A fact of life is that while our civilization is thousands of years old, 99% of the daily activities of people in the developed nations were impossible 100 years ago. The technology didn't exist. In their current form 60% of our activities were impossible 40 years ago, given the state of technology then.
Before looking at the future we should recognize where we are now. Certain peaks have passed. In some areas mankind shall never scale or even approach past heights.
* The Age of Originality is behind us. Little in today's culture is not derivative and each succeeding year brings less originality, more derivations.
Not that no one tries. This isn't a case of the walking dead like authors of comic strips Dennis the Menace and Andy Capp frozen in time with their 10 situations handcuffed to the Law of Combinations.
The Age of Originality is over because all the plots have been explored to numbness, 95% of the music has been played before, all the scenes painted and the images photographed or faked. All that remains is to do them with new faces, new names, new backgrounds, use rare or new instruments, re-arrange the choices and the order, substitute ending B for ending A.
Freshness is fine, but it's not originality.
They will likely manufacture new clarinets and trumpets capable of playing chords, but evolution doesn't mean originality.
* The Age of Freedom is behind us. What used to be there for the taking, like a day spent fishing, is now and forever draped in must and can't laws, licensing regulations, and policing. Virtually nothing in the advanced nations has escaped policing.
Freedom is inversely proportional to population.
* The Age of Philosophy is over. Looking at ourselves will never cease but the possibility of breaking new ground ended years ago. What territory was not covered by philosophers is strewn with sci-fi writings.
The excitement the future holds cannot be in those areas. It must be in technology. Not space travel which will directly affect but a relative handful of us. Even learning how to place attachments to light, or use gravity as fuel, will have little everyday value down here in the atmosphere.
It's the breakthroughs in medicine and everyday technology that promise excitement.
The true last frontier is the human body and this, at last, is the century man learns all the answers. We are on the threshold of solving all the riddles. In a few decades medical science will know how to do vastly more than representive government will allow science to do. But within the allowed politics will be tests for all the major diseases, and drugs to at least keep them in remission.
The balance of power between nature and man where the human body is concerned has been shifting little by little for centuries. By the end of this century bio-science will be able to take control from nature entirely, well beyond what our willingness will allow.
Aside from health, my favorite contemplation is the day I can sit at a computer and assemble the custom casting of a favorite movie.
All the data of, say, Casablanca, downloadable in digital form. All the data defining an actor and how he reacts and reads lines, say George Raft, downloadable.
A program to substitute the Raft data for the Bogart data will show us what the film might have been if Raft had accepted the Bogie part when he was offered it.
The room for operator creativity to manipulate Raft is immense.
I'd love to see Jodie Foster in so many roles she couldn't be cast in because she was the wrong age, or not yet born. The James Bond films would be greatly improved by casting a 45-year-old Sean Connery in every Bond role, especially films made after he retired.
Not at all unlikely given the speed of CPUs in two decades.
Will we see indoor air conditioning where it's the norm to have room sensors assuring that every room in the building is the same temperature no matter its special characteristics. Sensors allowing adjustment for individual wants, of course.
Few will welcome the day electronic highways control the cars that travel them but population growth makes it inevitable, that and requiring pre-arranged tickets for car travel on the controlled highways as train and plane travel require now.
Translator hearing devices no larger than a credit card offering instant translation to your language will make foreign travel less foreign, and less romantic. Technology erodes romanticism as inevitably as water erodes rock, so we know how that will end.
The split between traditional man and the technology-driven man, barely discernable today as it enters its first generation, fares well to become the principal divider of advanced society by 2050.
Unhappily both will have the same enemy then as now, societies deliberately choosing religious requirements to remain unchanged from their biblical or Koran origins.
Real people, no less than fictional ones, have only the same plots to re-hash.