Every decade or so we look back at what we’ve managed to achieve, how many sci-fi movies and futuristic predictions we were able to move from the domain of imagination into the realm of possibility. Equally, we reckon with the reality of many more ideas and dreams which we have to put into an unfortunate box of “unachievable”.
Looking at the developments which have brought us to the third decade of XXI century we can see that quite a big chunk of predictions is slowly climbing into the tenets of everyday life, be those the smart homes, flying cars, remote surgery, 3D printed houses and animals’ grown organs. The introduction of all these innovations into the arsenal of common human beings is no small step in the development and improvement of our lives.
I would like to list several innovations, which, I believe, are long overdue, and which will become mainstream in the coming decade:
- Emotional State Replicator
At the moment Internet addiction has caused us to push the range of our feelings and emotions deep down our souls, just to concentrate on the tiny boosts of artificial dopamine, seething from the screens of our phones and laptops. While many of us have given up the true emotions in exchange for the continuous stream of external validation, the need for real and sophisticated emotions stays deeply ingrained in the human consciousness. Thus, I am positive that as soon as scientists will be able to precisely replicate the chemical and hormonal composition of one’s deepest emotions, we will be looking to literally step into someone else’s shoes.
Just imagine: this moment when both of your grandparents were alive, when you cheerfully played in the garden with your cat and when you first learnt how to swim – in your village, under the warm summer rain. Can you remember precisely how you felt in this moment?
Can you remember the day, the hour, the second you realised you were in love?
What if you are not destined to naturally experience any of these feelings ever again?
Just as you can experience happiness, equally you would be able to switch on the emotions you had losing all your money trading / gambling. It is easy to say: learn from experience. Time cures everything. You will forget happy moments, but you are even more programmed to forget the sad ones. Once greed starts creeping into your soul, simply switch on the emotions of loss, anger, fault and desperation you felt when you lost money last time.
With an emotions replicator you would be able to relive any experience you have had. Moreover, people will finally understand what it means being in other people’s shoes. Literally.
There will be no need to tell kids how a disabled child feels when he is being ridiculed. There will be no reason to beg people for donations once they could feel the pain a cancer patient is going through.
Steroids of happiness will become the Viagra for the cold blooded; just as the drops of pain will become the true preachers of compassion.
- Olfactory & Sensory Transmitters
Just as we would want to feel what other people feel we would also want to know what they smell. I focus on Olfactory Transmitter specifically as smells help us recreate memories much better than any other sense. The invention of the camera meant that we are now able to see what other people are seeing. Radio enabled us to know what other people hear. At the moment, however, we have no way of knowing what the people were smelling at any given moment in history.
Potentially, the sound and vision are much more objective than the smell and sensation. However, we would never be able to get a precise emotional state of a historical figure, or any given person, in fact, if we do not have the whole plethora of feelings they were experiencing.
Wouldn’t you want to know which smell caused the people to rush into an all forgetting orgy in the the final scene of “Perfumer”?
On the other hand, imagine knowing the smell of burnt bodies of Auschwitz. I believe not a single person could doubt the cruelty of Nazis if they could experience that dreadful smell.
Imagine being able to feel the touch of feathers on your back before going to sleep. Mimicking the feeling of acupuncture could make the world’s acupuncture practitioners redundant overnight!
The more you think of the examples, the more you realise that the use cases and applications for senses replication are limitless indeed.
The fact that these technologies are still in their infancy (you can see the sensory body suits in movies like “Ready Player One”) or not even seriously discussed (like Olfactory Transmitters) is truly fascinating.
I believe an olfactory mobile or smart watch add-on will come into existence this very decade just as sensory suits and electrical currents.
- Omnipresent AR/ VR worlds
There have been numerous movies where the protagonists could see the whole world once they have adorned some special glasses, like in Free Guy; or when they saw flashes of lights and ads without any appliances, like in Bladerunner.
I think the technology for any AR/ VR innovation is already here. What we lack is a money generating use case and a mass adoption of VR headsets.
However, the proliferation of personalised AR ads will ensure the mass adoption of the hardware through a massive subsidisation by advertisers. Once most people use the VR/ AR medium, the use cases for touristic or historic information or any kind of data (objects’ ownership, best combination of price and proximity of a cup of coffee or a gas station, in AR GPS or video calls).
In fact, mass adoption of AR/ VR would mean that most tech companies like Apple will requalify into VR headsets and AR glasses manufacturers. Thus, any tech giant is highly advised to start prepping for the move from mobile phones to eye appliances ASAP. Clearly Meta, Google and Samsung are well ahead at this moment.
- Age Reversal & Characteristics Enhancement
We can already design our babies through in vitro fertilisation and CRISPR editing. We can only imagine what a living being would give to erase genetic diseases, reverse ageing and cure terminal illnesses!
While CRISPR is a strong tool to edit genetic data in unborn organisms when they are still in their embryonic state, Yamanaka factors look like a promising step on the way to restoring cells’ youth.
