An article in the Huffington Post interviews 7 futurists about what to expect in the next 10 years. So, what is a futurist? Pretty much what it sounds like. It is a person who spends his or her time thinking about the future, what the likely changes are based on current trends and making predictions.
Should we believe them? Well, the track record the past of the predictions coming true haven’t been great and of course it gets worse the further out in time you go. One of the key problems is that you can trend things out but you can’t predict paradigm shifts where something is invented or discovered that rapidly speeds up or changes development in one area or another. One minor example that didn’t even need a discovery or invention is gay marriage. Acceptance seemed to reach a tipping point in society and the change in society’s viewpoint on the subject changed far faster than anyone predicted. It also happened faster than most if not all social changes had in the past.
The first person mentioned in the article is Dr. Michio Kaku. You have probably seen him on TV on various science shows. He is a professor of theoretical physics. He thinks that in only 10 years we will have at least the beginnings of a Brainnet. Apparently scientists are already connecting the brain to computers and decoding some of our thoughts and memories. Dr. Kaku thinks that we will be able to transmit thoughts, memories, feelings and emotions aroung the world. Historians will be able to record a much broader history based on this and he predicted that just as teenagers now post selfies from their prom, that they will be posting memories and feelings from the prom in the future.
Next up is Dr. Ray Kurzweil. He was key in inventing scanners and reading machines for the blind and many other inventions. He is now working at Google. Part of his prediction focuses on 3D printing. He thinks it will have advanced so far that we will print out our clothing and will download the latest clothing designs from top designers and print them out. More amazingly he predicts that we will be able to print out organs or print out repairs to organs. I know people are hard at work on this but thought it was further away than 10 years. He also forecasts that we will spend more time in virtual realities reacting with avatars. Some of these avatars might even be our deceased relatives. They will be recreated through emails, letters etc. He feels that they will be realistic enough but not quite right to be kind of creepy. He feels that by 2030, with the ability to record more aspects of the brain as Dr. Kaku was talking about above, that the avatars will feel realistic.
Dr. Anne Lise-Kjaer founded a forecasting agency in London. She says that the World Health Organization believes the 75% of all deaths in 2020 will be from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart problems. She sees medical technology being able to track people better on a day to day basis and keep them healthier and also diagnose problems sooner so corrective action can be taken before it has progressed very far. She is particularly heartened by apps that can help with mental diseases, not just physical diseases.
Dr. James Canton, head of Institute for Global Futures thinks that the internet of things will continue to expand and by 2025 most of the world will be amazingly connected. No big surprise there. But he also predicts that artificial intelligence will become as smart or smarter than humans. He says humans and robots will merge to treat patients around the world. My question is, why just in medicine? Wouldn’t this happen in all occupations? He also sees dramatic advances in personalized medicine and personal genetic medicine. Finally he sees a next generation Bitcoin that will replace paper money and coins.
Jason Silva – You know him as the host of National Geographic’s Brain Games. He feels that the on-demand model used in manufacturing will move into many or all aspects of life. There will be self driving cars so most people won’t own cars, they will just summon one with their smart phone when they need one.
Dr. Amy Zalman, head of the World Future Society, is intrigued by the possibilities from what we are learning about the brain and how people function. One example is that a study recently found that heads of companies had less stress than people working in the company. An Israeli study found that judges gave out heavier sentences before lunch when they were hungry. She hopes that as we discover things like this that we can make the world a fairer place and that we can have business and government function more effectively and fairly.
Mark Stevenson is the author of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future. He has a different take in that he likes the technologies but feels that our present institutions are holding back change. He feels we need to figure out new ways to organize ourselves. So he is looking at things like the movement in India for open source drug discovery.