Will desktop computers still exist by 2050?

Future technologies

Throws If you take a look back into human history, you can see that technical development is exponential: It has accelerated from century to century - and will get even faster in the coming decades. The number of scientists, engineers and technicians continues to rise worldwide; they “produce” more and more knowledge, and so technical innovations are developed faster and faster. Accordingly, the markets for the technologies presented on this page are showing high growth rates.

Power generation

In order to slow down climate change and as a reaction to the declining stocks of fossil fuels, processes for the use of renewable energies such as wind power, solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower (including the use of tides) and biomass will be further developed in the coming years. In the EU, a share of these energies in total energy consumption of at least 32% is to be achieved in 2030 (2018: 18%). The International Energy Agency (IEA) assumes that by 2040 a quarter of global consumption will be covered by renewable energies.

As alternatives to petrol and diesel, bioethanol from sugar cane and starchy grain as well as biodiesel from rapeseed or soybean oil have increasingly been produced in recent years. According to EU Directive 2018/2001, the EU member states should cover 1% of their fuel consumption in 2025 and at least 3.5% in 2030 with biofuels. However, the production of biofuels currently takes place at the expense of food production and thus contributes to the increase in the price of staple foods. Furthermore, natural landscapes (e.g. primeval forests) are being destroyed in many parts of the world in order to plant oilseeds in monocultures. However, there are now alternatives: Cellulosic ethanol and BtL fuel (“Biomass to Liquids”) are made from raw materials such as Chinese reed, straw or wood and from organic waste products. According to the International Energy Agency, 10% of the world's agricultural and forestry waste could produce 125 billion liters of diesel or 170 billion liters of ethanol per year, which could cover more than 4% of fuel consumption in the transport sector.

In a few decades, algae culture will also be of great importance: Since algae contain 30 to 60% oil and can be grown in both fresh and salt water, they can help solve several problems at once:

  • Biodiesel, ethanol, biogas and hydrogen can be obtained from algae in a CO2-neutral manner.
  • Both wastewater (e.g. from agriculture) and exhaust gases from coal-fired power plants could be used for algae cultivation.
  • Algae can be grown on areas that are not used or only rarely used for agriculture - even in desert regions near the coasts (North / East Africa, Middle East, Southwest USA, etc.).
  • Many types of algae are edible or could be used as fish or animal feed - newly bred varieties are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Plastic and raw materials for the chemical industry can be extracted from algae, just like petroleum.

But nuclear energy also has a future, even if Germany will shut down all remaining nuclear power plants by the end of 2022. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 443 nuclear power plants were in operation and 54 nuclear power plants were under construction worldwide at the end of 2019. More are planned - including some breeder reactors. The construction of commercial fusion power plants is not expected until after 2040.

New coal-fired power plants are still being built or are in the planning stage in 60 countries. If all projects are implemented, global electricity production from coal would increase by almost 29% according to the "Global Coal Exit List" of 2019. But since such power plants produce a lot of carbon dioxide and thus make a decisive contribution to climate change, criticism of them is getting louder and louder. That is why they should become "clean" by separating greenhouse gases. However, due to the energy-intensive separation, liquefaction and transport, the efficiency of the power plants is likely to decrease by 10 to 15%. But there are also countries that want to do without this source of energy in the future. For example, in 2019 the federal government decided that all German coal-fired power plants should be taken off the grid by 2038 at the latest.

In the field of energy technology, there are two further challenges: On the one hand, technologies must be further developed that lead to more efficiency in energy use - e.g. energy-saving lamps, combined heat and power, condensing boilers or low-energy buildings. On the other hand, a modern energy network has to be created: Off- and onshore wind farms, solar fields and solar panels on house roofs do not continuously produce electricity, but have to be networked with traditional power plants and combined heat and power plants, which are switched on when required. In such "smart grids", individual consumption can also be controlled in such a way that household appliances such as washing machines, dryers or refrigerators switch on automatically when electricity is particularly cheap. In addition, the counters should show which device uses how much energy. If a particularly large amount of ecologically generated energy is available, this could also be temporarily stored in the batteries of electric cars in a decade or two. Or cold stores could be cooled more and swimming pools could be heated more vigorously, so that the cooling or heating devices can be switched off temporarily when wind and solar energy are scarce. According to estimates by the federal government, more efficient management could save 2.5 million households' energy consumption.

