A futurist gives predictions on what future life will look like
The famous 20th century physicist Denis Garbor said that the future “cannot be predicted, but the future can be invented”. It’s a motto that futurist Dr Ian Pearson, who lived in Belfast for almost two decades and graduated from Queen’s University, can probably appreciate. The leading expert tells Weekend what technological advances will shape our lives in 2022 and beyond.
Metaverse and Virtual Reality (VR)
It has been run many times in the past and failed. Like 3DTV, I think there’s enough critical mass this time around to see it take off this year.
And that will lead to augmented reality, where you overlay virtual reality on the environment around you – like walking around Belfast and seeing offers pop up – marketing information overlaid on reality – as you walk through stores. It is easy to do.
This also has a negative side and could be seen as a gross invasion of privacy if not properly regulated, as facial recognition technology is obviously capable of identifying a person.
Theoretically, you could walk around town and see people’s phone numbers, names superimposed on their avatars, obtained through information available on social media.
Generally, most applications from virtual reality are positive; upgrades to Zooms where you can meet people in 3D, but using avatars with smart glasses.
In the next few years, we could see contact lenses with 3D overlays in the real world. This year we might see a prototype for it.
Tissue Culture Meat Substitutes
We’ve known for many years that it’s only a matter of time before we can start growing meat cells in chemical plants and vats, rather than using cows and sheep roaming a field. .
This means that you will actually be eating meat tissue. Thus, vegetarians or vegans can obtain animal protein without the cow or sheep being killed for its meat. Some people who fall into this category may switch and start eating meat again.
It’s been coming for a while, but it’s now starting to hit stores, at pretty much the right prices too.
Chicken from cultured tissue now begins to be crafted. We are now at a tipping point in the next few years because there is already some momentum and that would capture that trend pretty well.
We’ve seen them in the past – electronic dogs – 15, 20 years ago, and even before that I had an electronic cat in the 1990s.
They have been around for a long time, but we are now seeing more of them due to advancements in AI (artificial intelligence). There are new chatbots to talk about various topics; sometimes they appear on a screen as an avatar. It’s just as easy to put them in a robotic doll or a pet that moves on a floor. Especially given the lockdown and lots of people feeling lonely.
I think it’s reached a point in the market where it’s very useful — it’s company for people.
Some research has shown that they are really good for seniors and people form good bonds with electronic pets.
It’s very good for relieving loneliness, but it’s not a substitute for a human being. It’s a good second best.
A few years ago cruise ships started making virtual windows in some windows because not everyone has a balcony.
If you don’t have a balcony and you’re looking inside a cabin, there’s no reason you can’t have a huge plasma screen on the wall that looks like a window, overlooking a beautiful beach or showing you what the view would be like if you had one outside.
Sure, the screens got better, thinner and the illusions get better every year at a good economical price. Cruise ship windows led the way.
Chances are this will start happening in people’s homes – some people may buy a second TV and use it as a ‘window’. So they can have a great view of a Caribbean beach instead of watching the drizzle from your Belfast apartment.
Of course, you can have any view you like, and that goes along with the VR trend where we’re getting used to going around the world virtually.
People might appreciate having a view of all the sights they want for the day – New York, the Grand Canyon.
One of the leading TV brands has released a high quality projector designed specifically as a set substitute.
The goal is to project onto a surface so you can turn your room into an art gallery, or a “window” – or just change the colors of the room.
It’s below the £400 mark and I think it’s something that could take off this year or next.
Electric cars and autonomous vehicles
Every week there is a new development that makes the battery last a little longer, or cheaper, or less polluting when manufactured.
What I find interesting about electric cars is that they pair quite well with self-driving cars. With AI right now, it’s really, really hard to get cars that can drive all day without crashes in the real environment. Getting started in the test tracks is very easy.
Lately, we’ve seen a lot of problems with people hacking software for self-driving cars, which is a potential danger.
There are two ways to make self-driving cars; you can either have a lot of AI and a lot of sensors, which is extremely expensive and a lot of high tech.
The alternative, which you don’t hear much about, is the idea of ”pod” systems – electric pods that move around and pick people up.
Fiberglass hulls could be used, which are cheaper, and these could be used for public transport in cities, picking up people and dropping them off where they need to go, using the existing road surface and guided by electronic maps.
It would be more ecological and cheaper for the consumer if he could buy his own “pods”.
The digital afterlife
By around 2050, the connections to the brain will be so good that much of our thinking will take place in “server phones” inside your head.
Think of it as an extension of your brain, which works faster and has more memory and lets you connect directly to the internet.
Think about it, it’s still you, with your brains, but you have an extension in the servers, which can be anywhere in the world.
One day when you die, or your body dies, 99% of your thoughts will be in the “cloud”, so you may hardly notice your body is dead – your mind continues to function.
By 2060 it will become cheaper, and a decade later everyone will be able to have it. Those born now, who will naturally live to age 70, will likely find that they will not “die” because they will essentially live digitally.
The androids will replace their bodies, while their minds will be in the “cloud”. It’s really a matter of expanding your mind, not downloading.
The spirit lives more and more in the cloud.