The Signposts Timeline: An Illustrated Speculative Timeline of Future Technology and Social Change
2351 AD-2600 AD

Mars and the Moon are major commerce and industrial centers; Mars opens for civilian settlement; virtual states rule the Earth; space exploration/colonization beyond the solar system is faltering

(latest update of this section on or about 2-24-2001)
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by J.R. Mooneyham

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Before 2351 AD in the Timeline...

Signposts 2351 AD-2600 AD Table of Contents

2380 milestone: Mainstream human level sentience employment on Earth has changed much since the 20th century

Late 20th century USAmericans, Japanese, and Europeans would find themselves much more familiar and comfortable with the lifestyles of people living and working in space now rather than on Earth.

From a 20th century perspective, significant portions of Earth would seem to have been transformed into a combination nature park and vast complex of enormous digital libraries and VR scenario halls --which most inhabitants call home (however, less than 35% of Earth fits this description-- the rest more closely resembles the hellish industrial environment of Earth's Moon circa 2380-- but these Earth hells are for the most part automated; few biological sentients spend much time in or near them).

Though a minority of Earth's population still pursues lifestyles reminiscent of previous centuries, most appear almost constantly engaged in complex simulations/virtual realities, which would appear to 20th century observers as extremely difficult games. In truth these games are often work, consisting of learning or teaching or both.

Lengthy periods of this work (say 1-3 months or so) are interrupted by brief breaks of play (1-6 weeks), which to 20th century observers might seem indistinguishable from the work previously described. However, play at this time consists of virtual realities generated by AIs to present anomalous discoveries or particularly difficult problems to a citizen for possible explanations or solutions that have so far eluded AIs and/or other citizens. The scenarios present the anomaly/problem to the citizen in the manner most preferred: if the citizen was a lover of 20th century science fiction, the scenario might make them an officer onboard the starship Enterprise, grappling with some entertaining but mystifying unknown.

The primary differences between work and play scenarios for citizens include (a), play scenarios tend to be more fun and interesting than work scenarios (where the ends tend to be pre-scripted), and (b), surplus all purpose financial credits are typically only available to adults for play scenarios in which they are able to either resolve at least a portion of a problem, or else present a unique and potentially useful perspective on the matter which might be applicable to this item or another in the database.

A citizen's work (learning/teaching) only earns them their sustenance privileges, which include (by 20th century standards) a luxurious if somewhat cramped apartment, free transportation, free clothing, free utilities (including computing resources), and more. In the late 24th century however mere sustenance is considered quite inadequate and demeaning by many, and so the potential added compensation of play is a strong draw.

However, it should be noted that engaging in play is not a sure way to financial reward. It's not uncommon for a citizen to earn nothing at all in one play session, or even six in a row.

A citizen's play is essentially an assignment by the government or corporate state to which the citizen belongs. In lieu of technological conundrums to be solved, a play assignment may sometimes be socially related. So in a way a citizen is often encouraged with the prospect of payment to assuage another citizen's acute desire for companionship or intimacy that cannot always be supplied by even the best AIs and simulated human forms alone. Thus, those citizens who seem adept at such social therapy often tend to get the majority of such assignments, while citizens better at technological puzzles tend to get those. But there's still a certain amount of random assignments designed into the system anyway, for various reasons...

Citizen capacities are vastly amplified by implants and multitudes of supporting AI of varying degrees of intelligence, including some AIs of human level or more. The inorganic AIs offer the citizens many things, including enhanced interfaces, companionship and encouragement, and enormous help in regards to the the tedious, repetitive 'grunt' work involved in sifting through and processing mountains of information to find the bits relevant to a particular matter. As a result, most citizens of this period function very like the fictional captain of a star ship or other large and advanced vessel, exploring the unknown and attempting to overcome obstacles as they appear, with the aid of a crew composed of many artificial intelligences. Thus, a citizen is forced by circumstances to be more of a generalist than specialist (allowing their AIs to do all or most of the specialization necessary).

For particularly tough play assignments, citizens might find themselves collaborating as a team (or 'fleet' of virtual starships and AI crews), via transparent (or nearly so) long distance links.