Vehicle technology

For reasons of climate protection, vehicles are to be operated primarily with electricity in the future. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there were around 7.2 million electric cars worldwide in 2019. Their number will rise to 130 to 250 million by 2030. The main market drivers are China with 3.3 million and the USA with 1.5 million vehicles. In Europe, the highest market share for electric cars was in Norway with 56%, followed by Iceland with 23% and the Netherlands with 15%. In Germany the market share was only 3%. According to the Shell group, electric cars could become the norm by 2050.

But fuel cell vehicles will also find widespread use in the coming decades. The car manufacturers Daimler, BMW, Honda and Toyota, the gas company Linde and other companies joined forces in 2017 to form the "Hydrogen Council" and want to jointly advance technology. In addition, according to an analysis by management consultancy McKinsey, a better ecological balance can be achieved by optimizing internal combustion engines: the emissions of new cars could be reduced from 170 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer in 2008 to 95 grams in 2030.

In recent years, cars and trucks have been developed that can control themselves with the help of GPS, radar, ultrasound and 3D cameras. They have a 360-degree environment recognition. Automated driving could lead to fewer accidents and thus fewer insurance claims as well as fewer traffic controls and legal proceedings for violating the traffic regulations, but it could also make many professional drivers unemployed. Driverless driving is now legal in California, Florida, and Nevada.

Around the year 2025 (Intel) or 2030 (Volkswagen), cars will communicate with other vehicles and independently find their way to the specified destination via autopilot. Then they will no longer be just a means of transport, but also “office” and “home”: Since you don't have to concentrate on the traffic, you can make phone calls, do research on the Internet, watch films or relax with your eyes closed. In addition, you will no longer waste time looking for a parking space: the car drops the passenger where they want to go, then independently looks for a parking space and picks up the passenger at any street corner. It is also expected that more and more people will give up their own car and make use of ridesharing services, robot taxis or car sharing offers. By 2030, many inner cities will also be closed to private transport.

Self-driving trucks (and cars) communicating with other vehicles can drive in columns with a minimum distance and will then use less fuel due to the reduced air resistance. Many cars will also be able to fly in the future: The “Terrafugia Transition” has been around since 2012 - a car with folding wings that can be purchased for $ 280,000 and flown with a flight license. In addition, cars are currently being developed (e.g. "Moller Skycar", "X-Hawk" and "SkyRider") that can ascend and land vertically with the help of lifting rotors. NASA is already working on a "sky highway" on which cars could fly in multiple lanes.

In the future, aircraft will save fuel if they fly in computer-controlled swarms - or if they take the form of broad, flat missiles (“flying wings”). Trains will travel faster and faster - e.g. as magnetic levitation trains at up to 430 km / h and in connection with vacuum tunnels even at higher speeds than today's planes. In cities there will be suspension railways and trams that run on rails on both sides of the lane and are so high or wide that they slide over the traffic.

Information and communicationtechnology

At the beginning of the 21st century, computers are ubiquitous in both business and private life. In the years to come, their performance will continue to grow exponentially. New technologies are also being developed for this purpose: For example, in 2012 the company D-Wave-Systems built the first commercial quantum computer with “D-Wave-One” that no longer works with digital data bits - the familiar zeros and ones. but with qubits that can be in several states at the same time. Furthermore, there will be computers with the power of the human brain in the foreseeable future. Since an artificial brain does not reach biological limits, it could be further developed into a “super brain” with a much greater efficiency.

