Predictions for the 2020s
For a long time now, I’ve considered myself somewhat of an armchair futurist. Since I was a child, I’ve had a fantastic ability to predict the future, at least when it comes to technology. The problem is, I never put any of my predictions down in “writing,” so I can point back and say, “See, I told you so!”
I will put down my predictions in writing now. It’s now the year 2020, and with that, a brand new decade. A year that I feel has always sounded super futurist when said in the past. Now is the perfect time to put my predictions down so I can look back in 5 to 10 years to see how right I was. (Or wrong!)
I’ll make my predictions around four categories: technology, economics, sociology, and environmental.
Social media, as we have known it the last decade 2010 - 2020, will start to die. Or at least morph into something new. I believe apps or tools which actually bring people together in real life will gain popularity. Think “Pokemon Go” when that was a big craze for a minute. It actual got people out in the real world hanging out. I think meetup.com is phase-one of such apps and tools. Many more such Apps and websites will gain popularity this next decade. Apps and websites which will get people offline and into the real world together.
Satellites and mobile internet
Satellites and mobile internet – are coming. The old-school satellite phones using the iridium system from the 1990s was the first phase of this. A brand new constellation of 21st-century tech is now fully functional and sat phone calls are better than ever. I have a handy satellite communicator I carry around with me. I can use it to SMS text people anywhere in the world.
Things are going to take a huge leap in the coming decade. I think the technology will be developed for regular phones to be able to use satellites as well, not just a big bulky phone or secondary device. I’m talking your iPhone (or next big thing) using back-up technology when a cell tower isn’t working correctly, or you’re out of range. Not to mention the first global, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation will finally go up and become operational. These constellations will enable mobile 4G+ speeds anywhere on planet Earth! However, I think the first version of this will require large and bulky dishes or receivers on the ground. Future tech in the coming decades will allow you to connect to these constellations with tiny devices. This will have huge ramifications for the world. It will force prices for regular internet service way down and finally unlock the internet for every person on Earth.
Disease testing with small devices
Have you ever seen one of those small glucose testing devices for people to test their blood sugar levels? I think something similar is coming for testing a whole range of diseases and disorders. Likely it will connect to your smartphone and send the data to some kind of service for results back in a matter of seconds. I imagine you being able to get tested on demand for sexually transmitted diseases and such, which could lead to safer sex. This was kind of what the now defunct Thanos was working on. While I don’t think such a device will deliver what they promised, it will do some simple testing.
I also predict we’ll finally have the first version of a “primitive” Star Trek tricorder type of device.
Phones and the “next big thing”
I think the next big thing is coming this decade in regards to phones. The iPhone was the next big thing more than a decade ago. It dominated the last decade. While yes, there were hugely successful Android phones. None matched the hardware of the iPhone. Things honestly didn’t change too much in last decade as far as phones. All phones now look alike.
Now that we’re in a new decade, we have smartwatches that are starting to become stand-alone devices with their own SIM cards and phone service. I think something else in on the horizon, though. I predict it will be some kind of wearable and likely glasses. Google tried this last decade with Google Glasses, but that was a very alpha product compared to what I think will come next. I believe something far superior is coming. Likely, this new thing will replace a phone even (or work with a watch). If it is glasses, it will have AR built-in, and we won’t need phones anymore.
VR is a bust and AR being big
I have always thought that VR was just a niche thing and would never be mainstream. I still believe this. However, I think AR is a different story. I believe AR will finally make its big debut with some kind of blockbuster product this decade. My guess is some kind of wearable that will replace or eventually replace your phone.
Privacy and hacking
I think people will finally wake up to the fact we, as humans, need some kind of bill of rights or legal protection for our privacy both online and in real life. There were some truly horrifically large data breaches and hacks this past decade. I think many more data breaches will happen and people will pay the price in some way. Only then will the general public finally begin to get that we need laws in place to protect us all. I think some kind of legislation will be passed, though, I highly doubt it will be enough.
Space tech and exploration
Maybe one of my biggest prediction here. This decade will be the biggest for space exploration, commercial and human activity in space since the Apollo era. We’ll see a global LEO internet constellation go up. Loads of other advanced, and even more importantly, small, less complicated cube stats will go up. Humans will likely go back to the moon. It will be an epic decade for all things space. The biggest since the Apollo missions started.
Humans will finally go up to space from US soil and the “space tourism” will finally happen.
Robotics, drones, and “AI”
Industrial robotics will begin to hit that sweet spot between, costing enough to buy and maintain vs having a human do the work instead. You’ll see the across the board. From countries manufacturing goods to touch screens at restaurants instead of a cashier.
An even bolder prediction – We still will not have true level 5 autonomous cars by the end of the decade. The silver lining to that will be this – we’ll finally realize we will never have level 5 autonomy without built-in sensors built into everything on all roads. Stop signs and lights wireless talking to cars. Cars wirelessly talking to other vehicles. There will need to be entirely or semi-completely networked roads and cars, for us to make level 5 to anywhere, work in real life. I believe by the end of the decade, everyone working on autonomous cars will realize this and move towards working with local, state, and federal governments to make that happen.
I think we’ll finally start to see drones being used in smart swarms for all kinds of reasons. For law enforcement, film, military applications, and many others, I can’t even predict. They’ll be faster, smarter, and will stay in the air longer than ever before. Likely, you’ll see gas-powered ones instead of just battery powered.
For general AI, for example, Siri, Alexa, or Google voice. You’ll only see incremental improvements, and you will not magically see a general AI like, Jarvis in Iron man, or the movie “Her.” It will simply not happen this decade.
I think crypto will finally be “dead.” At least, all these crazy-random-fly-by-night altcoins that are created to try to make some quick money for the creators. Bitcoin will finally stop being worth so much money, and interest will massively drop as there isn’t anything useful you can do with it. One of the other cryptos such as Etherum will be the crowned the winner. Which is better for the environment, since they will not require so much energy to mine. Even though a few top coins might still be worth some money and lightly used, they still will not take off and become mainstream, used widely around the world for paying for goods and services.
I already mentioned autonomous cars, but I think one thing we’ll see a lot of in this coming decade, is more autonomous cargo being transported around. I believe by the end of this decade, we’ll see autonomous freight trucks moving around highways and freeways. Right now, this is being tested, but I think this will be in use this decade. Another considerable breakthrough will be autonomous cargo by boat or large shipping container ships. Containerships will be drastically automated, with far fewer crew, automatic piloting, and more electric-hybrid engines in use, all by the decades’ end.
I think by the end of the decade, one private company will finally put out a supersonic plane. Once again, a supersonic aircraft will fly passengers commercially by 2030. As far as regular passenger planes, demand will continue to increase for flying. Despite it currently being kind of fashionable to forgo flying because of environmental concerns, numbers will continue to tick upwards. There will be more larger airplanes than ever before. I bet the Airbus 380 will still be manufactured in 10 years.
Scooters or more small electric devices will be used to help bridge the “last mile” for people who use public transportation. I think this will increase but with more regulation regarding safety, where and how you can use them, or place such vehicles after you’re done using them.
Finally, electric cars will massively take off. Gas stations will have fast-charging stations, and globally the total percentage of electric vehicles will be at over 25% of the entire global car fleet, all by the decades’ end.
Bonus tech prediction:
I’ll still be using and typing away on a laptop or desktop computer, come 2030. (If I’m still alive and well)
More to come later for the other categories…