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What will February 21, 2050 look like? Our special envoy of the future tells you

What will tomorrow look like? We sent a “special envoy” in a (very) close future, on February 21, 2050. If he leaves much to the imagination, our story is based on studies and the testimony of specialists: Alain Damasio, science fiction author, Salima Benhamou, economist (France Strategy), Cécile Desaunay, director of studies (Futuribles), Guy Richard, director of scientific expertise (Inrae), Frédérique Prédali, economist (Institute for Planning and ‘Ile-de-France town planning), Marc Barra, ecologist in charge of the impact of human activity on the environment (Regional Biodiversity Agency).

“Hello Antoine, it is Monday February 21, 2050, it is 7:03 am. No rain expected today, and it will be a nice 19 ° C, with an ozone level within acceptable limits. You were a little tense when you went to bed last night, listen to that, it will relax you! My personal artificial intelligence (AI) system – which I called Mia – is slowly getting me out of sleep.

An old tube from the 2010s takes over. Since its last update, Mia has gained even more relevance: this song is exactly the one I wanted to hear … but without knowing it. Learning systems and empathy modules designed by tech giants are improving again and again. What a journey since Alexa and Google Home, these ancient and stammering virtual personal assistants! I slip into my slippers with a light heart before tackling this busy day.

Delivery drone, vegetable proteins, citizen score

I join the kitchen, already awake. Penelope and Gabriel, my children, have just got up and are talking with the refrigerator. “Dad, the fridge says there is no more soy milk!” »I place an order by touching the touch door. An AliMazon drone should drop its package in the secure container installed on the roof of my building within twenty minutes.

I launch the interactive work plan by placing the bowl I just filled for my breakfast. On the imitation wood surface are displayed in green letters the nutritional and ecological information of my peanut, lentil and oat porridge. I’m in the nails: my “citizen score”, this continuous control of our behavior via technology, is stable. In a world which now has 10 billion inhabitants, switching to vegetable proteins is no longer an option but a necessity.

“Dad, the fridge says there is no more soy milk!” »/ Illustration Giordano Poloni

I’m going to pick some cocktail tomatoes in the small vegetable patch (enriched with homemade compost), which purrs not far from the fridge. Mia chimes discreetly: I just got a “vitamin” bonus, which makes – a little – increase my health score. “Another effort to reach the silver level and benefit from a reduction on your health insurance”, enthuses Mia. Conversational algorithms fueled by billions of sentences today allow a fluid dialogue … exactly as when talking with a loved one.

For more than forty years, human relations have been happening more and more at a distance, thanks to the telephone, messages or video. It did not abrupt anyone that software gradually became the interlocutors of everyday life until it established itself with personal AI as the main entity, attentive and efficient, with whom we interact all day long… and who knows me better than anyone.

Universal income and multiple jobs

At 51, like the majority of the 74 million French, I earn my living by accumulating several activities which are added to my universal income to make, good year, bad year, a salary: from stand-up monetized on my video channel and a little animation for groups of centenarians.

Thanks to the anecdotes about the 20th century that they tell me, I also participate in the conception of historical games in virtual reality. Of course, even for odd jobs, payment is dematerialized. The pieces that ballast our pockets are a distant memory. “Too expensive to maintain and not secure enough,” intoned central and deposit banks, too happy to make substantial savings.

Above all, this allowed precise tracking of all purchases by citizens of a country! Only local currencies remain in ZAGs – the famous areas to govern, these autarkic micro-companies that are swarming in the marginal territories.

Modified men and lunar holidays

By spreading thumb and index finger, I now open a window on one end of my table. Mia recovers the flow of my favorite reporters, organized according to my tastes: a cocktail of world news, well-felt editorials and local news. Print newspapers have disappeared over the past decade, but the profession of journalist has endured. In this incessant bombardment of messages, it takes a lot of people to put into perspective and give food for thought about the state of the world … And that, AI still does not know how to do it. I took a premium subscription to the algorithm fact checking, so as not to be overwhelmed by the false videos that abound on the networks.