All this makes for a schism between the majority of citizens who live as generalists and minority who still live as specialists (essentially functioning similarly to the AIs described previously in the hierarchy). Generalist citizens may easily converse directly with one another where desired, but substantial translations are required between generalist and specialist citizens.

Signposts 2351-2600 Contents

2425 milestone: The fastest of the latest new ships suitable for general purposes now are capable of sustained .5c (half of lightspeed) using antimatter fueled drives.

(This is considerably faster than the Rovers still in use by the Pearsalls many lightyears from Earth) At top speed, sporting a standard fuel complement however, (and not including ion wakeway use or fusion drive range (ions and fusion are incapable of such accelerations anyway)) the new ships' maximum un-refueled range extends only some 10 lightyears from their origin point-- for a two way trip. And their antimatter budget makes for very expensive craft to buy and use.

Signposts 2351-2600 Contents

2430s milestones in personal housing/transportation

The average 'elite' or 'high-middle-class' citizen of the most highly developed states has at minimum a 60% chance of finding themselves in an environment that includes these items: their organic brain patterns ensconced (at least sometimes, if not full-time) in an inorganic, nanotechnology-based physical form: the star fish bush structure. This form is essentially a superhuman entity, virtually indestructible and capable of feats that would be considered God-like from a 20th century perspective.

Remember, this is the state of only a portion of the elite of humanity at this time, with zero representatives from the AI, chimpanzee, and dolphin camps enjoying access to these bodies (with the exception of the Staute AI). Though in a sense AI and boosted chimps/dolphins are the 'child races' of humanity, we are very reluctant to grant them peer status or full access to our most important and latest technologies at this stage. Too, very few people are 'permanent' owners of such super-bodies, with many only 'renting' time as needed. After all, these are strange housings indeed, and take time to grow accustommed to, for most. In addition, the bodies are relatively costly in the early years.

Signposts 2351-2600 Contents

2500 milestone: The average life expectancy of pure biological humans (non-cyborgs) is at least 110 now

The average life expectancy of purely biological humans is at least 110 now, due largely to genetic engineering.

-- Predictions for the new millennium By LANCE GAY, October 25, 1999, Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service,

Note that 100% biological human beings are a definite minority of the population now, due to all the advantages and benefits of accepting other new technologies into one's body. For the mainstream of human-derived civilization today, individuals of age 110 are considered to be still quite young.

However, there remain some people who prefer to refuse various cyborg enhancements and other aids, and thus continue to die at ages reminiscent of the 20th century and before. Many are extremists of a religious or environmental bent. Their shorter lifespans and generally greater physical fragility are one reason such factions are diminishing in their influence on humanity as a whole.

Signposts 2351-2600 Contents

2510 milestone: Mars is declared fit for unrestricted settlement by biologicals

Very little in the way of cyborg aids are required by human beings, dolphins, or chimpanzees to live comfortably on Mars now. Careful herding of comets to the red planet has well stocked its water reservoirs with a minimum of major impact damage (the best and most costly examples of comet herding today can basically vaporize an entire comet completely within the atmosphere of a planet with little more than sonic booms and perhaps some flashes of light to mark the event on the surface of the world being targeted). Orbiting mirrors help maintain the red planet's heat, and a world-spanning grid of Pacop-Hostel star reactors specially tuned to supplement Mars' gravity in the atmospheric regions with artificial tides help minimize the loss of Mars' atmosphere to space-- as well as provide enormous assistance to Mars-side, Mars-moon, and Mars-orbit construction and transport projects. Unlike Earth, the clean slates of Mars and the Moon (regarding pre-existing human population densities and industrial installations) enabled Mars and Earth's Moon to become major hubs of mega-construction and industrial projects by virtue of accompanying networks of Pacop-Hostel star reactors. The P-H reactors also helped enormously in the non-destructive accumulation of comet water for Mars biosphere. Essentially we're talking a system of reactors about the Moon and Mars that act as super powerful yet intangible and invisible 'space tugs' for maneuvering astronomical loads in the vicinity of a planetoid-- similar to how harbor tug boats on Earth helped shepard oil tankers, cruise ships, and aircraft carriers to and from the docks of coastal ports in the 20th century.

