pest control programs that go wrong. Billions of acres will be contaminated and remain unpopulated. (In the novel a large area between Russia and Kazakhstan has been contaminated by a genetic engineering disaster. As part of the Hawking Plan, that area is sterilized and becomes the site of the Hawking Earth Test Station #1 where genetic engineering experiments associated with the "Panspermia" option are carried out.)
Prediction c: Nevertheless, genetic engineering will become commonplace, despite the disasters.
Prediction d: Embryonic stem cells from aborted fetuses will be displaced as the major source by cells harvested from amniotic fluid and placentas. In addition, adult skin cells will be tricked into becoming stem cells, with the advantage they will be your own cells and therefore totally compatible. Once the kinks are worked out, genetic engineering will make it possible to extend human life almost indefinitely, unless a person is badly crushed or burned.
Prediction e: Despite genetic engineering miracles, there will come a point at which even medical can not restore what will be considered “a standard normal quality of life.” In most jurisdictions, any person who falls below an internationally-recognized set of mental and physical standards will be expected to “voluntarily” accept euthanasia. Those who refuse to end their lives will be restricted to palliative measures to control pain. Prior to that limitation, more than half the total medical care costs for the average person will have been incurred during the last year of their lives.BACK TO MENU
11 Nuclear Weapons [p9]
Prediction a: A limited nuclear exchange in the Middle East in the 2020s will lead to a mini-“nuclear winter,” cutting average temperatures by a few degrees for a year.
Prediction b: Nuclear weapons will continue to be a problem until around 2030. when concerted transnational action, augmented by the Positive ID society, will track and limit all dangerous nuclear materials and keep them out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations.BACK TO MENU
12 Energy and Economic Issues [p9]
Prediction a: By 2020 great progress will be made in reducing the deleterious effects of energy production and usage and their destabilizing effects on the economy.
Prediction b: By 2015, a punitive tax on non-renewable carbon-based energy will quadruple costs of coal, oil, and natural gas. All or most of the Carbon Tax revenue will be returned to the people, making it (almost) revenue-neutral. This will lead to more efficient use of energy resources and development of more carbon-neutral sources. It will also spur technological developments and the worldwide economy. Due to this tax, as well as the globalization-driven reduction in population, greenhouse gas production will be quartered in 2050 as compared to 2001, and atmospheric CO2 will be stabilized at 2010 levels.
Prediction c: By 2025, the oil sands and shale of western Canada and the US will become the primary source of non-renewable, carbon-based energy for North America, along with coal liquefaction in the eastern and western coal belts. This will greatly reduce the power and influence of countries in the turbulent Middle East, while it increasing the role of large transnational corporations. Hydrogen-fusion-based nuclear power plants will be used to drive the refining processes.
Prediction d: By 2020, many new renewable energy sources will be successfully employed: solar, waste biomass fuels, geothermal, wind, tides, waves, and electromagnetic. It will turn out that the best way to reduce carbon pollution will be to tax it heavily and let old-fashioned economics drive industries to invent, perfect and voluntarily adopt carbon-free solutions that cut greenhouse gases.
Prediction e: By 2030, sewer systems will be modernized to eliminate curbside pickup, incinerators, and landfills. Solid garbage will be dumped into a “grinder” and flushed down the pipes to plants manned by “sanitary Intelligent Robotic Agents.” Metals and other solids will be recovered. Virtually all industrial and household waste biomass will become bio-diesel fuel. Hydrogen-fusion plants and renewable wind and water will complete the “green” picture.BACK TO MENU
13 Compromise on Abortion [p10]
Prediction a: By 2020, a compromise between absolute “choice” and absolute “life” will be reached in most jurisdictions worldwide.
Prediction b: Safe abortion-on-demand will be available at the free choice of the mother during the first trimester for any reason or no reason. For the second trimester, a doctor will have to certify some “significant” reason, such as the physical or mental health of the mother, or some abnormality of the baby. Abortion will be prohibited during the third trimester, unless at least two doctors certify the mother’s life is in serious jeopardy, or the baby is “abnormal,” using standardized genetic and health tests. These tests will be routinely performed during the first month or two of gestation, so it will be extremely rare for a seriously “abnormal” child to be brought to the third trimester. BACK TO MENU
14 Worldwide R&D Planning and Funding [p15]
Prediction a: By the 2040’s, a transnational agency will be established and funded by corporate added-value taxes to direct and coordinate advanced research and development. Additional research and development will continue to be finded by individual TCs. (In the novel this agency is called the “TABB Planning Board – TPB”. TPB HQ is located in Tokyo with regional HQ’s in each geographical area. The North American HQ is in Atlanta.)
