Predictions For the Future…2016 Edition

Recently I wrote an article comparing predictions that I made back in 2014 to actual events that happened in 2015.  Most of my predictions were correct–but some were wrong, and so now I need to adjust the rest of my timeline to account for the unexpected events.

Predictions:  2016-2020

ENERGY (2016-2020)

  • Solar 2.0 is introduced–Solar sheets are thin, lightweight, and inexpensive compared to solar panels.  In addition, they can be added to traditional panels to boost their efficiency from 20% to 30% or more.  The price of solar cells fall below $0.50 per watt, and $1.50 for installation.
  • “Artificial Leaf” technology is used to develop experimental fuel-beds to produce carbon and hydrogen fuels.  However, environmental and safety concerns slow the growth of this technology.
  • Solid-State Batteries are introduced–doubling energy density and cutting costs by a third.  The Tesla “Giga-Factory” doubles global battery production and reduces the cost of manufacturing mid-sized batteries by half.  Utilities begin to offer energy storage services as more of their customers switch to solar.
  • CNG and LNG Fuel-Cell Electric Hybrids begin to edge out diesel-powered vehicles in fleets and commercial transportation.
  • 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 begins mass production.  Manufacturers start experimenting with the material–developing super-strong metals and composites for special applications.
  • Faster, cheaper 3D Printing techniques developed.  Some specialty manufacturers switch completely to printing.  Specialized printers are developed for large-scale industrial production.  Home-based printers evolve to make replacement parts for appliances and personal electronics.
  • Micro-reactors begin to be developed for industrial scale chemical production, and small-scale nano-particle production.  Engineers begin developing general-purpose, programmable microfluidic systems.  Companies experiment with connecting specialized reactors directly to 3D Printers; early results are promising with gains of 10x or more.
  • Intelligent Agents (IAs) begin to replace customer service representatives, receptionists, and secretaries.  I-Agents enter into accounting, stock prediction, and academic research.
  • Automated commercial trucks and cabs are introduced—workers’ 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 and other new materials used to develop faster processors.  Photonic and Spin-Based processors developed.  Room-temperature quantum computer developed.  Moore’s Law marches on…
  • Wearable Displays introduced–but are big and clunky.  Cheap systems make use of HD Cell-Phones.  Virtual and Augmented Reality are re-branded as HYPER-REALITY (HR).  Early HR applications provide little utility.
  • Phase-Change Memory introduced into market.
  • Computer specifications stagnate at 1-3Ghz processor 8-16 GB of ram and 1TB of memory as manufacturers focus on fitting the same power in smaller form-factors.  Google Fiber begins to compete with Comcast and AT&T in many locations–providing gigabit speeds.  P-CELL Technology brings wireless internet speeds up to par with cable internet.

MEDICINE (2016-2020)

  • Bio-MEMs revolutionize medicine–small implants dispense medication as needed, reducing the possibility of human error. People start using MEMs to enhance athletic performance and to dispense recreational drugs. Laws are proposed to ban MEMs from non-medical use.
  • First viable 3D Printed human organs (heart, liver, kidney) created and fast-tracked for FDA approval.  Scientist work on developing a 3D Printed Eye.
  • Scientists discover methods to slow or stop human aging–animal tests show promise, but human trials have mixed results.
  • Full Genetic Analysis takes less than a day and costs less than $1,000
  • Genetic Testing allows people to screen embryos and select those with the best physical characteristics.  Gene-replacement therapy is introduced to alter the characteristics of embryos.  Legislation is introduced to prohibit “Designer Babies”
  • Gene-Replacement Therapy receives approval for trials in human children; method developed for Adult Gene Therapy
  • Bionic limbs developed that can communicate with the nervous system to provide sensation and movement equal to natural limbs.  Exoskeletons developed to assist elderly and enhance human performance.

 

 

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