Someone on Absolute Write asked about near-future research, for the purposes of writing a story that takes place around 2025. People were jumping in with various suggestions, so I gave it a try, and I think it’s an interesting enough topic to repeat here.
I think the main things I would expect in the next 20 years are:
We finally see the full extension of what always-on internet connectivity can do. Not so much in the “no need to leave your home” sense, but more of using it as an added layer to your daily life, using external computers to augment your own memory and mental power. We already do this when we use Google to find an address rather than writing it down for later. I think we’ll allow ourselves to be more dependent on these aids.
Continued social polarization. Some areas following very liberal laws and community values, and some areas just the opposite.
Very complex and criss-crossed economic networks, down to the personal level. I might have clothing custom-tailored in Romania, buy gadgets from Finland and Japan, and medical treatment from India. Also imagine these networks in reverse. What skill can your part of the world provide that everyone else will want to buy?
Clothing isn’t going to change a lot. It might get a little more utilitarian, with fibers engineered for particular purposes, and clever pocket arrangements for all the gadgets we carry.
Assuming that efforts to address climate change remain moderate, some areas are going to be wrecked by freak weather patterns the way New Orleans was. Expect a lot of disruption in travel and shipping at times, as well as displaced communities.
Customized (or highly targeted) media content will be much more common, either via a proliferation of content channels each after a small, specialized market, or smart agents that collect things based on your preferences. Actually, the combination of both would make sense.
Most things that can be digitized will be, but there will continue to be a strong interest in paper books, physical copies of music in whatever format, etc. Both because not everyone is going to have the same level of tech available to them, and because people appreciate the physical object. The production of these items may also tend toward higher quality special editions (already happening with books and records, maybe we’ll see a movie version?).
Last item: it’s going to be noisier. More things trying to get our attention, more content directed at us, more crowded urban environments. Take up meditation now, get a head start on dealing with it.
Like all predictions of the future, this one is liable to look utterly ridiculous within six months, if not tomorrow.
Your turn, if you want it. What does the future look like?