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Jesco von Puttkamer on the next 300 Years- A Memo to GR 
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JESCO VON PUTTKAMER

About three years ago, Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry called me up and requested a vision.

At the time, Roddenberry had begun to develop early plans and script ideas for what was to become Paramount's opulent production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He made it quite clear that the picture was to remain true to Star Trek’s world of an open, glorious future for humanity, and he asked me to serve as Science Advisor on the fascinating project.

Now, he was on the telephone from California, asking me bluntly, "Jes, what will the the world of the 23rd century be like? And how will we get there?".

Creating images of the future is the traditional bread-and-butter for science fiction writers. But not exclusively so. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has also used images and scenarios of the future in its studies, planning and public information programs. Creating future scenarios is part of my job at NASA. We try to portray the future not in terms of what will be, but what could be. Unlike the more free-wheeling imagery of popular literature, NASA scenarios should be reasonably disciplined and should relate to serious social and political issues. Usually, such scenarios do not extend more than 20 or 30 years into the future - at the very most 50 years.

And here was Roddenberry on the horn, asking for a "thumbnail sketch" of the next 250 years!

Okay, I said, I'll see what we can come up with. I'll conjure a vision of a future you'll like. Of all possible futures, it also happens to be my favorite one. But with a personal view like this, of course, scientific rigor and discipline have got to go out the window for a moment, if you please.

What will the world of 250 years from now be like? And how will we get there?

In a long-range extrapolation from where we stand today, I see us headed to what I call the Humanization of Space: in the near term, bringing space down to Earth in the service of humanity's need; in the long-term, a large-scale human migration into space as an evolutionary process.

The key is space industrialization. In our long-range drive to humanize space and achieve space settlement, the industrialization of space can offer a realistic approach to developing a progressive program which provides permanent, practical and commercial utilization of space through products and services that create new values, jobs and better quality of life for all people.

Moreover, the industrialization of space will doubtless lead into space colonization as self-sufficiency in space increases. By being basically non-elitist, Space Industrialization will thus produce the true humanization of space.

Over the next 200 years, our present exponential population growth will slow down and reach low or zero rates. Thus, the population curve assumes the shape of an "S", rather than going exponential-asymptotic, i.e. out of bounds. World population will be 15 billion people (about four times today's number), earning an average of $20,000 per capita, with a Gross World Product of about $300 trillion. In other words, an average person in the year 2179 will be 40 to 50 times richer than his or her counterpart today.

When the growth curve begins to level off, about 100 years from now, there could be half a million people living in Earth-Moon (geo-lunar) space, visited by something like 300,000 Earth tourists per year. As the cost of transportation from Earth to orbit comes down, space tourism on a very large scale will become inevitable, and the age of Geo-lunar Civilization will have arrived

At that time, a "new frontier", the solar system, will open and the colonization of heliocentric space will begin. With it, a new S-shaped growth curve will start, topping out at an immensely high population number (care to guess?) when the job of settling the solar system is basically finished and technology again bumps into the limits of its capabilities.

But during this time, major technological breakthroughs will have occurred. The greatest weakness of imagining future scenarios is our inability to predict the effects of unforeseen breakthroughs. We know only one thing from experience: breakthroughs will happen.

In my scenario, three major breakthroughs are boldly postulated. The first will be bio-genetic engineering and gerontology, the scientific study of aging and dying. Aging is not inevitable, and life extension will become possible. As we move toward the 23rd Century, considerable advancements in longevity will at least double the human lifespan and eradicate senility, while the search for the long suspected but elusive "death hormone" in the animal body continue, with immortality the ultimate goal. With increased lifespans, people will be able to change careers several times in their lives, and their greatly extended personal time horizons will no doubt cause them to take greater interest in the future and in space.

The second breakthrough will be a major cultural event: first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, in the form of unquestionably intelligent radio signals picked up by a large SETI installation on the backside of the moon. This will herald the beginning of the Age of Maturity for our species.

The third breakthrough will be in the propulsion area. Along with quantum jumps in longevity and extraterrestrial contact, the sudden discovery of a yet-unknown principle (perhaps one involving control of gravitation and other tricks of applied quantum mechanics) will make interstellar travel possible.

The synergistic effect of these three breakthroughs will provide the Solar Civilization with yet another "new frontier": interstellar space. The task of colonizing interstellar space will go on for a long, long time – on the order of ten millennia or so. During these mind-boggling eons, the old S-curve growth of humankind, with the traditional outside pressures and "limits to growth" constraints removed, may indeed change to truly exponential growth.

