It's hard to predict the future and get everything right. For all we know an asteroid could strike the planet and destroy us all on the spot. For some reason it's easier for me to imagine a futuristic world of tomorrow, much different from our own, than it is to swallow the harsh truth of the actual reality we currently live in. In part I feel we are living in a sort of dark age. We are governed in this age by the opinions of loud speaking know-it-all types rather than by logic and rational thought. I call myself a futurist in part because I spend a lot of time thinking about how technology and science could eventually solve all the terrible afflictions we currently face as a species and they are what I believe will pull us out of the modern dark age.
The following are 28 predictions I wrote in a stream of consciousness exercise around three months ago. I just suddenly felt like writing stuff down. Some of it would make for great science-fiction films and some I do hope to turn into short stories over the next few years. But all are things I truly think are possible. They are in a sort of order of events, from soon to distant. Strangely enough, I believe most of these would be possible within this century and many within our lifetimes. Keep in mind that the last century saw the rise of automobiles, airplanes, space travel, nuclear weapons/energy, the personal computer, video games, and mobile phones. A lot can happen in a hundred years.
Some of the things below have already started to happen since I wrote them down, so I am glad to be posting my list online. I may do this again from time to time. Might be fun to go back and see how many I got right.
- Your personal devices will not only be able to update their software, but will update their hardware as well. Gadgets of the future will be made of self organizing substances that can change the shape of an item, without you having to buy another one. You may still need to pay for the updates, but this will reduce consumer waste and be better for the environment.
- We will create machines to remove carbon dioxide and other impurities from the air and create oxygen. Eventually, huge man-made trees will be constructed that are the size of skyscrapers and wave in the wind to clean the air in a natural way. Beyond that, nanotechnology will allow us to purify the air more efficiently.
- All jobs will become information based, sooner than most people can imagine. We won't manufacture cars, toys, clothes, jewelry, or anything physical in factories any more. Developers will design things in a computer and the local dealer or end consumer will simply print them at home. Imagine buying a new hat online and printing it immediately, so you can wear it out tonight. Further in the future you will be able to try the hat on before you buy it, using augmented reality.
- Words and phrases will get shorter and shorter in popular culture, until eventually it becomes cool again to speak in full and complete sentences. "Mtn Dew" or the band "MGMT" (Management) are examples of shortened words in use today. The silly abbreviations (LOL) used in chats and texts aren't helping matters. (It may get worse, leading to conversations that more resemble the reading of genetic code or musical notes than talking). At a certain point people will be so sick of it that we may go in the opposite direction toward a more old-fashioned Shakespearean-like dialect, or perhaps revive a dead language like Latin, just to be hip.
- After a global economic meltdown, most of the world's currencies will be consolidated into an intangible "credits" system. Monetary debts between countries will be settled through a redistribution of their assets (natural resources) so the system can "start fresh" under the new paradigm.
- Google will eventually index every atom on the planet. Facebook (or something similar) will have a profile for every human. And Amazon (or similar) will facilitate the sale of everything.
- We will change the appearance of a building using nanotechnology clouds that are a kind of physical holograms. They can be animated or remain stagnant like old-fashioned buildings. Change your house to look like a big pineapple, or make it a gingerbread house for Christmas time. Companies will sell preset designs to be downloaded like the apps of today. Commercial buildings will show large holographic advertisements or company related media on their exterior walls.
- Televisions will use the instant animation of actual matter in a room of your home. Imagine pixels as real objects, organizing instantly to become any three-dimensional image, including entire people, places, and even special effects. When not in use, the television matter takes the form of furniture that you can actually sit on and enjoy. -- Playing a video game not only puts your whole body into the action, but you really have to walk, run, jump and move around tangible matter shaping quickly to create a treadmill effect. Everything is created using forced perspective based namely on the size of the room and the amount of the television's pixel matter available.
- Some people will have tails. At first they may be robotic wearables that swish and sway randomly, then as permanent robotic attachments controlled by your mind, then biological (altering the DNA of a grown adult,) and finally through augmented and virtual reality. It will become as commonplace as tattoos or piercings in the future.
- The most beautiful music ever created will be from an autonomous non-biological machine. It will be compared to Mozart or Beethoven, and create a renewed appreciation for the complexity and humanity of music. We will know it when it happens, because we will be speechless when we hear it.
- Augmented reality will allow us to change our appearance, the appearance of the world around us, and even the way we perceive others. For example, I can choose to live my life as a medieval dragon, and you may choose to live your life in a Hello Kitty world. To me you look like a dragon, and to you I look like a cute little penguin. Our experiences are still shared, yet we have completely different versions of the same events, seamlessly blended together.
- Strong AI pulling from the wealth of human knowledge and individual medical data on the internet should solve most of our medical mysteries within a decade or two. Life expectancy will grow exponentially from that point on, eventually eliminating natural death in developed parts of the world forever.
- Marriages will often be scheduled ahead of time, with a built-in end date. Negotiations would be available for both parties to extend or end their marriage early, but often the schedule will be followed exactly. Strong AI will predict for you the outcome before you tie the knot. Divorce will be virtually eliminated and people will usually be dissuaded from entering into terrible marriages altogether.