At the same time, work is being carried out on improving artificial intelligence (AI). In a 2017 survey by the IT provider Infosys, three quarters of the 1,000 executives surveyed reported that AI is already being used on a large scale in their companies. According to a study by the management consultancy Arthur D. Little from 2019, the sales and cost savings potential through AI could be 97.5 in Germany by 2025, for example in the "trade, consumption" sector and 96.5 in the "energy, environment, chemistry" sector 3 billion euros. The ultimate goal is to develop a thinking computer with its own "personality". The inventor and non-fiction author Raymond Kurzweil assumes that only such a “singularity” can keep up with scientific and technical progress in the long term - and will accelerate it. Artificial intelligence would be thousands of times smarter than the human race as early as the 2040s.

In the future, more and more inventions will be made with the help of "evolutionary" computer programs, such as those used by NASA, for example. Here the product to be developed is first precisely defined. The computer then produces a first generation of possible products at random. With the help of simulations it is recorded to what extent they correspond to the specifications. Then - as with evolution - the unsuitable products are eliminated ("natural selection") and better versions are varied ("mutations") or merged with one another ("pairing"). This process continues until the simulations show that the end product is "perfect". Since the software does not work with as many "default settings" as human inventors, very surprising designs can come about and novel materials can be used. Problems of all kinds could also be solved with the help of evolutionary algorithms.

RFID systems (“Radio Frequency Identification”), with the help of which objects and living beings can be automatically identified and localized, will find widespread use. RFID transponders, which can be as small as a grain of rice, store and transfer data. For example, paperless transport and - in the foreseeable future - automatic cash register systems in supermarkets and department stores are possible. There will also be fewer thefts if all (valuable) objects can be located at any time thanks to built-in chips.

In the coming years, more and more objects will communicate with one another in the “Internet of Things”. According to Cisco, the number of networked devices will increase from 30 billion worldwide in 2020 to around 500 billion in 2030. The evaluation of the data generated by them (“big data”) will become increasingly important.

Instead of using keyboards, data will increasingly be entered using spoken language. Many devices now know the voice of their owner and are controlled by it. But facial recognition is also getting better and better: some smartphones already switch on when they “see” their owner. Soon apartment or car doors will also open by themselves.

Information technology will increasingly be used by traffic control systems that optimize traffic light phases, recommend detours, pass on warning messages directly from cars to other vehicles and guide drivers to free parking spaces by the shortest route. That way, traffic could flow again - in some major Asian cities, the average speed is currently less than 10 kilometers per hour.

Local public transport will be optimized by fully automatic metro systems, with capacity that is always adjusted to demand. In New York, rush hour cycle times can be reduced to 1.5 minutes. The smartphone can already be used as a “digital guide” in local and long-distance public transport, helping customers through the jungle of timetables and tariffs. Paying for tickets, parking fees and other (smaller) amounts will also be handled more often via smartphones.

Personal computers are increasingly being replaced by laptops and tablets with which the Internet can be used anytime and anywhere. But the Internet is also accessed with smartphones. More and more apps and services are only being developed for mobile devices. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 90% of Germans aged 10 and over were already using the Internet in the first quarter of 2020. According to Statista, they spent around 196 minutes a day on the Internet in 2018 - 12 to 19-year-olds even 214 minutes.

At the end of 2018, more than half of humanity had access to the Internet. This will get even faster in the coming years. The fifth generation of the mobile communications standard, or 5G for short, is currently being introduced in Germany. Then data rates of up to 10 gigabits per second are possible.

At the same time, the internet is becoming more and more social. According to Statista, Facebook had 2.45 billion, YouTube 2 billion and WhatsApp 1.6 billion active users worldwide in 2020. The more personal information people knowingly or unintentionally reveal on the Internet (on social websites, in blogs, when shopping, etc.), the more profitable it becomes for companies to collect this data and then, for example, send personalized advertising. All information can be stored permanently - for example, “sins of youth” remain documented for decades. In addition, when using mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets, the place at which the respective person is can be determined, so that location-based advertising is also possible.

