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8 Predictions for What the World Will Look Like in 20 Years


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#1
wjfox

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8 Predictions for What the World Will Look Like in 20 Years
 
JAN. 6, 2019
 
This month, we are all tentatively dipping our toes into the New Year, wondering what horrors and highlights might await us in 2019 — the year that served as a setting, you may remember, for Blade Runner, Akira, and Running Man, three of the most iconic future-casting movies ever made and now divergent choose-your-own-dystopia visions of the years ahead (perhaps some more plausible than others). They are also reminders that, though Americans today may have a hard time imagining a future all that different from the present — we dream less about flying cars and space travel than about somewhat improved health care and slightly more immersive video games — it was not all that long ago that we believed (sort of) that very wild futures were possible just a decade or two down the road. Which is part of what inspired us, this fall, to ask a panel of visionaries from the worlds of tech, sex, the law, and international affairs to make some pretty radical propositions about what the world could look like in 20 years. The result was an eight-episode podcast called 2038. Some predictions were cheekier than others, some scarier; on the occasion of the New Year, and the optimism and future panic it invariably brings, we’ve excerpted those predictions here.
 
 
 
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#2
Casey

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Is Missy Cummings MissKaioshin's new pseudonym? In all seriousness, I don't get people who say that self-driving vehicles will be basically nonexistent for decades to come. I really don't. Pretty much every major car company says they plan to release their own Level 4 vehicle during the first half of the 2020s, but in 2039 we'll still be driving around manually the same as ever because... reasons? I know the technology needs some perfecting (would help if the senate would allow for more testing), but it's not that nascent or incapable. It's generally good technology that should be more than ready long before 20 years pass. 

 

The second prediction is nice, though.


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#3
Yuli Ban

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Still rather conservative, but also very interesting.

 

I agree with Dr. Casey that there's definitely going to be a much more robust AV market in 20 years— though I agree with Missy Cummings that AVs have a long way to go and despite automakers' statements, it's now well known that we aren't quite as close as we thought we were.


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And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#4
Jakob

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Is Missy Cummings MissKaioshin's new pseudonym? In all seriousness, I don't get people who say that self-driving vehicles will be basically nonexistent for decades to come. I really don't. Pretty much every major car company says they plan to release their own Level 4 vehicle during the first half of the 2020s, but in 2039 we'll still be driving around manually the same as ever because... reasons? I know the technology needs some perfecting (would help if the senate would allow for more testing), but it's not that nascent or incapable. It's generally good technology that should be more than ready long before 20 years pass. 

 

The second prediction is nice, though.

Everybody isn't going to instantly throw away their cars and get a fancy new autonomous vehicle the second the technology exists.

 

10 years for major automakers to make their first AVs. Another 10 for it to catch on among the general public. Another 10 before alternatives are phased out. Another 10+ before people stop driving their existing non-AVs. There could be plenty of non-AVs on the roads (especially rural ones) well into the 2060s.



#5
Casey

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Everybody isn't going to instantly throw away their cars and get a fancy new autonomous vehicle the second the technology exists.

 

10 years for major automakers to make their first AVs. Another 10 for it to catch on among the general public. Another 10 before alternatives are phased out. Another 10+ before people stop driving their existing non-AVs. There could be plenty of non-AVs on the roads (especially rural ones) well into the 2060s.

 

 

Bit of a non-sequitur there. The timeline you give is still significantly different from the article's "no progress whatsoever will be made between now and the beginning of the 2040s." In your version of things, 'catching on among the general public' is where things fall under come 2039. In the article's version, 2039 is 2019.

 

(Also, your use of 'fancy' shows that you might not understand just how important these are to people who can't drive normally and that you think of it as a completely unnecessary luxury. I can understand that perspective, since driving's easy enough and maybe even fun for most people, but the technology is a lot more than just a gimmick to people who can't.)

 

For what it's worth, my perspective is somewhere between yours and the article's, but closer to yours. My idea at the moment is that SDCs will have a fairly small market share during the '20s (though still with plenty of milestones that would seem amazing from a 2010s perspective, especially when you get to the late '20s), that both manual and self-driving vehicles will have a large presence during the '30s, and that the '40s will be the last decade where manual driving has much of an influence, with it being vastly overshadowed but still relevant in 2040 and close to dead in 2049.



