2035

by David Dennis


It's an important year for humanity. If you plot the population growth of the human species it forms a hyperbolic graph with its asymptote at approximately 2035. This is the year that the human population hits infinity. Clearly there's an issue here, not least of which is our current environment's inability to support an infinite number of humans as we understand humanity. The mass of the Earth is 6x10^21 metric tonnes and the physical limit in mass of actual human flesh and bone that can be created from the Earth's materials is a number below this (did you ever picture humanity this way before?). Something has to give, and there's a finite number of predictable scenarios that can emerge. Probably most conceivably to most of us is that as we put pressure on our environment it pushes back, and humanity is constrained by lack of resources in a number of unpleasant situations.

There are alternative hypotheses. One other important factor in our existence follows a related exponential growth: technology. As there are more of us making use of existing tools and knowledge to improve our tools and knowledge technology advances faster. If you take Moore's law and double our computing capability every two years, then you find that computing power catches up and begins to surpass the human brain at about the same date, somewhere around 2035.

It's clear that there is a change coming, and it's going to be pretty fundamental to the human experience. This date is sometimes referred to as the Singularity, where changes in technology and society hit an event horizon that defies our abilities of prediction. It seems to mark a boundary where our development as a species is governed more by our technology than by our biology, which has seen its peak (or plateau). If there's one thing that we know from the last few decades it's that the future's technology tends to work out a little different than we predict. The hover-boards, flying cars and moon-bases of 20th century science fiction are about a decade overdue, and the computers in Star Trek are humourously monstrous machines compared to the modern smartphone. It may literally be beyond our capability to even remotely accurately predict the course of an event that is within out lifetimes for the first time in human history.

In this case, the ramifications will be huge and the coming change has to be something that the species has never experienced in terms of scale. Physics limits the current trend of human growth, and it seems that emerging technologies may be more important to our future than they have ever been before. In a hundred years 2035 may be the single most important period taught in history class.