Furthermore, people are increasingly being manipulated via social networks. It was found that, for example, before Donald Trump was elected US President, the Internet was flooded with “fake news” - including “hate speech”. Such fake news spreads rapidly when shared by many people. There are now “social bots”, small computer programs that simulate human users in social networks. For example, they react to specific hashtags, then post certain information or initiate new tweets. At the same time, “echo spaces” are emerging on the Internet, in which people stay who follow a certain ideology or political direction or have a similar opinion. They subscribe to those channels whose feeds confirm their view of things and mainly exchange ideas with like-minded people. This leads to a stronger demarcation of groups, often associated with a decreasing ability to engage in dialogue with those who think differently and occasionally associated with radicalization or even with a division in society (e.g. in the USA between Democrats and Republicans).

In addition, more and more data about the individual is collected and stored by third parties: in the health system, by banks and insurance companies, by authorities, by telephone companies and secret services, through surveillance cameras, thanks to the embedding of RFID tags in clothing, etc. Thus data protection and privacy will be less and less given. Nobody will have complete control over the sharing and use of personal information anymore.

How far this can go is shown by the example of China: A nationwide “social credit system” is to be introduced here in the coming years, which has been tested in many large cities for several years. For this purpose, data on the professional and social behavior of citizens, their payment behavior and their communication behavior (in social media) are systematically collected, merged and evaluated. Plus points are awarded for good behavior, special professional achievements, trustworthiness, charitable work, etc. and rewarded, for example, with a promotion, easier access to credit, admission to better universities, membership in the Communist Party or a public commendation. Minus points are due for violations of the law, traffic offenses, tax arrears, critical statements about the political system, rude behavior, environmental pollution or insufficient care for old parents and are sanctioned, for example, with the prohibition of the acquisition of real estate and securities or with mobility restrictions (according to the Handelsblatt, the Chinese were allowed in 17 , 5 million cases did not buy airline tickets and 5.5 million cases did not buy long-distance train tickets). In addition to citizens, companies also have a social credit account and are promoted or punished according to the number of points. In China such a state evaluation and control system has many supporters, but not everyone in Germany rejects it either: According to a representative study by YouGov and Sinus Institute, 17% of all respondents would support such a system in Germany; a further 15% had no opinion on this question and therefore did not fundamentally reject a digital control system.

Other digital risks are identity theft and cyber crime. This is why the unambiguous identification of people on the Internet will become more and more important in the coming years - it is an essential prerequisite for secure digital communication. Biometric processes such as iris or fingerprint scanners are likely to be increasingly used for proof of identity.

But companies and authorities are also at risk, as more and more programs are being used over the Internet in the rapidly expanding cloud computing environment and more and more data is being stored online in central data centers. For example, in 2019, according to a representative survey by Bitkom Research, 76% of German companies with at least 20 employees were already using cloud computing. The economy and the state are becoming more and more vulnerable; Hacking and even “cyberwars” are real threats. In 2018, cyber attacks resulted in losses of an estimated $ 400 billion. However, clouds are also big business - market researcher Gartner Inc. anticipates an increase in revenues from $ 214.3 billion in 2019 to $ 331.2 billion in 2022.

In the leisure sector, internet-enabled smart TVs with Full HD or Ultra HD are gaining ground. More and more people will use video-on-demand because thanks to broadband connections, high-speed networks and fiber optic connections, ever larger amounts of data can be transmitted. Also, people will increasingly listen to music on the Internet using playlists that are compiled according to their preferences. According to a study by Goldbach (2020), 41 million Germans already have access to streaming services.