#6
Jakob

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Okay, fair enough. But this is still too fast I think.

 

The first car of any kind was invented in 1885. The horse and buggy didn't disappear from cities until around 1920, and not from rural areas until the 1930s! This again points to non-AVs becoming very rare in cities in the 2050s and in rural areas in the 2060s. Speaking for myself: I'm eventually going to get my parents' 2006 Ford Escape, which should last into the mid 2020s with luck and proper care. I'm not dropping a ridiculous sum of money on an AV at that point, so I personally will be driving non-AVs into the 2040s. And I doubt I'm particularly rare in that respect.


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#7
Alislaws

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The driverless comment seems to basically be: "It took much longer than 20 years to sort out driverless trains and planes, so it will take the same time/longer to develop driverless cars" and I think we can all see the logical flaw in that. 

 

The rate of uptake of driverless cars for private individuals will be irrelevant, especially in the early years, commercial driving will be the main area of adoption. 

 

If you are running Uber you are going to invest in driverless cars as soon as you legally can.*

 

If you don't Lyft will and then they'll own the on demand taxi app market and your company will be the myspace to their facebook. 

 

these sort of apps have massive network advantages so being the first/biggest in an area makes a big difference. 

 

I'd sort of understand if people think the tech is just not solvable until 2040 for some specific reason, but the idea that we will have driverless cars available by 2025 and road legal and then still take 20 years to see significant use of them makes no sense. 

 

There are something like 50million Uber users in the USA at the moment. 

 

Once every city has a driverless car network that can quickly and cheaply get you where you need to go without having to worry about parking, private car ownership will start to drop with people renting a car a couple of times a year for cross country trips and otherwise just using local ridesharing apps. 

 

In countries without the USA's extreme "car = freedom/adulthood" culture this will happen faster and more widely, possibly even spreading to smaller towns etc. In the USA adoption in small towns and the countryside will be slow sure, but anywhere a driverless taxi can generate enough profit to make it worth the initial investment they will start showing up, pushed by companies trying to maximise mkt share and to make sure they have the biggest network. 

 

OTOH People will still be driving cars themselves until it is made illegal (and even then, they will probably carry on until some flawless method to catch people doing it is developed. 

 

*It is possible there will be a wholesale rejection of driverless cars, and everyone will happily pay a marked up price in order to have a human driver, but humans usually go with the option that is cheapest and most convenient (and 100% guaranteed not to rape you) 

 

​EDIT: Remember that there are billions of dollars waiting to be made in driverless tech. At no time in history have billion dollar industries been held back because they're not 100% safe. The moment they can prove driverless cars out perform the average motorist they will run ad campaigns and pay the right people and that will be that. 

 

EDIT: Also horses and buggies still exist in London i think and probably quite a lot of tourist cities :biggrin:


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#8
Nick1984

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8 from me:

- Netflix and Amazon Prime will have killed off a lot of terrestrial broadcasters outside the US, most of the world is now watching the same TV content

- Electric cars will account for 40% of new car sales, despite only making up 10% of cars being driven

- China's economy still hasn't overtaken USA thanks to recession and Indian competition. Civil unrest has forced China to look more inwards

- The effect's of Trump's presidency have all but vanished (so chill)

- Brexit will lead to UK, Germany and France leaving the world's top 10 economies, UK being severely effected.

- Islam and Christianity share the same population, but literal interpretation and hardcore following have rapidly declined.

- Apple has declined in terms of sales and influence, though nowhere near its 90s low

- English language and American pop culture continue to grow and have influence on the world population, China fails to replicate Japan's soft power
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#9
Yuli Ban

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Perhaps this calls for The World of 2039, anyone?

