The year 2020, even if only a few years away, still sounds futuristic and in tech terms, it is. With the exponential developments in technology, the world will look very different in 2020 with many exciting new innovations taking shape. The health sector will see incredible advancements such as printable organs, predictive healthcare and more. The lines between online and offline will start disappearing and virtual reality will feature prominently. 2020 is going to be an interesting year according to Futurist Richard van Hooijdonk. Here’s a list of predictions.
Big data analytics will make a dramatic shift and will be used more frequently for predictive practices, leading to substantial improvements in the ability to help people with treatments for their medical conditions. Predictive approaches will make truly personalised healthcare a real possibility, allowing healthcare providers to influence the most important factors that determine our health, such as behaviour, environmental factors and genetics.
Exponential developments in real-time diagnostic technology for complex diseases will give us incredible tools with which we may see the beginning of the end of cancer and other debilitating diseases by the year 2020. The ability to monitor immune systems, diabetes markers, intestinal flora and the development of cancer in real time will enable us to protect our health by preventing disease instead of treating it. It will completely revolutionise healthcare.
It is already possible to 3D bioprint organ tissue. This is done with ink consisting of live cells. This ink is deposited in thin layers, creating human tissue that can be used for pharmaceutical research and to predict drug function. In many cases this would result in more accurate results than clinical trials using animal models. In 2020, this 3D bioprinting technology will have paved the way to printing fully functioning human organs such as livers, kidneys and even hearts.
In four years time, solar technologies could be responsible for a significant portion of global power generation. This will have a dramatic impact on climate change and the rising energy costs. It is however of utmost importance that we find ways to further reduce the cost of solar power technology. Polysilicon, the primary raw material used in solar modules accounts for the single highest cost in solar technology and here lies an major opportunity for cost reduction. By 2020, we will commercialise new methods to produce polysilicon in order to provide the solar power industry with a cheaper source of raw material. These cost reductions, trickling down throughout the solar energy supply chain, will cause the adoption of solar energy worldwide to gain momentum.
Our lives have pretty much become dependent on mobile communication. Mobile networks around the world are however extremely energy inefficient. They guzzle diesel fuel and electricity, especially in underdeveloped countries. On top of that, we use outdated, ill-performing network technology. As a result, more than 70 percent of the energy we use is wasted as heat. It is predicted that by the year 2020, innovations in radio engineering and renewable energy will positively impact the environment and our quality of life. Wind power, solar energy, hydropower and geothermal energy will power more and more of our telecom companies’ base stations in 2020 and bring connectivity to the 1.7 billion people across the globe still living off the grid, thereby bridging the digital divide.
Even though predictions around self driving vehicles vary substantially, 2020 will definitely see a good few self driving cars driving humans around. Tesla’s Elon Musk states that the exponential developments in battery technology will enable cars to do 1.200 kms on one single charge by the year 2020, making them an excellent alternative to even the most fuel efficient cars. Google is focusing on the ‘Holy Grail’ – the fully autonomous car, and continues to test their vehicles. The approach of incremental automation, however, is actually a more promising and more likely scenario: we will still be in the driver’s seat for quite some time but our cars will be able to handle more and more tasks independently. Cars will eventually become entirely autonomous, there’s no doubt about that, but it will take some time to have everything on our roads adjusted and integrated with this technology as well. For instance, cars will need to communicate with other road users – such as pedestrians wanting to cross – and with traffic lights.
The year 2020 could spell the end of online and offline being two separate things; the already fine line between these two worlds will practically cease to exist. While many are of the opinion that online activity removes us from the real world, the opposite appears to be true. Social networks and the Internet as a whole are so engrained in our lives that they have become a vital part of what we do and who we are, online as well as offline. Seamless connectivity enables us to ‘copy’ many of our offline behaviours and take them online. In the offline world, we don’t really read newspapers together, but we do chat about an article every now and then when we get together for lunch or coffee. On the Internet, we share everything all the time, resulting in interaction and discussions that are continued offline as well. Things like watching television and listening to music have always been communal experiences – in which people interacting was actually the most important aspect. This is actually no different on the Internet.
The Internet of Things already connects humans with devices but the next stage in the evolution of technology and connectivity will consist of interfaces that are almost ‘humanised’. In 2020, devices will continue to evolve in order to learn about the needs and likes and dislikes of the user – resulting in self-optimisation of these devices. Not only functions and features will self-optimise but also the kind of information we receive. As our levels of connectivity continue to evolve, this type of personalisation will bring immense changes, also for business. Practically every type of company will become an IoT business. The merging of our physical worlds with the digital makes this hard to avoid. Each and every ‘thing’ we buy will eventually be connected and self-optimised, enabling companies to deliver dynamic value to their customers.
As soon as we see the dawn of the Internet of Everything and Everywhere, our excitement about the Internet of Things will pale in comparison. The Internet of Everywhere will be much more democratic and available to everybody. In 2020, we will start seeing ultra cheap, solar-powered internet-enabled screens in shopping malls, on bus stops and at restaurants. They will all operate on a centralised advertising model and display information in HDTV clarity. Since these screens will contain beacons, they will be able to customise their content as you pass by – because your mobile device or your wearables will communicate all your preferences to the screen.
In four years, the virtual reality industry is predicted to be worth half of what the mobile industry is currently valued at. While we are able to experience virtual reality in games, through Google Glass and in some cinemas, in 2020 we will be able to experience practically everything through VR and its applications will have evolved. From an alternative reality it will slowly but surely become part of our existing reality. We will no longer walk around with huge, ridiculous looking headsets that shield us from our real world. Through discreet technology, we will find ourselves immersed in a 3D virtual reality space with uninterrupted views of the environment we’re in. By 2020, virtual reality will be increasingly integrated into our daily lives and we’ll find it in work, education, entertainment and research.
By 2020, the less desirable effects of technological developments are predicted to become even more disconcerting, with the main concerns being the continued rise of surveillance, the dependence on devices, the loss of autonomy and the end of privacy. Devices will know us better than our spouses and family members. They will give us never ending streams of information, advice, recommendations and even personal predictions. To a large degree, they will actually be running our lives. Also, cyber attacks will show no signs of abating. In fact, the ‘state of siege’ is predicted to continue well beyond 2020. This is due to organisations not being adequately prepared for the increasingly frequent and sophisticated attacks.
2020 promises much to be excited about. On the other hand, we may also want to take a minute to think about whether all of these developments are necessarily synonymous with progress…