According to the Association of the German Games Industry, the number of users of video and computer games continues to rise - in 2020 there were already 34.3 million people with an average age of 37.5 years, which is around 6.2 billion euros spent on their hobby. However, the market share of games developed in Germany was just 4.9% (2019). In the years to come, people will spend more and more time in virtual worlds - meeting avatars will be just as real as a phone call. In addition, internet users will increasingly take part in role-playing games. Three-dimensional computer graphics can already be projected directly onto the retina using glasses or helmets. This enables complete immersion in a real-time computer-generated, interactive virtual environment. It is also no longer necessary to just play at home: This is how the first virtual amusement parks are being created, in which several players can meet.

Robots and androids

Robotics will develop into a large industry in the coming years. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the global inventory of industrial robots was 2,722,077 units (2019). 140,492 robots were newly installed in China, 49,908 in Japan, 33,339 in the USA, 27,873 in South Korea and 20,473 in Germany. These five countries covered 73% of all robot installations. There were also around 173,000 “Professional Service Robots”, 18.6 million “Domestic Service Robots” and 4.6 million “Service Robots for Entertainment” worldwide. Due to the corona pandemic and the associated economic crisis, robot sales in 2020 and 2021 will be lower than in previous years.

In factories, more and more operations are being performed by robots; In the future, however, these will also be used in civil engineering and many other branches of industry. Robots for the International Space Station, six-legged robots for future missions on the moon (they cannot tip over), underwater robots for exploring the deep sea and working in murky docks, and agricultural robots for milking cows or harvesting (field) ) Fruit built. Robots are being used in operations in more and more hospitals.

In the meantime, robots receive visitors in the foyer of companies and authorities, monitor a building or site, roll with a vacuum cleaner through corridors or mop floors. In Japan, you can send a shopping list to a supermarket and a robot is dashing through the rows of shelves and scanning the products. When the customer arrives, the robot greets them at the entrance and guides them to the products. At the same time, he makes suggestions for shopping. In canteens and nursing homes, robots cut vegetables, garnish sushi dishes, serve food and feed people in need of care with a spoon. They can transport people with walking difficulties and help patients with rehabilitation after operations.

Robots will also play a major role in the military sector: they can be used for exploring enemy terrain, transporting heavy loads, searching for mines and blowing bombs. In the future there will be automated warfare in which drones and combat robots do the "dirty military work". In addition to armed drones or drones carrying bombs, there will also be insect-sized drones that go unnoticed when exploring enemy positions. The first models such as the “Nano-Kolibri” from Aerovironment or the “SilMach-Libelle” are already being tested.

In addition, robots are being developed for everyday life: in a few years, robots will carry purchases home, clean the apartment and entertain them with music in the evening. Robots have already been developed that can sing or play the violin, for example. At the same time, the robots are becoming more and more similar to humans: For example, the android "Repilee Q2" was modeled on the Japanese TV presenter Ayako Fujii - at first glance, it looks like a human. Robots can also communicate better and better - the “Jules” robot from Hanson Robotics can already have complex conversations with its human interlocutors. Children treat androids like equals and ask about their age, favorite color, etc .; Adults, on the other hand, are more likely to trust robots that look like machines and treat them like subordinates or servants. But this could soon change: in 10 to 15 years, androids could be playmates of children, sexual partners of adults or life companions of lonely senior citizens.

The science author David Levy assumes that around the year 2050 robots will also have a consciousness and feelings similar to humans. "Emotions" could be shown better and better because they are accompanied by typical facial expressions that are universally similar. Anger, love or joy can be simulated in a deceptively similar manner. If robots behave like people, there will be people who have feelings towards androids and even fall in love with them.

The better artificial intelligence gets, the smarter robots will become. They will increasingly be able to learn (through imitation, reflection, thinking ahead, etc.) and, thanks to different forms of construction, take on tasks that humans cannot do. After all, probably after 2040, robots will be smarter and more powerful than humans. You can then access all of the knowledge in the cloud at any time. Robots will construct their own "offspring" who will always be better - and far superior to humans. Since they do not have to breathe and can switch off for longer periods of time, they will advance further into space than humans and could operate mines and factories on the moon and other planets. Perhaps even superintelligences will form that could possibly take over the world, reshape the earth and even replace humans - which may still exist as uploads in the cloud ...

