JLA futurist speaker Magnus Lindkvist offers us a grounded outlook on the next thirty years…
What will the next technology wave enable?
Technology is moving at an exponential rate. Gartner’s Hype Cycle divides it all into ‘wows’ and ‘sighs’ – but only in the latter phase does it begin to effect real change. So while we are wowed by the thought of Autonomous (self-driving) cars and Augmented human beings (aka superhumans), to grasp technology’s real impact on society we need to consider boring things like batteries and mobile phones. That’s where the true breakthroughs will come in the next decade.
Business will start to offer creative consumers (like tweeters) a piece of the action – ‘profit for effort.’ When they create something, whether a viral campaign or innovative ideas to improve service, they will be rewarded with recognition or money, or both.
Meanwhile 3D-printers will be to manufacturing what laser printers were to desktop publishing. The technology is already cheap and easy enough for anyone to design something the world has never seen. The UK could open 4,000 factories every day as people start to play.
And in the next 10-20 years?
There will be 25 new companies in the Fortune 500 that didn’t exist in 2014. Apple, Google, Twitter and Facebook will all be dethroned, to be replaced by Fridolilaita, Bioplasm, Dan-doo and other imaginative names and services. (Please note, these companies haven’t yet been born.)
How do you see the world in 2030?
Our children will enjoy cheaper and more efficient energy. The notion of ‘peak oil’ will be no more than a cute reminder of fin-de-siécle pessimism. One of the more exciting solutions is coming from a genome pioneer who is taming bacteria to produce faeces in the form of high-octane diesel droplets.
We should also prepare for teleportation (made possible by work at CERN), nanobots to monitor our health and vaccinate us, the first 130 year-old woman and maybe the first teenage Prime Minister!
So which old assumptions are no longer true?
Extreme assumptions are always wrong. Life is not getting better all the time, nor is apocalypse imminent. We overvalue new ideas in the short run only to drastically underestimate them over the longer term. This is certainly true of the impact of the worldwide web, and it will be the case with alternative fuels.