I love to think about the future and what it might hold, even if it is unpredictable. For technology to have a profound impact on the average person, it can’t be something that only affects a narrow field, or a uncommon activity. I’m going to focus on three technologies that I think will have the most impact on life a decade from now.
Driverless cars won’t just make driving safer and faster, they also have the potential to affect the way we use transportation. Deliveries could be made without any human intervention, be it food, online purchases, or even prescription drugs. Cars could be much much smaller and more efficient, since you would only have to use as much car as you needed for a trip, and having a large car for safety reasons wouldn’t be necessary. People could use a zip-car style service to have a car only when they needed it, and have it remotely drive itself away, back to a storage facility. Parking would never be a problem. The car could drop you off wherever, and drive offsite to a large garage. Traffic jams would be a thing of the past, perhaps allowing people to live further away from the cities. Automated cars would free up truck drivers and other professional drivers to do other jobs.
The next important potential revolutionary technology is meat replacement. Animals for food outnumber humans. They use a tremendous amount of resources to maintain, both in land, food, pollution, etc. Animal welfare is also an important issue these days, as the modern meat industry imposes horrific living conditions on the animals. Cows and other ruminants produce much of the methane which causes global warming. Clearing land for pastures destroys the natural habitats of many species. Additionally, meat consumption raises food prices and lowers the amount of food available for human consumption by using up land producing animal feed that could otherwise be used to produce food for humans. The technology to make “in vitro meat” taste good and be cost efficient are not there yet. Another alternative is to use insects instead of mammals for protein, but more research is necessary to be able to automate production and make the resultant meat taste good.
3D printers have always excited me, ever since I first saw them. The idea that you can dynamically create literally any shape out of a variety of materials is really really cool. Suddenly, manufacturing becomes something that everyone can do at any time. After 3D printers become widespread, there will be millions of designs on the internet that anyone can use. Physical objects will gain from the internet just as much as digital designs have. Matter decompliers have the potential to be even more profound when humanity is closer to the Malthusian limit. Are you done using a fork? Drop it in the decompiler and get a knife. People won’t need a lot of physical resources to enjoy a variety of consumer goods. Possessions will become fluid and personalized and status goods may lose importance as everyone can create anything they want on command. Land will still be important, as it is harder to replicate. Of the three, this is perhaps the furthest off and most pie-in-the-sky, but stranger things have happened.
Advancement in 3D printing
How 3D printing will change our world
Printing drugs – Imagine the consequences both for drug patents and the drug war
Brad Templeton on Robot cars