Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Official List of Predictions

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all the predictions I’ve made on this blog, and discuss which ones are likely to be right, and which ones I may have gotten wrong.

In my predictions, I’ve consistently tried to err on the side of pessimism as much as I thought was reasonable. I think that predictions of the future often have a tendency to be overenthusiastic, based on wishful thinking rather than what the evidence actually suggests. I’m certainly not exempting myself from that, but I’ve tried to minimize the problem by giving myself a few years’ leeway whenever reasonable. That’s why all of my predictions are in the “By 2020” format. For most of my predictions, I think that the most likely date is earlier than the date listed.

Furthermore, I’ve tried to focus most of my predictions on the foreseeable future - the next 20 years. The farther ahead we try to gaze into the crystal ball, the more difficult it becomes to make predictions with much confidence. Since my predictions tend to be based on examining the state of emerging technologies today, it becomes much more likely that they will hit some unforeseen roadblock or that I will completely miss a transformative technology, the farther ahead I try to look. Imagine trying to explain an iPhone to someone in 1980 who had probably never seen a personal computer, much less the internet or a cell phone!

I suppose that one of the benefits of not being a famous prognosticator is that no one is likely to hold me accountable if I’m wrong. This website may not even exist for more than a few years into the future, but I’m hoping to at least maintain the list of predictions as a sort of time capsule. If nothing else, it provides an interesting snapshot of “the future” as seen from 2010.

Without further ado, here is my list of predictions. This list will be continuously updated as I make new ones, so check back for the latest updates. This blog entry is now linked from the menu on the right.


By 2011 – Near-field communication comes equipped in many new smartphones. Mobile payments become even more popular in the developing world, and makes inroads in Europe and the United States. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – Internet-equipped televisions or add-ons will become popular. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – At least 75% of countries improve their score on the Human Development Index compared to 2010, with the biggest improvements in developing countries. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – There will be a major shakeup (or a total implosion) in the top leadership of North Korea and/or Iran. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – Tablet computers account for at least 13% of the US personal computer market. The market will become competitive with several new tablets seriously challenging Apple’s iPad. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – Gaming (led by Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect) will begin to become gesture-based, rather than controller-based. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – The migration of computer files from the hard drive to the cloud will begin in earnest, as people become more willing to allow third-parties to store all of the content on their computers via the internet. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – Voice Over IP services, such as Skype, become popular on smartphones, thus portending the eventual demise of traditional voice-telephone services. (Jan. 2011)

By 2011 – At least one company offers genome sequencing for $1,000 or less (Jul. 2010)

By 2013 – Useful augmented reality applications exist on PCs and/or tablets to allow shoppers to virtually try on clothing before purchasing it online. (Aug. 2010)

By 2013 – Cuba has made substantial progress toward democracy relative to where it stood at the beginning of 2011. (Feb. 2011)

By 2014 – At least one company offers genome sequencing for $100 or less (Jul. 2010)

By 2015 – Effective smartphone applications exist which can turn lights on and off, and start or stop home appliances. (Sep. 2010)

By 2016 - Personal health monitors, which are ingested or worn, can automatically call 911 whenever a person's vital signs indicate an emergency. (Sep. 2010)

By 2016 – Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan have made substantial progress toward democracy relative to where they stood at the beginning of 2011. (Feb. 2011)

By 2017 – The average American carries at least ten computing devices on (or inside) his or her person. (Sep. 2010)

By 2017 – At least one-third of all smartphone and/or tablet users have an augmented reality application to project virtual images over the real world, as seen through their screen. (Aug. 2010)

By 2018 – Smart walls are becoming popular, which can display any image the user wants at any given moment, or can cycle through a series of posters. (Sep. 2010)

By 2018 – China has made substantial progress toward democracy relative to where it stood at the beginning of 2011. (Feb. 2011)

By 2019 – Over half of all Americans have had their genomes sequenced (Jul. 2010)

By 2020 - Driverless cars are commercially-available and street-legal somewhere in the United States. (May 2010)

By 2020 – There are fewer than 5 million cases of malaria annually, and fewer than 15,000 deaths. (May 2011)

By 2021 – U.S. sales of personalized medicine (i.e. drugs tailored to the patient’s specific genetic profile) are greater than sales of non-personalized, mass-market medicine (Jul. 2010)

By 2021 – Augmented reality is routinely used to train people how to perform process-based tasks such as cooking, dentistry, surgery, furniture assembly, factory work, and/or auto repair. (Aug. 2010)

By 2022 - Lab-grown hamburger (with the taste and texture of real hamburger) is sold commercially, for the same price or less. (Jul. 2010)

By 2022 – Silicon computer chips are no longer flat. They are now three-dimensional because it is impossible to shrink transistors any further. (Sep. 2010)

By 2023 – At least half of all new, non-driverless automobiles in the US have augmented reality technology in the windshield for safety and/or navigational purposes. (Aug. 2010)

