In the coming decades, some scientists hope to upload the contents of human brains into computers, allowing people to live forever inside a robotic body or even as a hologram. Neuroscientist Randal Koene and Russian financial-backer Dmitry Itskov are trying to transfer human consciousness and brain functions to an artificial body by 2045 by "mapping the brain, reducing its activity to computations, and reproducing those computations in code," according to Popular Science. Koene said his work isn't just about achieving immortality. It's about giving people the ability to go places and do things that are impossible in our own bodies, like traveling close to the sun. Even if we don't meet that goal by 2050, people alive today may still have their brains uploaded in the future. That's because other scientists are working on preserving human brains and all their contents indefinitely through immersion in chemical solutions. "If we could put the brain into a state in which it does not decay, then the second step could be done 100 years later, and everyone could experience mind uploading first hand," scientist Kenneth Hayworth, of the Brain Preservation Foundation, told Popular Science. Hayworth believes scientists may discover how to preserve a mouse brain by 2050
"By 2035, there will be no more poor countries," Bill Gates wrote earlier this year. By 2050, the development of countries around the world will be that much further along. Already 700 million fewer people lived in extreme poverty in 2010 than they did in 1990, and the rate of improvement has also slowly increased since the turn of the century. (Extreme poverty was defined as $1 day in 1990 but was redefined as $1.25 a day in 2008.) Today, the World Bank has set a new goal: lowering the number of people living in extreme poverty to no more than 3% of the population by 2030. Gates says increased foreign aid will play a key role in eradicating poverty on a global scale. Jeffrey D. Sachs, special advisor to the United Nations secretary general, calls for "new kind of mixed capitalism" to eliminate poverty — combining disease control, public education, and the promotion of new science and technology with private market forces. He points to parts of Africa, where the introduction of cellphones combined with better malaria control have slashed rural poverty. If the lagging countries can maintain a sustainable higher growth path, the global poverty ratio will fall from about 21% in 2005 to less than 2.5% in 2050, and the number of people living in absolute poverty will decline by another billion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations. To be sure, the future holds threats for impoverished people in the world. Global climate change is already threatening the homes and livelihoods of people in places like Panama and a once-lively fishing community in England. Time will tell whether the continued focus on eradicating poverty will outweigh the detrimental impact of climate change.
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) could generally be a good thing, assuming there isn't a "Terminator" scenario. While robots could replace some workers, it's important to remember that past innovations have unlocked whole new industries and new jobs along with them . The rise of AI could do the same. What's more, think how much better robots could make our world. Hans Moravec of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute predicts that by 2050 freely moving robots that outperform humans both physically and intellectually will run entire businesses by themselves. That could allow humans to "occupy their days with a variety of social, recreational and artistic pursuits, not unlike today's comfortable retirees or the wealthy leisure classes," he wrote in Scientific American. It could also lead to new breakthroughs, as "mass-produced, fully educated robot scientists working diligently, cheaply, rapidly and increasingly effectively will ensure that most of what science knows in 2050 will have been discovered by our artificial progeny!" As advanced as they may be, Levy still envisions robots "sitting in the corner in your house waiting for you to decide what you'd like to do next" rather than living independent lives of their own.
If the world invests enough in clean energy, we will be able to rely almost entirely on renewable energy by 2050 — cutting energy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, according to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report. "It is technically feasible to supply everyone on the planet in 2050 with the energy they need, with 95% of this energy coming from renewable sources," the report said. The report stresses, however, that this will only be possible if we sufficiently commit ourselves now to work toward that goal. The achievement of that goal "does not demand radical changes to the way we live," according to the WWF report. The changes involve technologies already available, won't cost more than 2% of global GDP, and take into account increases in population and travel. Solar energy, now comprising only .02% of the world's energy supply, could provide half of the world's electricity, half of building heating, and 15% of industrial heat and fuel in 2050, according to the report, which relies on findings from Ecofys. Wind energy, which currently supplies only 2% of the world's electricity, could provide 25% of the world's electricity by 2050. Although that requires an additional million onshore and 100,000 offshore wind turbines, they will have low environmental impact with proper planning, such as development of turbines that float on water. Other crucial sources of renewable energy will include ocean power that harnesses energy from waves and tides; biomass, which includes plant materials and animal waste; geothermal energy derived from the Earth's crust; and hydropower. Investment in all of these technologies is crucial. Combining power from all of these sources will be important in creating our clean energy future.
