I came across this article a few months ago and I wanted to discuss it and give my opinion about it. For the most part I found quite a bit of it interesting, but still as with most predictions about the future, it is overly optimistic. At least I think so.
There is so much to talk about in this article it’s going to be hard to touch on everything, so I am just going to touch on the stuff I find interesting or what I think is silly or important. One of the most interesting things that I took from the article is Uber and ARBB and how they operate. Both are in the service industry but have no real assets. One is a taxi company and the other is in the hotel business, yet neither company owns a fleet of cars or expensive real-estate across the world. In both instances these companies have made it easy for ordinary people to use their own assets to make money. I find that fascinating and have to wonder what industry this will happen to next or how these ideas will change businesses in the future.
The article also mentions that in the next 20 years most cars will be driverless. I am on the fence with this one and think it is certainly a possibility. I think this could be somewhat dangerous as hackers could cause major problems if every car were just a computer. A hacker could cause quite a lot of damage and also lives if it were possible to hack into the car’s system, but I am not sure if this is even possible. But it looks like most technology can be hacked in some form or another. On the flip side there is also the possibility that driverless cars could dramatically reduce fatalities on the road. That is obviously a positive, but currently I have yet to see evidence that a computer driver is better than a human. Now given 20 years that could certainly change. I would not put this prediction out of the realm of possibility, but I am still leaning toward no.
Cheap and renewable energy is also mentioned in the article, in particular solar energy. I think this is the energy source for the far future, if we make it there, but I am not sure that in the next 20 years solar power will overtake conventional energy sources. The reason I say that is infrastructure, again. It would take an enormous amount of time and money to reroute our current system to have electrical stations instead of gas stations like we do now. If, as the article states, we will have mostly electric cars in 20 years there will have to be a major overhaul in infrastructure. I do not live in a major city, but there is no plug in’s that I am aware of for an electric car where I live. With that being said I also do not think with our current technology, that we could harness enough energy to supply the masses if you will. Now that could obviously change in the next 20 years, but I still think the problems are a little too steep to for this to become a reality in the next 20 years.
I also wanted to make a point, without getting to political, about electric cars. I have read that many major car manufactures actually lose money when selling any of their electric models and the only reason they keep making them is because they get a subsidy from the government. That is obviously not sustainable. On the other hand something that people do not realize is that most if not all of the electricity created, depending on where you live, is produced either by coal or nuclear power. That is also not exactly what a person who buys that type of car wants to think about. But in reality buying an electric car does not appear to be helping the environment in any way. In fact based on this study:
showed that current production methods of EVs are significantly more environmentally damaging than the production of ICEVs. This is mostly due to the power mechanism manufacturing techniques, including battery manufacturing, in EVs that involve energy intensive processes. The high environmental cost of EV production, however, can often be offset by the lower GHG emission of EVs during their use-phase. The GHG footprint of EVs during their use-phase, however, depends highly on the electricity infrastructure in place for a given region and the benefits scales with the lifetime of the EV. Disposal and other end-of-life processes had nearly equal environmental impact for both EVs and ICEVs.
So, while this may still be the future, I think we are still a long ways off from this technology making a real impact.
Healthcare is one of the one sectors that I think will be dramatically different in the next 20 years. I have seen where they are working on apps and what not where they analyze your breath, retina scan, and perhaps a small blood sample and can give the person a diagnosis. That is amazing. The reason I think this industry will change is because there is a movement now to digitize all patients medical records. The good thing about this is that the app could take your symptoms and look at millions if not billions of medical records and give you a diagnosis. Now I know it’s more complicated than that but that is one benefit of technology. I do not think doctors will go away completely, but they may be more specialized. Like there may be no more primary care physicians as the app has taken their jobs, but as for surgeons they will still be needed. So instead of going to medical school you go to surgeon school. There could be a possibility of robots taking over this work, but I am not sure that will happen in 20 years. I think most people would rather a real person perform their surgery, or at least nearby in case something goes wrong.
3D printing is going to be really interesting as well. I cannot predict what I think will happen with it in the future, but the jury is still out on what it can do and its real world application. I think there is certainly a place for it, but it seems to me that 3D printing is going to be more for one off specific projects. I do not see the point of 3D printing large quantities of product. I would imagine that you may need to 3D print the prototype but after that there are cheaper and more efficient ways to produce your products. What would be really interesting is if this technology could be applied to healthcare. If there was a way to use stem cells or something and use a 3D printer to print a new heart or lungs or what have you, 5th Element style. That is not something I see happening in the next 20 years though, again that is more for the far future, 50 years or more.