Prediction b: Despite efforts to involve all regions of the Earth in research and development, it will be dominated by transnational corporations from East Asia, North America, and Europe. (In the novel, the TPB is the primary source of funding for the Hawking Plan, but many TCs step forward to fund associated research and development using their own resources, expecting the Hawking Plan to trigger a renassaince in genetic, chemical, communications, transportation, and computer industries.)
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15 Hierarchy of Leaders with Special Powers [p20]
Prediction a: A select, self-perpetuating group of individuals will be granted special powers. (In the novel some sixteen-hundred high TABB officers carry pen-like devices called “scepters” that they use to document secret programs and authorize extra-legal activities. Scepter-holders come to constitute a new noble class and expect to be greeted formally as “My Liege, I bid you homage …”)
Prediction b: The special powers will be proportionally allocated to geographic areas, language and ethnic groups, and both genders. They will be awarded with great care by majority vote of all current power-holders following a full investigation of the candidate by a transnational agency. For a person to get the special powers a current holder has to “voluntarily” relinquish it or die or retire from a job that requires a scepter. (In the novel a scepter-holder who does not voluntarily give it up may lose his or her powers by getting “exploded” – a procedure that involves investigation and a vote by current scepter-holders. The “exploded” comes from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Utopia Limited, about an idyllic South-Seas island. Utopia was governed by King Paramount, in theory an absolute despot but in fact quite constrained. A government official, called the “Public Exploder,” followed the King around with a stick of dynamite and a match, always willing – even eager – to blow him to smithereens. However, the Public Exploder was sworn to do his duty only if two other government officials, called the “Wise Men,” agreed with each other that the time had come to terminate the King. Of course, the overly intellectual and fuzzy-brained Wise Men never agreed with each other, so the King was safe, or nearly so. This critical balance of power had resulted in a well-governed Utopia. That is, until British government “experts” were brought in to “reform” the system in accordance with more “civilized” customs. But, that is another story.)
Prediction c: The positive ID society will turn out to be “inconvenient” for some activities sanctioned by people with special powers. A secret means will be developed for them to conceal their locations and activities by deleting computer records and substituting a false set of locations and activities. (In the novel, the scepter holders can put themselves and their agents into what is called “Modo contrario – countermode” if they happen to be performing some TABB-sanctioned activity that would be embarrassing if it became public. This capability will be kept secret from all but the scepter-holders.)
Prediction d: Members of this special class will have special security and protection. (In the novel, scepter-holders have ID chips embedded under the skin of their shoulders. If their scepters are more than twenty feet from their ID chip, an alert will go out and armed helicopters will arrive within minutes. The scepters will also have the capability to read the ID chip of any other person in the vicinity and yield their name and identity, etc.)
Prediction e: While the great majority of special people will be well-known to the public, the top 36 members of this special class will be anonymous. Rumors will liken them to the Tzadikim, the 36 righteous people for whose sake the world exists according to Jewish legend. (In the novel, one of the characters speculates that, based on system science considerations, the sixteen-hundred people who have special powers must be organized into a hierarchy, with 36 people at the third level of the hierarchy. Another main character mentions the Jewish legend that, at any given time, there are 36 anonymous righteous people for whose sake the world exists. Each special person is called a tzadic. When one of these people dies, another is selected by some unknown means, to take his or her part.)BACK TO MENU
16 Electronic Shrines [p20]
Prediction a: By 2020 it will be common for people to have to have an electronic appliance in their home or office that serves as a shrine for a dearly departed honoree. (In the novel this device is called “Celebration of Life” of “celi” for short. The center of the celi is an aromarama, a fog machine that produces an aromatic ball of mist into which lasers project a three-dimensional animated talking head. In the novel, it is the head of Stephen Hawking.)
Prediction b: The electronic shrine will store and display audio and video recordings of the honoree as well as all of his or her writings. As a user option, the speech will be available in any major language.
Prediction c: When turned on, the electronic shrine will monitor conversations and determined the main topic of discussion. It will then search for applicable audio, video, or writing clips. It will have settings for automatic operation, in which case the honoree, who will appear in front in the form of a talking head. He or she will speak up whenever there is a pause in the conversation and they have something to say on the topic, or in question and answer mode in which case the honoree will respond only to direct questions. Behind the device will be a display wall that shows videos, still photos, and text displays coordinated with the talking head.BACK TO MENU
17 Worldwide Information Network [p25]
Prediction a: By 2020 or sooner, the current World Wide Web (Internet) will be replaced by a far more capable, secure, and mostly wireless ubiquitous and seamless network for interconnecting all computers and computer-like devices. (In the novel it is called the “Worldwide Information Network – WIN”.)
