It’s Friday afternoon. Andy’s had a long, tiring week, and he’s thinking this would be a great time to shed the shackles of his job and kick back with a good friend over a couple of beers and a juicy steak. One problem: Andy’s best buddy is off in Europe and he’s stuck in downtown Cleveland.
Somewhere in New England, meanwhile, Jody and her young daughter take a leisurely drive through the countryside. It’s a gorgeous fall afternoon. The weather is crisp but sunny, and the trees are ablaze with colors. Jody’s daughter looks up at her from the passenger seat and says she thinks daddy would love it. Sadly, daddy’s working all afternoon.
The colors aren’t quite so dazzling in the hot Nevada desert, where Aaron comes to an epiphany of sorts. The ongoing saga of his divorce has taken its toll, and he’s come to the realization that he needs to put his life back in order. If only there was more time in each day. If only Aaron had someone or something that could help him with the paperwork, the bills, the emotions, and all the excruciating minutiae he must conquer before he can soldier into the future.
If only it were the future.
Welcome to Part I of a three-part series here at Digital Trends on life and technology in the year 2020. We’ve enlisted the help of a few experts who make it their business to know where technology is moving and how it will impact us, in order to peek into the future. We’ll look at the ups and the downs of the digital world a decade hence as it applies to real people, and perhaps even bewilder you occasionally with a forecast or two of what we may see.
In Part II of our series, we’ll deal with biotechnology, genetics and engineering. In our final installment, we’ll tackle urban planning, transportation, and the probable immediate future of our congested cities. But here in Part I, we’ll get our collective heads in the clouds. Or, more appropriately, the cloud.
If you haven’t heard about cloud computing, you will. Because cloud computing is, in admittedly simplistic terms, a far better, far more evolved information highway. With it, there will be a quantum shift in what we currently know as the Internet, and, ultimately, an equally massive shift in the way we interact with it, with each other, and with just about everything else too. We’ll also look at the cloud-based devices we’ll likely use – or not use – to get online and get connected to what will be, in a decade, the super-duper-ultra-information highway.
Extraordinary Solutions to Ordinary Problems
And that brings us back around to our introduction, where we met three normal, everyday people in three normal, everyday predicaments that, in 2020, may not be predicaments at all. That is, if Dan Burrus can be believed. And he usually can.
Burrus, noted futurist, keynote speaker, and founder of tech-oriented research and consulting firm Burrus Research envisions that a decade or so from now, all three of our test subjects will have options they simply do not have today.
Andy and his buddy, for example, will likely get together virtually – he in Cleveland and his good friend somewhere in Europe. They’ll each walk into a video restaurant, where massive high-definition screens await at one end. They’ll take seats at what for all intents and purposes is the same table, converse and interact with one another as if they were physically side-by-side, and order those yummy steaks from the same waiter.
Our man in the desert, meanwhile, will find a little help through his tough times. And although that help won’t actually be human, it’ll be the next best thing – and in some ways better. Burrus calls it an “ultra-intelligent agent,” an Internet-enabled, artificially intelligent entity that Aaron will customize to his own needs. He may even fashion it to take the appearance of something or someone he finds particularly pleasing. Say, the 2020 facsimile of Jessica Alba, for instance.
Aaron will wake up, saunter over to his TV or display, and come face to face with his own personal Alba. In fact, Aaron may not even need a traditional display in order to see and interact with her. She may well appear in front of him holographically, in full three-dimensional glory.
In any case, she’ll offer an appropriate greeting before alerting him to all that’s occurred since their last meeting. About midnight, Aaron’s flight to Boston had been canceled. A few hours later, the stock he’d been eyeballing for the past few months finally hit his buy-in price. And while Aaron slumbered, she’d taken care of everything for him, booking him a bargain seat with a competing airline and purchasing several hundred shares of that elusive stock. And now, his “agent” will entice Aaron downstairs to his gym, where she’ll meet him once again to coach him through a variety of custom-designed exercises.
As for Jody and her daughter, they’ll have little trouble getting daddy in on the family’s fun day in the country. Like we use a telephone to experience another person’s voice even though we’re physically disconnected, Jody will utilize a technology such as “telepresence” to both see and sense those beautiful autumn trees. In essence, he’ll be there.
And there’s more. According to Dr. James Canton, futurist, business advisor, and author of The Extreme Future: The Top Trends that will Reshape the World for the Next 5, 10, and 20 Years, we’ll see by 2020 or thereabouts the emergence of super-intelligence – computers and digital devices that equal or surpass the level of human intelligence. We’ll have wearable digital devices of profound power, or even devices implanted in our skin. In fact, say both Burrus and Canton, some of us may be completely device-free – relying instead on cloud access points and self-replicating nodes that will exist virtually everywhere within our ecosystem.