The happy coincidence that Mars required huge amounts of certain types of industrial pollution for global warming purposes-- plus the fact that Mars possessed little native biosphere to injure, and the Moon possessed none at all-- also helped spur development of both worlds, as many industrial operations were moved off Earth to these new sites.

This is how the Moon and Mars became such important commercial and industrial hubs for roughly a 100 years. Major shipyards sprang up there. Hybrid space-dirtside industries which required ready and easy access to both micro and macro gravity for their processes. Amusement parks with the wildest realtime rides in the known universe, and more.

Across-the-board advances in nearly every area of technology over the past centuries, as well as the booming wealth of humanity, has resulted in Mars reaching this stage far ahead of most original estimates.

Above image of a wet Mars created by J.R. Mooneyham based on information from Popular Science January 1992, 1970s Mars photos produced by Viking spacecraft, and other sources.

-- "Futurists gather to predict world's turns: BY BOB KURSON STAFF REPORTER, Chicago Sun Times, 7-20-98]

-- Predictions for the new millennium By LANCE GAY, October 25, 1999, Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service,

Signposts 2351-2600 Contents

2300-2600 politico-techno-economic trends in the vicinity of near-Earth: the continuing evolution of the state

Earth began this period with nine powerful virtual states, and some 430 remaining geopolitical nations clinging to varying amounts of national 'sovereignty' in the face of growing odds against them. The forces of change raged almost without quarter between 2300 and 2600, forcing a huge portion of the population to seek refuge into ever more physically isolated (but perversely more intellectually intimate) environments, as well as add more and more inorganic supplements to their original high percentage biological platforms to continue.

Virtual reality technology makes enormous strides during this period, displacing physical reality entirely for many near the end of this time. New knowledge and practices and vast, widespread wealth almost across-the-board push most all the remaining geopoliticals into irrelevancy, with only a few dozen geopoliticals still in official existence by 2600. These remaining geopolitical states are for the most part small, poor, and politically and technologically backward; a couple even still possess an exotic variant of despotic rule, where one or a few wealthy persons early on essentially purchased the region and all its inhabitants. But such states must spend nearly their entire GDP on trying to keep out the rest of the world, and keep in their own citizens: a futile battle over the long run. As well as moronic, since remaining apart and different this way in 2600 is little more than sadistic mistreatment of one's own citizens. Part of the price of such backwardness is no access to many modern technologies, and extreme scrutiny and military and economic containment from the rest of the world to prevent such primitives from attempting to sabotage everyone else for ill conceived reasons.

There's five major virtual states by 2600, all of which tend to switch membership periodically between two (and sometimes three) still larger alliances, which usually compete with one another on the biggest issues of the day. It may be difficult to see how only 5 states can sometimes differ in three alliances...but the explanation is complex. Partly there's also many smaller virtual factions making up all the major states, as well as other (mostly commercial) factions which rarely belong to any one state the resulting fluctuations make more than sufficient room for an occasional third alliance group.

Near continuous wrestling matches between the larger alliances typically fall into one of only a few issues: Space versus Earth concerns; space/sea versus land concerns; disputes over sentients' rights (and definitions); what is and is not obsolete technology (and thereby subject to free use versus fee-per-use), and a few others.

The Store. A near unanimous system-wide agreement results in the creation of a universally accessible archive of most all human knowledge to date, automatically translated on-the-fly into whatever formats/languages are desired by users. The archive eventually becomes known as "the Store". The knowledge of the Store is governed similarly to how various products have been available from replicators for a long time now, though with somewhat more leniency in regards to non-obsolete technologies, and typically much lower usage costs, as no physical products are directly available from the Store (i.e., the vast bulk of information in the Store is either free or negligible in cost). The Store becomes an important resource for both Earth-side and extra-terrestrial citizens.

