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“Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.” It was the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who uttered these wise words. As a professional futurist, I always keep this quote in the back of my mind and remind my audiences that I am not in the business of making predictions. Instead, I offer my clients a forecast which includes a broad range of future possibilities.
Nevertheless, I understand the appeal of predictions and do feel they can play a limited role in helping businesses, corporations, NGOs, and governments more realistically think about the future.
Therefore, much as I did last month with my 20 Predictions for 2010, I would now like to offer my humble predictions for how the following decade may unfold—all the time remembering that the future will most likely be shaped by those ”Black Swans” which none of us see coming.
Here then are some of my predictions to get your “future juices” flowing:
2010: The term “augmented reality” will be the year’s big buzzword. Augmented reality apps such as Yelp Monocle and Wikitude World Browser will continue to grow, but the year’s biggest hit will be the yet-to-be-released TAT Augmented ID—which uses face-recognition software to display information about the person being viewed. By the end of the decade, health care professionals will be able to display a patient’s entire medical history on a flexible electronic device which they can fold up and carry with them at all times.
2011: “Vooks”—a combination between an electronic book and a video—will become increasingly popular. By the end of the decade, a number of schools will be using the devices to provide students a deeper, more meaningful learning experience.
2012: College graduates will begin identify a variety of new career possibilities. Some of the more popular future jobs include genetic data counselors; privacy data consultants; 3-D gaming software enginners; rapid prototype manufacturers and climate geoengineers. By the middle of the decade, frustrated by society’s inability and unwillingness to seriously change their behavior in the face of climate change, Al Gore will reverse his position and become an advocate of limited climate geoengineering—the idea of using technology on a grand scale to modify the natural environment.
2013: A truce in the “War on Cancer” will be called as advances in gene therapy and nanomedicine begin addressing cancer at the molecular level. Cancer will still exist but the new paradigm will be premised on treating cancer on an ongoing basis. (In this way, it will be similar to how we now treat diabetes.) By the end of the decade, chemotherapy will be viewed as a crude and blunt instrument.
2014: A combination of radical advances in solar and desalination technology will afford an increasing number of farmers—especially those near coastal areas—access to cheap and reliable amounts of fresh water. By the end of the decade, however, climate scientists will become increasingly concerned that the amount of water being diverted from the world’s ocean is having a harmful effect on a number of ocean creatures. On a different front, advances in the field of synthetic biology will now be regularly supplying airlines with jet fuel produced from biomass.
2015: Due to a plethora of medical advances in gene therapy, biotechnology, nanomedicine, stem cell research and regenerative medicine, life expectancy will continue to grow faster than most demographers has estimated. Congress is finally forced to accept this reality and indexes Social Security and Medicaid benefits to the annual upward adjustments in life expectancy. AARP members complain loudly and use the latest social media tools to bolster their cause but younger more tech-savvy voters use new and even more effective data mining tools to out-organizer the “geezer geeks.”
2016: In the face of the growing environmental costs of producing, processing, shipping, packaging and storing meat, the FDA approves lab-grown pork for the commercial marketplace. PETA applauds the move but Greenpeace vows to fight the growing trend and labels lab-grown meat as “Frankenfood II.” By this time in the decade, a major biological attack will have occurred somewhere in the developed world and a number of democratic governments will have responded by limiting personal freedoms in exchange for greater security. (Advances in predictive algorithms; data mining; and face and voice recognition; cheap camera; and sensor technology will make security technology very effective.)
2017: Time Magazine will be in serious discussions about ending the print version of its magazine and will name “The Robot” as its 2017 “Person of the Year.” Space flight—at least into the outer atmosphere—will become affordable for upper middle class individuals.
2018: Diamonds will no longer be a “girl’s best friend.” The natural diamond market will collapse in the face of the superiority of synthetic diamonds. On a different note, startling progress in the field of tissue regeneration will have eliminated organ shortages and made organ donations as irrelevant as radiation therapy.
2019: The decade will be come to be referred to as “the turbulent teens” due to the growing maturity of such countries as India and Brazil; the wide-spread economic disruption wrought by technological advancement; and a renewed sense of optimism due to the fact that so many things once deemed “impossible” are now coming to fruition.
Jack Uldrich is an author, futurist, keynote speaker and host of jumpthecurve.net. He is the author of seven books, including Jump the Curve and The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. He is also a frequent speaker on future technology and future trends, nanotechnology, innovation, change management and executive leadership to a variety of businesses, industries and non-profit organizations and trade associations. He can be contacted at 612.267.1212 or .