What can we say about the peoples and technologies of that future? How will people use technology? Or will technology use people?

I think the perspectives that humans 200 years from now will have of the universe will be radically different from our perspective. Humans of the 23rd Century will likely be of much greater sanity and maturity than today's people. But with maturity also comes the desire for greater humanity or human-ness. Being more mature, they know who they are, what their place in the universe is and what it could be. They know how to deal rationally with their resources, energy, wastes, environmental interactions and interpersonal relations. They deeply enjoy making use of all their senses, and they apply high standards of an ethics beyond ours to everything they are doing. Above all, in following this lifestyle, they have become masters of their destiny and no longer see themselves as victims of outside forces.

In that world of "ideal" people, technology is carefully selected for its ability to give humans greater humanity despite the world they inhabit and the tasks they face. Technology will be a servant to man, allowing him to develop his human values to unprecedented heights, while at the same time enabling him to deal successfully with vastly greater challenges.

Many people today are disappointed with technology. Others feel that it may even endanger man's prospects. In the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, technology was shown as a deadly enemy of man when the ship's computer HAL went berserk. In addition, instead of coming across as fully developed "human" humans, these coldly sophisticated and blasé space explorers in 2001 seemed rather stunted in their total development. Is this how we want to be?

The world in my scenario for Star Trek is a joyous, virile world of new horizons in which technology, or friendly servant, allows us continued growth, both humanistically and materialistically, both spiritually and physically.

What will life on Earth be like in the 23rd century?

It's likely that there will be something like a dichotomy of two societies living harmony, but in contrast: a very dynamic, ever-expanding frontier society in outer space, with starships, settlements, space industries, etc., and a relatively static, slowly changing, rather idyllic pastoral society on Earth, comparably unexciting and devoid of adventure except for sports, arts and rituals. Cities and nations with their cultural backgrounds still exist, and diverse ethnic groups have cultivated their identities. But issues involving global and space interests are coordinated by a world government, aided by worldwide library and data centers endowed with artificial intelligence.

While in outer space we encounter bustling activist types, eager to take on new challenges, the home planet has been turned – thanks to technology – into a vacationland, drawing unlimited energy from geothermal sources, solar irradiation, and non-radioactive nuclear fusion plants (perhaps using the advanced proton-boron-11 reaction). Food production through conventional agriculture has increased 100-fold, enough to maintain world-wide consumption standards much higher than those in the U.S. today. Most mineral resources of the world have proven close to inexhaustible, including 99% of our important industrial metals. The remaining demand for non-renewable resources is met by recycling and importation of extraterrestrial materials.

Green hills and forests are back, as are clean rivers and crystal-clear skies. Wildlife is abundant, with all formerly endangered species back in business, including the great whales, eagles and wolves. Even many species that had formerly been thought extinct have reappeared. In the world of flora and fauna, genetics and bio-engineering have remedied many of man's past mistakes. Free interspecies communication with higher animals by word, sign language or electronic aids is commonplace, specifically with chimpanzees, gorillas and dolphins. A global Bill of Animal Rights was instituted in the early 21st century.

Main income of Earth's sedate population comes from tourist industry, operation of top-quality educational centers, and export of knowledge, skills, gourmet foods and special artifacts of historical and sentimental value to wherever Earth folks live.

How about more mundane technologies – such everyday items of technology as bathing, food, and clothing?

There are differences between the technologies used in the "frontier" society and those used on Earth, but all of them enable people to be more "human" than today. (For example, the human body will always require and relish water; thus, in this scenario my bet is that radiation-type baths, while attractive gimmickry, will not be used except in cases where you want to kill off microflora on the skin for quarantine or other reasons.) For cleanliness, people will have portable showers. It strikes me as wasteful and rather silly in a resource-conscious world to construct solid shower stalls that are never used for more than a few minutes a day.

People will simply don wet-suit-like collapsible enclosures shaped along their body contours and connect it to the nearest power and water wall outlet/inlet. (In a world dedicated to total recycling, wherever there is an outlet for something there must also be an inlet.) Inside the enclosure, special circulation channels, pumps and heaters give you a most enjoyable and efficient shower and rub-down. After a short blast of warm air to dry both yourself and the shower, the enclosure is doffed and stowed away. There is an entire industry for "shower suits", with new models by famous designers every year and fashion shows held on the interplanetary holographic video network.

