Predictions for the Future from 2014 | Walter I Baltzley

The future is an ever-moving target shaped by the events of today.  One can never know exactly what the future may hold.  Although its basic forms may be determined, its finer points will always elude us.  This is merely a sketch of things that MIGHT be…drawn from the events of today and extended forward.  Be sure to note that these are things that MIGHT NOT be…depending on how events change.

We are the makers and shapers of destiny–forging the future with our choices today.

2014-2015:

ENERGY: (2014-2015)

    • Solar 2.0 hits the market.  Solar becomes thin, lightweight, and flexible;   starts being integrated into portable electronics like cell-phones and tablets.  The cost of roof-top solar is cut in half to around $0.30 a watt for cells and under $1.00 a watt for installation.
    • Utility Scale Batteries are introduced into the market, but are expensive
    • Natural Gas Vehicles (CNG / LNG) make their debut, along with inexpensive fuel-cell technology.
    • Energy Prices Rise.  Utilities raise rates to deal with lost demand due to solar installations, and oil prices continue to climb.

INDUSTRY (2014-2015)

    • Graphene starts to be mass produced, and starts to make its way into a variety of industrial applications.  The first grapheme touch displays are created, along with the first grapheme computer chips.
    • 3D Printing expands into nearly every industry.  Multi-material printers are developed to produce complex finished products.
    • Micro-Reactors are developed to produce a variety of industrial chemicals; work begins on general-purpose integrated micro-reactors.
    • Automation continues to advance.  Intelligent Agents (IAs) evolve from simple “chat-bots” to sounding almost human, and start replacing customer support.  Automated commercial trucks developed; and self-driving concept cars developed.  Humanoid robots enter the workplace.
  • COMPUTERS (2014-2015)
      • Tablets flood the market, cannibalizing sales of PCs and Laptops; prices crash and computer manufacturers begin consolidating.
      • New Processors integrate graphics and focus on reducing heat and energy consumption rather than speed or cores.
      • Wearable Displays, like Google Glass, start making their way into the consumer market, but sales remain low.
      • Android replaces Windows as most common operating system.
      • Solid State Drives (SSDs) overtake disk-drives.
      • Standard Specs:  3-5 GHz processor; 16-32 GB RAM, 4-10 TB HDD, 100 Megabit to 1 Gigabit Wireless Internet.
  • MEDICINE (2014-2015) 
    • Implantable Micro-Mechanical Devices (MEMs) become available for medical use.  Ultra small pace-makers, medication dispensers, and bio-sensors become available to the public.
    • 3D Printed Human Organs developed and tested
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to $500 and takes less than a day.
    • Genetic Engineering allows people to choose the gender and appearance of their unborn children, raising ethical concerns and stirring political debate.
    • Gene-replacement therapy for genetic diseases is tested in adult humans.
    • Bionic limbs become more life-like and responsive

 2016-2020

ENERGY:  (2016-2020)

    • Solar 3.0 hits the market.  Solar begins to convert not only light, but also heat into electricity going from 20% to 40% efficiency.  Solar arrays are integrated into new homes and electric cars.   The cost of roof-top solar is cut in half twice to less than $0.10 a watt for cells and under $0.50 a watt for installation.
    • As more people switch to solar, utilities begin transitioning from production to storage services.  However, battery prices plummet and personal storage starts to compete with utilities.
    • Natural Gas Hybrids (CNG / LNG) compete head-on with gasoline-powered hybrids and full electric vehicles.  Hydrogen powered cars introduced into the market.
    • Energy Prices Peak and Plummet.  Utilities are forced to cut back production due to loss of customers to solar; they get laws passed forcing solar owners store surplus power.  Reduced demand for gasoline, along with a glut of shale oil and gas drives prices down.