I chew the contents of my bowl and I peck the news that makes the headlines. The investigation into the attack on the leader of the transhumanist party, which wants to improve the capacities of the man by grafting him various technological appendices, does not progress. This is an opportunity to review this chilling and ridiculous video of this poor, heavily modified man who, after being hacked into his neural interface, lost control of his body and began to wiggle in the middle of ‘a live meeting shouting a bawdy song. This will not fix the affairs of the supporters of the great communion with the machine …

In terms of prices, the Hyperloop, the train running at 900 km / h in tubes between major European cities, cannot compete with the plane. / Illustration Giordano Poloni
In terms of prices, the Hyperloop, the train running at 900 km / h in tubes between major European cities, cannot compete with the plane. / Illustration Giordano Poloni

A video call interrupts my reading. My sister landed at the Chinese space base in Wenchang yesterday, after spending a month at the international lunar station. Resting in Beijing, she offers to come see me in Paris. For long-distance travel, the hybrid aircraft remains the champion. The majority of the journey is made by electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells, making it possible to substantially limit the emission of CO2 and the price of tickets.

On this last point, with its very expensive infrastructure, the Hyperloop, the train sinking at 900 km / hour in low pressure tubes between the major European cities, can hardly compete with air transport. An appointment is therefore made for the evening at Roissy airport.

As a shower, two minutes of misting

Mia, an attentive Big Mother, tells me that I have to take a shower quickly if I want to be on time with my doctor. Water restrictions imposed by the urgency of climate change have profoundly changed bathroom habits. On the shower wall is the countdown: two minutes of misting under pressure, no more, and the baths are reserved for the wealthy!

Any excess is immediately reflected in the citizen account with, in the key, cascading penalties, or even deductions from universal income. The water stream used is used to irrigate the green roof. Add to that the collection of urine to make fertilizer, and we can say that the 2050s are those of circularity.

I get dressed quickly, and collect my augmented reality lenses in their refill solution. Driven by the eyes, these descendants of Google Glass on which all the 360 ​​° information flows are displayed, made old smartphone screens obsolete in the early 2040s. Then I put on my cyanobacteria monolayer jacket, which absorbs CO2 and releases oxygen when walking in the sun. My oncologist is a recognized specialist, who can afford to pay for a practice in the hypercentre of Greater Paris.

Urban forests in the open ground

The City of Lights remains a prestigious address, even if its appeal has dropped compared to that of neighboring municipalities. With 2 million intramural inhabitants, the capital is not more populated than thirty years ago, while the Ile-de-France, it, gained almost 1.5 million arrivals. With 6.1 million residents in Greater Paris, we are far from megalopolises like Lagos (Nigeria) or Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), which exceed 20 million people!

The ecological imperatives which impose soil preservation and low carbon consumption have signaled the end of the sprawl of cities. The trinity of Western success “a pavilion, a car, a swimming pool” shattered on the need to preserve the planet. Densification is required in eco-districts where nature occupies a central place.

In order to offer a resilient city in the face of heat waves as well as torrential rains, urban forests in the open ground have imposed themselves between buildings made of fully vegetated natural materials. Shared vegetable gardens grow like mushrooms. It must be said that the participation of residents is strongly encouraged by the citizen score …

Autonomous shared cars

Very happy to live in the suburbs of Noisy-le-Sec (Seine-Saint-Denis), where businesses and places of life are concentrated, I have somewhat lost the habit of going to these very chic districts, and it’s a bit far on an electric bike. Come on, I am offering myself a ride in ubitaxi, this ubiquitous service of automatic electric taxis, which crisscross major cities.

With a small gesture picked up by my augmented reality lenses, I hail the plump cart, which stops at my height. I sit on the half-moon seat and indicate my destination. In a discreet roar, the automatic taxi slips, with the assurance of a well-calibrated driving software in Parisian traffic, between a cycle path dotted with solar panels and a hydrogen fuel bus route.

Traffic and route management has been left in the care of an experienced AI for a long time. The solo passenger car, seen as the main factor of pollution and urban congestion, has been heavily taxed in recent years. Only the relentless who have the means persist to get behind the wheel to go to town.