In 2013 Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of four transcription factors that can remove epigenetic markers on cells, reverting them back to their original pluripotent embryonic state. However, using the powerful Yamanaka Factors is risky as they can trigger tumours and rewind cell states so far that their identities are wiped.
Experiments done on mice were successful in reversing age-induced glaucoma and significantly improving old mice’s vision by switching their eye cells back to their stem state.
We will start with curing age-related diseases. Slowly the experiments will become more complex, moving from generalist cells into DNA and RNA. The time when we can trick the age clock is not too far away. It is hard to overstate the importance of biotech research and investment in this sector.
Numerous other discoveries will prove crucial in increasing memory and lungs’ capacity, restoring aged and burnt skin, enabling instant sleep as well as various hacks like instant recall or instant wipe off.
- Personalised Medicine
We already have some super expensive genetically tailored medications. I believe that by the end of 2030 personalised medicine will go through mass adoption. Probably, any condition more serious than hangover or hay fever will be treated with a highly individualised combo of molecules. In fact, hangovers and hay fever reactions vary from one person to another so clearly there is room for personalisation even there.
- Smart Panels
Smart Panels have existed for quite some time now, with TVs probably being the first ones. Touchscreens are a significant improvement on one-way communication TV sets. Holograms are another interesting development in the Smart Panels world.
I remember Ray Bradbury’s essay where he described the room with interactive walls showing different sights of the world for a different viewer. Some members of the family got very scared of a safari wall displaying wild lions. Proving the extent of these walls’ realism, one day the lions stepped out from the walls and murdered the father of the family.
While such a scenario in the real world would probably involve the discovery of teleportation, there will be way more realistic uses enabled in the coming decade. To begin with, I am sure, smart panels will be used for the world of gaming – enabling players to smoothly interact with the metaverses. Nature Panels will be used by construction companies to provide the illusion of peace and quiet in the otherwise overpopulated crowded cities, like Hong Kong or Tokyo.
The ability to look at the lake and the mountains while living in the very centre of a metropolis will become a necessity rather than a whim. Other panels coming to the market in the next decade will be air filtering membranes, used both round major cities as well as around individual housing projects, depending on the source of funding and the level of air pollution in those regions.
- Space Mining & Manufacturing
Since the Industrial Revolution, rising emissions of greenhouse gases—including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and others—have been the driving force behind climate change. Maybe 10 years ago we were trying to turn a blind eye to this situation, but today our countries and cities are being literally claimed by fire. Australia, California, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Siberia, – it is only the beginning. On the other hand, our lands are being claimed by the rising seas – Miami, Germany, Mediterranean. In fact, US biggest cities are projected to be under water by 2050!
We simply don’t have the luxury to conduct business as usual. This means that any greenhouse gas emitting industry that can be conducted from outside Earth’s atmosphere will be slowly moving into outer space. With SpaceX and other players continuously reducing the price of carrying equipment to and from space it will be only a matter of time before most mining and some manufacturing industries end up on the Moon and meteoroids belt.
- Universal Vaccine
When we are looking for an AntiVirus we normally expect the programme to be equally efficient against phishing attacks, keylogging, hacking, malware and any harmful content regardless of the origin and strength. Talking about vaccines, however, there are only a handful that can be targeted against several diseases, and even then, those vaccines are simply a combination of separate parts. The first combination vaccines are MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), however, there are many more nowadays. I believe in the future where a universal vaccine targeting all known diseases without major side effects can be safely developed within the next decade. Chances are the current leaders in COVID vaccines could be good candidates to take on this important endeavour.
- Terraforming & Space Tourism
The initial space mania has been triggered by the Cold War and forces’ desire to compete. Modern day exploration is more market driven. SpaceX, NASA and Blue Origin are working on many pragmatic missions related to the distribution of satellites and communications.
However, as the new tension between China and Western World is gaining momentum and the space industry becoming stronger, we would be right to expect another space boom coming very soon.
Moreover, the fascination with space is clearly a trait among the world’s richest and most successful people, with Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson having already gone to orbit and Elon Musk planning to “die on Mars”.
We have been to the Moon. We have stations in space. We have officially started the period of space tourism. The next frontiers would be the terraforming of the Moon, launching Moon tourism and landing on Mars. The time when space travel will become another way of spending your spring break is not centuries, but decades away, albeit for very affluent members of our society to begin with.
- Eternal Batteries
The amount of energy needed to power all stations and devices on the Planet is quite phenomenal. Very often, however, the time between charging is so short it requires us to bring cables or portable chargers all the time. Clearly, there is a huge need to increase the life of any given device. At the moment the most productive discovered batteries are Lithium-sulphur batteries, developed by the university of Monash, as well as Graphene-based batteries. They can power an iPhone for 5 days, which is a 5X improvement on the batteries of today. Since demand for long battery life is strong, the time horizon for batteries will keep increasing, reaching weeks by the end of 2030.