INDUSTRY (2016-2020)

    • Graphene makes its way into consumer products.  Super-strong metals and composites developed for construction.  Strong, lightweight graphene cables replace copper in telecommunications and power transmission.
    • Most manufacturers switch to 3D Printing.  Large, specialized printers are developed for various industries.  Home-based printers evolve to make replacement parts for appliances and personal electronics.
    • In Industry, micro-reactors start to be connected directly to 3D Printers using specialized matter networks (Matter-Nets).  Integrated, programmable, multi-purpose reactors developed.  Gains in production are staggering—ten fold or more.
    • Governments begin developing plans for generic, nation-wide matter-nets.  Korea and Japan finish theirs first.
    • Intelligent Agents (IAs) replace most customer service representatives, receptionists, and secretaries.  I-Agents enter into accounting, stock prediction, and academic research.
    • Automated commercial trucks become increasingly common—truckers unions go on strike.  Self-driving cars prove to be safer and more effective than human drivers—laws proposed requiring all new cars have autodrive as a safety feature.
    • Robots become more autonomous and begin to outnumber humans in the workforce.  Ethical questions arise as robots make their way into law-enforcement and military use.  Laws proposed to ban “Robocops” and “Terminators”.
  • COMPUTERS (2016-2020) 
    • Death of the PC…long live the PCS!  Personal Computers evolve into Personal Cloud Servers for portable devices, providing added processing power, memory, and storage for more intense applications.
    • Graphene processors introduced, continuing Moore’s Law.
    • Wearable Displays become more fashionable and common.  They are used to provide a large virtual display for portable devices, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR).
    • Phase-Change Memory begins to replace Flash Memory
    • Standard Specs:  50-100 GHz processor; 124-256 GB RAM, 40-60 TB HDD, 1-10 Gigabit Wireless Internet.
  • MEDICINE (2016-2020) 
    • Implantable Micro-Mechanical Devices (MEMs) start to be used to enhance personal performance.  Laws are passed regulating their use for non-medical purposes.
    • Human trials for 3D Printed Human Organs succeed and fast-tracked for FDA approval.  Heart, liver, kidneys become replaceable organs.
    • Scientist work on developing a 3D Printed Eye.
    • Human trials begin for treatments to stop the aging process.
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to under $100 and takes less than an hour to process.
    • Genetic Engineering allows people to change any physical characteristic of their children.  Laws are passed restricting alterations to be within “natural human bounds”
    • Gene-replacement therapy makes its way into the market.
    • Bionic limbs provide sensation and movement equal to natural limbs.

2021-2025

  • ENERGY:  (2021-2025)
    • Solar 4.0 hits the market.  Solar efficiency increases to 50% and prices drop to $0.05 per watt for cells and $0.25 per watt to install.  Small utilities start to go out of business as more people produce and store their own power. However, some large utilities continue to produce and store power for industrial scale customers.
    • All new homes and buildings required to have solar and energy storage pre-installed
    • Natural Gas Hybrids (CNG / LNG) and Full Electric Vehicles drive gasoline-powered cars out of the market.  Hydrogen Fuel produced using cheap solar power starts to compete with Natural Gas.
    • Energy Prices Continue to Plummet.
  • INDUSTRY (2021-2025)
    • Graphene starts being used in 3D Printers, and becomes an integral ingredient in almost every product.  It becomes as common as plastic, aluminum, and steel is today.
    • Nearly all products are printed.  Home-based printers achieve the same capabilities as industrial printers.
    • Industries build out their private matter-nets, and hobbyists start to connect with their private printers. Governments begin building their own matter-nets, and struggle with private companies over standards.
    • Intelligent Agents (IAs) advance into higher level roles—serving as consultants and taking over lower management positions.  Laws are proposed to prevent agents from holding executive positions.
    • Vehicles are increasingly automated.  15-20% of personal vehicles will have “autodrive” capability.  30-50% of commercial vehicles will be automated, but will require human supervision.
    • Robots are used in every industry, and are starting to make their way into personal care and home use.  Robots start to assist police officers, fire fighters, and emergency responders in dangerous situations.   Personal Robots introduced into the market.
  • COMPUTERS  (2021-2025)
    • Death of the PC…long live the PCS!  Personal Computers evolve into Personal Cloud Servers for portable devices, providing added processing power, memory, and storage for more intense applications.
    • Graphene processors introduced, continuing Moore’s Law.
    • Wearable Displays become standard accessories and are bundled with new portable devices.
    • Phase-Change Memory begins to replace DRAM
    • Standard Specs:  200-400 GHz processor; 1TB RAM, 100-200 TB HDD, 10-20 Gigabit Wireless Internet.
  • MEDICINE (2021-2025)
    • Injectable Nano-Mechanical Devices (NEMS) begin development.  Allow the body to be monitored, and drugs to be delivered cell-by-cell.  Potential to hunt down viruses and bacteria in the body.
    • Human eye successfully printed.  FDA approves human transplant.
    • Human trials to stop the aging process are promising but have mixed results.  The FDA approves further research.
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to under $50 and takes less than thirty minutes to process.  Ethical issues spur political debate over whether it should be legal to process a person’s DNA without their knowledge.
    • Gene-replacement begins being used to enhance human performance, laws are passed to restrict use of the technology for non-medical use.
    • Bionic limbs exceed normal human capabilities.  Development begins on bionic implants.

