The People of 2050

If you were to stop by my house and ask to use the wifi, I would point you to the #Peopleof2050 network. The password is simple: a set of two emoji representing things I like to do.

And if you asked why, I’d tell you that I have a prediction:

By the year 2050, humans will communicate exclusively using emoji.

This usually earns me one of two responses: 🤣 or 😑.

From telegrams to telephones, from snail mail to email, each innovation in the way humans connect has made it possible to convey information more quickly, more cheaply, and with greater clarity.

We’ve standardized processes globally. Morse code, postal indices, dialing prefixes, radio frequencies, TCP protocols, and cryptographic algorithms all ensure our messages make it to the receiver.

Yet for all this innovation in means of communication, the single greatest limitation to human connection is in the content itself: the 6900+ languages that we communicate those messages with.

Attempts have been made to bridge this gap over centuries, with one language often emerging as a global default, dubbed the lingua franca, after French, the first such modern standard. Yet this standard is anything but; it varies with economic and political trends, with the rise and fall of empires.

Esperanto was created in the late 1800s as a “second language for everyone,” and continues to be studied and spoken in limited circles. And some say AI will tackle the problem for us, with companies like Google building powerful systems for language-to-language translation.

But what if the continued evolution of faster, cheaper, higher clarity communication is right here, under our 👃?

In the face of technological advancement, linguists and historians debate the merits of syntax and grammar while waxing nostalgic about the days before language extinction and globalization. Meanwhile, billions of people a day 😆, 😍, and 😭 together, all around this beautiful 🌏.

And they do it because it works. Because 💔 is a feeling, 😖 is hard to explain, and 🍆 is 🍆, whether you call it an eggplant or an aubergine.

Research has shown that when humans look at emoji — like the “original” smiley face — our brains react in the same way as if we had seen a real human face.

Like most trends driven by technology, communication is changing ever more rapidly. Digital communication has only been commonplace for a couple decades, and the use of visual language like emoji has only spiked in the last five years.

So where do we evolve from here? The next step in fast, cheap, clear human communication is limited only by our imagination.

Perhaps emoji are just an early step in codifying complex concepts without words, priming us for a future where technology doesn’t involve keyboards or screens and our brains talk directly to each other.

So will we really communicate exclusively in emoji in 2050?

That would be absurd. It will definitely be gifs.

Because “brain freeze” just really doesn’t say the same thing.