A Humble Attempt at Predicting Future History

Matt Williams
15 min readMar 7, 2023

A fictitious timeline of the future, from tomorrow to 1 billion years from now.

There’s an old saying by Kierkegaard, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” I’ve heard this adage many times, except that the word “history” was always substituted for “life.” This is certainly true, to a point. After all, history is subject to prejudices, bias, and the good old human tendency to look for patterns. In my experience, how we remember history is no less about “the winners write the books” as “the writers impose their organization principle.”

That’s what I love about science fiction’s future histories. The sub-genre owes its existence to Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men, a science fiction novel released in 1930. In this “future history,” Stapledon presented an imaginative romp through several futures where the descendants of humanity rise and fall many times, creating advanced civilizations and periodically slipping back into barbarism.

This novel and its overriding themes have been imitated countless times by many science fiction franchises. Since speculative and predictive science fiction are something I love dearly, I wanted to try my hand at this. The following future history is what resulted, which is based entirely on modern-day speculation about where we could be headed in the future.

For my purposes, I wanted to look at the future of humanity through the lenses of scale and accelerating change. If you take the long-view of history, you can’t help but notice that it is characterized by exponential growth and advancement (for better or for worse). This very trend could lead to our destruction (climate change and ecological collapse) or it could lead to a massive acceleration that will forever alter the trajectory of our species.

What truly inspired this idea was the notion that there could be multiple accelerations in our future, where we keep exceeding the boundaries before us and enter into one period of exponential growth after another. Each of these accelerations would be seen by historians as steps along any number of Scales (Kardashev, Barrow, etc.). As with all chapters in human history where something revolutionary took place, the prospect is both awe-inspiring and terrifying.

Anthropocene (ca. 1900 — 2100 CE)

The term “Anthropocene” was coined in the late 20th century by scholars to describe the current geological era in which humanity had become the predominant force for changes in Earth’s climate. Whereas previous epochs had seen drastic changes in global weather patterns, temperatures, ice coverage, and species adaptation (and extinction), the process had been dictated by changes in Earth’s obliquity and solar output over very long periods of time.

But with the explosion of human populations, industry, and urbanization forever changed the dynamic. Significant changes occurred over the course of decades, not eons. Worse, the changes were subject to acceleration as the effects of industry, urban centers, and emissions were compounded by feedback mechanisms. Henceforth, humanity found itself as the arbiter’s of Earth fate, for better or for worse.

As the changes accelerated, so too did the pace of technological growth and innovation. This was the paradox of the Anthropocene, where the very forces that amplified humanity’s impact on the natural environment drove them towards greater technical advancement. In particular, the growth of urban environments, global trade, and communications during the 20th and 21st centuries fostered a move away from traditional industries and gave rise to a digital economy.

The growing impact on rural environments, food production, and air pollution also gave rise to environmental movements and demands for more sustainable methods. In the first few decades of the 21st century, renewable energy rapidly overtook fossil fuels as the predominant source of power generation. The deployment of space-based solar power (SBSP) arrays sped the adoption of solar networks.


By mid-century, the “Fusion Era” began as researchers and engineers surpassed the “break-even” point and achieved sustained fusion reactions that could provide abundant clean energy. This effectively ended dependence on oil and coal as power sources, leading to net-zero emissions by the 2050s, which kept the impact of climate change within tolerable parameters.

Coupled with Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Climate Restoration efforts worldwide, a climate crisis was averted and stability was restored by the end of the century. Though the damage would take many more decades to repair, and the curating and restoration of extinct/endangered species and habitats even longer, humanity’s environmental stewardship had effectively saved the planet from humanity itself!

The century also saw increasing growth in the Afro-Asian and Latin American economies. Whereas Asia had experienced an “economic miracle” during the first half, the latter half was characterized by similar “miracles” in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Oceania, and other regions. By the end of the century, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia and Oceania had achieved a level of economic parity not seen in centuries.

The growing equality between nations was mirrored by growing equality between people worldwide. Between 1975 and 2015, the number of people living in extreme poverty was reduced from over 2 billion to less than 1 billion. While inequality continued to flourish throughout the first half of the 21st century (and several hundred million people became impoverished due to the impacts of climate change) extreme poverty was effectively eliminated by the seventh decade of the 22nd century.