Bathing and showering for pleasure is something entirely different. Large beautifully landscaped saunas are used for this purpose. By means of technology, including force fields and new discoveries in cloud microphysics, showers can be enjoyed in natural settings. On activation of a control button, an artificial cloud is formed overhead which provides a genuine cloudburst, tropical rainfall, drenching monsoon, misty morning drizzle, cat-and-dog soaker or soft spring rain.

Bathing and showering in the weightlessness of space will be particularly popular. Floating in clouds of warm fog is the closest people have come to simulating the experience of the unborn baby in the womb.

As for food, my thesis is that the human body will be able to live on synthetic (recycled and reconstituted) food but will always live healthier and longer on naturally grown food. On the other hand, through advances in exo-agriculture and exo-ponics as well as bio-genetics, people will grow better foodstuffs: more energy content and less waste products per unit mass, with new and exotic flavors. With advances in plant and animal genetics, there will be continuous experimentation with new "natural" foods, maybe even cultural and industrial competition in developing "bestsellers" – with appropriate commercials on TV.

The same distinction between Earth and space-faring lifestyle will apply to clothing. Style and material of space uniforms and working clothes will be functional and professional, suited to the occupation of the wearer.

For all we know, there may be very new types of clothing in the world of the future. Rather than using the really archaic, bothersome clothing that we are accustomed to, requiring change, cleaning, pressing, mending, tailoring, buttoning, zippering, and so on, future folks will have non-reusable clothing that is recycled after each use through total breakdown into its constituent elements by that great innovation of the future: the fusion torch.

Even better, many future people will carry nothing but a belt. But what a belt!

This small device contains a rechargeable power source, a tiny microprocessor/computer, a force field generator, and a selector keyboard that allows almost infinite settings. By punching up coded combinations, the power belt wearer dresses by establishing fabrics in force fields around his or her body: selectively skintight or flowing, opaque or transparent, any desired texture, cut, fashion, size, shape, color and hue. The garment never needs cleaning, and its wearer can get undressed at the push of a button (no mess of discarded clothes), has no recycling problems, and can change attire at the flick of a finger. Of course, a safety switch protects against accidental exposure (and practical jokes aimed at attractive wearers). On the other hand, seduction intentions will never again be frustrated by stuck zippers or lengthy disrobings.

With power belts like this, it will be quite a widespread custom (are you ready?) for office girls to change from office attire to after-work topless by pressing a button, in order to signal that they are going off duty. (For office boys, other and even stranger customs will prevail.) Naturally, there will be – very humanly – a flourishing fashion industry selling pushbutton code combination for new and popular styles.

So there you have it, Gene Roddenberry: a future envisioned for Star Trek: The Motion Picture … and my favorite 23rd century.

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"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others."
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia Query XVII, 1783

"...here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." -Thomas Jefferson, 1820


11 Mar 2017 03:12
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Thank you. I had not yet gone to TBBS to try searching.


12 Mar 2017 17:47
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Thanks for posting these again. Always feel inspired when I read them.

Mark

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Northern lights passed by then they were gone. And as old stars would die so the new ones were born. Ever on I sailed celestial ways. And in the light of my years shone the rest of my days. Those who know, will they help us grow, to one day be Starriders.


12 Mar 2017 22:05
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aridas wrote:
In my scenario, three major breakthroughs are boldly postulated. The first will be bio-genetic engineering and gerontology, the scientific study of aging and dying. Aging is not inevitable, and life extension will become possible. As we move toward the 23rd Century, considerable advancements in longevity will at least double the human lifespan and eradicate senility, while the search for the long suspected but elusive "death hormone" in the animal body continue, with immortality the ultimate goal. With increased lifespans, people will be able to change careers several times in their lives, and their greatly extended personal time horizons will no doubt cause them to take greater interest in the future and in space.

So that goes contrary to the thinking we've seen since Space Seed. Personally, I think that humanity used genegineering as needed to adapt to some worlds, particularly the Changed, like Jenniver Aristeides in The Entropy Effect, and didn't really worry about Khan and his ilk too much - the Eugenics Wars ware apparently not really understood as such until well after the events. And Number One was supposedly genetically engineered to be the best her world offered, making her literally Number One.
But then Kirk has to admit that the secret of Genesis got out of the bag because 20 years earlier, he found a frozen eugenic super-space nazi and let him out of the bottle, then thought he put him back in the bottle by exiling him to Ceti Alpha VI. Said super space nazi should have had no way back out, but he managed to do it anyway, find and steal Genesis, and nearly caused a war with the Klingons along the way. "Oh, shit! Eugenic space nazis really were a thing? And they can do shit nobody else can do? Eugenics really is bad stuff! We gotta ban it!" So the 2280s is when the attitude starts solidifying that genetics really is not something ethical to work with.