Conquering space

For decades, the United States and the Soviet Union were the only states that could perform manned space flights and reach the moon. In 2003, China sent the first "Taikonaut" into orbit in a spacecraft, four years later a space probe was sent to the moon, and in 2011 the Tiangong 1 space station followed. Space probes were also used by the European Space Agency (from 1985), Sent into space from Japan (from 1985) and India (from 2008).

In the United States, space travel has been increasingly privatized in recent years: For example, "Antares" rockets and "Cygnus" spaceships from Orbital Sciences Corporation as well as "Falcon 9" rockets and "Dragon" spaceships from Space X Corporation are now being used for Transports to the International Space Station (ISS) used. Space tourism is also expected to emerge in the coming years.

Around the year 2025, a manned space station could orbit the moon operated by NASA, Roskosmos and other space agencies modeled on the ISS. Russia wants to land a cosmonaut on the moon for the first time by 2030. Bernard Foing, chief scientist at ESA, believes a manned space station on the moon is possible by 2030. The first humans could fly to Mars around the mid-2030s - likely as part of a multi-country funded mission due to the high cost. Plans to mine raw materials on planets or comets, to create artificial habitats in space for a larger number of people, or to reach other star systems will remain utopian for the foreseeable future.

nanotechnology

For some years now, nanoparticles, which consist of a few to a few thousand atoms or molecules, have been increasingly used in industry. For example, nanoparticles made of titanium dioxide, carbon black, pyrogenic silicas, silicon dioxide, etc. are used in cosmetics (for the optical reduction of wrinkles, as UV filters in sun protection creams, etc.), in the production of colors (as effect pigments, as binders, for self-cleaning surfaces) , in electronics (for polishing silicon wafers), in medical technology (as a transport medium for drugs, for the antibacterial coating of instruments, as a contrast medium for imaging processes, for biocompatible implants), in the tire industry (to increase abrasion resistance, adhesion and elasticity) and in the manufacture of plastics (as a thickener, as a black pigment). Nanoparticles are ideally suited as catalysts for chemical reactions, be it in technical production or in exhaust gas purification. Carbon nanotubes are harder than steel, conduct electricity with almost no resistance, filter substances that pass through them and can store other materials inside.

As the production of nanoparticles increases, they will find their way into the soil, water and air more and more frequently. This may well be associated with a health hazard. For this reason, in 2012 the EU extended the registration requirement under the REACH chemicals law to include nanomaterials. In addition, ordinances on nano-components in cosmetics, food, medicines and other products have been issued.

With the help of nanotechnology, matter is to be manipulated at the atomic level in such a way that certain nanostructures are produced. Thanks to this molecular production, the smallest devices and motors can be created. For example, the “Micro Mote” was developed at the University of Michigan: It is the size of a grain of sand, contains a processor and a data memory, has an Internet connection and, thanks to a solar cell, is independent of the power grid.

According to technology author Andreas Eschbach, in the future there will be nano-chips with which computers can be made smaller, miniature robots that swim in the bloodstream, repair cells that are no longer functioning and destroy cancer cells, and nano-assemblers (also called "replicators"), which can produce almost anything from individual atoms - including themselves - or break down any kind of “garbage” into reusable atoms. According to a study by the University of Stuttgart, the use of nanotechnologies also offers opportunities for reducing energy consumption. The 15 examined technologies, all of which have a nanocomponent, could reduce final energy consumption by up to 6.7% by 2030 compared to 2005.

Genetic engineering and biotechnology

Genetic engineering is likely to be further developed with a view to more efficient agriculture, healthier nutrition and more effective production of renewable raw materials. In 2018, genetically modified plants were grown on 191.7 million hectares worldwide (for comparison: the total area of ​​Germany covers 35.7 million hectares). These were mainly soybeans, corn, cotton and rapeseed. According to the FAO, genetically modified seeds generated sales of $ 22 billion worldwide in 2018.