This was evident from the way that space exploration and the commercialization of off-world resources became a very international affair by the second half of the 21st century. In addition to space agencies representing the U.S. (NASA), Europe (ESA), Russia (Roscosmos), India (ISRO), China (CNSA), and their many partner agencies, two major agencies joined the “space race” by the latter 21st century — the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency (LACA) and the African Space Agency (AfSA).

Humanity’s gradual migration and expansion into space also began in this period, thanks to renewed exploration efforts, the rise of the commercial space industry, and advances in materials science. After decades of developing reusable systems and technologies that would allow humans to stay in space for extended periods of time, government-funded and commercial efforts began to realize some of humanity’s most ambitious plans.

This included the construction of a space elevator, which began in earnest in the late 2020s and extended into the 2050s. With the discovery of graphene and industrial techniques that allowed for mass production, like chemical-vapor deposition (CVD), engineers were finally able to overcome the pressing issue of the “tether.” With assistance from an international consortium, an orbital platform was built in geostationary orbit (GSO) while an anchor platform was built in the Maldives.

The graphene ribbons were then shipped to the orbital platform and extended downwards, using Earth’s gravity well to stabilize them. Once connected to the anchor and paired with cable cars, governments and contractors began lifting massive payloads to space. This facilitated the creation of a massive constellation of solar satellites (the Clarke Belt), debris removal, space construction, orbital habitats, and the Near-Earth Asteroid mining industry.

Two more elevators were constructed before the end of the century, on the island of Sao Tome and Principe (off the coast of Gabon) and Isla Isabella (off the coast of Equator). With all three of these “Galactic Harbors” up and running, people began accompanying the massive payloads to space. The creation of orbital factories, space telescopes, direct-energy arrays, and other space infrastructure accelerated space exploration efforts.

The period that followed was called by different names, but the overriding theme was one of acceleration. Hence the popular name, “Accelerando”…

Accelerando (ca. 2100–2300 CE)

By the turn of the 22nd century, humanity began migrating to space in greater and greater numbers. After stabilizing at last, Earth’s population began to slowly decline as off-world populations continued to grow. A few generations after permanent habitats were established, entire cities were built in LEO (Asgard), on the Moon (Selene, Lunakhod), Mars (Kin Haalʼá, Anjuman), Venus (Ishtar, Zuhura), and beyond.

This “off-world migration” had a twofold effect. On the one hand, harnessing the resources of the Earth-Moon system, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt allowed for the relocation of resource harvesting and manufacturing away from Earth. On the other, the development of technologies that would allow humans to live sustainably away from Earth led to applications that allowed people to lead less environmentally-impactful lives on Earth.

As a result, the period henceforth known as the Accelerando was characterized by two vastly divergent trends. On Earth, population levels finally leveled off (11 billion by the turn of the century) after three hundred years of accelerated growth. Species extinction was halted, urban growth was capped, and climate restoration began in force. In many respects, the 22nd century was a time of renewed stability after centuries of runaway growth and chaos.

On the other hand, the accelerating pace of technological innovation (inherited from the previous centuries) continued. This included the rise of the “Internet of Things,” where all aspects of life became part of the digital realm and were subject to advanced AI and analytics. The explosion of mobile and wearable devices soon gave way to “embeddables” — embedded CPUs, medical devices and monitors, and retinal and neural implants.

Advances in medicine were also a regular occurrence by the early 22nd century. This included nanobots programmed to heal wounds, eliminate viruses, repair genes, and and maintain general health (medimachines). Telomere lengthening also became a regular procedure, as did genomic editing. Only a handful of people could afford life-extension treatments in the previous century. But by the 22nd, more and more were “immortals” were added to the census roles with every passing year.

Ralph Ewig

The pervasiveness of these technologies eventually led to a divide between “transhumans” (enhanced individuals) and “organics” (people who eschewed enhancement). Over time, and with the eventual elimination of a monetary economy, the technology became more ubiquitous, and transhumans became a statistically-significant group. By the 23rd century, organics were in the minority, and feared for their continued existence.

Meanwhile, humanity’s presence beyond Earth also grew exponentially, vastly increasing the human population and the size of the human economy. With an established presence in cis-lunar space and Mars, efforts were made to establish a foothold in the Main Asteroid Belt, in the skies above Venus, and even on Mercury. These were paired with rotating orbital stations that facilitated trips to and from the surface. They also provided simulated gravity that allowed for “gravity therapy.”

