Bill Gates wrote in 1996 that “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” While this was certainly true at the time, the nature of exponential trends means that these changes are speeding up — in other words, the next ten years are going to be even more dramatic than the last ten.
And the last 10 years have been very dramatic indeed. 2008 was the year that the iPhone had just been launched and we suddenly moved from WAP to the mobile web, from a mobile with a keyboard to a touchscreen. Apps, which so dominate today’s mobile user experience were launched in 2008 too, Facebook and Twitter were just going global and Kindle and Android were being released. AirBnB, GitHub and Spotify all launched too, fundamentally changing whole industries.
At this year’s Kindred AGM, I presented some of our thinking for the next decade, partly as a little fun at the end of the day, but also as I think some of these have a very good chance of happening in these exponential times.
Let me know what you think!
1. There will be a new form factor to replace mobile
We’ve seen experiments around Google Glass and Apple’s iWatch already, neither of which remotely threatens the dominance of the touch screen mobile. However, as Moore’s Law relentlessly increases computer power and speed, it’s inconceivable to me that we won’t see a breakthrough in form factor of what we think of today as “mobile phones”.
There is a natural human tendency to think that we’re at the end of history somehow — as Charles Duell (US Head of the Patent Office) famously observed* in 1899 “Everything that can be invented, has been invented.” So, let’s not be complacent — we need to accept that things are going to change.
I realise that this might seem a stretch of the imagination in just ten years. But I’d say there’s a very good chance of a completely different way of engaging with the digital world in this time frame. My bet would be on some kind of retinal display with voice and gesture being the main way of navigation.
Fun fact: In 10 years, if Moore’s Law continues, today’s mobile could be 4 million times more powerful and the size of the full stop at the end of this sentence.
*Actually, he was misquoted, but why let that in the way of a good anecdote?
2. 50% of cars driving miles in the UK and US will be autonomous.
Again, this might seem quick, but once AV’s are deployed and the safety records of human v AV can be directly compared, insurance pricing for those humans who insist on taking control — and crashing — will sky-rocket. Economics and the opportunity to save 1.3 million lives every year will make too compelling an adoption case.
3. Freelancers account for 75% of jobs.
McKinsey announced earlier this year that by 2020, 40% of the workforce will be “Ultra- Flexible” and this is a trend that’s accelerating.
Our bet is that 75%of the workforce will be in this position by 2028, which is going to make for interesting times for parents with children starting work this decade.
4. Nine generations alive simultaneously.
This one is quite hard to comprehend, but it means that a Great-great-great-great-great-great-great Grandparent will meet their Great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchild.
If this seems like a stretch, just consider that the seven generation mark was already passed in 1989. Radical improvements in lifespan, driven by healthcare, make getting to the ninth one highly likely.
Ray Kurzweil recently reiterated his belief that humanity is around 10 years away from reaching “escape velocity”- the point at which, for every year that you’re alive, science is able to extend your life for more than a year. This means that having nine generations alive might be increasing normal. Perhaps we need a new vocabulary to help us here — “Hi Granny7!”.
5. In the US, armed security drones outnumber human guards
Even if the drones aren’t permitted to make fire/kill decisions, which brings up a whole range of ethical and liability issues, this is another area where we can expect the machines to take human jobs.
6. Veggies Go Mainstream
I may be a little bias on this one, having not eaten meat for 18 years now, but this seems to be a major trend that’s going to grow fast from here on out. There is a powerful combination at play here. On the one hand, viable alternatives to meat developed by technology means there’s very little to give up for most consumers. On the other, the growing awareness that mass factory farming is an environmental crime (estimated to account for 30% of global warming), as well as being immensely cruel, polluting in many other ways, inefficient and actually, bad for our health.
In a developed country like the UK, I’d estimate that as many as 30% of the population will be meat-free by 2028. If that seems high, consider that veganism is growing in meat-loving USA by 600% year-on-year and 6% of the population self-identify as vegan. Youth is the major adopter of this trend.
7. The End of Cash
The major trend here is decreasing use of cash (and in parallel, the rise and rise of cryptocurrencies).
Estonia is likely to be the first cashless country, but some of the Nordics will follow quickly. In the UK, cash will be less than 1% of all purchases by 2028.
China may well lead the pack here, with major payment platforms like AliPay and WeChat increasingly taking over day-to-day purchases.
8. Solar takes the lead
OK, solar may not be the leading energy source globally by 2028, but it will in key countries who actively commit to it. In Germany solar already accounts for nearly 7% of energy generation, with around 25% coming from renewable sources in total. In the UK, 2017 saw the first day when solar generated more power than all 8 of the nuclear power stations in use.
9. Bladerunner beats Purists
By the 2028 Olympics in LA, the fastest humans will be those using artificial limbs.
The interesting thing for me is whether the purist sports will continue to dominate, or if the action and focus will be on athletes with enhanced powers.
I also find it fascinating to ponder to what extent ambitious athletes will be prepared to modify their bodies to increase performance. Amputating legs to run at 50 MPH, as an example — Usain Bolt managed 28 MPH at his fastest.
10. Virtual Reality addiction
By 2028, 10% of consumers in developed economies will be addicted to VR, which I will define as spending 8 hours per day (or more) fully immersed. Being able to live in a parallel universe, which you can perfectly control, combined with significant job losses driven by technology will start to make this a major problem — or is it actually a solution we should be embracing?.
11. And finally…
As a bonus prediction, in 2028 the next round of Brexit talks start. It’s dawning on even the most optimistic and ardent Brexiter that no one knows how to exit Europe!
As a footnote, there were quite a few ideas that we had at Kindred Towers that didn’t make these ten. The selection process was fairly arbitrary and was made primarily on what I thought would be of interest to the audience. So, these are not necessarily the most important and doesn’t mean that other important trends won’t happen either.
In no particular order, here are some that didn’t make the cut
· Emergence of personal pharma drugs
· First person killed in war by a machine decision
· Language learning no longer mainstream subject
· TVs no longer sold
· Broadcast TV channels abandoned, apart from sports
· Competitive gaming becomes an Olympic sport
· First country implements digital direct democracy
· Wireless charging is normal
· First fully automated construction projects completed