Fance. In the final decades of this period, virtual reality technologies reach a major plateau in quality and performance: and it is called "Fance". Fance, like the Store before it, is mostly freely accessible to any sentients properly equipped to use it, with charges only applied for extraordinary applications-- and even those may often be waived by authorities if they are satisfied by a user's preparations or purposes. Because Fance is primarily generated by the participation and shared resources of the members themselves. Fance, like the virtual realities which preceded it, is far more heavily used by Earth-centrics than others at this time.

NOTE: To see more about both the Store and Fance, refer to The State of Earth-based Civilization, circa 2601. END NOTE.

The mounting case for obsolete technologies being released into a free/public domain/open source project classification all their own

At several points in my timeline I write about a vast amount of so-called "obsolete technology" becoming categorized as something akin to a universal store of materials, devices, and software accessible for virtually free to all human beings everywhere by a certain point in future history. A vast, royalty-free library/catalog from which anyone may draw via a nanotech replicator to reproduce various goodies for need or want.

Such largess becomes a form of official Do-It-Yourself 'welfare' and 'social security' for citizens of the far future, helping provide a sort of 'ultimate safety net' for everyone.

Though (as of 2001) it will be centuries before the most idealistic form of this system may be available to us, already some present-day observers are wondering aloud if we shouldn't create some sort of legitimatized system for making 'obsolete' technologies available to those who want or need them.

Simsom L. Garfinkel of the Boston Globe gives the example of the advanced Improv spreadsheet created by Lotus Development on Next computers (and then MS Windows 3.1 PCs) many years ago, and then abandoned to the dustbin of history, for apparently no good reason. He goes on to describe the many practical and legal obstacles to obtaining the technology for himself and others at the time of his writing, and how the inaccessibility of such technology seems morally wrong and logically a drag and drain on the potential of the global economy itself.

Garfinkel argues that when a copyright owner of something like Improv fails to continue support and/or improvement of that product, or even stops distribution altogether, the copyright should go into the public domain so that the product may still serve those who find it useful, and perhaps even regain ongoing support and improvement from other parties. After all, Garfinkel points out, copyright laws only exist in the first place to encourage authors to produce new and improved works; if they don't do that, then aren't the authors reneging on their part of the social contract?

Garfinkel does seem to make an excellent case-- and brought up a new point I hadn't previously considered myself about the issue: namely, that such 'obsolete' products going into a public domain/open source code mode might furiously increase competition in the commercial sectors as well, leading to higher quality and lower prices across the board, plus prodding commercial ventures to take feature sets to whole new and higher levels than they might otherwise do, thereby greatly reducing the types of product stagnation we seem to have suffered in computer operating systems and applications the past ten years or so.

Note too that this release of obsolete tech into the public domain might help control the future growth of monster corporations as well (mega corporations beyond the power of world governments to control or regulate could pose a serious threat to human rights and progress in coming centuries).

-- "Copyrights and wrongs By Simsom L. Garfinkel; 02/18/99, Boston Globe, page C04

Other factors which may help lead to a formalization of free or negligible cost sustenance supplies to the population could include a technologically inspired scale of commoditization of certain items like basic foodstuffs which reduces profit incentives below tolerance levels for business even as safety risks rise due to increasing centralization of production (so that one mistake or accident can afflict millions or billions of consumers). Full adoption of such production by government agencies removes the need for profits while retaining motivations and accountability for efficiency and safety, and insuring a centralized, consistent authority and control for overseeing such concerns in production.

-- "Food production and food safety", T A B Sanders, professor of nutrition and dietetics,, Editorials by Brundtland and Pershagen, Nutrition, Food and Health Research Centre, King's College London, London SE1 8WA, Education and debate, British Medical Journal 1999, BMJ 1999;318:1689-1693 ( 19 June ), eBMJ -- Sanders 318 (7199): 1689

What are the implications of the masses enjoying near-infinite computing power combined with instant access to all of human knowledge, and the power to modify matter with a wish?

One might be that common citizens become inventors. For they'll be able to reshape or customize virtually any technologies on hand to better serve themselves or others.