In addition to surface settlements, engineers began work on a series of space habitats at the Earth-Sun Lagrange Points. These O’Neill Cylinders provided simulated gravity and large biospheres that mimicked environments on Earth. A permanent presence on the Moon opened the door for virtually limitless energy thanks to the construction of a Solar Band. For the first time, solar power could be beamed between the Moon and Earth, Mars, Venus, and the many space habitats orbiting in-between.

An interplanetary economy followed, one based on abundant minerals, metals, volatile elements, and energy. This led to a new era of “post-scarcity economics,” effectively eliminating the entire basis of wealth that had characterized human societies since the beginning of recorded history. For the first time in history, there was more than enough to go around and the very foundation of social distinction disappeared.

It was also during the Accelerando that the first interstellar missions, largely laser-driven lightsails and nanocraft, reached the nearest star systems. These missions provided the first direct studies of exoplanets, which augmented scientific findings made by Solar Gravitational Lensing telescopes in the previous century. These efforts finally led to the detection of habitable exoplanets and life beyond the Solar System!

The development of nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing, and self-adjusting/self-modulating materials (aka. “smart materials”) further altered the nature of wealth. With the ability to alter elements at the molecular level, the precious metals and Rare Earth Elements (REE) were no longer precious or rare. As long as sufficient base materials were available, anything could be synthesized from anything.


Henceforth, the age of additive manufacturing (3D-printing) gave way to matter compilation (aka. nanoassembly), which eliminated the last traces of waste from industrial manufacturing. Literally all materials would henceforth be assembled at molecular level, and all assembled materials were “smart” — drawing energy from the surrounding environment and adjusting as needed to external stimuli.

In time, nanoassembly allowed for the creation of machines that could operate at the atomic level (picotechnology). Henceforth, materials and assembled objects and goods would not only be “smart,” but capable of thinking for themselves!

Allegro (ca. 2300–2500 CE)

By the closing years of the 24th century, humanity had established a foothold in every part of the Solar System. For most people living in the inner Solar System, death had become a thing of the past, a voluntary condition that humans could embrace, or put off altogether. In time, work began on creating the first Dyson Band, a ring of computronium that circled the Sun around the equator.

Within this Band, countless human minds were able to live out their lives in simulated realities. This facilitated the next transition for humanity, which was now divided between transhumans and “Posthumans” (those who were no longer physically human at all). Over time, the population of the Band grew into the billions and (eventually) trillions as more humans embraced a newfound sense of “quantum immortality.”

Similarly, efforts to find evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth revealed several similar structures around distant stars. The structures appear to be defunct and the stars are nearing the end of their life cycles. While this revelation brings closure to the Fermi Debate, it does not resolve the question of whether humanity is alone in the galaxy at this point. From this point onward, the question was no longer “where is everybody?” but “is anyone still alive?”

For those who chose to remain mortal, the focus shifted to two new priorities: 1) Creating more habitable planets in the Solar System (terraforming), or 2) seeking habitable planets beyond the Solar System. Whereas efforts had begun in earnest as early as the late 21st century, the 24th century would be remembered as both the “Age of Terraforming” and the “Age of Interstellar Exploration.”

These efforts were immensely facilitated by breakthroughs in the realm of quantum physics in the previous century. With advances in picotechnology and femtotechnology, humanity was able to manipulate matter on even smaller levels. These experiments confirmed theoretical predictions regarding the existence of gravity at the quantum level and opened the door to new realms of physics.

Henceforth, vessels were capable of generating negative energy and simulating negative mass. In the past, to accomplish rapid interstellar transits (a single generation), spacecraft either had to be uncrewed or restricted to carrying human minds in quantum states. Otherwise, crewed missions were forced to spend centuries or longer in transit using massive generation ships.

In short, crewed missions were simply not feasible unless they kept their passengers in suspended states or were equipped with rotating sections (simulated gravity). With the Alcubierre Drive and artificial gravity now available, crewed missions to Alpha Centauri, Ross 128, Epsilon Eridani, 61 Cygni, Tau Ceti, 82 Eridani, TRAPPIST-1, and other nearby star systems were possible within a matter of weeks or months.

This facilitated interstellar migration, trade, and the creation of infrastructure that connected the Solar System to its immediate neighbors. Henceforth, humanity would no longer be an interplanetary species, but an interstellar one. While life is difficult in the extrasolar settlements, the challenge inspires new generations of adventurers and wanderers.

