As I’m sitting here contemplating the next few months, it seemed like a good time to climb up above the clouds and ponder a more distant future for a bit – the next 25 years seems a good place to start.
The world is changing rapidly around us – much faster than you probably think. If you closely follow the computer industry, More’s Law is something that is probably already familiar to you at some level. In very simplistic terms it predicts that the power of microprocessors will double roughly every two years. For the most part, More’s predictions have arguably turned out to be true. What many people don’t realize is that what More so eloquently predicted about the size of a transistor also applies to virtually all areas of science and technology to various degrees. In fact, I would postulate that in areas such as medicine, things are accelerating even more quickly. The point is that science and technology is advancing at an exponential rate that is both exciting and even a little frightening.
There are plenty of scary apocalyptic outcomes we could talk about but I genuinely believe human ingenuity will ultimately prevail — despite some of our irresponsible tendencies.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of areas of science and technology that I believe will fundamentally change the world over the next few decades. Below are 10 of the predictions peering back at me as I gaze into my crystal ball. Some are already nearly a reality but others are still much further away. All of them raise fascinating questions.
Without further adieu, here they are in no particular order:
Nano-sized biosensors – combined with advances in nanotechnology and medical science, nano-sized sensors will become part of mainstream medicine and everyday use. These miniaturized sensors will be ingested, injected or embedded in the body, providing real-time monitoring, measurement, and report thousands of data points related to your health and fitness. First used by healthcare providers, eventually the public consumer will be able to purchase and use these marvels of medicine to help catch and treat illnesses much earlier. This will have a profound impact on human longevity.
Embedded Wearables – wearable technology that can be embedded and directly integrated with the human body will become commercially available. From embedded wireless transceivers used for communicating to augmented vision, these devices will usher in a new era of technologically augmented humans. Say hello to the rise of the cyborg!
Fusion Power – commercially viable fusion power will become a reality and will begin powering cities in some forward-looking nations. A lack of public understanding, legitimate concerns over safety, and government bureaucracy will stymie broader adoption for decades. However, in the end, fusion power will play a significant role feeding a world that is increasingly hungry for energy.
Extraterrestrial Mining – commercial mining opportunities in space will bring about a new gold rush, as the costs of space transportation and automated mining solutions begin to drive big profits. Similar to the colonial periods of our early history, this will mark a turning point where civilian space exploration and the eventual colonization of our solar system take serious root. I’m getting my pickaxe and spacesuit ready!
Human Longevity – major advances in medicine that significantly reduce or reverse the effects of aging will add a decade or more to the average human lifespan. This will be the beginning of enormous social and economic impacts that will dramatically reshape human history in the centuries to come. Time to go check the retirement plan!
3D Replicators – 3D printing technology will continue to evolve rapidly and will bring about a revolution in manufacturing, medicine, and many other industries. These devices will eventually be able to operate commercially on a molecular scale using a wide variety of materials, bringing about the first true replicators. Once again, science fiction becomes reality.
Everyday Artificial Intelligence – The use of Artificial Intelligence enabled systems in virtually every facet of life will become a reality. From intelligent software that increases the safety of passenger aircraft to better managing the appliances in our homes, AIs will become an embedded part of our day-to-day lives. What about self-aware AI you might ask? While the philosophers and scientists are debating what “self-aware” even means, it will eventually sneak up on us but perhaps not in the next 25 years.
High-Speed Global Internet – high-speed global Internet access will finally become accessible to every recess of the world. It will happen sooner rather than later if companies like Google, SpaceX, and others continue to have a say. This will drive even larger shifts in social awareness, culture, and the spread of ideas around the world. Enormous new markets will become accessible, driving new economies, global benefits, and unfortunately more cyber crime.
Commercial Space Habitats – while a human colony in orbit, Mars, or even the moon is probably still many decades in the future, we will see the establishment of a permanent civilian space station and possibly a lunar outpost. These research stations will provide companies with the ability to conduct microgravity research as well as develop the technology that will eventually be needed for a permanent human settlement.
Revolution of Human Machine Interfaces – advances in Artificial Intelligence will revolutionize how humans interact and interface with computers (or even their toaster). Mentally operated devices combined with intelligent voice recognition will gradually see keyboards, mice, and other manual input devices collecting dust and used primarily as a backup.
There is enormous room for debate over the reality of all of the above predictions, the required technology, and what science says is possible. So I encourage you to comment below, share your ideas and your own predictions.
We all have a crystal ball, so go dust yours off and tell me what you see!
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