With all these advancements especially in healthcare human lifespans will continue to increase. I agree with this and expect this to happen, along with healthcare moving toward preventative care vs more of a trying to fix you after you are sick. I also think that healthier foods will be more accessible in the future and hopefully cheaper. There will still be junk food but I think the mindset will change in terms of health and health will be more important across the board. As mentioned above with the help of various apps and the 24/7 access to cheap healthcare people will live longer. Diseases will be diagnoses in their infancy and could be cured before they even cause symptoms, not to mention things like CRISP which could remove specific genes that are known to cause diseases and cancers. Of all the things mentioned in the article I think this is the most plausible and probable.
I have often written about this and think extreme life extension is a real possibility. However I am not sure when this will come about. I would say in the next 50 years there will be technology that could make our cells younger by a decade or so. That could not only extend our lives, but also give us more good years. This, in my opinion, should be the main goal of any life extending technology. Why would you want to live to 150 or more if 20-30 of those years you are decrepit and can barely move. The goal should be to make the good years last much longer. Something like in your 100’s you should feel and look like you would in your 60’s, so on and so forth. As I said I think this technology is a ways off, but I think it will be something that completely changes our civilization.
One thing I think the article nails on the head is education. Personally I think normal universities and the traditional college experience is currently in its heyday, but will start to decline in the next 5 to 10 years. College is expensive, that is no secret, but the fact that colleges and universities continue to raise their prices it just silly to me. The main reason they keep raising their tuition is because the government is basically subsidizing their cost. There are very few if any sectors where the companies involved can continuously raise their prices and the customers can go get the money regardless of color, creed, or tax bracket to pay for said product. What I mean by that is that where else can an 18 year old person with little to no credit history get a $10K or more loan to finance their education. If that same person was looking for an auto loan there is no way a bank would give it to them without a cosigner. So, for that reason I think college in the traditional sense will be very differ in the near future. I believe as technology advances there will be cheaper alternatives where an individual could receive an education that is on par or better for less money than you can get at a traditional university. It will all be done online and cost a fraction, and colleges will struggle to stay in business. This could cause major issues, but right now they are enjoying their hay day. They should not be immune to technological advances and they won’t be. The only down side I see to this is the traditional college experience will be no more. I mean anyone and everyone I know has tons of great life stories and lessons from college, not to mention the friends you make. That is certainly a downside already compounding with the lack of social skills for today’s youth, this will only get worse in my opinion.
The other thing to think about is college sports. If the above scenario comes to pass then the future of college athletics will certainly be much different in the next 20 years. Many universities could go bankrupt which means no more sports teams. But what could happen is that the athletics departments would separate from the academics side of the university and basically be self-supportive. The big time football schools could probably make enough money to survive, but the mid majors and the smaller schools would probably fold all together, as they would not have the fan base or the boosters to fund the program. That could open up some other interesting scenarios where athletes at these programs would have no academic standards to keep and maintain to be eligible to play. Not only that but they could also be paid a small amount. This is certainly a complete 180 from where things are now, but college athletics is one of the strangest systems on the planet in almost every aspect. In most other countries around the world superior athletes go pro at a very early age and try to make it to the top level. Now very few get there for a variety of reasons, but if they do not make it to the top level say like the NFL, they were able to make some money along the way. Certainly not the multi-million dollar contracts that NFL player or NBA player receives, but if at the age of say 13 you could make 50K a year playing your sport that would be nice. That would be a great start in life given that the individual managed their money correctly. The current system says you cannot make any money until about age 20. By then these athletes have quite a few miles on their legs and realistically only have about 10 additional years, if they are extremely lucky, to make money. I know I am getting a little of topic but, I think this could be an unforeseen consequence from the advancement of technology in terms of education.
My last point is something that the article fails to mention. As with my college athletics prediction there are so many effects from advancing technology that we may never see coming. Those second and third tier scenarios are the ones that will have the true impact on our civilization. When talking about life extension we do not know how that will affect our economy, social issues, or human psyche for that matter. We think we have some ideas but again it is hard to predict the problems and new scenarios that come along with advancing technology.
As always we will see what happens, we are just prisoners in time.