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In 1900

After 2050, you'll find that China is dominating. It's got by far the biggest population, it will have caught up and probably be leading on technology, it will be the biggest economic power in the world.
Economist Frances Stewart

The world will look more like the middle ages in a sense, where you had not just individual kings and countries but you had emperors and popes and cities and a great variety of different kinds of political institution.
Political scientist Francis Fukuyama

I think there's no question that within a hundred years from now we will be able replace human organs with spare organs that we grow in the laboratory.
Geneticist Lee Silver

If we don't do something, if it's just humans versus machines, it's a very dangerous scenario.
Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics
Visions of the future

What will the next 100 years hold for us? An eclectic panel of experts, including futurologists and historians, have given their views of the shape of things to come for a BBC TV Leviathan special: Back to the Future.

Predictions range from the apocalyptic to the utopian and cover a range of topics from politics, to artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.

On top of the world

Britain entered the 20th century as a major world power and the latter part of the century has seen the rise of the US as the dominant global force - but which will be top nation in the next 100 years?

Historian Felipe Fernandez Armesto and economist Frances Stewart both believe that China will dominate the scene.

"Over the whole course of the last 3,000 years the dominant initiatives in technology, in the dissemination of ideas, in the influencing and shaping of the rest of the world have tended to come from China and that's almost, that's the normal state of the world," says Armesto.

Political scientist Francis Fukuyama is interested in how the global balance of power will shift in the next century. He believes that nations will continue to be important but predicts that institutions such as the IMF and World Bank will be very powerful in terms of governing the world.

Speaking with optimism, Fukuyama predicts "a kind of democratic zone of peace within world politics".

Back to the front

The 20th century has seen the worst wars on the planet - will the 21st century see the end of war or even more terrifying conflicts?

Felipe Fernandez Armesto thinks it is na´ve to believe war will end: "It would be more rational to suppose that because we made a mess of the last century and indeed every other previous century in the whole history of mankind, that we'll go on making a mess. That's really a much more likely scenario for the future."

Futurologist Ian Pearson believes that the future could hold fearsome developments in weapons technology. He talks about nano-technology, which he describes as: "The science of taking, of manipulating things at the atomic level, individual atoms at a time."

He predicts the development of weapons that could "float across the battlefield until they find the right people and they just disassemble them into sickly goo."

Genetics and the brave new world

Major developments in the understanding of human genetic makeup are likely to take place in the next 100 years. Many diseases could be literally engineered out of existence and our lifespans extended indefinitely - at least for those with enough money to pay for it.

Economist Frances Stewart believes people could end up living to the age of 200, but she says: "Only a minority will be able to afford that, so we'll have this huge inequality which is probably a more important inequality than anything we see today."

Geneticist Lee Silver says that one day we will be able to create humans who are vastly superior genetically and this could this lead to the splitting of the human species into two: the genetic 'haves' versus the 'have-nots'.

Computers in charge

Artificial intelligence will make massive strides in the next century. Physicist Freeman Dyson predicts the technology could lead to a form of telepathy and Futurologist Ian Pearson goes further - envisaging the development of a global consciousness as humans 'upload ' their brains into computers or on to the internet.

But if we're not careful we could end up being enslaved by computers a thousand times more intelligent than humans - according to Professor of Cybernetics Kevin Warwick.

He foresees a future where mankind progresses by becoming part computer - a new kind of being called a cyborg. To this end he plans to experiment in 2000 with a special computer implant connected to his own nervous system.

"I can't see situation where we won't have machines more intelligent than us, we're not going to beat that case, so looking at the possibility of a cyborg race, if you can't beat the intelligent machines of the future, let's join them," he says.

Leviathan: Back to the future special was made for the BBC by TakeAway Media. It is broadcast on 1 January 2000, at 1635 on BBC Two.

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