In addition to planetary settlements, O’Neill Cylinders and other space habitats were established at Lagrange Points in every neighboring star system. Ongoing efforts to find intelligence life beyond the Solar System discover more evidence of past civilizations, but nothing that would indicate that there are any we could still communicate with.

At home, efforts to terraform Mars and Venus accelerated and transformed both planets into new enclaves for human civilization. On Mars, ecological engineering recreated a planet characterized by a global ocean in the northern hemisphere and highlands with many great lakes and rivers in the south. On Venus, a global ocean covered most of the surface with two major continents (Ishtar and Aphrodite), several smaller landmasses (Asteria, Phoebe, Themis, Tethus, and Tellus), and countless archipelagos.

Genetic mastery allowed for human habitation in low-gravity environments, leading to the full-scale settlement of Ceres, the Jovians, the Cronians, Triton, Pluto, Charon, and every remaining satellite and large asteroid in the outer Solar System. The population of flesh and blood humans continued to rival that of the Band population, numbering into the trillions.

Presto (ca. 2500–1,000,000 CE)

Beyond the Allegro, humanity continued its long-standing pattern of transitioning towards post-humanism at the center, and remaining human at the peripheries. By the 26th century, most of the Solar System had been converted into a Dyson Shell (or Matrioshka Brain) that housed the majority of human knowledge and minds. Beyond the Frost Line, populations of transhumans continued to live and work among the many moons and asteroids.

But henceforth, the only remaining flesh and blood humans lived on extrasolar planets (the Children of Earth, or Diaspora), most of which had undergone terraforming to be made suitable to terrestrial life. Efforts to explore beyond the reach of human civilization also turned up countless examples of exotic life, including complex intelligences that existed on planetary scales. However, human explorers would not find anything they would characterize as “civilizations.”

Perhaps in response, efforts to seed “transiently habitable” planets (typically found around red dwarf suns) with bacteria and simple life forms expanded. These organisms took advantage of abiotic oxygen-rich atmospheres and evolved into more complex life forms. On habitable planets, biological agents were introduced to “uplift” less complex lifeforms and foster the development of intelligence. After many generations, nascent civilizations emerged on distant planets — collectively known as the “Progeny.”

NASA’s GSFC/Jeremy Schnittman

Beyond settling on “new frontiers” and tampering with life on other planets, the Diaspora were known to periodically travel to the Solar System. The process became tantamount to a pilgrimage before long, where flesh and blood humans visited the birthplace of their species and civilization.

Silencio (ca. 1 million to 1 billion CE)

Within a billion years of humanity’s great migration, the many species it helped evolve and uplift began traveling to space as well. These species would encounter each other, go to war with each other, and even help uplift species that were still evolving. A cosmic concert was eventually established, with civilizations across the entire Orion-Cygnus Arm engaged in commerce and diplomacy.

It did not take long before the more advanced of these species uncovered evidence of the previous human inhabitants on many worlds. After many generations of study and excavating, they began to notice a pattern. The settlement pattern was percolating in nature, where waves of ships and crews traveled outward from a common center, growing and receding over time. The farther they trace this pattern to its core, the more advanced the settlements appeared to have been.

This eventually leads them to the Solar System and the now-defunct Matrioshka Brain at its core. It is unknown how or when the megastructure became inert, but there are many theories. Foremost among them is that a solar event took place that permanently shut down the brain, that its inhabitants chose to leave, or that some deliberate act of sabotage took place.

Beyond this, popular legends emerged that the unknown inhabitants were the “Progenitor Species” of all civilizations alive today, that the Solar System was the “birthplace of the Gods,” and that they had since “transcended.” There’s also speculation that they were wiped out by a more advanced species, which seems plausible if the death of the Posthumans and Diaspora were coincident (but this remains unknown).

Beyond this, nothing is known about the mysterious species that once called itself “humanity.” In all the places where their civilization once thrived, new civilizations have found nothing but ruins “among the reeds.”

Is it possible that another migration occurred (to other stars or galaxies)? Could the last remaining descendants be living out their existence in extreme environments where they are currently undetectable (such as the vicinity of black holes)? No one knows and it’s likely no one ever will. One thing is clear, though. They DID exist. And during their time, they left their mark on the galaxy.

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Matt Williams

Space/astronomy journalist for Universe Today, SF author, and all around family man!