At the end of the 20th century some worry that technology is accelerating innovation possibly at the expense of many past and present human values and hopes.

-- Futurists see an era of relentless innovation By CRAIG SAVOYE, Nando Media ( Science Monitor Service (, November 29, 1999

Signposts 2351-2600 Contents

2300-2600 expansion trends: Sol system-based realtime space exploration/colonization/support efforts first plateau, then practically collapse in favor of virtual reality and more exotic interdimensional or other explorations

A large part of the reason is the enormous time discontinuities involved in first time transport and communications to remote areas within our own physical Universe; deeply networked civilizations find such discontinuities extremely disrupting, and thus trend towards their minimization. This is the repulsive aspect of the matter; the attraction aspect has to do with the astonishing growth and development in virtual realities, which renders Realtime ventures ever more redundant, expensive, boring, and dangerous by comparison.

Note that the above mostly applies to Earth, and to a lesser extent the surrounding Sol system, which both enjoy considerably more virtual amenities and a more mature economy and governmental system than those settlements outside of these domains. The child colonies are a different matter, where expansion and many other items are concerned.

Though breakthroughes like Einstein's Run and the Uniques have greatly expanded the colonization of this section of the galaxy, even the 'instant' communications of Realtime technology brings jarring discontinuities to the fast paced virtual realities many citizens inhabit now on and near Earth, as well as other locations in inhabited space. Because Realtime transport/communications technology still holds a stiff processing penalty on both ends of the transmission, which brings about delays that may seem negligible to physical beings, but cause tremendous annoyance for faster virtual conciousnesses. Lightspeed communications, by comparison, are slower even than this by magnitudes. So most important activities by the majority of virtual citizens now tend to be kept highly localized wherever possible, to avoid unacceptable delays. This also means virtual civilization splinters into a great many differentiated factions, usually each no larger than a single world, moon, or colony, and many considerably smaller than that.

Yes, human civilization first underwent a great homogenization as it made the transition from a corporeal-based to virtual reality-based platform (even as the remaining physical beings exploded in diversity). And now, centuries later, the vast distances separating clusters of humanity's progeny are re-splintering the race (both physicals and virtuals) back into tribe-like groups once more-- albeit immensely huge and powerful tribes.

The enormous resources available to all, and the great distances separating many, do much to minimize physical conflict among all the different elements of humanity now. As the 20th century cliche "It takes two to tango" went, now any real conflicts usually require at minimum two willing participants to occur, or continue. Just one belligerent is insufficient when the potential 'victim' is so far away the belligerent can do little to get their attention, and even if the belligerent may somehow reach out to barely contact the other in some way, in that case the 'victim' is locally so powerful and well established the belligerent's effort can rarely result in more than a rude expression delivered to the victim. Yes, there are exceptions to this, as often locals can and do fight amongst themselves-- but in local disputes of this time they are typically more akin to infighting between and among Earth families of the 20th century than any great armed conflict. I.e., "Hatfield and McCoy" feuds with weapons and defenses of low to moderate destructive power, are normally the worst disputes underway now. Keep in mind that fatalities and injuries today often are not the traumatic and permanent events they were in the 20th century and earlier. The dead may usually be reconsituted from backup resources of various sorts, and even the worst injuries healed or repaired very quickly. Still, the feuding tribes tend to restrain themselves in the scale of weaponry used, simply out of a desire to minimize the inconvenience of rebuilding large scale works, or doing without certain high tech luxuries for extended periods of time. To see a quality 'snapshot' of how such a familial conflict might appear to locals, a viewing of the original late 20th century film "Dune" would suffice-- though in reality towards the end of this period the contestants depicted in "Dune" would be among the poorest and most ill-equipped families, and, of course, virtually none of the profound concepts and ideals witnessed in "Dune" the film are involved in these true life squabbles.

Signposts 2351-2600 Contents

(For more about this period check out Perspectives 2301 AD-2500 AD and Perspectives 2501 AD-2800 AD)

Beyond 2600 AD in the Timeline...

The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993,1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied anddistributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyrightparagraph and link to the timeline ( are included.

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