Dusk til Dawn
Medical nanobots are in widespread use
Microscopic robots – measuring just a few nanometres across – are available for a wide variety of uses now. They are most commonly seen in medical applications, where their miniscule size enables them to reach places in the human body that were simply inaccessible before or too delicate for conventional instruments to operate on.
A number of the most important breakthroughs have been in the treatment of cancer, which can be detected earlier than ever before and targeted with far more precision. By the late 2030s, more than 90% of cancers can be cured as a result of this. Even patients who would previously have been diagnosed as “terminally ill” can now be routinely saved. Monitoring of heart conditions, neurological disorders and countless other illnesses is also vastly improved. This, combined with enormous strides in stem cell research, is creating a new generation of medical treatments that is reaching a whole new level of sophistication and efficiency.
The nanobots themselves are built on a molecule-by-molecule basis, via positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and diamondoid nanofactories. Each robot is capable of propelling itself using tiny “motors” and is equipped with microscopic sensing, guidance and communication devices.
Much of China is now highly urbanised and densified. Its booming economy has led to the construction of literally tens of thousands of new skyscrapers all over the country. There are now over 200 cities with more than a million inhabitants, compared with just 35 in the whole of Europe circa 2010. Even many rural and isolated areas are beginning to see development on an unprecedented scale – with large-scale infrastructure such as maglev trains, airports, bridges and tunnels, forming an extensive network to all corners of the nation. China is well on its way to becoming a developed country.
Some of the largest metropolitan areas – such as Hong Kong and Shenzhen – actually begin to overlap and form “hyper cities”, rivalling and even surpassing Tokyo in terms of population and land area. Many of the world’s tallest buildings can now be found in China, including a number of kilometre-high “super skyscrapers”.
All of this has a considerable impact on the price of steel and other materials, which leads to cutbacks of many large-scale development projects in Europe, America and elsewhere. The rise of neighbouring India is adding to this. The West is now having a greatly reduced influence on setting the price of metals. Meanwhile, vast profits are being made by construction and mining firms, which leads to many high profile takeovers and acquisitions. At the same time, record numbers of accidents during this time – as a result of so much construction activity – lead to tighter regulations and improved safety in the industry as a whole. Better pay and working conditions for employees are subsequently introduced.
As China booms, its power requirements are soaring. The country has been preparing for this, however, by strengthening relations with Central Asian countries and importing more oil and gas from them, especially Turkmenistan which has made significant new discoveries. China’s entry into Central Asia was also partly motivated by the need to reduce its dependency on (a) the Middle East, and (b) the Malacca Strait for shipping oil from the Persian Gulf and Africa; a stretch of water that was becoming increasingly vulnerable to pirate attacks, and was the subject of ongoing political tensions regarding its control.
As well as strengthening its oil imports, substantial gains have been made from energy efficiency and conservation programmes, along with greatly increased use of nuclear power. By 2025 its nuclear power generating capacity is nearly 150 billion kilowatthours (khwh), passing that of Canada and Russia. In the coming years, this will increase still further, as 4th generation nuclear power plants become available. Demands for environmental protection also lead to greatly increased solar, wind and hydro-electric power.
Superfast maglev trains connect Japanese cities
Tests conducted in previous decades showed that it was possible to build a railway tunnel in a straight route through the Southern Japanese Alps. After many years of construction, Tokyo is now connected with Nagoya and Osaka – along with several smaller cities – by superfast magnetic levitation trains.
The first generation of these trains already held the world speed record for rail travel, at 581 km/h (or 361mph) – but recent advances in materials technology have pushed this still further, to over 700 km/hour (or 435mph). This is fast enough to compete with some commercial airliners.