OTOH, part of the legacy from before the turn against genegineering would be extended lifespans - the proposal for TNG referred to Picard as being a "young fifties", and making it sound like 50 was the new 30. Add in a 130-year old cantankerous medical admiral, and we see the limit of the writers' exploration of that idea, and it's the right direction, but we just didn' see enough of it, or any effort to find a story in it.

Quote:
The second breakthrough will be a major cultural event: first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, in the form of unquestionably intelligent radio signals picked up by a large SETI installation on the backside of the moon. This will herald the beginning of the Age of Maturity for our species.
Which is where Roddenberry's "We're trying to be better today" came from in TOS, and that was great. It's also where he went wrong with TNG, in that it became "we've achieved utopia! We are better, hell, we're near perfect! (Except for the occasional plot need for us to forget to be so good!)". That and it's corollaries, like no conflict with fellow Starfleet officers or humans really hurt plausibility and world-building, and interfered with the necessary drama in the story.

Quote:
The synergistic effect of these three breakthroughs will provide the Solar Civilization with yet another "new frontier": interstellar space. The task of colonizing interstellar space will go on for a long, long time – on the order of ten millennia or so. During these mind-boggling eons, the old S-curve growth of humankind, with the traditional outside pressures and "limits to growth" constraints removed, may indeed change to truly exponential growth.
Not explored near enough, IMO.

Quote:
What can we say about the peoples and technologies of that future? How will people use technology? Or will technology use people?
Interesting question, that. No idea how to answer it yet.

Quote:
Many people today are disappointed with technology. Others feel that it may even endanger man's prospects. In the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, technology was shown as a deadly enemy of man when the ship's computer HAL went berserk. In addition, instead of coming across as fully developed "human" humans, these coldly sophisticated and blasé space explorers in 2001 seemed rather stunted in their total development. Is this how we want to be?
No sense of wonder? Yes, that was a very good point.

Quote:
It's likely that there will be something like a dichotomy of two societies living harmony, but in contrast: a very dynamic, ever-expanding frontier society in outer space, with starships, settlements, space industries, etc., and a relatively static, slowly changing, rather idyllic pastoral society on Earth, comparably unexciting and devoid of adventure except for sports, arts and rituals. Cities and nations with their cultural backgrounds still exist, and diverse ethnic groups have cultivated their identities. But issues involving global and space interests are coordinated by a world government, aided by worldwide library and data centers endowed with artificial intelligence.

Interesting. Based on aired Trek, I saw the frontier types as more pragmatic, conservative, rugged individualists and doers, and the core worlders as progressive, intellectual, idealistic, more collectivist thinkers. And too bad this thinking about AI didn't have more effect on Trek.

Quote:
While in outer space we encounter bustling activist types, eager to take on new challenges, the home planet has been turned – thanks to technology – into a vacationland, drawing unlimited energy from geothermal sources, solar irradiation, and non-radioactive nuclear fusion plants (perhaps using the advanced proton-boron-11 reaction). Food production through conventional agriculture has increased 100-fold, enough to maintain world-wide consumption standards much higher than those in the U.S. today. Most mineral resources of the world have proven close to inexhaustible, including 99% of our important industrial metals. The remaining demand for non-renewable resources is met by recycling and importation of extraterrestrial materials.

Green hills and forests are back, as are clean rivers and crystal-clear skies. Wildlife is abundant, with all formerly endangered species back in business, including the great whales, eagles and wolves. Even many species that had formerly been thought extinct have reappeared.
Much of this I expected.

Quote:
In the world of flora and fauna, genetics and bio-engineering have remedied many of man's past mistakes. Free interspecies communication with higher animals by word, sign language or electronic aids is commonplace, specifically with chimpanzees, gorillas and dolphins. A global Bill of Animal Rights was instituted in the early 21st century.
Too bad we didn't get to see any of this!