Prediction b: The dominance of e-texts and e-photos will enhance the importance of cryptography to assure these documents are secure and unmodified. (In the novel, the TBI Cryptographic Bureau misuses its powers to hide the modification of religious e-texts documents and e-photos of holy relics in a misguided effort to gain the support of religious leaders for The Hawking Plan.)
Prediction c: New technology will allow virtually all electronic communications to be monitored. Transnational investigative agencies will tap into all personal ID cell phone and text-message communications and “gist” them for key words denoting criminal plans. The data will be combined with the track and trace information to identify potential criminals before they can bring their nefarious plans to fruition.BACK TO MENU
18 Privacy Issues and “Persons of Interest” [p26]
Prediction a: Some oddball “privacy activists” will refuse to carry a personal ID device or will wrap them in metal foil or turn them off. This will be quite legal but darned inconvenient. Without a personal ID, they will not be able to buy or sell anything since there will be no cash economy to speak of.
Prediction b: Technical means will be developed and deployed in nearly all public places to detect any person who is not carrying a functional personal ID device or who has one that does not belong to him or her. These people will be classified as “persons of interest”. The technical means will consist of personal ID readers with video cameras, proximity detectors, and biometric sniffers.
Prediction c: The ubiquitous video surveillance system will be capable of detecting suspicious activity by people with or without personal ID devices by monitoring their gait (walking pattern) to detect stiffness and observing faces for “micro-expressions” that may last only a fraction of a second and that indicate nervousness or fraudulent intent. The surveillance system will denote the subject a “person of interest,” store a public record of their image and biometrics, and notify local police who may send officers to investigate further.
Prediction d: Not carrying a functional personal ID will be futile, since privacy activists (or simply forgetful people) will usually be tracked when in public even without their personal ID devices. When the video camera of a personal ID reader senses a person without a functioning device it will store a public record of their image and biometrics, and notify local police who may send officers to investigate the “person of interest” further.
Prediction e: Some criminals will steal other people’s personal ID devices. However, the first time they attempt to use them to buy something on the account of the owner of the device they will be detected since their biometrics will not match. Even if they are walking down the street they are likely to be caught when the video surveillance system notes their faces and/or height and/or body shape and/or gait and/or odor do not match the biometrics of the device owner. The surveillance system will denote the subject a “person of interest,” store a public record of their image and biometrics, and notify local police who may send officers to investigate further.
Prediction f: There will be a stringent procedure that requires each agency or commercial organization to require a client to separately prove his or her identity and give biometric samples, including DNA, to open an account. These data will be stored in the computer systems of those agencies and organizations. A transnational agency will periodically access all records associated with a given ID device and compare them to each other. If they do not match within reasonable limits, that will trigger an investigation.
Prediction g: High levels of encryption, using a sophisticated Public Key Infrastructure, will restrict counterfeit personal ID devices to the domain of extremely high-tech terrorists and criminal organizations.
Prediction h: The almost universal use of personal ID devices will break the back of religion-based terrorism and violent political extremism. It will also put an end to most common criminal activity as well as a good deal of infidelity.BACK TO MENU
19 Seek and Track Systems [p26]
Prediction a: The personal ID system will be exploited by corporations and create many new business opportunities.
Prediction b: As noted above, the public records of virtually everyone will be available for query, for a substantial fee, by anyone who provides their name and address or even just a photo of their face and an approximate location and time. Thus, an investigator will be able to piece together successive public records and potentially track any person. Compiled tracks will be available from “seek and track” companies that will specialize in creating time tracks of persons.
Prediction c: Sophisticated software will be utilized by transnational investigative agencies to track and trace purchases of products and substances that could be used for explosives, illegal weapons, and criminal activities.BACK TO MENU
20 Passengers on Long-Distance Flights will Sleep as they Fly [p28]
Prediction a: Sleeping as you fly will be the best choice for air trips of over six hours. Passengers will be advised not to take anything by mouth for eight to twelve hours before scheduled pickup at their homes, offices, or hotels. They will be picked up by teams of medical robots who will give them a sleeping potion injection. The unconscious passengers will travel in a casket-sized box with a built-in air conditioning and life support system. Upon arrival at their destinations, the process will be reversed, with a wake-up injection. The refreshed passengers will awake extremely refreshed and a bit hungry for a meal. (In the novel these are called “sleeplanes”, the injections are called “Sleepo” and “Wayko”, and the transport containers will be called “transcaps”.)
