Issue #1(15) 2018 Science

Space 2080 a future perspective

Refuelling at Saturn.
Refuelling at Saturn.
Schmitt Didier Space Task Force, European Union, Brussels, Belgium

Technological progress is exponential and in the next two decades areas like gene therapy, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, advanced robotics and automation are all likely to converge. Such advances will fundamentally disrupt society as we know it. Autonomous decision-making systems and machines will be the big game changer, and making choices about our future will become difficult as technology replaces major human decision-making. Didier Schmitt raises the prospect of a future where technology becomes less subjugated to humans as humans become more subjugated to technology. He argues that it is a dilemma the public at large must be fully conscious of so that society can anticipate rather than become enslaved by technology. In essence he is talking about shaping the future and not being shaped by it - and in this exclusive extract from Scion|ce the author casts his retrospective, imaginative space eye back from the future.

The general public’s interest in space activities has always been present and ‘useful space’ came from an unexpected direction. Who indeed could have foreseen that the competition born of Cold War that carried the first men into Earth orbit would one day be replaced by international cooperation?

This was the case with regard to the International Space Station (ISS), the starting point for a real multi-national cooperation project. There were highlights that caught global attention such as when Philae landed on a comet in 2014, and then half a century later when a mini submarine was successfully plunged under the ice of Europa, a satellite of Jupiter. A great moment of political unification. This technology was not a special achievement, because the autonomous submarines had already taken over under our terrestrial seas and oceans, but it still needed a mini-nuclear generator to melt the 2 km ice sheet at -160 degrees Celsius.

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