Quote:
Main income of Earth's sedate population comes from tourist industry, operation of top-quality educational centers, and export of knowledge, skills, gourmet foods and special artifacts of historical and sentimental value to wherever Earth folks live.
Obviously before the idea of a money-less future. But reasonable.

Quote:
There are differences between the technologies used in the "frontier" society and those used on Earth, but all of them enable people to be more "human" than today. (For example, the human body will always require and relish water; thus, in this scenario my bet is that radiation-type baths, while attractive gimmickry, will not be used except in cases where you want to kill off microflora on the skin for quarantine or other reasons.) For cleanliness, people will have portable showers. It strikes me as wasteful and rather silly in a resource-conscious world to construct solid shower stalls that are never used for more than a few minutes a day.
And yet, TMP still showed us sonic showers.

Quote:
People will simply don wet-suit-like collapsible enclosures shaped along their body contours and connect it to the nearest power and water wall outlet/inlet. (In a world dedicated to total recycling, wherever there is an outlet for something there must also be an inlet.) Inside the enclosure, special circulation channels, pumps and heaters give you a most enjoyable and efficient shower and rub-down. After a short blast of warm air to dry both yourself and the shower, the enclosure is doffed and stowed away. There is an entire industry for "shower suits", with new models by famous designers every year and fashion shows held on the interplanetary holographic video network.

Bathing and showering for pleasure is something entirely different. Large beautifully landscaped saunas are used for this purpose. By means of technology, including force fields and new discoveries in cloud microphysics, showers can be enjoyed in natural settings. On activation of a control button, an artificial cloud is formed overhead which provides a genuine cloudburst, tropical rainfall, drenching monsoon, misty morning drizzle, cat-and-dog soaker or soft spring rain.

Bathing and showering in the weightlessness of space will be particularly popular. Floating in clouds of warm fog is the closest people have come to simulating the experience of the unborn baby in the womb.
Some very interesting ideas here.

Quote:
As for food, my thesis is that the human body will be able to live on synthetic (recycled and reconstituted) food but will always live healthier and longer on naturally grown food. On the other hand, through advances in exo-agriculture and exo-ponics as well as bio-genetics, people will grow better foodstuffs: more energy content and less waste products per unit mass, with new and exotic flavors. With advances in plant and animal genetics, there will be continuous experimentation with new "natural" foods, maybe even cultural and industrial competition in developing "bestsellers" – with appropriate commercials on TV.
Well, replicators apparently killed that idea. Too bad.

Quote:
The same distinction between Earth and space-faring lifestyle will apply to clothing. Style and material of space uniforms and working clothes will be functional and professional, suited to the occupation of the wearer.

For all we know, there may be very new types of clothing in the world of the future. Rather than using the really archaic, bothersome clothing that we are accustomed to, requiring change, cleaning, pressing, mending, tailoring, buttoning, zippering, and so on, future folks will have non-reusable clothing that is recycled after each use through total breakdown into its constituent elements by that great innovation of the future: the fusion torch.
Interesting thoughts - we see "no pockets" and hidden velcro as symptoms of this, I think, but no more serious development of these ideas, and then TWOK brought back pockets. I like pockets. But they do go against early TOS dicta.

Quote:
Even better, many future people will carry nothing but a belt. But what a belt!

This small device contains a rechargeable power source, a tiny microprocessor/computer, a force field generator, and a selector keyboard that allows almost infinite settings. By punching up coded combinations, the power belt wearer dresses by establishing fabrics in force fields around his or her body: selectively skintight or flowing, opaque or transparent, any desired texture, cut, fashion, size, shape, color and hue. The garment never needs cleaning, and its wearer can get undressed at the push of a button (no mess of discarded clothes), has no recycling problems, and can change attire at the flick of a finger. Of course, a safety switch protects against accidental exposure (and practical jokes aimed at attractive wearers). On the other hand, seduction intentions will never again be frustrated by stuck zippers or lengthy disrobings.
Now this is an interesting idea - what could Theiss have done had he had to illustrate this?

Quote:
With power belts like this, it will be quite a widespread custom (are you ready?) for office girls to change from office attire to after-work topless by pressing a button, in order to signal that they are going off duty. (For office boys, other and even stranger customs will prevail.) Naturally, there will be – very humanly – a flourishing fashion industry selling pushbutton code combination for new and popular styles.

And some good speculation on the social trends that tech might inspire.
A ot of the rest I'll have to think on some more.


14 Mar 2017 02:17
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