This is an article I wrote in early 2013 for Urban Times, which is unfortunately not online anymore. So here it is, resurrected from its digital grave:
With the start of the New Year organisations often take the opportunity to publish outlooks on the next year(s).
Now some take this extra serious and predict tech inventions even further into the future. BBC Future has released an info graphic on “Tomorrow’s world”, compiling the predictions of the world’s “thinkers, scientists and pundits”. A special treat here is, that they commissioned “the special bets department at British betting firm Ladbrokes to give […] their odds on each prediction coming true.” The odds really do the trick here, and arrange the predicted inventions and events somewhere between most likely and least likely. This helps to even classify events as far away in time as 150 years.
It stroke me immediately that I had seen this before. It must have been… yes, at the Beginning of 2012, already a year ago.
The trend forecasting firm Envisioning Tech had published an interactive map of emerging technologies until 2040. It is assorted into 11 technology categories, spanning from Artificial Intelligence to Geo Engineering.
What the Coming Years Hold in Store for Us
Researchers predict that nearly 75% of the world’s population will live in cities by the year 2050.
Envisioning Tech cites the UN with the world population reaching 9 billion by that time. What will humanity have achieved by then?
Interestingly, the BBC’s graphic features the following forecast: “The global population hits its highest ever point and then starts to decline.” The odds for this to happen are 1/4 according to the BBC.
The BBC’s map lists elements from Computing and robotics, Politics and business, Science and nature, Society and Technology.
Lets focus on Technology and Computing, to make it easier to compare.
‘Your computer has a sense of smell’ is a pretty likely prediction for 2017. Envision Tech’s technology outlook for the same year states “Augmented Reality — A life view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated, sensory input such as sound, video, meta data or graphics.” A write up in Mashable from June 2012 explains the principle advantages of AR for the retail industry. “Boards” in the category Ubicomp (ubiquitous computing) are predicted as “Meter-sized interactive displays serving a number of purposes: in the home, video screens and bulleting boards; in the office, whiteboards, bulletin boards or flip charts. A board might also serve as electronic book case from which one might download texts to a pad or tab.” This is very close to a Design Fiction film recently featured on Urban Times. Imagine you would see yourself (instead of a model) wearing that coat you looked at on Amazon.com, as you walk past a wall of high resolution advertising boards. Scary.
Envisioning Technology continues in 2018 with “Self-driving Vehicles” naming “avoiding accidents by eliminating driver error, increased roadway capacity” as main advantages. “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” find their way from military to civil use in 2022.
Interestingly the BBC’s graphic lists the same concept later pretty likely (odds are 3/1) in 2030 “Many commercial flights take place without pilots”. Here “Cars are now purely automated and driver-free” follows only later, in 2037.
“Machine translation” is “the use of computer software to translate text or speech from one natural language to another”. This concept could according to the interactive graphic of Envisioning Technology, in 2019 truly render language classes redundant.
2023 is the year when Venor Vinge’s vision of wearable computers finally becomes possible, with the concept of ‘Fabric-embedded screens”. Interestingly as we learn on Wikipedia, “because wearable computing affects society so profoundly, it is the central topic of the 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, ISTAS 2013”. It seems to be not so far away after all.
A fascinating concept indeed would be “Swarm robotics”, predicted for 2030 in Envisioning Technology’s graphic.
The BBC features another concept, although quite unlikely: “You can upload the contents of your brain to a computer” in 2024, and then, in 2034 you can then “log on directly from your brain” — handy indeed!
This all is getting pretty unimaginable now — so lets jump even further:
According to Envisioning Technology forecasts the first Mars Mission will take place in 2034. The BBC’s experts predict that the first base on Mars will be established in 2059.