In the next decade, major car makers expect to release cars with self-driving features, such as steering, parking, gear-shifting, and braking, the Milken Institute predicts. Experts say most driverless cars will operate entirely without a human occupant's control by 2035. Driverless cars will be safer because they can draft closely behind other vehicles and eliminate human error, which causes 90% of car accidents, according to the Milken Institute. In the U.S., driverless cars could result in 4.95 million fewer accidents, 30,000 fewer deaths, and 4.8 billion fewer commuting hours. They will also save Americans $500 billion per year in costs of car accidents, fuel, and lost productivity, according to the Milken Institute. In the meantime, confidence in driverless cars is growing. 57% of people worldwide, and 60% of Americans, trust them. Electric cars will also be widespread by 2050 — a tremendous benefit for the environment. Worldwide annual production of electric vehicles will reach 7 million by 2020 and 100 million by 2050, according to Enel, Italy's largest power company. That will reduce CO2 emissions from transportation by 30%, in addition to significantly reducing oil consumption. In the U.S., half of vehicles will be electrified by 2050, totaling 157 million electric cars and light trucks, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Currently, 23.6% of the global population can't read, costing about 7% of worldwide GDP, according to "A Scorecard for Humanity," a report from the Copenhagen Consensus Center. By 2050, experts estimate that illiteracy rates will fall to just 12% and cost only about 3.8% of GDP. Few indicators measure progress better than literacy, and basic Human Capital Theory holds that a greater number of educated people will improve a country's economy. For example, differences in education help explain why Korea, with 12 years of schooling, saw a 23-fold growth in per-capita income since 1950, while Pakistan, with much less publication education, has seen only 3-fold growth. At this point, the world knows literacy matters. Many nonprofits and humanitarian groups focus on bringing an understanding of the written word to the world. The next XPRIZE award will also go toward ending illiteracy entirely.
In "The World We Made," Forum for the Future founder Jonathon Porritt predicts that by 2050, more than 8 billion people will go online, 97.5% of the population then. Currently, about 40% of the globe has internet access, with 78% of users in developed countries and 32% in developing countries. That's about 2.85 billion people, many of whom get internet access from mobile phones. Endeavors like Google's Project Loon and Internet.org specifically focus on bringing the web to areas where people don't yet have it. This online expansion will expose the world to one of the most innovations of modern history, opening possibilities for global communication and commerce, with Wikipedia in Uganda and Kickstarter in Pakistan. As for features of this new, global web, Jeff Jonas, an IBM Fellow and Chief Scientist of Context Computing, speculates the web will include "collective intelligence." In other words, your personal devices will combine your exact location with migratory bird patterns and tell you which way to step to avoid bird poop.
On the average day in the U.S., 18 people die while waiting for an organ transplant, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. Technology is already unlocking ways to prolong life while people wait for transplants. Dialysis replaces the kidneys for people who need a transplant, and, more recently, artificial hearts have been able to keep some patients alive temporarily while they wait for a new one. In the next 35 years or so, artificial and lab-grown organs will create a more permanent solution for transplant patients, who won't have to wait for another person to die before getting a life-sustaining organ. We are already implanting lab-grown bladders into people. Luke Massella was implanted with a lab-grown bladder more than 10 years ago and is still happy and healthy today. Other organs — from hearts and lungs to skin — are on their way. The technology for lab-grown bladders can also be combined with 3D printing of a person's own stem cells to make organ rejection a thing of the past. This process involves growing stem cells in the lab after removing them from a patient, then planting them into the 3D-printed body part. The cells grow on the scaffolding, creating an organ compatible with the recipient. Researchers are also looking into other permanent solutions to the organ shortage. Last year researchers at the University of California announced that they have created an artificial kidney in mice that will eliminate the need for dialysis and human-to-human transplants. Time reported that human testing was slated to begin in 2017. Another recent experiment implanted a lab-grown human kidney "bud" into mice, which began growing into a full liver.
The "universal translator" — an imaginary device that lets people who speak different languages communicate instantly — has been featured in sci-fi shows like "Star Trek." The Economist noted last year that it may not be long before automatic simultaneous translation becomes the norm in the real world, too. In the future, you may be able to go to a foreign country and speak fluently with the locals just by wearing a pair of special goggles or using a phone app. As the person speaks in a different language, their words will pop up on your screen like subtitles in a movie. The inventor William Powell has already tested a system that allowed English and Spanish speakers to communicate in that manner. It worked if both parties were patient and spoke slowly, the Economist noted. And just last month, Microsoft unveiled a "Star Trek"-like demo for real-time translation over Skype. This demo allows the person you're communicating with to hear your words followed by a clear translation in their preferred language. Translation tools like these will likely be ubiquitous and free of glitches by 2050, making the globe more interconnected than ever.