- Nearly all human reproduction will move into the lab, requiring only a DNA sample from each of the two (or more) parents. People will argue that there are too many risks involved in doing it the old fashioned way. Human reproductive systems may start to degrade over time due to environmental conditions, leaving reproduction only for the people wealthy enough to afford it.
- Movies will be replaced by a realistic dream-like immersive experience. You will download an "experience" created by a director/software engineer that allows you to experience a story as a character in it. It will have the ability to override some or all of your senses. There will be a vast array of simulations to choose from and settings to tailor your experience. You can choose a low level recreation which would be similar to watching a movie of today. In a low level experience you can watch the story unfold, you can look around in all directions, and the story may adapt to fit your mood or personal tastes, but when someone is kicked in the face, you're not going to feel it. -- On the other extreme you can load a more powerful simulation that can create the sense that you really are another person, or even a different species. Instead of a storyline, you can choose a free-play mode as the entity you chose, exploring a well conceived world before you. If you're really brave, or want a good vacation from your normal life, you can choose to override the instincts and memory of your real self and replace them with the (simulated) thoughts of an animal. "Play the bald eagle soaring program, it is amazing!" your friend may say. After it's over, you will remember it all, but while it is happening, you will not remember your old self. It will all be an illusion of course, but it will feel real and possibly leave an impact on your life, the same way a good movie can today.
- We will take the way a computer learns and adapt it to our own learning. We will download the knowledge of anything instantly to our brain (much like in The Matrix, "I know Kung Fu"). But we must first enhance the processing power of the brain. Public schools may become more about philosophy and art than book learning and test taking. (The poor will not have similar opportunities, and will mostly be ignored by the education system of the future.)
- Computers (and/or our enhanced brains) will be so good at predicting patterns, that most of life will be lived years in advance, caching predetermined responses for nearly all plausible scenarios. "Hmmm, what do I feel like for dinner, four years from tonight?"
- Crime will not be eliminated but may look more like entertainment in the future. By that time most actual crimes could be stopped using strong AI and sensors/cameras throughout the world. However, due to the anti pre-crime laws of the future, criminals will be allowed to actually commit the crimes before they are arrested. We will be able to watch these events live or replay them later. We may enjoy them like we watch videos on YouTube today.
- The way we access the internet will move completely away from anything visual. Screens will be replaced by glasses, then contact lenses, but ultimately our technology will merge with the human brain, allowing us to connect to the web through our thoughts. You could instant message with your best friend nearly telepathically, or enter a chatroom with your friends from all over the world, right in your head. Instead of searching for a fact on Google or looking up an actor on IMDB, you just know it already.
- The way we shop for food will change dramatically. When you pick up an item at the grocery store, you will know everything about the item using the internet (through a barcode reader on your smartphone, enhanced eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye implants, etc). You will know where that item came from, who handled it, what ingredients are in, and how those ingredients will affect you using different variables like your current weight, height, blood type, genetic risk factors, local environmental factors, etc. It will be a true informed decision, and it will change the supply/demand construct profoundly.
- Several "Noah's Ark" programs will be started to maintain complex life in the universe. Many scientists will conclude that we have the most complex life in our universe right here on our planet, and that we should preserve it at all costs. DNA bombs will be sent to distant planets, moons, and asteroids to hopefully spark new life. Other more straightforward programs will keep DNA samples (or digitized genetic data) on satellites orbiting the earth, in the case of a sudden planetary disaster. Later, DNA may be sent through tiny wormholes to other universes.
- As plants and animals go extinct to an increasing degree, we will manufacture representations or recreations that are convincing enough that we will not be affected by it emotionally. This will begin with genetically altered foods to appear as their near extinct cousins, and will continue as we move into augmented and virtual reality, where any animals (real or imagined) can still roam wild. Is a digital tree the same as a real tree? It is if you live in a virtual world.
- Continuing into the future, more people will look at the poor as being an entirely different species, as they cannot afford to integrate technology with their biology. Nature preserves will eventually be set up to protect the un-enhanced humans and keep the species alive for as long as possible.
- With the internet in our brains coupled with pattern recognition skills a million times more powerful than the traditional human brain, every single decision we make in the future will be done with great precision and deep thought, yet with little to no effort. Even trivial things will be weighed with the processing power of thousands of Einsteins.
- Lying will disappear. It will be impossible to keep the truth hidden if everyone is connected together and sharing all data (thoughts) in real time. This will be a gradual process, but it's already getting harder to lie or keep an affair hidden because of today's technologies.
- Over time humankind will become one thinking and interconnected machine. There will be no more "you" or "me", only us. If I hurt you, I experience your pain instantly, and as much as you, so I will refrain from hurting us.
- The collective goal of the human race may become stringently focused on developing the technology to upload our own consciousness to the computer; to essentially live forever. We may end up being able to duplicate our physical brain structures using a computer simulation. We would then have the analog version of ourselves in real life, and the new virtual copy in the machine. Eventually all human life will exist within the machine. Reproduction will be done by copying files or merging documents.
- Mankind will eventually explore all of the universe, but traveling as data rather than physical beings. Just as the first humans spread from Africa to eventually live on every continent on Earth, we will spread to every corner of the cosmos. Humanity will conceivably find a way to escape into other universes outside of our own, to colonize their matter as well.
Let me know what you think. Have any predictions of your own?