Most genetically modified crops are first generation products that have been manipulated for resistance to insecticides and herbicides, that are more resistant to (the increasing worldwide) drought, or that can cope better with saline soils. Second generation products are now being developed that are said to be healthier or can provide substances required by industry. For example, the “golden rice” is enriched with vitamin A thanks to new genes, while the “GM banana” has a higher content of vitamin E, provitamin A and iron. Furthermore, the metabolism of oil plants is optimized with the help of genes from algae in order to produce omega-3 fatty acids. C4 genes from maize are to be transplanted into cereal varieties, as these could then make better use of sunlight and carbon dioxide, which would increase yields by around half.

With the help of genetic engineering, the genetic make-up of animals, insects and fungi is also changed. For example, mosquitoes should be bred that cannot transmit malaria and should gradually displace the anopheles species that act as vectors. Newly developed fungi are intended to infect harmful insects and reduce their frequency or to displace harmful fungi. And in Australia they try to breed viruses with which one can control the rabbit plague.

Biotechnology deals with the use of enzymes, cells and whole organisms in technical applications. With their help, new drugs or diagnostic tests will be developed in the future, enzymes and chemical compounds will be produced and more efficient processes for the production of everyday products such as detergents and cosmetics will be created. For example, according to Statista, biopharmaceuticals already accounted for 29% of total sales in the German pharmaceutical market with 12.7 billion euros in 2019. Bioinformatics, which deals with the computer-aided storage, organization and analysis of biological data and calculates and simulates complex biological processes, is also gaining in importance.

Even foods such as milk, gelatine, fish or shrimp will increasingly be produced with the help of biotechnology.For example, according to Statista, sales of vegan meat products are expected to increase from currently $ 1 billion to $ 450 billion in 2040. The goal is an “animal-free society” in which millions of cattle, pigs and chickens no longer have to “vegetate” in narrow stables. Then the climate-damaging gases produced by them would also disappear, which currently contribute almost 15% to air pollution.

The "upgrading" of the human being

Of course, genetic engineering can also be applied to humans. First of all, genetic analysis is likely to gain in importance for identifying disease risks and for coordinating diet. Already today everyone can have their genome sequenced or undergo genetic tests. Furthermore, use is being made of biochemical-molecular biological diagnostics more and more frequently. In this way, medicine is personalized, i.e. sick people are treated with as much consideration as possible for their individual characteristics. Biochemical treatment methods, genetic modifications (e.g. on fertilized egg cells), artificial genes and gene therapy will follow - but hardly human cloning. By the year 2050, targeted activation of genes that slow down the aging process will likely be possible.

In the foreseeable future, according to the futurologist Matthias Horx, it will be possible to determine characteristics of children such as eye or hair color in advance - but hardly any such as intelligence or special talents: education, cleverness, musical or artistic talent, athletic performance, a healthy body, etc. primarily dependent on the (learning) behavior of the child or adult. Arthur Caplan from the University of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is of the opinion that "perfect" babies could be created in 20 to 25 years thanks to genetic engineering and artificial uteri. This would involve the risk that only rich people could shoulder the costs and thus provide their children with advantages, or that children would be treated like objects and their properties would become more and more similar. Abortions would no longer lead to the death of the fetus, as it could develop further in an artificial uterus.

Thanks to the anticipated advances in medicine and medical technology, people will be healthier and older. In the next decade or two, diseases such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's will probably be curable. High hopes are also placed in immunotherapy. Accordingly, according to a study by Imperial College London, the life expectancy of German men could increase to 82 years by 2030 and of German women to almost 86 years. However, the rapid increase in antibiotic-resistant pathogens could mean that more people will die of pure infectious diseases again.

