Saturday, January 02, 2010

10 predictions for the world of January 1, 2020

After writing my predictions for the past 10 years, I decided it might be fun to write a few predictions for the next 10 years as well. This is a little more dangerous though, since I now lack the benefit of hindsight and at least one of them will probably turn out to be as dumb as "Palin/Gore win the 2014 presidential election".

That said, here are my (random and probably over-optimistic) predictions for the world as of Jan 1, 2020, assuming civilization doesn't collapse first:
  1. All data lives "in the cloud" and can be accessed from anywhere. Most computers are essentially stateless caches which can be replaced without any data-loss or need for reconfiguration or reinstallation. This prediction was copied from 10 years ago, but this time it's right.
  2. Android and iPhone kill off all the other mobile phone platforms. Android will be bigger (it will run on all of the "free" cell phones), but iPhone will still be "cooler", and will work more seamlessly with Apple's tablet computer.
  3. Facebook will be a big success, possibly as big as Google. I'm probably over-optimistic because I work there, but the people are smart and ambitious.
  4. 3D displays will be popular because people want to watch Avatar and all future 3D movies and games at home (plus porn, of course -- think of the porn!).
  5. No human-like artificial intelligence, but computers get a lot better at both high level and low level intelligence. At the high level, Google will release an amazing question answering service that can answer complex questions and is in many ways smarter than any human. Low-level, insect-like intelligence will become common enough that I'll be able to quickly build a Lego robot that uses computer vision to spot ants and physically squash them (and it will be awesome).
  6. There will be an even bigger economic crash. The system becomes increasingly unstable as we try to paper-over the damage from one bubble by creating an even bigger bubble elsewhere. Nevertheless, things continue semi-working for some reason.
  7. The health care system continues to be badly broken, and attempts at reform probably only make it worse (here is a nice summary). Fortunately, solutions will come from outside of the system. People will get better at avoiding disease (start with Taubes), and bio-tech will start to deliver in a big way. Unfortunately, the bio-tech will probably come from China, since they don't have so many rules to slow things down. The Chinese treatments won't be approved in the United States, but we can simply travel to Mexico for care. Urgent care will be local, but non-urgent procedures will be performed outside the US. Not everyone will do this, but it will be a very visible and growing trend by 2020.
  8. The drug war will be over, mostly. An increasing number of people will realize that the war is causing a lot more harm than the drugs are (it's killing Mexico, for example). The end of marijuana prohibition in California will demonstrate that non-addictive drugs are not as dangerous as the government claims. It's unclear what will happen with highly addictive drugs such as heroin, but bio-tech may offer a solution that removes the addiction.
  9. The energy problem is largely solved by cheap solar. It's not 100% done obviously, but we'll be on the ramp. Nuclear technology (Thorium?) could do it too, but probably isn't politically feasible. Edit: To be clear since not everyone has the same definition of "solved", for me it means that we have a relatively cheap and scalable energy solution, not that we're fully converted to it.
  10. Politics will evolve much faster than in the past due to the Internet and social networks changing the core architecture of society (what people think and how they came to think it -- the professional media and government are no longer at the center). New movements will arise and gain power very quickly. Obama beating Clinton was the first hint of this. Political outsiders will begin winning elections. Steven Colbert will win the 2016 election -- the left will think he's joking, the right will think he's serious, and both sides will think that they are tricking the other ;)