The year 2050 is only 33 years away, but with the ever-accelerating rate of technological innovation and human expansion, some are predicting that we’re heading towards a seriously brave new world.
Your work-life, entertainment options, relationships and the transport you take could look very different in a few decades’ time.
YOUR BOSS WILL PROBABLY BE A COMPUTER
Without a doubt, the biggest innovation expected to transform our way of life is the growing emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning, says renowned futurist and digital consultant Chris Riddell.
The ultimate goal (or ultimate concern, depending who you ask) is to build self-improving artificial general intelligence, effectively meaning computers can act like humans but with almost infinite processing power.
Already, machines are proving more capable and reliable than humans in a number tasks such as diagnosing disease and recognising faces.
“You won’t have just humans at the top of business by the year 2050,” Mr Riddell told news.com.au.
He says any chief executive will likely work alongside a computing system that will help them make decisions.
He believes that employees will no longer perform a single job or task but be required to do an array of different jobs that will be allocated by an intelligent computing system “based on the projects that are going on and skills that you have”.
The rise of machine intelligence will also give way to robot-human relationships – not that everyone is necessarily looking forward to such a scenario.
Last week, cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs produced a report about the world in 2050 packed with a number of radical and dystopian theories.
Among them was the prediction that robots will have begun tearing marriages apart by 2050, as men and women opt for a cyborg partner.
The report also projected the emergence of android residents and the possibility of a Westworld-style theme park where guests could “get rid of adrenaline and release their emotions” by, among other things, murdering robots.
The dramatic report received plenty of media attention but was based more on radical sci-fi speculation than solid trends.
However, one thing that’s certain is the profound impact artificial intelligence – and the increasingly lifelike robots it produces – will have on society by 2050.
CARS BECOME DRONES, AND DRONES BECOME CARS
The anticipation of flying cars has long been a mainstay in any vision of the future but the advent of commercial drone technology could actually make it happen soon.
“We’ve already seen how driverless technology is picking up rapidly,” Mr Riddell said.
Well before 2050 he expects Australian roads to be filled with autonomous cars and eventually any nostalgic car lover who wants to keep their steering wheel will have to pay a highly expensive government license for the privilege.
Shortly after that, he expects we’ll take to the sky.
“Personal drones will absolutely be a thing by the year 2050,” Mr Riddell said. Already Dubai has made plans to begin using drone taxis to ferry people over the city.
And eventually cars and drones will become one in the same.
“What you’ll see eventually is the converging of the two … you won’t be able to separate cars and drones,” Mr Riddell said.
We won’t own these machines ourselves but rather we will hail them on demand in a Uber-style sharing economy.
NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ONLINE AND OFFLINE
The idea of virtual reality has for some time promised to transform the world we live in.
Companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook have been ramping up their efforts to build virtual and augmented reality systems in recent years – and pretty soon the worlds they create will be indistinguishable from base reality.
“What we’re heading to already, very rapidly, is an era where we’re augmenting our experiences from digital – from the screen – to our offline real world. And those two are going together rapidly,” Mr Riddell said.
“Soon, we won’t be able to tell the difference between virtual and true experiences.”
One of the major new jobs of the future will be “experience architects” who are able to create tailor-made worlds for us to play in, he said.
“You’ll be able to sit and immerse yourself in a 360 degrees football stadium to watch your favourite football match. And you’ll actually be able to feel that experience happening around you.
“As time goes on you’ll get more and more input, so you’ll be able to feel what the weather is like” at the game while sitting in your living room.
By Nick Whigham