In a report launched by Samsung, academics and futurists take a big guess and explore what they think our planet will look like in 50 years’ time. Here are some examples of how they see the built environment changing.
Professor Dale Russell, specialist advisor to innovation design engineering at the Royal College of Art, suggests as cities become even more overcrowded, an inverted skyscraper burrowing downwards into the earth may be the answer. A similar site has already been planned in the technologically advanced city of Singapore, called Underground Science City, an ‘earthscraper’ 80 metres below the surface which will house 4,500 people.
The design is cylindrical, as pictured above, a concept first conceived as long ago as 1931, which will enable it to withstand earthquakes. Russell highlights building underground not only saves space but also power as the topography can generate energy. The rocks absorbing the sun’s heat in summer to keep the city cool, releasing it in winter to warm the buildings. With this Russell imagines a complete self-contained travel and ecosystem underground, using hydroponic farming systems with artificial light to grow the city’s own food supply.
The next Atlantis
Artificial floating islands have already been created off Dubai and Japan, so why not deep-sea cities suggests Russell. He believes that the idea of living 4,000 metres under water might start with adventurous tourists looking for an unusual safari holiday but will then develop into whole communities living underwater.
How would you get there? A surface hub would enable you to travel in a pod by Hyperloop, according to Russell. Multiple companies are currently working on hyperloop technology, including Elon Musk’s The Boring Company. Hyperloop One has already tested a tunnel in Nevada, using speeds up to 700 miles per hour.
To infinity and beyond
With the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson already pocket-deep in space tourism, Russell believes this could begin with space hotels, luxury space stations orbiting the Moon or other planets, generating their own gravity. Later there would be domed structures on the surface, with city infrastructure gradually created around them, generating their own climate, food supply and resources.
Russell said: “We are not daydreaming here. All these technologies already exist. Many of these concepts are already in the planning stage. The city of the future is on its way and will be with us by 2069.”
Transport and infrastructure
Dr Rhys Morgan, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, thinks we should forget HSR2, and instead we’ll be hopping into a subsonic tube transport system, a quad pod, a superconductor bus, or even a reusable rocket.
He believes by 2069, insurance companies will have finally decided that human steering is just too dangerous and should be left to robotic, autonomous driving systems. Bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure will be continuously monitored by embedded sensors, constantly checking the condition of the structure. As defects and cracks emerge, the material will start to self-heal. With self-healing infrastructure, robotic building systems and autonomous vehicles, there will be no more need to close vast sections of roads for repair.
There will be no need for traffic lights either, vehicles will slow to allow weaving at junctions, but they will never stop. Cars and trucks will communicate with each on motorways to allow platooning with gaps of only a few centimetres.