2026-2030

  • ENERGY:  (2026-2030)
    • Solar 5.0 hits the market.  Solar cells are printed and have either batteries or hydrogen storage built into them.  Solar efficiency increases to 60% and prices drop to $0.02 per watt for cells and $0.10 per watt to install.
    • All new cars, homes, and buildings—along with most electronic devices—have solar built into them.
    • Hydrogen Fuel from solar is becoming competitive with full-electric vehicles, and starting to take market share away from Natural Gas Hybrids (CNG / LNG).
    • Energy Prices bottom out as people start printing their own solar panels and fuel-cells.
    • There are rising environmental concerns about large-scale solar plants.
  • INDUSTRY (2026-2030)
    • New types of nano-material inks are developed with special properties.
    • 3D Printers become commodities.  They are mass produced, have nearly identical features, and can make almost any product.
    • Matter-Net Standards are established, and governments begin building out infrastructure in earnest.  Small to mid-sized businesses connect to the matter-net as hobbyists become entrepreneurs.
    • Intelligent Agents (IAs) advance to mid-level management positions and serve as executive assistants and consultants.  Political opposition to executive automation intensifies.
    • 60-70% of commercial vehicles on the road become automated, and the number of personal vehicles with “autodrive” increases to 30-40%.  Self-driving rentals and cab services also start to become popular.
    • Personal Robots become a hot ticket item.  They can perform a variety of household chores, including cook dinner, wash the dishes, and take out the trash.  Robot pets also become popular.
  • COMPUTERS  (2026-2030)
    • People start to “live in the cloud”; with wearable computers, they are always online.  The lines between digital and physical blur with augmented and virtual realities.  .
    • Digital displays become integrated into most flat surfaces, and most areas have free wireless internet.
    • All PCS Components become integrated into a single chip
    • Standard Specs:  1-2 THz processor; 2-3 TB RAM, 500-1,000 TB HDD, 40-80 Gigabit Wireless Internet.
  • MEDICINE (2026-2030) 
    • Injectable Nano-Mechanical Devices (NEMs) begin human testing—because they are technically MEMs, they already have FDA approval.
    • 3D Printed Human Eye(s) successfully implanted, restoring sight to a person who was blind.  FDA approves commercial use.
    • Scientists prove that it is possible to stop the aging process; drugs for doing so await FDA approval.
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to under $25 and takes less than 10 minutes to process.  Laws are passed making it illegal to process a person’s DNA without their approval, and to discriminate against people based on their genetic profile.
    • Illegal genetic modifications become available on the black market.
    • Bionic implants used to enhance human performance.  Laws passed to restrict such implants for non-medical use.

2031-2035

ENERGY:  (2031-2035)