 

I can't even begin to wrap my head around all the changes between now and the late 2030s. If you asked the average person in 1999 what would be so different about 2019, I'm sure you would get many stock answers about flying cars, personal robots, and commercial space industry— oh wait! But ask people will more knowledge of trends and the industries affected, and I'm sure you'll see eerie similarities with our own world. Whatever they get wrong is often a result of lobbying by entrenched interests rather than a lack of the predicted technology. In fact, why even say "I'm sure" when I can just give you proof:

Discover Magazine - October 2000 about 20 Years Ahead

 

The 2000s and 2010s were always filled with a lot of what I called "business futurism": a lot of business rules management, a lot of HR automation, a lot of AI for optimization of figures and data, a lot of big infrastructure projects, a lot of geopolitical wrangling, a lot of consumer electronic novelties, but otherwise not the juicy stuff we're waiting for. Somewhere else, I said that there are "three curves" for post-industrial technological development and then used that for Babylon Today, and I didn't make that observation out of fairy dust. I'm not even the first person to make such an observation: s-curves are a fundamental part of futurist observation.

 

It is absolutely true that things have slowed down in the 2000s and 2010s, despite the amazing rate at which things have moved in computer science. You aren't going crazy if you think 2019 isn't all that different from 1999 but 1999 wasn't very comparable to 1979. You're not right either, but you're definitely noticing something. Various bedrocks of our current zeitgeist haven't changed in decades, and we're merely refining what already existed. 

 

Think of it this way: someone in 1870 would be astounded by the world of 1930. It's something completely different from what they expected, and many would never have been able to predict the changes that were on the way. Someone from 1930 would have been completely astounded by the world of 1990. And someone from 1990 will be completely astounded by the world of 2050. This is because of fundamental roots of progress changing. 

Between 1870 and 1930, AKA the "first curve", what happened? Experimental innovations from earlier decades begot practical innovations in the present. Automobiles— which had been invented multiple times going as far back as the 17th century— finally came into their own in the 1880s. The practical control of electricity began with Alessandro Volta and Michael Faraday in the early 1800s, but we didn't start seeing true electrical applications on a wide scale until the late 1800s. We had telegraphs, but then came telephones. We had cameras, but then came cinema. Physics got a major kick in the rear thanks to evidence-based science— we didn't even know subatomic particles existed until 1897, and penicillin wasn't created until 1928. Powered flight began in 1903 with a fight shorter than the wingspan of a modern plane. Lightbulbs lit up cities starting in the 1890s. And so on and so forth.

 

 

The first curve was defined by electricity, modern physics, mechanical industry, aerospace engineering, and radio. If we stopped there, we'd have a steampunk world. It also laid down the roots for the second curve, which started after World War II. With that, we got nuclear physics, space exploration, digital industry, quantum physics, lasers, modern medicine, and the internet. The curve effectively ended in the 1990s, and we're in an intermediate period of pure refinement as well as development the roots of the next curve. The first curve started around 1880 and ended by 1920; the second curve started at 1950 and ended by 1990. The third curve is about to get started. Anyone who's paying attention can see that artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, automation, space commercialization, human augmentation, and superconductors are the root of the next fifty years of sci-tech and social change.

 

2039 will be smackdab in the middle of all that. Still early in it, but well within the wildest years. And of course, artificial intelligence is like nothing we've ever dealt with before so who knows if the cycle will hold. But the whole theme of the third curve of great technological change seems to be that of enhancing the human condition, something that was not true for either of the previous curves or the gradual periods of technological growth before them. The very idea is so alien to our ways of thinking that many futurists of earlier decades had not predicted anything like it. There was quite a lot about computers spreading throughout society, instant communications with people across the planet, traveling into space, capturing images with a device in your hand, and accessing the internet, but many futurist predictions seem to stop there or skip ahead to interstellar travel and utopian societies without anything connecting the two. 

It's no different from someone from a first-curve era predicting video messaging, interactive media, and flying cars without predicting integrated circuits and lasers in industry or someone from a pre-curve era predicting flying machines and hearing another human's voice from a long distance through things like "magic" or otherwise unexplained leaps of logic. Artificial intelligence is essentially the electricity or integrated circuit of this coming century, except on a scale far beyond anything we can imagine.

 

 

And it starts very soon!


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And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#10
Guyverman1990

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Could the regimes in North Korea and Iran be toppled by this point?




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