Prediction b: The introduction of sleeping flight will be controversial when introduced about 2030. People will worry they might wake up in the cargo hold. Or a failure might suffocate them or send them to the wrong destination. Perhaps the way-up injection wouldn’t work and they might die. During the first few years, several dozen people will die and hundreds will have bad reactions. There will be reports of people awakening in transit and suffering great fright. In the early days before human medics are replaced by robots, some will be accused of fondling passengers.
Prediction c: Complaints will cease after the transport capsules and robots are fitted with video cameras, preventing hanky-panky and putting the lie to the stories about passengers awaking prematurely. It will turn out to cost less to transport an unconscious passenger. There will be more bodies per plane, no need to serve food or beverages, the passengers won’t have air rage nor will they commit terrorist attacks.
Prediction d: Transport capsules will be fitted with sophisticated medical monitoring devices and a mouth tube to deliver liquids with medications in the event a passenger suffers de-hydration or almost any other health problem in transit. The sleeping and wake-up injections will be carefully metered according to the passenger’s weight and age. In the event of transport delays, the mouth tube system will automatically deliver additional sleeping medication good for up to six hours.
Prediction e: Sleep as you fly travel will turn out to be safer than regular air travel. There will be fewer stress-induced heart attacks. It will be “sofa-to-sofa” so there will be no chance for a passenger to slip and hurt him- or herself rushing through the airport or carrying heavy luggage.
Prediction f: The eight to sixteen hours of rest will improve working efficiency and reduce the passenger’s weight by two to five pounds, at least temporarily. The sleep as you fly concept will be applied to other modes of travel and human activity, including rail and ship travel. In addition, spas will offer customers twelve hours of deep rest and weight loss without the need for travel. (In the novel, these are called “railrest”, “sleepships”, and “sleepspas”.)
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21 Robots as Affordable Intelligent Agents [p30]
Prediction a: By 2025, scientists and technologists will prove that robots the size of humans can have general intelligence in the normal human range.
Prediction b: By 2030, their cost of ownership will become economical for most grunt labor. Robots that pass a standardized test will be certified as “intelligent at the human level.” (In the novel, these are called “Intelligent Robotic Agents – IRAs”.)
Prediction c: Specially-designed robots will be employed as “robotic erotic pleasure suppliers”. It will be legal to rent or own such robots in most jurisdictions.
Prediction d: At first, intelligent robots will tend to be employed as robotic assistants, accompanied by human supervisors. By 2040, a taxi company will install red “panic” buttons in the passenger compartment of their robot-driven taxis and inaugurate the era of robots working without direct supervision. In case of a problem, the passenger will be able to press the button and the robot will have to pull over and stop at the nearest safe place. A human supervisor at the taxi company will then initiate a video conversation with the passenger to determine what was wrong. If necessary, the supervisor would be able to review video of the ride.
Prediction e: It will turn out that hardly anyone except anti-robot activists will ever press the “panic” button. With that breakthrough will come increased demand, higher production quantities, and lower prices for intelligent robots. Robots will come to dominate nearly all “grunt” work and much clerical and other service jobs.BACK TO MENU
22 Automated Stores [p32]
Prediction a: By 2025, nearly all stores will be totally automatic, sensing the customer’s personal ID device along with the RFID tags of any items he or she picks up and charging them against the customer’s bank balance. As the customer exits the shop, a single beep and a flash of a green light will indicate the transaction has been recorded. If the customer touches the green light panel they will receive a printed receipt, but most will come to trust the system and simply walk out.
Prediction b: If the personal ID device does not work or if it does not match the customer’s biometrics or if the customers bank balance is insufficient, there will be two beeps and a red light flash. The customer will be identified as a “person of interest” and the video will be sent to the police for further investigation.
Prediction c: When the customer breaks the seal on an item, a scan of the RFID tag will indicate it is an opened item. If a customer wishes to return an opened item he or she will have to go to a special kiosk and possibly engage in a video conversation with a human agent.
Prediction: If a customer enters an automated store with an item previously purchased there or elsewhere, the RFID tag will be read to determine where it was obtained and if it has been opened. If it was obtained at that store, and if it has not been opened, the customer may return it to the shelf and exit and the item will be deducted from his or her account. If it was obtained elsewhere, and is not on a watch list of stolen items, it will be ignored. If it has been opened, it will be ignored.