    • Solar 5.0 hits the market.  Commercial cells have either batteries or hydrogen storage built into them.  Solar efficiency increases to 60% and prices drop to $0.02 per watt for cells and $0.10 per watt to install.  It becomes popular to donate surplus energy to charity.
    • All new cars, homes, and buildings—along with most electronic devices—have solar built into them.
    • Hydrogen Fuel from solar is becoming competitive with full-electric vehicles, and starting to take market share away from Natural Gas Hybrids (CNG / LNG).
    • Energy Prices bottom out as people start printing their own solar panels and fuel-cells.
    • There are rising environmental concerns about large-scale solar plants.
  • INDUSTRY (2031-2035)
    • Complex nano-structures that self-assemble into simple nano-machines developed for use in 3D Printers.
    • Household 3D Printers become capable of producing Micro-Engineered Machines (MEMs).
    • The United States completes the world’s first trans-continental matter-net trunk line.  There is great fanfare as nanoparticles are sent from mines in California to New York and Washington DC to make replicas of the Statue of Liberty and a bust of George Washington respectively.  Flanked by Solar cells it is visible from space and displaces the Great Wall of China as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Because of the press, the early majority rush to get connected.
    • A Corporation appoints an Intelligent Agent (IA) as CEO.  A public outcry ensues causing intense political debate.
    • 80-90% of commercial vehicles on the road become automated, and the number of personal vehicles with “autodrive” increases to 50-60%.  Self-driving rentals and cab services continue to increase in popularity as human driven vehicles are banned from the highway.  Speed Limits increased to over 120 mph.
    • More than half of households buy a personal robot.  A man is tried for programming a robot to commit murder.  Robot Safety becomes a major public concern
  • COMPUTERS  (2031-2035)
    • Computer implants get FDA approval, but they are met with fear and skepticism.  Ethical issues stir up heated political debate.
    • “Digital Ink” Tattoos are invented that are animated and touch-sensitive; they become wildly popular among teenagers
    • The first Digital Contact Lenses receive FDA approval; consumers show little interest to start, but gains in popularity over time.
    • Low-cost “Digital Paper” is invented.  It provides low-level computing power on a thin, foldable sheet that costs less than one cent.
    • Standard Specs:  2-4 THz processor; 4-8 TB RAM, 1-2,000 TB HDD, 100-200 Gigabit Wireless Internet.
  • MEDICINE (2031-2035)
    • Injectable Nano-Mechanical Devices (NEMs) begin human testing—because they are technically MEMs, they already have FDA approval.
    • 3D Printed Human Eye(s) successfully implanted, restoring sight to a person who was blind.  FDA approves commercial use.
    • Scientists prove that it is possible to stop the aging process; drugs for doing so await FDA approval.
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to under $25 and takes less than 10 minutes to process.  Laws are passed making it illegal to process a person’s DNA without their approval, and to discriminate against people based on their genetic profile.
    • Illegal genetic modifications make their way into the black market.
    • Bionic implants and exoskeletons used to enhance human performance.  Laws passed to restrict such devices for non-medical use.

2036-2040

  • ENERGY:  (2036-2040)
    • Solar 6.0 hits the market.  Self-Assembling nano-particle inks can be sprayed over large areas to make any surface generate and store solar power. Efficiency increases to 70% and price drops to $0.01 per watt for cells and $0.05 per watt for installation.  All new cars, homes, and buildings—along with most electronic devices—have solar built into them.
    • Hydrogen Fuel from solar is becoming competitive with full-electric vehicles, and starting to take market share away from Natural Gas Hybrids (CNG / LNG).
    • Energy Prices bottom out as people start printing their own solar panels and fuel-cells.
    • There are rising environmental concerns about large-scale solar plants.
  • INDUSTRY (2036-2040)
    • Printable nano-machines become more sophisticated, can be programmed to assemble, disassemble, and reconfigure themselves.  First molecular assemblers and dissemblers created, sparking political debate over fears of self-replicating nanite swarms.
    • Household 3D Printers become capable of producing Micro-Engineered Machines (MEMs) enabling people to build their own medical devices.
    • The Digital Matter-Net grows rapidly as small businesses and everyday people rush to get connected.  A home-based recycling system allows products to be disassembled and reconfigured with zero waste.
    • Corporations become fully automated.  Intelligent Agents used to consult political leaders on matters of state.
    • All highway vehicles become automated.  Fewer people choose to own a vehicle in favor of cheaper rentals.  Speed limits increased to over 200 mph.  Accidents are almost eliminated.
    • Most households get a personal robot.  Robots become very lifelike and Intelligent Agents (IA) give them realistic personalities.  First person seeks permission to marry a robot sparking intense public debate.  .
  • COMPUTERS  (2036-2040)
    • Computer Implants used to enhance human performance, and provide drug-like effects.  Laws developed to restrict the recreational use of such implants.  First malware developed to affect implants.
    • Retinal Implants eliminate the need for external displays.  However, they are not well-received by consumers.
    • Self-assembling nano-particle inks can be sprayed onto any surface to create a touch-based computer.
    • Standard Specs:  None!  Computers are everywhere and share resources across the network.  Everyone has access to nearly infinite computing power.
  • MEDICINE (2036-2040)
    • Bio-NEMs become more sophisticated and begin to actively assist the body in healing and preventing disease.  NEMs created to alter DNA and build implants inside the human body.  .
    • Regenerative Medicine takes root.  Younger, healthier tissue can be grown and implanted, effectively reversing the aging process.  Anti-aging drugs receive FDA approval.
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to under $10 and takes less than a minute to process.  Laws are passed requiring that everyone be screened at birth and their genetic profile stored to screen for illness and illegal modifications.
    • It becomes possible to replace almost any part of the human body with a better bionic implant.  Transhumanists begin pushing to repeal “Seventh Day”:Laws preventing human cloning and modification.

