Princeton physicist Gerard K. O'Neill's 1981 book, 2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future was an attempt to predict the technological and social state of humanity 100 years in the future. O'Neill's positive attitude towards both technology and human potential distinguished this book from gloomy predictions of a Malthusian catastrophe by contemporary scientists. Paul R. Ehrlich wrote in 1968 in The Population Bomb, "in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death". The Club of Rome's 1972 Limits to Growth predicted a catastrophic end to the Industrial Revolution within 100 years from resource exhaustion and pollution.
O'Neill's contrary view had two main components. First, he analyzed the previous attempts to predict the future of society—including many catastrophes that had not materialized. Second, he extrapolated historical trends under the assumption that the obstacles identified by other authors would be overcome by five technological "Drivers of Change". He extrapolated an average American family income in 2081 of $1 million/year. Two developments based on his own research were responsible for much of his optimism. In The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space O'Neill described solar power satellites that provide unlimited clean energy, making it far easier for humanity to reach and exceed present developed-world living standards. Overpopulation pressures would be relieved as billions of people eventually emigrate to colonies in free space. These colonies would offer an Earth-like environment but with vastly higher productivity for industry and agriculture. These colonies and satellites would be constructed from asteroid or lunar materials launched into the desired orbits cheaply by the mass drivers O'Neill's group developed.
Famous quotes containing the words human, future, view and/or hopeful:
“Enthusiasm produces the most cruel disorders in human society; but its fury is like that of thunder and tempest, which exhaust themselves in a little time, and leave the air more calm and serene than before.”
—David Hume (17111776)
“As a child is indulged or checked in its early follies, a ground is generally laid for the happiness or misery of the future man.”
—Samuel Richardson (16891761)
“Where has it gone, the lifetime?
Search me. Whats left is drear.
Unchilded and unwifed, Im
Able to view that clear:
So final. And so near.”
—Philip Larkin (19221986)
“The inevitable has always found me ready and hopeful ...”
—Amelia E. Barr (18311919)