49
Flying in Time to Come

In order to predict the future of aviation, we must first ask ourselves what the future of society will be.

Suppose, for instance, that over the next generation the stresses that are now increasingly plaguing society force a breakdown of civilization. It may be that aviation will then dwindle into a forgotten art, with only some rusty planes and overgrown airports to bear evidence that once humanity could fly.

But that is not an interesting prediction (even though, just possibly, a true one). Let us instead assume that civilization will survive, and let us draw a possible blueprint for survival.

First, population growth will have to cease or there is no way of surviving as a civilization. Eventually, population density will have to be, if anything, somewhat less than it is now.

Second, if civilization survives, technology will continue to advance, and one obvious direction of such advance is in the improvement of communications. Imagine more and better communications satellites in space; satellites interconnected by laser beams that have millions of times the capacity for voice and picture channels that present-day radio beams have. On earth, laser communications will be carried through optical fibers.

With a combination of satellites and lasers, an enormous revolution will take place in transportation, too. It will no longer be necessary to transport mass in order to transport the insubstantial information the mass contains. This information can be sent instead, and at the speed of light.

With room in the laser beams to give every individual on earth a separate television channel, closed-circuit television will come into its own. Images of people can be sent in place of the people themselves and conferences can

-272-

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