It looks likely that mankind will never spread far among the stars, as has been commonly visualized in science fiction, but rather will turn inwards, towards a much more friendly and accessible Universe of our own making: virtual reality.
The real Universe is a dangerous and expensive place in which to dwell. Spreading ourselves out too far among its wilds would only make us more vulnerable to calamity and be inefficient use of what resources and capabilities we possess.
The better alternative will become ever more clear as the centuries pass: Use the resources of this and neighboring solar systems to ensconce ourselves into physical environments safe from any hazards likely to threaten us externally, and transform our culture from one of a mostly physical nature to one decidedly non-physical.
There will be many advantages to this strategy, and few drawbacks.
But our shiny new Universe will differ in many ways from our old one.
For one thing, there will be no dearth of space, or 'real estate', in the new universe. For making the world bigger will be little more difficult than setting the Preferences Control Panels on our Macs are today.
When you consider the resources several solar systems worth of mass and energy will provide us, and the efficiency of the forms humanity will occupy by that time, there will be essentially no limit on how large this new artificial universe may appear to its inhabitants. It could easily dwarf the physical universe, if desired (though it is unimaginable that its inhabitants would ever truly need such a volume). And most certainly will be immensely larger that that tiny portion of the real universe which we could possibly reach and exploit physically within the same time frame.
Space will not be the only dimension conquered in our new universe; Time itself will be far more amenable to our wishes as well.
How so? By the fact that we will be free of a great many of the constraints of physical reality, within our newly created realm.
By this time we will be entities not of flesh and blood, but memetic constructions, energized by photons of light; essentially enormously complex computer programs running within vast and wondrous structures floating free in space, well protected from every conceiveable threat both within and without.
With metabolisms and nervous systems based on photons (or still more elementary particles), and an entire universe consisting more of thought than physical being, we will perceive time on an entirely different scale.
What would seem a single day to flesh and blood beings might seem weeks or months to a virtual personality. The speed in their thoughts, perceptions, and actions will be that radically different from physical intelligences.
Huge as our physical residences may appear to any outside realtime visitors, these physical shells will be as nothing compared to the virtual realms maintained within.
One especially curious feature of our next universe could be its 'inside-out' orientation, as it might be perceived by a physical being like ourselves: present day human beings. I say inside-out because the prime gateway to the outside physical environment (if we choose to have one at all) will most naturally be located at the very center of the new universe-- for our new universe might be built from the center outwards, and that center must necessarily be the interface between the physical and virtual worlds.
If we follow a pattern of migration in the new universe similar to that of the previous one, the 'oldest' regions of our new Reality will tend to be near the center, or gateway, and the 'newest' farther out, towards the perimeter.
Of course, there's no guarantee such software beings will migrate in such a manner, or that the nature of virtual space would encourage them to do so.
There's also no clear reason for the next universe to be spherical in shape, as depicted here. It could just as easily resemble a camel bearing an exotic Arabian saddle, as anything else. And the shape could change spontaneously to accommodate internal changes.
These possibilities for utterly random migration throughout the void, and unpredictable overall shape of the region, plus the easy agelessness of any terrain or artifacts therein (since time, aging, and weathering will all be options rather than unbreakable physical laws), and unimaginably vast scale in toto, could all make for at least one weird consequence:
At some distant future time, the inhabitants could discover themselves unable to locate the original center of their universe. In other words, future generations could literally forget where the escape hatch to physical reality is located.
Of course, who needs reality when you have something better?
You can find out by clicking here...(and also send FEEDBACK)