By 2025 - Youth literacy rates exceed 90% in both Sub-Saharan Africa (up from 72% in 2008) and South Asia (up from 79% in 2008). Gender disparities in literacy have mostly disappeared; the global female youth literacy rate is no less than 98% of the male youth literacy rate (up from 94% in 2008). (Oct. 2010)

By 2025 - Fewer than 75% of students in the United States physically attend a school on a daily basis. (Oct. 2010)

By 2025 – In the United States, solar energy is cheaper than oil on average, on a per kilowatt-hour basis. (Oct. 2010)

By 2026 – At least one treatment employing nanoparticles is routinely used in the United States to treat cancer. (Dec. 2010)

By 2027 - New driverless cars outnumber new cars requiring at least some human control, in the US market. (May 2010)

By 2028 – Augmented reality contact lenses exist which can place virtual overlays of the world directly onto the wearer’s eye, or block out the real world altogether if the wearer desires. (Aug. 2010)

By 2029 - Lab-grown steak (with the taste and texture of real steak) is sold commercially, for the same price or less. (Jul. 2010)

By 2030 – Scientists have a basic understanding of the reasons (if any) that we sleep, as well as why it evolved in the first place. (Sep. 2010)

By 2035 - Driverless cars are widely perceived as safer than human drivers. Somewhere in the United States, it is illegal for humans to drive. (May 2010)

By 2035 – The global oil trade is less than 25% the size that it is in 2010 (approximately $2.1 trillion), adjusted for inflation. (Oct. 2010)

By 2035 – Graphene is routinely used in structures (e.g. bridges and buildings) that need to be strong and light. (Dec. 2010)

By 2040 - An "invisibility suit" exists which renders the wearer almost completely invisible to those who aren't actively looking for him or her. (Aug. 2010)

By 2045 – The aging process has been halted, for all intents and purposes. People no longer grow old beyond their peak healthy age, between 18 and 25. (Aug. 2010)

By 2050 – Medication exists that makes sleeping optional, providing people with any benefits of sleep without the need to actually do so, and without any nasty side effects. (Sep. 2010)

By 2050 – Nanobots can patrol the cells of our bodies, looking for any unwelcome intruders or mutations. (Dec. 2010)

By 2055 – Molecular assemblers are able to produce nearly any macro-scale product we need, provided that they have the raw materials. (Dec. 2010)

By 2060 – It is possible to reverse existing damage from the aging process. It is no longer possible to estimate an adult’s chronological age merely by looking at them. Diseases of old age have, for the most part, ceased to be a problem. (Aug. 2010)


  1. Honestly, most of your predictions seem to be overly optimistic. Given the (seemingly) slow rate of innovation in the last 10 years, I would add at least 5 years to all of these, and upwards of 30 to some.
    I quite honestly think that most of the first world has become complacent, allowing simple refining of existing technologies, while truly new ideas are unfunded due to the risk.
    I do think that we will reach many of these milestones, but I think that it will be quite a while later than you have predicted.
    Then again, there's also the question of whether something is widely available or possible given a well-equipped lab.
    The big exception is your augmented reality predictions. My iPhone already has "layar", which searches google maps for content and displays it for me.
    Google is also pushing the boundaries with driverless automobiles. I would expect one bi-modal car within the next 5 years, and one full-driverless within 7.
    As for home automation, there's no reason that can't be done now, with wi-fi, 3g, and bluetooth-enabled smartphones and simply home softwear. The only reason it hasn't been done extensively is lack of a market for it. Nobody really sees a good reason to spend buckets of money so they can turn on their lights 5 minutes earlier. (I'm probably missing some ideas from your earlier posts, but I'm also trying to capture the general/uneducated attitude.)

  2. Hi Dan,

    I agree with you about augmented reality. I have Layar on Android too, which is pretty cool. But I think that at this stage, it's more of a novelty than an actual useful application. I'm hopeful that AR will be one of the technologies that can really make great strides in the next 5 years.

    Home automation...I disagree that it can be done now, at least not for a reasonable price. But in the not too distant future, I think that most new appliances will have computers embedded in them, which are able to communicate with each other and with the owner at any time. I think the main reason there's no market for this kind of thing is because it's too expensive right now. But I think that will change soon.

    I think you're right that we can get driverless automobiles around the 7-year time frame you mentioned. GM has announced that they plan to have them on the roads by around 2017. But aside from the technological factors, there would need to be some changes to liability and traffic laws before these cars can actually hit the roads. My guess is that the politicians will be several years behind the technology, and that will be the factor that may keep them off the roads until the end of the decade.

    And I don't necessarily think innovation has been slow for the past 10 years. Ten years ago, I didn't even own a cell phone, much less a smartphone. The Human Genome Project was just finishing up for a cost of $3 billion (the same project today would cost about $3,000). The idea of downloading, much less streaming, even a short video clip would have been totally unthinkable.

    Thanks for the input! I suppose only time will tell. :)