Reasons for feeling optimistic about the future (no joke).
The price of food and gasoline is going up and up, and meanwhile the economy is stalled. I remember the 90s as the good ol' days. People are wondering if those amazingly clever and wise primatives, the Mayans, had something on the ball in thinking the world will end in 2012-- the last year on their extremely accurate calendar. It could be a prophesy, but it could be that they were too lazy to continue.
There's much being made about the Mayan prophesy: all appearances suggest that whatever decline humankind has, it's going to take a while, and will not be total. Obviously, the lack of petroleum energy is going to be a terrible problem this century. Adjusting to the lack of plentiful energy will probably be hard. Global warming will be a further problem, but it's very possible it will have long-term benefits, but the short-term (the next two centuries) will hard. The continued decline of honeybees looks threatening for available food, but I have reasons to believe it will take care of itself. First, with any epidemic, it will look like it's going to kill a species, but usually, the species adjusts. Even if that doesn't happen, there's a huge surplus of nectar out there for an adjustable species to move into the pollination niche.
Genetic altering will create more advances, cures for disease, and enhance the available food supply, but a question at this point must be: do we want a larger population? Evidently, it will grow as long as there is an available food supply. We've been cheating Malthus for decades. The population must crash ultimately. I'm afraid that measures taken to prevent this and/or measures taken during the crash might mean a decline in freedom for the living. Those ant and bee colonies that seem so utopic are actually maintained through policing, as it turns out, especially preventing the workers from reproducing, and tearing apart those who hide eggs or sneak them into the clutch.
The main problem with population we'll have, though, is caused by space travel and colonization being far more daunting than anybody even 20 years ago expected. People, even outside of science fiction, expected that safety valve for our growing population. It isn't there, and likely won't be there in our lifetimes, or maybe never. But then there are satellites and revolution they've brought.
The fact that we're not seeing evidence of other intelligent life is, let's face it, disturbing, but then again the results must be considered preliminary. Fusion power has also been daunting. I believe there's going to be a breakthrough ultimately.
That is because computer technology might solve the problem. Computer technology continues to be a source of ultimate hope. One laptop now has more computing capacity than the entire world in the mid-60s. Better still, they've now come up with a circuit-- the memristor (I hate the name) that will cut the size and necessary power for computers. You won't have to boot them up. They will maintain their memory state without power. It will cut the power needed for home computers enough to keep them viable with diminishing energy reserves. I have to be encouraged that with incredible "thinking" power that will be available, ultimately, it might solve the world's most unsolvable problems. We could also anticipate an advance in robotics. Then there's added fiberoptics, and perhaps quantum computers.
So, on the balance, there's much hope for the future, and at least it's exciting right now.