Prediction: It will be common for customers to come and go from stores, with items purchased there and elsewhere, return unopened items, and so on. They will become so familiar with these types of automatic transactions they won’t consciously think about them anymore. In effect, for someone with a working personal ID device and a positive bank balance, the whole world will become like a buffet.BACK TO MENU
23 Ever-Present Connection to the Worldwide Information Network [p32]
Prediction a: Nearly everyone will carry a lightweight audio-visual bionic aid that provides an ever-present interconnection to the Worldwide Information Network. These may take the form of glasses or a visor attached to a hat or headband, etc. (In the novel these are called “read-WINs”.)
Prediction b: When the aid is deployed, images and sounds may be interactively superimposed on the visual scene. They may be used as video cell phones with worldwide access to anyone who opts-in, for example by speaking the name of any of your favorite contacts or speaking his or her name and location or ID number.
Prediction c: The aid may be used to “surf” the Worldwide Information Network. The user will make hand gestures and audible commands to control information access. In that mode, a control panel and keyboard will appear in the user’s field of view to permit “drawing” and “typing” and so on.
Prediction d: Any two or more individuals may link to each other’s audio-visual aid for collaborative surfing, drawing of diagrams, preparation of documents, etc. (In the novel, two of the main characters are sitting at a table. They link their read-WINs and use the pepper and salt shakers to stabilize a blue sheet on the table that they can both see, draw on, point to, etc.)
Prediction e: When agreement is reached on a document, the parties may “sign” it using their positive ID mark. Such “signatures” will be time and date-stamped and constitute contracts that cannot be repudiated by the participants.
Prediction f: Users will set the privacy level of their bionic aid for interaction with other people. For example, they may be set to allow anyone in a particular sub-group (e.g.,, works for the same organization, member of the same club, attending the same party, etc.) to be able to access their name and some limited subset of personal data. So, if you forget someone’s name, you can look at them through the device and blink your eyes in a given pattern (or make a hand-gesture) and their name will be displayed or spoken.BACK TO MENU
24 Religious Belief is Career-Limiting [p47]
Prediction a: One side-effect of the war on religion-based terrorism will be an almost total lack of respect for and tolerance of any form of "literal" belief in the supernatural.
Prediction b: Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues will still exist and function as social centers, but few parishoners will actually believe the doctrines in a "literal"sense. They will interpret morals and ethics using the examples in their "Holy" books, but, when convenient or necessary for modern life, they will ignore the letter of the "Holy Law" and say they are following the "spirit of the Law". (In the novel, one of the main characters is a literal believer, but he does not wear it on his sleeve for fear it will limit his career opportunities. This character is also a highly competent engineer, illustrating the amazing ability of human beings to partition their faith and reason and excel at both.)BACK TO MENU
25 Directed Panspermia 
Prediction a: Many methods will be considered for extending human life and civilization to Earth-like planets in other solar systems. These will include: 1) transporting living humans, animals, and plants, perhaps in a state of suspended animation, 2) transporting embryos of animals and seeds of plants, along with robot nannies and farmers to get human civilization going on the new host planets, and 3) transporting frozen or salted prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and the genome record of all living things, along with robot genetic engineers and laboratories that would "rapidly" (over several thousand years) evolve the cells to suit their new host planet and speedily teach the developed humans language and the knowledge of our civilization, which they would adapt to the conditions on their new home planet.
Prediction b: Directed Panspermia (item 3, above) will be the method eventually selected. The term "Directed Panspermia" was coined by Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel. (In the novel the three methods are termed: 1) Noah's Ark, 2) Embryonic, and 3) Panspermia. Some anti-religious activists claim that Panspermia is a stalking-horse for "intelligent design" and that the main character who presses for that alternative is doing so because of his literal belief in the Book of Genesis.)
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26 Children Safe at Home Alone [p84]
Prediction a: By 2025, it will be considered safe to leave children as young as five home alone for most of the day. The Positive ID society will have reduced crime to very low levels and ubiquitous video monitoring will allow parents and relatives to look in and interact with the children.BACK TO MENU
27 Home of the Future [p84]
Prediction a: An automatic refrigerator/freezer/food preparation appliance will be commonplace. Menus will be planned in advance, suggested by the device and approved or changed by the owners. The device will order food from automated supermarkets and will prepare and serve the food according to a preset time or as requested by the owner, in person or via the internet.
