Trying to predict the future can be risky. Get it wrong, then your predictions come across as silly and far-fetched. Some good examples of this include meals in pill form, flying cars (we’re getting close though), and teleportation.
Get it right, though, and you could be seen as an innovator, ahead of your time. A good example is Arthur C. Clarke, who, in his 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, accurately predicted the concept of the computer tablet with the fictional News Pad device.
With that being said, even if not all predictions are correct, there’s still value in fantasizing about the future. In fact, research has shown that thinking about the future helps us lead more generous and fulfilled lives, as it gives people something to look forward to and a sense of meaning.
This logic also applies to technology. It’s important to think about where technology is today, how it will change in the future, what it will replace, and the kind of role it will play in helping us live our lives. Why? Because it enables us to focus our efforts on making technological advancements that will help shape a better tomorrow.
Here are just some of the most promising technological advancements on the horizon.
1. Self-driving cars
Self-driving cars have the potential to take us where we need to go, without us ever having to set foot on the pedal.
We’re not quite there yet. But the gap between manual and automatic driving is closing. You can buy cars that automatically brake when they predict a collision, have built-in cameras that monitor the driver for signs of fatigue, drowsiness or distractions, and keep you in the center of a highway lane.
More promisingly, virtually all the big players – Tesla, Waymo, Ford, General Motors, and more – are investing in the technology, which means the rise in competition is going to push the technology forward quicker than ever before.
How long until autonomous cars become standard? It’s hard to say, but most companies think full automation is possible within the next 10 years. Of course, this depends on advancements in technology, government regulations, safety and ethical concerns, and public perception.
2. Greater involvement from robots
These days, robots can only perform a certain amount of tasks. They don’t really look or talk convincingly enough to pass off as human. And they tend to fall over a lot.
Things could be different in the future. According to Blake Hannaford, a professor of Robots, Controls and Biosystems at the University of Washington, he says robots could ‘free up people’s brains’ to perform other, more complex tasks.
If true, you can expect to see more jobs become automated (where employees help the robot perform a specific task, or work together with one), or simply disappear. This could mean up to 120 million workers will need retraining in order to be employable again.
On the plus side, we could use robots to perform tasks that are too dangerous for us. For instance, instead of putting the lives of rescue workers at risk, they can instead dispatch all-terrains robot to collect and return people back to safety.
3. Personalized advertising
Companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook already collect your private data to personalize the shopping experience.
Expect this personalization to increase in the next 50 years. Thanks to advancements in predictive AI, technology will get better at knowing what you want. By analyzing your viewing and purchase history, providers will use this data to predict your habits, and then anticipate your next move by sending you product recommendations.
VR will also play a significant role in advertising. With the advent of VR web browsing, companies will soon be able to provide a more genuine, authentic, and engaging experience in the digital world.
Imagine browsing Ikea and then seeing what that new couch will look like in your living room before you buy it.
4. Beyond 5G
5G is just around the corner. But researchers are already exploring the possibilities of 6G and beyond.
While 5G aims to deliver increased speed, low latency, and more seamless connectivity between devices – i.e. self-driving cars and drones –, experts are already quick to point out its limitations.
For starters, 5G frequency waves can only travel a short distance, and cannot penetrate buildings, trees, power lines, or other structures. This severely limits the potential reach of the 5G network. Secondly, 5G drains the batteries on phones and other devices faster than 4G.
According to experts, the next generation, 6G, will likely be powerful enough to give rise to emerging technologies like tactile internet, holographic communications, and machine-type communications.
Furthermore, there are predictions that the likes of 6G and beyond could deliver incredible speeds of 1TB per second, or 8,000 gigabits per second. As a reference, that means you could download around 142 hours’ worth of Netflix movies in just one second.
5. Body implants
Wearable devices like smart watches, wristbands, and ear buds are both highly practical and in some cases fashionable. In the near-future, you can expect to see a transition to more ‘penetrative’ technology, such as microchipping, augmentations, and various other implants.
Sound far-fetched? You can already get a microchip in your arm to perform cashless payments in stores and at ATM’s. Famous model Viktoria Modesta underwent leg amputation at the age of 20 to have her damaged leg replaced with an artificial one. She says the leg not only frees her of pain and discomfort and allows her to live a normal life, but she also uses the prosthetic leg as a memorable fashion statement.
With examples like this, we can expect to see a wider adoption of prosthetics in the future, and a wider variety of designs, colors, and concepts to better suit one’s taste, style, and accessibility needs. It could open up a whole new untapped market in the beauty and sports industry and beyond.
What Will the Next 50 Years Look Like?
Technology moves at an incredibly fast pace. What is popular today, may be obsolete in just a few years. What was once thought impossible, could become standard in less than a decade.
For this reason, it’s hard to know whether these predictions would come true. But it’ll be interesting to see how these ideas manifest in the years to come. For the time being, we can monitor their progress, watch the market trends, and listen to the experts who are involved in their development.
This way, we can make more accurate and definite predictions, and then invest in technologies that are both commercial viable and beneficial for the rest of the world.