The Malta Independent 22 January 2021, Friday

2050: travel to the future show progress in wellbeing

George M Mangion Sunday, 3 January 2021, 10:00 Last update: about 20 days ago

This is a fantasy trip, which takes us on a time machine travelling to New Year’s Eve in 2050. Our economy has trebled during these 30 years having discovered gas in offshore waters and started exporting it to Europe via two gas underwater pipes.

Our GDP has reached and exceeded that of Luxembourg even though our hospitality and gaming sectors have waned but the export of medicinal cannabis has flourished. Over the years, many traditional attributes, which endeared our lifestyle as a young nation, have morphed into a unique ecosystem that appreciates the value of time use and meaning of life. Our cities and villages have seen a metamorphism which saw alternative building materials replace the use of the hitherto honey-coloured indigenous stone.

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Writing this article on New Year’s Eve year 2050, I try to understand how the platform of affluence, gained by the islanders, partially resulted in a change away from cheap labour to large-scale replacement by automation resulting from the heavy investment in R&D which boosted the academic levels of our four international universities and technical colleges.

These knowledge factories attract talent and deliver innovation. Changes in demographics over the past 30 years has led the community to achieve a higher standard of wellbeing, as less work leads to increased leisure time and flexibility over time use.

Our national leaders have been wise to make full use of automation thus reducing production cost and increase efficiency in exports. This strategy was selected after various protests by social groups that pushed politicians to remove discrimination in the sharing of benefits. In theory it means that the rich no more add to their bounty and the poor sink deeper into the poverty hole. The basic pay is automatically increased by 5% to 10% annually while production targets are leveraged upwards. Advancement in free education has been reached due to students achieving higher grades in science, AI and maths subjects. But it is not a rose garden – a sad situation reflects our lethargy in combating climate change which in the Mediterranean has seen sea levels rise prodigiously. Due to lack of co-ordination of Med. countries to reduce carbon footprint, we have suffered from savage storms, high winds and the onset of drought in the summer months. Had it not been to our later-day investment in clean energy (which was a bit too little too late – delayed up to 2025), the island endured flooding due to rising sea levels. Homes in Sliema, Marsa, Cottonera and Msida suffered acute flooding.

Again, nobody anticipated the extent of disease outbreaks or the resulting death toll. Diseases once considered restricted to developing countries reached plague levels in Europe due to lack of commitment to pool research in vaccines by the power blocks of Europe, Asia and the USA. Thanks to a change in the mindset that saw an epiphany in 2030, the island finally invested heavily in alternative clean energy sources and exploited its abundance of natural gas in offshore waters; most of which is exported to Sicily for conversion into LNG. This source of income has filled our state coffers like never before and government made sure that an independent posterity fund was created to balance for any future calamities.

Travellers arriving on the time machine observe that there is no need for back-breaking chores in raking the garden or painting the rooms as such chores are relegated to robots. Of course, not all can afford to take advantage of friendly robots for tasks such as cleaning, cooking and organising. Some of this technology is so prevalent that functional robotics (fifth generation) can recognise human speech and respond to it to perform specific tasks around the house. Many make use of family cars with hydrogen-powered hovercraft mechanisms which float effortlessly over sea and land with zero emissions.

Smart phone apps that interact with one’s home are commonplace and kids can handle the grocery list and book its delivery by a drone. The internet of things is now passé, as busy housewives can remotely check the contents of the refrigerator, turn on the oven or start the dish washer. Most houses have indoor gardens which use hydroponic containers powered by LED lighting instead of sunlight to grow plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, onions, carrots, garlic and beetroot. Commercial farming has been reduced to a hobby activity.

Moreover, homes of the well-to-do have walls endowed with nanotechnology that can project outside views or a real-time scenery from the beaches, giving the inhabitants a holistic feel-good experience. Walls display movies, collateral information, environmental information, data about public transportation and weather schedules.

They will not only provide information and entertainment but will also enhance homes into a dynamic atmosphere by lighting scenarios matching the time of day, the mood of the user and their health conditions. Homes can now generate a good part of their energy needs. Nevertheless, in 2050 there are still pockets of the workforce who cannot afford to buy all technological advancements. Thanks to advances in science, one can enjoy an extravaganza of home entertainment systems which combine augmented reality, virtual reality with mediated reality movies and no cable television. For the high-heeled, they enjoy interactive home entertainment systems that intensify end of year fun making it more attractive and sensual than ever before. Guess how many can afford a space tourism treat for the dark side of the moon?

It goes without saying that science can improve longevity, such that with improved health care and better welfare benefits, one is expected to live longer. With such increases in life expectancy and the prospect of a larger number of older people at home, it takes a careful approach how to plan our leisure time. In conclusion, can one contemplate taking a trip on a time travel machine which will take us to 2050, instantly relieving us of the melodrama of Covid-19 human tragedy with millions dead and the global economy on the verge of a depression?

A back to the future trip to 2050 will see the islanders exploiting natural fossil fuel resources, drive cars using hydrogen-powered hover craft that navigate over land and sea. In this future scenario, regretfully we still carry a number of skeletons in our closet such as corruption, racism, job discrimination, plundering of national assets for the benefit of the privileged, widespread cronyism and nepotism.

In conclusion, it appears that the human race has not learned much from mistakes of the past as we still must pay for our sins of omission.

 

A prosperous New Year to all

 

 

 

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