What does a future with no progress look like?

Let's say in 10 years Moore's law fails and computers hit a wall in their evolution. (because of electron tunneling or something similar). We can still write better code and stack more CPUs but they aren't getting smaller. Similarly, medical tech stalls; we can cure a lot of stuff, but 80 or so years is your life expectancy.

What does that future look like, say, a century down the road?

Most current SciFi has the idea that if you add a few years to a problem it will just go away. I think the idea of limits is more compelling so let's limit it.

What happens to the other technologies when medicine and computers no longer progress? Particularly in space exploration.

• With no progress...I'd say it would look basically the same... – CHEESE Jan 24 '16 at 22:08
• Same as it will look even if our technological progress continues... Too many people, not enough water and food, lots of bloodshed among the hungry. – Henry Taylor Jan 24 '16 at 22:25
• Asking "what does that world look like?" is awfully broad. Can you perhaps narrow this down to focus on some aspect (technology, medicine, travel, ...)? That would seem to be a lot more answerable. – a CVn Jan 25 '16 at 12:38
• I think you are right. I am mostly interested in space exploration/colonization in this case. I am edited the Question accordingly. – King-Ink Jan 25 '16 at 17:18

The bottleneck which limits our spacefaring capabilities is not computing power. The limiting aspects are our knowledge of physics and our economy.

Economy

Theoretically we could fly to Mars today. The technology exists for decades. The problem is that we are just too cheap to launch all the fuel, consumables and radiation-shielding into space which would be needed to do it. There are dozens of viable concepts for Mars missions. But they all have the same flaw: They cost more than we are willing to fund.

To bring Mars colonization forward we would either need to drastically improve our economical output or drastically increase the amount of it we are willing to invest into space exploration.

Physics

Interstellar travel is still out of our reach because according to our current understanding of physics faster-than-light travel is simply impossible. Yes, there are some quantum-mechanical phenomenons which could be described as FTL from certain points of view. Yes, there are theoretical thought-experiments like the Alcubierre drive which require hypothetical forms exotic matter which have not yet been proved to be even possible to exist. But none of these are anywhere close to even have hope to ever have practical applications in form of FTL travel. Faster computers would help, but what physics really need is again funding.

• Yeah exactly rocket science is high school physics with a huge budget. – King-Ink Jan 26 '16 at 18:25

It is common in Western cultures to associate all life with progress. If you're not moving forward, you're moving backwards! However, that is not a universally held belief. For example, Eastern cultures typically extol the virtues of finding one's place in the universe, and living in harmony with it.

Consider what it means if there is no progress, from an information theoretic perspective. To achieve this state, you actually need to achieve a balance. Entropy is constantly destroying the valuable information that you have collected, forcing you to expend energy to rediscovery it. A lack of progress is not a dead stop, it is a live stop, constantly buffeting and shifting. Cultures which wish to continue existing will seek to become more efficient. Efficiency ensures the core of the culture continues to persist, and also theoretically frees up energy for more progress, if progress ever makes a comeback. You will see more inward progress, refinement of the self. Poetry and the arts will likely become essential, because it can be very difficult to refine the core of one's being using other tools.

Some cultures will turn passive and weak, failing to protect their information enough to keep the balance. Other cultures will turn violent, trying to grab resources to sustain their unsustainable existence. However, if we are to believe humanity truly will inherit the stars, there will be some class of cultures that can fit inbetween those extremes, and coexist with the universe for any amount of time.

A student said to the master: "You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?" The master replied, "It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war."

Much likely the same as it does now. Its worth considering that that fundamentally revolutionary technologies are relatively rare - Many things are merely enhancements and clever usage and synthesis rather than something that's ground breakingly new.

So, technology gets refined. There's a lot we can still do with existing technology being refined. We don't have any new magic materials? We try doing more with what we have, and at worst, build things bigger and uglier. People die at 80-90? Plenty more people are on the way. Computers stagnate? We have computers that people 30 years ago would likely have given their left body part of choice for.

In terms of history, I suspect the last 2-3 centuries has been an outlier rather than a trend in terms of rapid technical growth. Eventually things will settle down at an equilibrium, or we (or our children's children) would find themselves in a overcrowded trash heap and die.

More likely though, we do more with what we have - modern PCs are ridiculously powerful and we just adapt society to technological stagnation.

That said, this might actually be a good thing - we might go to a repair/refurbish culture, since a new machine is no better than an old one. You'd likely have no obsolence, with machines getting repaired rather than replaced. Basically things get run till they fall apart. Then stuck back together. Would mess with modern consumption patterns but meh.

Well, as you may know, human population is growing exponentially:

In 100 years or so, our population will be around 11 billion. It would become increasingly difficult to provide the essentials to a growing population if the methods to do so stay the same, but it could be done. However, the world population estimate in 2100 assumes technological growth, so it would most likely be much less than than 11 billion.

We would be able to sustain for the first one hundred years most likely. However, as time progresses, more opportunities open up to hurt the human race (global warming, pollution, solar flares...). In short, one hundred years would be sustainable, but the longer the more likely a major world catastrophe.

• Annual growth is declining. – King-Ink Jan 24 '16 at 23:30
• Either way, my answer still stands. – AMACB Jan 24 '16 at 23:31
• In general maybe but not mathematically if growth is declining then it is not exponential. Why would computer and health tech stagnation cause over-crowding or solve it? – King-Ink Jan 24 '16 at 23:38
• So, in short, technology must continue to grow exponentially, otherwise THE big catastrophe happens. That is a little bit scary... – Hohmannfan Jan 26 '16 at 17:35
• Essentially: there are other problems such as pollution and possible solar flares... – AMACB Jan 26 '16 at 18:14

There are tons of other areas where science is thundering ahead not just Computer science and medicine. And there may be great inventions in those fields that we don’t see coming, Einstein was famously told not to go into physics because all the great discoveries had already been made in that field.

For space the most interesting fields of research are in material science.
As the techniques for making longer and purer carbon nanotube chains are perfected to possibility of constructing a space elevator can become a reality. That would reduce the cost of space travel by a factor of a hundred or a thousand and make thousands of commercial applications of space travel viable. Another area of growth could be the refinements in oxygen based batteries which could be 2 x3 times more power dense than our current lithium ion batteries.

PS the fields of distributed and parallel computing are actively building ways to continue to build more powerful computing systems without using faster chips.