I've always liked to speculate on how our society and technology will be in 20 years, 50 years, 100 years. One VERY important factor that will determine our civilization's future will undoubtly be it's energy resources.As you know, the United States dependency on petroleum is staggering. There will come a point when the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached and after this the rate of production will begin to steadly decline. This concept is known as peak oil and was created by M. King Hubbert. He used the models behind peak oil in 1956 to accurately predict that United States oil production would peak around 1970. He predicted global oil production would peak around the year 2000, now he was wrong about that prediction but many experts think(as of 2010) that global oil production might have already or will peak within the next decade. This has some very frightening implications for modern civilization, some predictions vary from optimistic to very pessimistic depending on the timing of peak oil.
Another theory about the future of our civilization is the Olduvai theory and states that industrial civilization will have a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years (1930-2030).The theory was first introduced by Richard C. Duncan in 1989 as the "transient-pulse theory of Industrial Civilization.The theory states that industrial civilization is the time approximately when energy production per capita rises from 37% of the peak value to when it falls to below 37% of its peak value, so basically industrial civilization is defined in between these two endpoints that have values of 37% peak value.This theory divides human history into three phases, the first is the pre-industrial phase that stretches over most of human history when simple tools and weak machines limited economic growth.The second industrial phase(the phase we're in now) encompasses modern civilization where machines temporarily lift all limits to growth.Now for the bad part, the final de-industrial follows where industrial economies decline to a period of equilibrium with renewable resources and the natural enivronment, so in layman's terms, we're heading back to the stone ages. He even divides the decline of the industrial phase into three sections:
The Olduvai slope (1979-1999) - energy per capita at 0.33%/year
The Olduvai slide (2000-2011 "right now") - begins ... with the escalating warfare in the Middle East... marks the all-time peak of global oil prodution
The Olduvai CLIFF (2012-2030) - begins ... in 2012 when an epidemic of permanent blackouts spread worldwide, first there are waves of brownouts and temporary blackouts, then finally the electric power networks themselves EXPIRE.
Now there have been some good criticism of the Olduvai theory and I don't know what to make of it one way or the other but it does loosely tie in with peak oil. What do you think will happen in the next 10 years? Will people act in panic and society starts to resemble Mad Max, or will alternative energy resources save our way of life. It has been a basic assumption that generations after us would be better off than we are now, that we would have neverending energy resources. I think that these "assumptions" is what is going to cost society dearly in long term future. Remember that we still have time lessen to effect of declining oil production.