Prediction b: After the meal is eaten, the device will empty the table or accept dirty dishes if the meal is eaten away from the table. The dshes and pots and pans will be cleaned and stored until needed. Uneaten foods will be radiated to remove germs and will be reused for subsequent meals or composted for the family garden.
Prediction c: Most homes will contain a moveable entertainment wall that will run the length of the house. The wall will be thick enough to contain display devices, storage, and fold-away beds and other furniture. During the day, the moveable wall will be located to maximize the size of the kitchen and living room. During the evening, it will be positioned to make the bedrooms larger. Thus, a 1500 square foot home will have a living area comparable to one with 2000 square feet.BACK TO MENU
28 Embryo Catalog Children [p90]
Prediction a: The embryo catalog will be introduced in the late 2020's, and, by 2050, nearly half the newborns in the US will be embryo catalog children. By that time, "regular civilized people" will consider the natural method of conception to be, literally and figuratively, "a shot in the dark".
Prediction b: Despite great opposition, several large TCs will offer online catalogs showing children at various ages, from infancy to young adulthood. Data will be provided on the height, weight, strength and other physical attributes of the model children, along with special talents such as music, art, mathematics, science, sports, and so on. Any woman will be able to purchase a cloned embryo implant. Given proper nutrition, stimulation, and education, it will be almost certain to develop much like the model in the catalog.
Prediction c: Prospective parents will usually pick a model similar to themselves with respect to facial features and body shape – only prettier or more handsome. They will also choose the talents and attributes they value most. Some will favor athletic ability and good looks. Others will chose academic intelligence and talents in music and art. Still others will pick models with celebrity fathers and/or mothers.
Prediction d: The TCs will create the embryos by recruiting men and women who, according to market surveys, have the looks and talents most in demand. The couple will contribute an egg and sperm to be mated in a laboratory. The resultant embryonic stem cell will be allowed to double, quadruple, and so on until, ten doublings later, there will be one-thousand twenty-four of them. At that point, the cells will be separated and all but six will be frozen away. The six will be developed into live embryos, two of which will be tested for known genetic diseases and then destroyed. If those two do not get a completely clean bill of health, the remaining embryos and embryonic stem cells will also be destroyed. If OK, a half-dozen embryos will be implanted in women who, in return for free medical coverage, will allow catalog photos to be taken every six months, along with tests of intelligence, reaction times, muscle strength, and so on. As the child develops into a teen-ager and then a young adult, data will be taken on their school grades, athletic ability, and talents in music, math, language arts, and so on. If all goes as planned, eighteen to twenty years later, each model child, called an “original cat,” will have grown to become a young adult. The original cats will receive a percentage of sales of their clone embryos. Depending upon the success of their model, they will have money for college, or to start a business and so on. If they do not qualify for the catalog, the frozen embryos for their model will be disposed of. However, the original cats and their mothers will have had the benefit of many years of free medical coverage.BACK TO MENU
29 Computer Network Security [p122]
Prediction a: The security of the internet will enable users to safely sign-in to their private information from anywhere in the world. In addition to a password, most computer terminals will have biometric readers to assure the identity of the user.BACK TO MENU
30 Peephole View on TV [p127]
Prediction: All hotel rooms will have cameras outside the door. Display surfaces mounted on the wall will easily switch from their current mode (decorative view, TV view, communications view, ...) to "Peephole" view. Peephole view will be similar to peering through a peephole in a door, but safer. (In the novel, the invention of Peephole view is credited to a guy who lost his right eye when the man whose wife he was having an affair with shot it out through a motel door peephole. He was blinded in that one eye but not killed. That tragedy led to his invention, which consisted of a small TV camera mounted in the door that displayed the view on channel 99 on the TV set. He became rich and had his name legally changed to “Oneeyeshy Theoneeyeguy.”)BACK TO MENU
31 Online Shopping for Perfect-Fit Items [p183]
Prediction a: Medical facilities will offer a yearly body-scanning service, subsidized by online retailers. People will undergo a full-body scan which will record their body geometry in full detail. It will also make a record of their skin abnormalities that will be useful in detecting such things as skin cancer or other ailments before they become serious. However, the main motivation for the online retailers will be to obtain exact measurements for computerized exact-fit clothing, shoes, golf clubs, and so on. (In the novel, this is called "WIN –go-shopping".)
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Sunday, February 8, 2009
Issues of Life and Liberty
2052 – The Hawking Plan is a work of near-future science fiction that depicts the affects of globalization and advancing technology on the life and liberty of people several decades from now. Unlike some sci-fi that deals in weird fantasy, this novel is intended to portray serious, science-based predictions.