2041-2045

  • ENERGY:  (2041-2045)
    • Solar 7.0 hits the market, increasing efficiency to 80% and costs less than half a cent per watt, but hardly anyone notices.  90% of people already produce an energy surplus.  Wind and Tidal farms are being dismantled because maintenance costs more than replacing them with solar.
    • Hydrogen Fuel from solar becomes very inexpensive and displaces Natural Gas in Hybrid Vehicles.  The last of the fossil fuels die out.
    • Lobbyists begin to push for environmental regulations on solar and battery storage systems.
    • Companies begin to seriously consider building space-based solar.
  • INDUSTRY (2041-2045)
    • Molecular assemblers are organized into the world’s first molecular factory.  Nanites become more sophisticated and are used to form larger, interactive structures.  Basic “holodeck” technology developed.
    • Household 3D Printers become capable of creating programmable matter that can assemble, dissemble, and reconfigure itself on demand.
    • The Digital Matter-Net achieves maximum penetration, giving average people the ability to print anything at home, and the plans for an increasing number of items are available for free.
    • Intelligent Agents (IAs), similar to JARVIS in Iron Man, make their way into every-day home use.
    • Automated flying vehicles introduced into the market.  Speed limits increased to over 300 mph.  Manual driving becomes impossible.
    • Robots run by artificial agents become indistinguishable from human beings.  Robots start being used in the “sin” industry as prostitutes and gladiatorial fighters.  First case of “robot abuse” brought into court.  Ethical issues stir intense political debate over whether robots have rights.
  • COMPUTERS  (2041-2045)
    • Nano-computers are integrated into Micro-Engineered Machines (MEMs) and become free-roving.  First non-biological pathogen developed to hack the human body.
    • Technology developed to directly stimulate the visual and audio centers of the brain, entirely eliminating the need for external stimulation.  People are able to live in dreamy virtual worlds, or wirelessly connect their minds to robot “avatars” in the real world.
    • Self-assembling nanites can be programmed to form a variety of different objects.  Each nanite is a computer, and the objects they form provide computing power for portable, wearable, and implanted devices.
    • Standard Specs:  None!  Computers are everywhere and share resources across the network.  Everyone has access to nearly infinite computing power.
  • MEDICINE (2041-2045)
    • Bio-NEMs start to imitate biology and begin to perform certain cellular functions.  Synthetic cells start to be used for human enhancement, prompting laws to restrict the technology.
    • Proactive Medicine takes root.  NEMs begin to repair cellular damage in addition to monitoring cellular health and eliminating pathogens.  Most diseases are cured, and the aging process is halted.
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to under $1 and takes only seconds to process; your DNA becomes your personal ID.
    • Bionic implants integrate seamlessly with biology, and start to become more popular.  The black market becomes saturated with all kinds of illegal biological “upgrades”.   Governments consider repealing “Seventh Day” Laws due to pressure from Transhumanist Lobby.

