Flying cars are everywhere?large regions of the Earth are under transparent domes with controlled weather…elsewhere, single buildings rise miles into the sky…huge areas of the ocean are covered with solar cells…tiny cameras watch everyone everywhere all the time, making sure crime does not pay (these are already in place in London). We’ve heard all this before, but in many ways, it sometimes seems as if not all that much has changed in the last 50 or 100 years. But futurists say there is one crucial difference between now and then: the range of what is possible.

But just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it will, or should, come to pass. For example, it would be technologically possible right now to build a wall 100 foot thick wall 200 feet high around the island of Manhattan to protect it from future tsunamis. But the enormous financial cost, problems with transportation, barriers to shipping and ugliness far outweigh the upside to this scheme. Also, New Yorkers couldn’t agree on where to put a new Yankee stadium?would they ever agree on building a huge wall around their island?

Futurists insist that our ability to undertake vast projects will increase tremendously in the next decade or two. Much of this will be made possible by molecular manufacturing, a form of advanced nanotechnology. Mike Treder, of The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, thinks that quantum physics, terrorism, global warming, increasing human migration, incurable deadly viruses and ever more sophisticated surveillance are the things that will change our lives the most. He says , “We speak of ‘global community,’ but can forget that community-building has always been a painful experience in human history.”

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