Ruslan A. Sharipov.
Typically SiFi writers and futurologists make their forecasts for future. Now I am joining them with my own forecast. It is an entrenched habit to show the future equipped magic tools like antigravitators and space-time gates. One can see them in many SiFi films. However, I will not follow this habit. In order to make my forecast realistic I am going to confine myself to those technologies which are available now or to those which will for sure be available in the nearest future.
Lack of resources and the overpopulation.
Overpopulation problems in some regions were already detected in the past. For instance, Stolypin's reforms in Russia in the beginning of 20-th century include the plan of transmigration of a part of peasants from central regions to Siberia and to Far East regions. Earlier the overpopulation problems in Western Europe caused migration to America.
Two World wars, the Russian revolution of 1917, and the quick industrialization changed the traditional lifestyle of Europeans and thus solved the overpopulation problem. Currently the Europe suffers from the depopulation of aboriginal peoples. However, if we consider the planet in whole, the Earth population is growing fast. The growth is provided by advances in modern medicine that cures most of the mass infections. It is also provided by the intensified agriculture using artificial fertilizers and highly productive animals and plants. The population growth produces many concomitant problems. These are:
- expansion of the agricultural lands and shrinking the wild areas, intensive worldwide
lumbering, disappearance of many species of animals and plants;
- intensive consumption of mineral resources and carbon dioxide wastes in atmosphere;
- contamination of the environment by household refuse.
The population control leads to a global stagnation.
There are several scenarios for evolving the Earth population. The first one in the spontaneous growth accompanied by the escalation of concomitant problems. The second scenario is the population control. This scenario is now being realized in China. Theoretically, this scenario could stabilize the population and could balance the consumption of resources with their regeneration. However, it has some negative points.
In the case of global population control the Earth becomes somewhat like a wildlife sanctuary (reservation) for the mankind. In such a reservation each human will be planned to be born, will consume a planned amount of resources, and will be planned to die. The development of new technologies and new lifestyles will be prohibited by limited resources and by risks to disbalance their consumption. The absence of free areas will lead to the social and psychological bondage of a person. The social roles of a human in such a society will be predetermined by the social status of his parents, the opportunities for self realization will move to leisure and entertainments. There will be a lot of non-productive professions and jobs in the area of resource control and resource distribution, in the area of conflict settlement, in legal consulting. Mankind will be drowned in the web of bureaucracy instituted by itself.
The main objection to the global population control is the asteroid threat. The Mankind being in harmony with the Nature and having conserved itself within the realms of the Earth could be annihilated at a moment (like dinosaurs) by an impact of some sufficiently large cosmic stony rock.
Modifying a human is a key for solving the overpopulation problem.
The third scenario for evolving the Earth population is the most extreme. It is based on changing the biology of the human species. The primary need of a human that requires permanent reproduction is the need for food. Various branches of modern economy are built for satisfying this need: the agriculture, foods manufacture, foods storage, foods transportation, food markets including restaurants and other catering business establishments.
On the other hand, we know that lizards, snakes, and even crocodiles, in specific amounts per the unit of their weights, eat much less than mammals, a human being one of which. It is because we spend the most part of our eaten food for maintaining the constant temperature of our bodies (36.6 degree Celsius). These thermal expenses of our body do not require the diversity of foods. The idea is modify our body in such a way that it will cover the caloric expenditure by using some cheap food easy to produce or even chemically synthesized.
The best candidate for such an energetic food is ethanol (ethyl alcohol). It is easily produced from low-grade raw materials, e. g. from cheap grain, from straw, from hay, from wastes of forest industry. It can also be synthesized from the oil components and from the natural gas. However, in order to consume the alcohol as a food one should modify genetically its metabolism in a human organism in order to exclude its action upon the brain and to direct its metabolites to covering the thermal energy losses of a body. Simultaneously the problem of alcoholism will be solved since consumption of the alcohol will not lead to this disease any more.
