Predictions for the near future

6 June 2018

Predictions for the near future

As humans, it is natural to contemplate and plan for the future. Whether that be with optimism or pessimism, we have an obsession with the future, and often worry about it. Obviously, it is impossible to predict the future with pinpoint accuracy; however, experts and theorists for many years have continued to try their hand at determining what the future for civilisation may hold. From self-driving cars to the food we consume, the work of these various experts hopes to give us a glimpse into what the future may look like.

Probably coming as no surprise to anyone, one of the biggest predictions for the future is that the majority of the population will be living in urban areas by the year 2050. According to Rockefeller University mathematical biologist Joel Cohen, not only will most of us be living in densely-populated cities, but humans are predicted to have a generally higher average age than that of today.

While the rural population is predicted to shrink from the current 3.4 billion to 3.1 billion by 2050 according to the United Nations, cities theorist Richard Florida predicts that trends in urbanisation will see economies shifting from being real-estate driven and erasing the divisions between home and work.

The UN also predicts the world’s current population of 7.3 billion people is expected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050, with the majority of this growth occurring in highly-populated cities.

Now, stepping away from population and moving into technology and lifestyle, high-tech innovations are expected to change the way we live our lives significantly, and experts say we can expect to see some big changes sooner rather than later.

According to futurist Ian Pearson, the big surge in life-altering technologies could hit within only a few short years. Pearson predicts that Hyperloop transport systems could be transporting humans between major cities in record times, as early as a mere five to six years away.

Hyperloop transport has been a long-discussed idea, with bullet trains in Japan having already taken rail-systems to the next level, we can expect Hyperloop transport to serve as the most efficient mode of transport between cities in the coming years.

In what some could view as one of Pearson’s most disturbing predictions, he claims that machine technology and artificial intelligence could become conscious and super-human as early as 2020 to 2025. With Saudi-Arabia having granted citizenship to the highly-sophisticated AI robot Sophia in 2017, it is no surprise that we will see even more ‘sentient’ machines and cases like this in the near future.

Also coming as no surprise to anyone, space travel is expected to see a huge push in the near future, with Elon Musk working hard to deliver people to Mars by the year 2024. Musk’s company SpaceX has proven its potential to lead the way in space travel with its extremely successful launch of the highest-capacity space vehicle ever, the Falcon Heavy, in February of 2018.

Back on Earth, driver-less vehicles are expected to make roads safer, and travel more efficient. Autonomous vehicles are already being produced by companies such as Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes; with BI Intelligence, a market research firm, predicting 10 million cars with self-driving features to be on the road by 2020.

Autonomous vehicles are set to not only make commuting easier, but driver-less trucks are expected to make long commutes more efficient, rendering the truck driver obsolete. With companies being able to save huge amounts of money without having to pay drivers, the move to autonomous trucks appears to be a smart move for businesses that could see the light of day in the coming years, but a concern for truck drivers.

It is evident that as time progresses, society continues to lean further away from racial issues and discrimination, to a more inclusive society. Although complete race and gender equality are still far from a reality in 2018, many futurists, such as NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, predict that the future will see racism and gender equality issues grow to be much less significant.

In another positive prediction, green markets founder Nina Planck and New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman believe that the future will see society consuming healthier foods, with ethical sourcing. By 2050 Planck believes there will be smaller slaughterhouses, smaller creameries, and more regional food operations that will see families consuming food sourced from more local locations, while we will also consume less processed foods in 2050, according to Bittman.

Overall, while it is impossible to say for certain what our future holds, the work from these dedicated experts and futurists can paint a rough picture of what we can expect to see in our near future. While robots make our lives easier and our neighbours move closer, we can expect to see many exciting and positive changes in the future.