There are now artificial skin, bones and blood cells - as well as fingertips, ears, urethra and heart valves that have been grown from the body's own stem cells. According to Dieter Falkenhagen from Danube University Krems, more and more organ functions can be successfully replaced - on the one hand by systems made of materials such as plastic or metals, on the other hand by bioartificial systems for which biological materials have been technically processed. Falkenhagen assumes that the functions of the heart, kidneys and pancreas can be taken over by artificial systems in the long term by the middle of the 21st century. The functions of the lungs and liver, however, are very complex and will probably not be able to be completely substituted in 2050 either.

A surprising amount is already possible today: blind people can see thanks to visual prostheses, vision chips or electronic eyes; Deaf people can hear again thanks to a cochlear implant; Physically handicapped people can control bionic prostheses directly via the nervous system; And those paralyzed by a stroke can move a robotic arm over an interface in the cerebral cortex that connects individual neurons in the motor cortex with microelectrodes. With a newly developed high-tech arm, the hand is almost as flexible as a human hand; a pilot with an artificial leg was on active duty in the US Air Force; At the 2012 Olympic Games, an athlete took part in the 400m run and the 4x400m relay whose feet and lower legs had been amputated below the knee. There are now exoskeletons with which people can walk despite paralyzed legs - or healthy people can carry heavy loads.

Brain research is likely to have unlocked most of the human brain's secrets by 2030. But before that, methods for optimizing the brain will be developed. This will include deep brain stimulation and medications that can help focus, learn, and memory, or make people get by on less sleep.

New diagnostic procedures, which are still to be developed by brain research, could be used to identify special talents at an early stage, to individualize learning programs, to suggest professions that correspond to the abilities of the respective person, to select employees for specific tasks or to discover mental illnesses as they arise . In the future, brain measurements could not only be used to convict criminals, but also help prevent fraudulent and criminal activities. In the USA there are already companies that claim to be able to detect lies better with the brain scanner than with classic lie detectors. Widespread use of these devices could lead to a “sincere society”.

According to Susan Greenfield, professor at Lincoln College in Oxford, the brain could be technologically improved in the foreseeable future so that artificial worlds can be created in it with the help of implants or neurotelepathy. Many people would then rather live in virtual worlds than in reality; virtual contacts would increasingly replace personal relationships. Most human needs could then also be met artificially. The distinction between reality and fiction will become more and more difficult.

The brain will be upgraded more and more technologically - e.g. through bio-chips or through interfaces through which it can be connected to a computer and through which a "download" of information would then be possible. For example, Elon Musk's Neuralink company plans to carry out initial tests with brain chips in the near future. The brain could control machines via these interfaces or access the internet and the knowledge stored there directly. But the data stored in the brain could then also be transferred to a computer. Such an “upload” could not only transfer the knowledge and memory, but also the personality and psyche of a person who has just died. Then an individual would live on in the computer (or in a robot).

The futurologist Ray Kurzweil assumes that in just a few years the human brain will no longer meet the requirements of an increasingly complex, high-tech world. Then it could be recreated atom by atom with the help of nanotechnology, increasing the number of neurons and synapses and enabling additional sensory and intellectual abilities. Since brain development has so far been largely shaped by social interactions and experiences, but these do not play a role in brains manufactured using nanotechnology, it remains to be seen whether there will still be human consciousness, emotions, sensitivity and empathy.

The development of humans towards cyborgs will accelerate in the coming decades. In addition to genetic engineering and drugs, artificial limbs or neuroimplants will also be used to make people more productive. Ramez Naam, futurologist and software engineer at Microsoft, sees this as a success factor in global competition. With the help of biotechnology and mini-chips, smarter, stronger and even perfect people could emerge. However, there is a risk that technically improved “super-people” (in rich countries) might regard “normal” people (in their own or poorer countries) as “inferior” and suppress them.

After 2040 it will become increasingly difficult to distinguish between cyborgs and androids - the latter will then look, feel and act like humans. A complex “human-machine civilization” will emerge and develop dynamically. In contrast to robots, cyborgs will repeatedly reach their biological limits ...