The Future: The Next 5 Years
The world’s first zero-carbon, sustainable city in the form of Masdar City will be initially completed just outside of Abu Dhabi. The city will derive power solely from solar and other renewable resources, offer homes to more than 50,000 people.
Personal 3D Printing is currently reserved for those with extremely large bank accounts or equally large understandings about 3D printing; but by 2015, printing in three dimensions (essentially personal manufacturing) will become a common practice in the household and in schools. Current affordable solutions include do-it-yourself kits like Makerbot, but in four years it should look more like a compact version of the uPrint. Eventually, this technology could lead to technologies such as nanofabricators and matter replicators — but not for at least a few decades.
Space tourism will hit the mainstream. Well, sorta. Right now it costs around $20-30 million to blast off and chill at the International Space Station, or $200,000 for a sub-orbital spaceflight from Virgin Galactic. But the market is growing faster than most realize: within five years, companies like Space Island, Galactic Suite, and Orbital Technologies may realize their company missions, with space tourism packages ranging from $10,000 up-and-backs to $1 million five-night stays in an orbiting hotel suite.
The sunscreen pill will hit the market, protecting the skin as well as the eyes from UV rays. By reverse-engineering the way coral reefs shield themselves from the sun, scientists are very optimistic about the possibility, much to the dismay of sunscreen producers everywhere.
Read more: 13 future car technologies for your road trip in 2020
A Woolly Mammoth will be reborn among other now-extinct animals in 2016, assuming all goes according to the current plans of Japan’s Riken Center for Developmental Biology. If they can pull it off, expect long lines at Animal Kingdom.
Portable laser pens that can seal wounds – Imagine you’re hiking fifty miles from the nearest human, and you slip, busting your knee wide open, gushing blood. Today, you might stand a chance of some serious blood loss — but in less than a decade you might be carrying a portable laser pen capable of sealing you back up Wolverine-style.
Light Peak technology, a method of super-high-data-transfer, will enable more than 100 Gigabytes per second — and eventually whole terabytes per second — within everyday consumer electronics. This enables the copying of entire hard drives in a matter of seconds, although by this time the standard hard drive is probably well over 2TB.
Insect-sized robot spies aren’t far off from becoming a reality, with the military currently hard at work to bring Mission Impossible-sized tech to the espionage playground. Secret weapon: immune to bug spray.
The average PC has the power of the human brain. According to Ray Kurzweil, who has a better grip on the future than probably anyone else, the Law of Accelerating Returns will usher in an exponentially greater amount of computing power than every before.
The Web Within Us. Image by Anna Lena Schiller.
Web 3.0 – What will it look like? Is it already here? It’s always difficult to tell just where we stand in terms of technological chronology. But if we assume that Web 1.0 was based only upon hyperlinks, and Web 2.0 is based on the social, person-to-person sharing of links, then Web 3.0 uses a combination of socially-sourced information, curated by a highly refined, personalizable algorithm (“they” call it the Semantic Web). We’re already in the midst of it, but it’s still far from its full potential.
Energy from a fusion reactor has always seemed just out of reach. It’s essentially the process of producing infinite energy from a tiny amount of resources, but it requires a machine that can contain a reaction that occurs at over 125,000,000 degrees. However, right now in southern France, the fusion reactor of the future is being built to power up by 2019, with estimates of full-scale fusion power available by 2030.
Crash-proof cars have been promised by Volvo, to be made possible by using radar, sonar, and driver alert systems. Considering automobile crashes kill over 30,000 people in the U.S. per year, this is definitely a welcome technology.
So, what should we expect after 2020?
Well, 10 years ago, what did you expect to see now? Did you expect the word “Friend” to become a verb? Did you expect your twelve-year-old brother to stay up texting until 2am? Did you expect 140-character messaging systems enabling widespread revolutions against decades-old dictatorial regimes?
The next 10 years will be an era of unprecedented connectivity; this much we know. It will build upon the social networks, both real and virtual, that we’ve all played a role in constructing, bringing ideas together that would have otherwise remained distant, unknown strangers. Without twitter and a steady drip of mainstream media, would we have ever so strongly felt the presence of the Arab Spring? What laughs, gasps, or loves, however fleeting, would have been lost if not for Chatroulette? Keeping in mind that as our connections grow wider and more intimate, so too will the frequency of our connectedness, and as such, your own understanding of just what kinds of relationships are possible will be stretched and revolutionized as much as any piece of hardware.