Its easy to imagine that a gallon of vodka and a light breakfast of vitamins and proteins with small amounts of greeds and minerals will cover our daily needs of eating, while the extra spare time freed from lunches and dinners could be used for relaxing and for entertainments.
Another candidate for an energetic food is sugar or one of its components —
glucose. Glucose is also easily produced from low-grade vegetal raw materials and wastes of forest industry (cellulose hydrolysis). However, its direct synthesis from oil or gas is not possible. Like in the case of the alcohol, a genetic modification of a human is required in order to prevent diabetes and in order to direct all of the sugar consumed to heating the body without storing in energetic depots of our organism.
One more way for genetic modification of a human is if he gains some internal energy storage organ that could be charged in the night directly from the domestic electricity supply network.
Getting freed from hard food dependence Mankind will be able to pull back the agricultural production thus reducing the pressure upon the environment. The areas freed after that will be used for building houses for new inhabitants. The amounts of household refuse will also be reduced since its most part now is food packages.
To breathe or not to breathe?
Another urgent need of a human is the need for oxygen. In the Earth atmosphere this need is satisfied without special efforts. However, in order to dip into other media we require special tools.
In order to dip in the water we need an aqualung, in order to get in the cosmos we need a space suit.
Both suits hamper our motions. The need for such suits restricts our ability to adapt for living
in other media.
Thus we have the idea to investigate the mechanisms of oxygen consumption in our
organism and modify them genetically so that a human could deal without consuming the atmospheric
oxygen. As an alternative we can choose some other oxidizer or a substance able to educe the oxygen
when eaten as a food.
A human freed from the oxygen dependence will be able to populate the bottoms of seas and oceans. The live will be safer, there will be no drowned people any more, there will be no people
suffocated in a fire.
A human freed from the oxygen dependence has a little bit to do in order to live in the cosmic space. He should adapt his body to a high level of solar radiation not screened by the magnetic field of the Earth and he should exclude the water losses through the conjunctiva if his eyes. These problems will also be solved by means of genetic modification of the human species.
Getting in the space.
The Mankind has already made its first steps in the cosmic space. However, in order to colonize the cosmos one should change the technology of getting in over there. The currently used jet start or rocket start is too expensive. It cannot provide the required traffic for building cosmic villages and cities. It should be replaced by an electromagnetic catapult.
Let's discuss this tool in more details. For the beginning one should dig a tunnel within the Earth. Somewhat like a subway tunnel or like the Euro-tunnel under the English Channel. The tunnel can be straight (like on Fig. 1) or it can be bent arcwise (like on Fig. 2). Inside the tunnel one should settle a track similar to those built for magnetic levitation trains. Such trains are already used in Japan. Apart from levitation magnets, the track is equipped with a linear electric engine. Its stator is the tunnel itself, while its rotor (its armature) is a super-high-speed cosmic train. Both outlets of the tunnel are covered with lids, and then it is evacuated. Accelerating in such a vacuum tunnel, the cosmic train reaches the first cosmic speed or the second cosmic speed depending to which orbit it should be launched.
Just an instance before the cosmic train comes to exit the outlet lid is shot off. Moving by inertia, the cosmic train begins to thrust through the atmosphere. At that time the nose cowl of the cosmic train is subjected to substantial thermal and mechanical loads. This cowl should be made solid of a refractory metalloceramics. The cowl could be several meters thick. Nevertheless, when going trough the atmosphere it could burn out almost completely.
The sizes of the cosmic train should be approximately the same as those of a subway train. However, unlike them, it is not composed of separate cars. It should be a solid vehicle for not to bend when going though the atmosphere. On its sides in the rear part it should have nozzles of maneuver jet engines. They will provide the stable orientation of the cosmic train along its velocity vector.
Taking quite admissible for a human triple overweight when the cosmic train accelerates within the tunnel, we find that in order to reach the first cosmic speed at the exit the tunnel should be approximately 1000 kilometers long. In order to reach the second cosmic speed it should be 4000 kilometers long.
