What a wonderful time to be alive. We live in a rapidly transforming society, like in no other time. Each moment can be the last one of the way we are used to seeing the world, to interacting with it and to making a sense of it; everything can be changed overnight. Of course, that generates a new kind of anxiety, one that yesterday people wouldn’t have to struggle with; it is as if we couldn’t count on a firm ground anymore. For people who like a more calm life, this whole unpredictability certainly can feel overwhelming. A globalized world, in which any event, in any part, is instantaneously known and matters; a world in which groups of people are dedicating their lives to come up with new ways to live, creating hardware, inventing services, developing software. For the most part of human civilization, there was none of that -- then, came the capitalism.
Who would foresee that the most meaningful thing of the last decade would be all the power given to the individual by smartphones and high-velocity connection? Nonetheless, this unpredictable world, where a striking change can come from anywhere, by anyone, is not an excuse for people like me not to try to imagine the society of tomorrow. That’s why, as we leave the last decade behind, the aim of this text is to show the great and small things I see unfolding in this decade -- some are my predictions and some are well-known predictions I agree with.
I think the most important geopolitical event will be the escalation of this increasing polarization we’re creating in the last years, the biggest one since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It will lead to a new kind of Cold War, this time between the rising power of China and the United States. The results of that will be many, including an intensification of the trade war; the battlefield of choice in the 21st century, Iraq, being used for more destructible proxy wars, with new technologies; and the creation of a new internet by China, used also by allies. That’s the scenario in which we will go back to the Moon, just like the other times.
In the economy, it seems to me that a new global recession is unavoidable, the result of many crazy interventions of central banks throughout the world, especially the FED. Also, the dollar will no longer be the world’s currency, leaving space for a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies issued by big-tech firms and governments.
In medicine, I see advancements in genetic engineering leading to the cure of diseases like AIDS and cancer, as well as the reversion of old age. In healthcare, the biggest trend among developing countries will be AI-assisted nursing to replace physicians.
Artificial intelligence will be everywhere. Cars will be fully autonomous; songs and movies will be generated according to each person’s mood; old movies will be completely restored and modernized to new audiences; police will be synonymous with robots. As a result of AI taking people’s jobs, the world will see mass protests against it. Extremist groups (“robot killers”) will attack anything automated -- but on the opposite side we will see some people creating a religion to worship AI.
Still on AI, I agree with the common prediction of deepfakes reaching a point where we won’t be able to distinguish them from reality, which will then be a threat to democracy, security and public health. Skepticism will be the word of the decade. But I also see deepfakes used heavily for fun, like the cinema using it to put the audience into movies.
A revolution I see coming in this decade is optimized brain-machine interfaces. They will allow for a wide range of unprecedented things, which will happen to be the most debated topics around the world. We will be able to transmit thoughts, to enhance intelligence, to watch dreams, to project images directly into the mind -- all while we get a new notion of the self. Moreover, we will be able to express ourselves directly with our brains and to feel anything programmatically. The latter ability will have countless applications, like online shopping, and it will also be used to replace drugs -- a whole new class of software will be engineered specifically for allowing people to feel new and indescribable sensations.
Other small predictions are the following. Autonomous drones will finally be the most common vehicle used for delivery, the skies will be full of them. Batteries will be magnitudes better, and, as a result, wireless recharging will be common and seamless for most devices. Alaska and Greenland will see their biggest immigrant wave, of people scared of global warming. The consumerism of animal products will fall by more than half among developed countries, due to more options of protein available, advancement in ethics, etc. Holograms throughout the cities will be a reality. Chips implanted in the body will be common.
With capitalism, we’ve created an almost perfect machine of innovation to meet people’s demands -- but they are absolutely unpredictable. How will the internet of things affect the world? What will quantum computing bring us? Will we be able to overcome global warming? How about nuclear bombs? It’s impossible to know; guessing is just a fun thing to do. What we know for sure is that the human being will never be the same again. The possibilities for this decade are endless. It’s a scary time to be alive.