2046-2050

  • ENERGY:  (2046-2050)
    • Solar 7.0 hits the market, increasing efficiency to 80% and costs less than half a cent per watt, but hardly anyone notices.  90% of people already produce an energy surplus.  Wind and Tidal farms are being dismantled because maintenance costs more than replacing them with solar.
    • Hydrogen Fuel from solar becomes very inexpensive and displaces Natural Gas in Hybrid Vehicles.  The last of the fossil fuels die out.
    • Lobbyists begin to push for environmental regulations on solar and battery storage systems.
    • Companies begin to seriously consider building space-based solar.
  • INDUSTRY (2046-2050)
    • Molecular assemblers are organized into the world’s first molecular factory.  Nanites become more sophisticated and are used to form larger, interactive structures.  Basic “holodeck” technology developed.
    • Household 3D Printers become capable of creating programmable matter that can assemble, dissemble, and reconfigure itself on demand.
    • The Digital Matter-Net achieves maximum penetration, giving average people the ability to print anything at home, and the plans for an increasing number of items are available for free.
    • Intelligent Agents (IAs), similar to JARVIS in Iron Man, make their way into every-day home use.
    • Automated flying vehicles introduced into the market.  Speed limits increased to over 300 mph.  Manual driving becomes impossible.
    • Robots run by artificial agents become indistinguishable from human beings.  Robots start being used in the “sin” industry as prostitutes and gladiatorial fighters.  First case of “robot abuse” brought into court.  Ethical issues stir intense political debate over whether robots have rights.
  • COMPUTERS  (2046-2050)
    • Nano-computers are integrated into Micro-Engineered Machines (MEMs) and become free-roving.  First non-biological pathogen developed to hack the human body.
    • Technology developed to directly stimulate the visual and audio centers of the brain, entirely eliminating the need for external stimulation.  A small segment of the population starts to live in dreamy virtual worlds, or wirelessly connect their minds to life-like robot “avatars”, or “surrogates” in the real world.
    • Nanites can be programmed to assemble themselves into a variety of different objects.  Each nanite contains a powerful multi-gigahertz processor and several terabytes of memory.  Billions of nanites are integrated into clothing, furniture, and other everyday objects.
    • Standard Specs:  The world is filled with smart objects that act as a giant cloud server.  A device the size of a desktop computer could store all human knowledge and have more computing power than all the computers in the entire world in 2013.
  • MEDICINE (2046-2050)
    • Bio-NEMs become sophisticated enough to perform all cellular functions, allowing us to create synthetic tissues, organs, and even life-forms.  Laws passed to prevent “playing god”.
    • Nanites gain ability to repair tissue at cellular level, allowing for regeneration, and making humans nearly immortal.  Disease is detected and prevented before it starts.
    • Aging process is halted for everyone over the age of 25, and the elderly begin to be restored to youth.
    • Cost of Genetic Screening drops to mere pennies, can be processed in under a second, and can be done without physical contact.  Sensors developed to let people know when they are being scanned.
    • Laws restricting human enhancement repealed in favor of requiring people to receive permits and register their upgrades.
  • SPACE: (2046-2050)
    • First Space Elevator Constructed
    • Construction begins on orbital platforms and lunar colonies.
    • Manned mission to Mars

2050 and Beyond

  • ENERGY:  (2050-?)
    • Solar 8.0 increases efficiency to 90%, but nobody notices.  Space-based solar is developed as space-elevators cut the cost of transport, and as lobbyists succeed in forcing companies to cut their “solar footprint”.
    • Fusion perfected and begins to replace hydrogen fuel
    • Anti-matter fuel starts being used for space exploration
    • Dark-matter fuel being developed
  • SINGULARITY (2050-?)
    • Matter-net 2.0 and Molecular Manufacturing replace 3D Printing.
    • Everything is made out of self-assembling nanites.  Objects are used and then “melt” or “dissolve” until needed in the future.
    • “Liquid Metal” Robots like the T-1000 developed.
    • Nanites can configure into molecular factories and connect to the matter-net to assemble more nanites.
    • Physical environments become programmable.  Nanites can imitate any shape, color, or texture—including liquids.  Allows for life-like simulations, further blurring the line between virtual and physical reality.
    • A growing segment of society chooses live entirely in virtual reality or interact with the world through “avatars” or “surrogates”
    • Bio-NEMS become interchangeable with biological cells.
    • First attempts to copy a brain and transfer human consciousness into a non-biological body.
  • SPACE: (2050-?)
    • Space elevators built on the Moon and Mars.
    • Humanity begins moving to the stars—exploring the solar system, mining asteroids, and building colonies around the Earth and The Moon.
    • Construction begins on a starship to travel to Alpha-Centauri
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