In 1989, the movie “Back to the Future II” showed main character Marty McFly traveling to the then far-flung future date of October 21, 2015. While some of the predictions suggested by the movie actually came to be—such as computer headsets, video conferencing, hands-free gaming, and self-tying shoes—flying cars are noticeably missing from modern-day life.
There is a certain impulse in life to skip to the last chapter in the book. In an attempt to get in on the future-guessing trend, in this post we look at the current trends of modern technology to predict what you should expect to see in the next 100 years.
Within the next 20 years
• Autonomous cars will be a reality. Autonomous car features such as automatic brakes, hands-free parallel parking, and collision avoidance will find their way into more cars (while engineers figure out a way around the autonomous car’s biggest hurdle—other drivers).
• The first real-world quantum computer will be commercially introduced (and binary digits will give way to quantum bits, or qubits).
• Internet of Things technology will reinvent how medicine, clothing, and everyday conveniences work. Imagine a cash register built into your grocery store shopping cart, where items placed in the cart are automatically purchased without the need of a cashier. Imagine your doctor knowing that you are sick even before you do because she received a message from the ingested computers in your body. With single-board computers now being as small as 1.5 centimeters, such possibilities are not far off.
• 3D printing and “bioscaffolding” will make tissue replacement simpler. Regenerative technologies such as bioscaffolding—or the building of a 3D artificial structure that would encourage tissue growth or even the development of a new organ—bears the possibility of making tissue donor sourcing and patient organ rejection a thing of the past.
Within the next 50 years
• Advances in organic processors and in thermal conductivity for artificial muscles will not only make androids economically feasible, but will also make fully-functional cybernetic limbs possible. The first true cyborg (in which more than 50 percent of a person is replaced by mechanical devices) will be introduced.
• The world’s media will be completely digitized and made available for general download.
• Fuel efficiency and new engine designs such as the pulse detonation engine will make affordable commercial supersonic and subspace flight feasible.
• We will have visited Mars multiple times and will be in the process of establishing a permanent colony on the red planet.
Within the next 100 years
• Urban living spaces will be redefined with the advent of vertical farms or skyscrapers in which the floors are dedicated to indoor farming and cities are self-contained in super-skyscrapers.
• The first interstellar flight will have successfully launched to Alpha Centauri (the closest star system to our sun).
• Gasoline and other consumable hydrocarbon fuels will be made obsolete by renewable energy sources by the advent of both micro- and macro-scale fusion reactors and by social moves toward local sustainable living.
• Everyone who is currently reading this will most likely be dead.
While we hope you enjoy our list, we recognize that to some predicting the future is an attempt to limit and define what is possible. When asked about predicting the future, science fiction author Ray Bradbury said, “People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it … You look … around you … and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.”
It may be that the best prediction of the future is that the future is unpredictable; the human spirit is infinite and so is its possibilities.