Friday - - Report -

There are a few wor­ries about self-driv­ing cars,” says Ray Ham­mond, “be­cause if some­one is killed, who’s li­able? Even so, it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to hap­pen and in 25 years, on many ma­jor roads in de­vel­oped cities, the cars will be self-driv­ing.”

Dr Ian Pear­son con­curs: “All the big man­u­fac­tur­ers are work­ing on this – you can ex­pect the first on the roads in 10 years. They could be pow­ered by in­duc­tive pick-ups from un­der the road sur­face, a bit like Scalex­tric. Once we start to see this tech­nol­ogy – in cities, ini­tially – it will take off very rapidly.”

That’s more than can be said for ad­vances in air travel: nei­ther fu­tur­ist sees any dra­matic de­vel­op­ments there in the next few decades, al­though grow­ing af­flu­ence in China, In­dia and other emerg­ing coun­tries will, says Ian, lead to record tourist num­bers at the world’s most pop­u­lar hotspots. “Even­tu­ally, they’ll sim­ply have to put lim­its on visi­tor num­bers,” he says, stat­ing that a ma­jor travel trend in the com­ing decades will be vir­tual vis­its, which will be the only way many peo­ple ever get to see cer­tain parts of the world.

With the planet look­ing so over­crowded, some peo­ple – in­clud­ing Robert Zubrin of the Mars So­ci­ety – think that in­ter­stel­lar travel will ease the load. Ray’s not con­vinced – he thinks the hu­man body just isn’t cut out for space travel. But he doesn’t think that will mat­ter: by the end of this cen­tury, he says, hu­man evo­lu­tion as we know it will be com­ing to an end as our in­tel­li­gence is trans­ferred to ma­chines. This “suc­ces­sor species”, as Ray calls it, will be free of bi­o­log­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions and thus per­fectly suited to the rigours of travel to the edge of space. “This is merely the be­gin­ning of hu­man­ity as we know it,” says Ray. “Th­ese ma­chines will be our de­scen­dents.” www.ray­ham­ www.fu­tur­i­

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