It is impossible to predict the future, although one can suggest three broad alternatives: pessimism, gradualism, and consummationism. Beyond that, all that we can do is consider possibilities; both in terms of cultural, technological, and spiritual change, and speculations regarding how things will turn out in years, decades, or centuries hence.
Basically, interpretations of the future fall into three categories. for the sake of conc\venience I'll call them the gradualist, the pessimistic, and the consumationist.
The gradualist sees history in the future as being a continuation of the past. Although we cannot tell exactly how things will go, it is assumed that no matter how much technology or society changes, people will still be people, that there'll still be nation states (or perhaps interplanetary empires) etc. And that somehow we'll muddle through the current global environmental and political crises, to create a future with some good thinsg and some bad things, but basic ally just like today but with better technology. Most science fiction looks at the future like this (today's world but with spaceships). I consider this by far the least likely alternative..
The pessimistic interpretation says simply that the human race either won't survive or will be reduced to barbarism, whether through nuclear war (popular in the 50s through to 80s, rather dated now), ecological crisis, the impact of an asteroid or comet, or perhaps a man-made genetically engineered organism that got put of control. Considering human incompetence and our inability as a society to get our collect9ive shit togather, I can very easily imagine that following peak oil, civilization and humanity enters into a long decline. Out not with a bang, but a whimper.
The consummationist sees occuring in the near future - and usually the very near future - an accelerated "future shock", culminating in total transformation, a break with the past that is such that it is impossible to envisage how things will be. This is conceived of either technologically, as accelarating change culminating in a technological singularity, or spiritually or metaphysically, whether as a New Age millenialist fantasy inspired by the Mayan calender, or a more philosophically mature and integral ideas of a transformation of the planetary consciousness (the Aurobindoan Supramentalisation being the more articulate and well-thought out of these interpretations). Whatever the outcome, it is assumed that the human race will be replaced by something else, either spiritual or genetic superbeings, cyborgs, or super-advanced Artificial Intelligences.
The following overlapping list of topics is ranked - in terms of "future shock" - from least to most radical/confronting (assuming a standard anthropocentric exoteric religious and secular modernity worldview):
|Post materialism / New Civilization||Thoughts on a post-materialistic environmentally sustainable near future culture or society|
|Space Exploration and Colonisation||opening up new vistas for humankind|
|Transhumanism and Extropism||Transhumanism is the philosophy of using new ideas and future technology to evolve beyond present human limitations.|
|Nanotech||building things with incredible precision atom by atom - the ultimate manufacturing revolution|
|Singularity||the end of history....the end of everything. And the beginning. Scary....!!!!|
|Orion's Arm||An epic "hard science" Science Fiction setting I initiated and co-founded, set in a post-singularity future. The universe is ruled over by god-like artificial intelligences, baseline human beings have been replaced by superiors, tweaks, cyborgs, vecs, and splices, and out on the Periphery something strange is happening... - ten thousand years of future history|
|Divinization||When even non-conscious matter itself becomes spiritually Enlighetned (Supramentalisation)|
Futurehead - news and views on new and future developments in science and technology; covering nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, robotics, the singularity, and much more.
Revelations of the Future Kind - - "MISSION: Offer readers the best index to information and opinions about the future available on the net today. In this page I include not just futurist and technology-specific sites, but also sites with ANY subject matter I consider possibly significant to the future in some way-- such as star maps, and evolving theories of cosmic collisions and/or cyclic terran catastrophes, etc., as well as some selected sci fi and sci fi review links which could provide ideas and/or perspectives helpful to anyone working to affect or predict the future in some way. " Includes also An Illustrated Speculative Timeline of Technology and Social Change for the Next One Thousand Years
Mark/Space Interplanetary Review - encyclopaedic - incredible, so much there. Includes Anachron City, The Posthuman Issue, Utopia or Bust, Counterculture, Aliens, authors, references, reviews, and links, links, links. Unfortunately this site is no longer being updated.
Charles Ostman - the Far Frontier - Evolution into the Next Millennium - links to and short comments about a lot of interesting ideas and themes, including nanotech, virtual realty, a-life, etc
Exit Mindi - a light-hearted collection of all kinds of possible apocalyptic scenarios.