My generation, who grew up with carsharing and self-service vehicle apps, don’t care about owning a car. The generalization of autonomous models has optimized the availability of shared vehicles, and definitively buried the civilization of the car.

Privacy, what for?

Outside, the sun shines, the short winter ends, and the blue sky roars with drones: deliveries, security, various tracking… As each click was tracked on the Internet in 2020, each step in the smart city is now scrutinized by flying cameras , microphones, expression sensors, posture analyzers.

Private life ? To do what ? As Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google in 2009, said well before its takeover in 2032 by its Chinese competitor, the giant Baidu: “If there is something that you are doing and that nobody should know, maybe be that you should start by not doing it. “

Here I am. Like a majority of diseases, my pancreatic cancer was diagnosed very early by AI. But it is a doctor in the flesh who welcomes me into his very professional office. Supported by artificial intelligence in decision making, this practitioner has time to give explanations to the patient. Pleasant.

Twenty years ago, the chances of getting out of it would have been very slim, but today, by editing DNA, we boosted the aggressiveness of my immune cells before reinjecting them. They attacked my tumor, like a child a neocacao ice cream. The results are good!

For the holidays, laze around the swimming pool and visits in virtual reality in an
For the holidays, laze around the swimming pool and visits in virtual reality in an “experience park” ./Illustration Giordano Poloni

Cured, I can hope to live to 86 years, the average man (my wife, 90 years!), And to blow out my 100 candles is not impossible. I have time in front of me, and I’m going to see some, doctors! “The treatment was tiring. Treat yourself to a vacation! »Advises the oncologist.

Holidays ? Not the means to make a trek in Greenland (which deserves its name of “Green Country” since the snow has disappeared there) nor the Brittany wine route … I will go to an experience park, these vast carbon neutral complexes where one alternates idleness around a swimming pool and visits in photorealistic virtual reality. It seems that the reconstruction of 18th century Venice is stunning. It is essential, the past, when we think about the future


1. The race for the highest citizen score. The generalization of surveillance and the capacity of machines to process with relevance an immense flow of data makes it possible to control entire populations. China has experimented with the “social credit” system since 2018: a citizen earns points if he performs good deeds (volunteering, green consumption, etc.) but loses points in the event of incivility, which complicates his life. (unable to travel, for example).

2. Less polluting hybrid aircraft. Due to global warming, air transport, whose traffic is expected to triple by 2050, is forced to significantly limit its carbon footprint. The idea of ​​a 100% electric long-haul aircraft does not seem viable with current batteries that are far too heavy. On the other hand, thanks to an internal combustion engine combined with electric motors, the engineers plan to be able to reduce CO2 emissions by half.

3. Lenses that see more than the real. Augmented reality, which allows virtual elements to be superimposed on the real world, appeared at the end of the 20th century, then became popular in 2016 with the Pokemon Go smartphone game. Connected lenses are the lightest system to enjoy augmented reality. The first prototypes appear in 2020. They are equipped with a tiny screen allowing to display textual information, to detect objects, to control an interface, or even to see in the dark.

4. Buller in an autonomous car. The city of tomorrow will be less polluted thanks to electric cars, but also less congested thanks to driverless vehicles. These cars have an intelligent algorithm, which smooths traffic by reacting to the movements of other cars. Presented in 2019, the Renault Float concept is even more ambitious, since these bubble-shaped vehicles float thanks to a magnetic levitation system.

Renault float and its bubble-shaped devices that float thanks to a magnetic levitation system. / Renault / Sipa
Renault float and its bubble-shaped devices that float thanks to a magnetic levitation system. / Renault / Sipa

5. Modify our genes in the laboratory. Invented in 2012 at the University of California at Berkeley, the Crispr-Cas9 system is a “molecular scissor” that can cut the double strand of DNA at points that are easy to program. It is therefore possible to activate or deactivate genes on demand, or to insert mutations prepared in the laboratory. This will open up the field of possibilities for science but also … for eugenics.

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