It's human nature to want to know what's coming. As far back as one can look in history, humans have tried to predict everything from the weather and rise and fall of tides to, in more recent times, stock performance and who will reign as champion in a sporting event. Just as our knowledge of the immediate past is more certain, science can give us more accurate predictions for the immediate future.
The next decade promises a pace and scope of innovation that is unrivaled, not only in our time, but any time. The significance of the role that innovation will play cannot be overstated, as lives are saved, people are fed, quality of life is enhanced and our environment is improved for future generations. Technological innovation is proving to be the key to dealing with the many social and environmental challenges the world faces. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/ risk ratios, better returns, greater upside than now.
Methods for harvesting, storing and converting solar energy are so advanced and efficient that it could soon become the primary source of energy on our planet. Food shortages and price fluctuations are now not as big an issue as they previously were, with advancements in lighting technologies and imaging techniques, coupled with genetic crop modification, providing an environment ripe for successful indoor crop growth and detecting diseased foods. Getting from point A to point B will be significantly different in 2025 from how it happens today. Cars and airplanes will still exist, but they will be smarter, battery-powered, able to travel longer distances and more light-weight. Electric air transportation could soon take off with light-weight aerospace engineering coupled with new battery technologies powering vehicle transportation.
There is yet so much to be seen. All across the world, technical advances are being made such as never seen before. In the coming years, we can expect anything from a robotic moon base to controlling devices via microchips implanted in our brain. Cars will drive themselves. Biofuels will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels. All new screens will be ultra-thin OLEDs. Researchers are working on a computer that will have the processing power of the human brain and will cost just $1,000. There is also work going on to create a synthetic brain that functions like the real deal.
Today experts study global trends and make projections about the future. While many of their forecasts have come true, not all have been pleasant. Global trends like tariff and immigration wars, GDPR-like sovereignty movements are expected to converge, leading to more decentralized and miniaturized infrastructure. Escalating cyber wars will expedite the virtualization of security perimeters as cyber becomes the next battlefront of geopolitical warfare. The increasing sophistication of AI will shift technology from automation to autonomic operations, but AI itself is expected to remain an unsolved problem.
Prerequisite to any sustainable vision of the future is the need to change our relationship with technology. Indications of this change can already be seen. Organizations are monitoring their employees' interaction with technology in order to design more sophisticated systems to help us engage without distraction or fatigue. Another approach has been to reduce the complexity of communications interfaces, leaving us with only what we truly need. Holiday resorts and health retreats that advertise a lack of Wi-Fi are other possible trends. The rise of applications such as Concentrate and the Web Suicide Machine, which restrict or destroy your connection to digital distractions like social networks, can potentially help achieve a better balance; programming these to match the rise and fall of your own creative cycle could be hugely beneficial. If consumption and improved connectivity can be framed as an active choice rather than an inevitable burden, we may indeed be able to master technology rather than fall victim to it.
It remains to be seen how these trends will evolve over the next few years (and how close we came to predicting the future). Technology brings people together and develops our minds, and as long as we continue to use it wisely the future of humanity will surely be a good one. But one thing is certain – we're in for a massive shift in the way we think about and experience the technology around us.