Cosmic trains launched by electromagnetic catapults will not be designed to return back to
the Earth. Their passengers will understand that they leave their home planet forever. They will become pioneering space inhabitants. It is quite likely that they will not be the best representatives of the Earth. Conversely, the volunteers will be picked up among those who did not find their place on the Earth for some reasons and who are disappointed in "earthly values". Being able to deal without oxygen and almost without food, these volunteers will mount cosmic cities from construction materials supplied from the Earth.
The energetics of cosmic cities will be based on the sun light. Before mounting a city a huge
panel of solar batteries will be unfolded. In other words, a city will be attached to a battery rather than a battery to a city.
The first industries in such cosmic cities will be factories producing constructive materials. Basically that will be metallic building components. For the beginning the raw materials will be supplied from the Earth. Then other sources will be used. One of such sources is the Moon. Nowadays we do not know any deposit of iron ore on the Moon. However, any celestial body should have a lot of silicon containing minerals. Now for us the silicon is a material for microelectronics. But it's quite likely that for cosmic inhabitants it will become a basic constructive material.
Building the first ring.
Where will the cosmic cities be placed? I think that it is better to place then not on a geocentric orbit but on some heliocentric orbit between the orbits of the Earth and the Mars. In the beginning that will be separate islands of settlements distributed along the huge orbit of hundreds of million kilometers. I think it will take several millennia before these settlements fill the whole orbit. Then they will form a habitable orbital ring. Of cause, it will not be a solid construction, but the communication lines and roads will be laid along them. That will be the time when pedestrians can walk along the orbit.
Building the first ring will require a lot of materials. It is quite possible that the whole Moon will be used for these purposes. As a result we will visually observe for the first time the inner structure of a large celestial body. It is quite possible that the Moon, like the Earth, has a metallic kernel, and this kernel could contain a lot of rear and precious metals. Gold markets will collapse.
Building the first ring will require a lot of workers. In these circumstances, even making a human immortal by means of genetic modification, we will not have the overpopulation problem. The knowledge gaining procedure will be totally different. Nowadays we spend a substantial part of our life for education — in a school and in a university. After that, upon gaining a profession we find that we are bound to our profession. I thing at the times of building rings all of the required knowledge will be written directly to the brain, just like now we write a program to a hard disk of a computer. No exams, no learning by hart, no mental efforts for learning at all. A person will be able to change easily his profession if he wishes or if another profession is of more demand.
Civilization of millions of rings.
After building the first ring, the second ring, the third ring etc will be built. There will be thousand or even many thousands of orbital rings. The plane of each next ring will be slightly turned with respect to the plane of the previous one. As a result the Sun will be surrounded with a dense clew of orbital rings forming somewhat like a sphere which astronomers call the Dyson sphere. Almost all of the solar radiation will be consumed by rings and will be spent for human needs.
If the natural power of the sun will be insufficient, some tools like the Giant Solar Laser will be used for to enforce the extraction of extra power from the Sun. Probably using such devices will cause the scenario of the Sun life will be made more peaceful and it terminates its life without explosions and growing in its sizes. But even if the Sun begins to blow up at the end of its life, one can save rings by elongating them and moving to a safe distance.
Along with building new rings, the Mankind will start its expansion to other stars. I think at that time we will be able to build star ships as big a towns. They will carry the whole infrastructure needed for to start building new rings at the destination. Even if the flight will take several thousands of years, it will fit within the length of a human life which will be practically infinite.
What will happen to the Earth?
The material of all planets of the Solar System will be spent on building habitable rings. I think the Earth will be an exception. It will be saved as a museum. That will be the area of wild animals. Also some orthodox people will live there, those who reject the genetic modification and preserve their genuine "human beings". The will live their short "human ages" like we do it now but in more comfort and insouciance. After billions of years, when the Sun will be quenching, the Earth will be surrounded with transportation rings and will be slowly moved to a younger star.