What will life look like in 30 years? This is an exercise that can take things in a far out direction. Trying to speculate where things are headed over such a time period is impossible. It appears that things get very blurry after about 10 years. Technology is moving so fast, along with being monumentally powerful, that a couple decades will see a complete alteration of society.
After all, those of us who were around in the early 1990s did not see a lot of what we take for granted today. The concept of a mobile phone was still rather novel. So was the personal computer. The Internet was not on the radar of most people. Thus, the idea of converging them was beyond our comprehension.
Of course, that is exactly what happened.
In this article we will look at a couple factors that are taking place due to technology which will radically alter society. Along the way, to this destination, there will be a great deal of upheaval and societal disorder. This is common when change of such a magnitude occurs.
While we will not delve into too many specifics, it is best to caution about paradigm paralysis. For many, the idea of something being so different that what they know is obsolete is psychologically too much to take. Hence, they literally paralyze their thinking into embracing only what is in front of them.
Try to expand the capabilities of what is possible. The world is changing in a massive way with industries becoming completely upended.
Here is where we are going to see sustainability enter the picture. By 2050, we are going to see cryptocurrency as a major part of our lives. In fact, it will be so commonplace we will not even notice it.
Our trek into the digital world is truly just starting. Over the next 30 years, this will expand by orders of magnitude. The concept of "smart" will include everything that we have around us. While AGI might not be in the cards, we will have sensors, processors and storage in every object. This alone will change our relationship with our surroundings.
The Internet will become ubiquitous. It will be always on and all around us. For this reason, cryptocurrency takes on ever greater importance. Here we see the monetary system that was designed for this realm. All physical assets have a digital twin, thus are able to operate here also. This spurred on a tremendous amount of wealth. We are going to see quadrillions generated over the next few decades. In fact, by 2030, the market cap of cryptocurrency should be in excess of $100 trillion.
Personal incomes mostly will be derived from this arena. Work is still something people do although it takes on different meaning. The old concept of a job changed.
Most of what people have is in the form of micropayments. Everything that people do leaves a digital trail. This is all monetized and people are personally rewarded for this. Even the devices we have are "at work" for us. Whatever has processing capability or generates data is utilized.
Algorithms are going to keep getting more powerful. For this reason they will keep needed massive amounts of data. As they grow in number, so does the data required. However, unlike today, we will be generating "clean" data. Instead of our digital footprints being unsorted, we will be presenting exactly what is desired. This filtering process only enhances the value of what we are generating.
This leads to an Age of Abundance. Data defies our present understanding of value. The amount we are generating each year is growing at an exponential rate yet the value of it does not decline. In fact, the value of data keeps increasing as more is created. It is here where we see the switch in the basis of our economic system.
We need cryptocurrency because the ability to work, at least as we know it, is radically changing. Automation, over the next 30 years, is going to wipe out billions of jobs. Each day, what machines can do better than people grows a slight bit. The challenge is that it never reverses course. Once a machine is more adept, it only gets better.
All this means a massive change in the workforce. Certainly, jobs will be created over the next 30 years. However, the presumption is that they will be made for humans. It appears this is where a shift in thinking is needed. There is no reason to think that leaders will not look at a situation and seek an "employment" solution using a machine.
By 2050, AI and robotics should be advanced enough that many of the tasks of today can be handled. Much of what is made or built is going to be done by machines. We already saw a portion of the blue collar industry wiped out by automation. Expect this to continue while expanding in the white collar realm.
The present state is for many fields to have humans working with "machines". For example, the medical industry has humans reviewing the diagnostics that machines make. That, however, is only temporary. At some point, we will simply let the machines take over, just like we did when diagnosing what is wrong with our car. The computer can tell us pinpoint the problem much better than a human mechanic.
This provides a good example of how things will progress. Many want to jump to the dystopian, Terminator concept. Much of the world of automation is rather uninteresting. After all, are you threatened by the machines that route telephone calls instead of people? Does the diagnostic machine at the local car dealership keep you up at night?
Nevertheless, over the next couple decades, many areas are going to find themselves in upheaval as jobs diminish. We are going to see all kinds of proposals to fix the problem, most with the government in the middle of things. It is why cryptocurrency was mentioned first. This is the solution few are looking at presently.
The world is going to decentralize. This is guaranteed and computing makes it so. In fact, over the last 40 years, we already saw this to a great degree.
Remember when, to get something on paper and multiple copies of it, one was required to utilize a printer. By this, we are not referring to what is connected to your computer. Rather, we are meaning the individual with a press that made a plate of your information and then reproduced it.
With the introduction of the personal computer, things changed. Over a few decades, the production (and reproduction) was moved further out. It went from a trained printer (human), to a pool of typists, to a centralized printer in an office, and then to one being in everyone's office or home.
Of course, ultimately, most of our information headed into the digital world and no longer exists on paper.
This is a process that exemplifies what is going to take place. Due to automation and Information Technology, we know devices will get faster, smaller, and less expensive to operate. What took place with printers is going to happen with a host of other devices. This means that manufacturing is going to keep spreading out, pushed closer to where items are consumed.
At present, we see global manufacturing centers, mostly in China, which push out products that are shipped all over the world. As automation grows, the ability to cost effectively produce it "closer to home" occurs. This means we will transition to regional, then local, manufacturing. Eventually, we are going to see a portion of this taking place in one's home.
The same is true for energy. Our existing system is a grid formation with a centralized energy generator feeding the entire network. That is going to remain yet is already being complimented through additional generation devices such as solar panels. Over the next 30 years, we will also see the size of "power plants" reduced in size. Energy generation will come from any different sources. In fact, many of our devices could end up generating their own power through newer technologies.
From Atoms To Bits
One of the biggest changes by 2050 is going to be all that was converted from atoms to bits. To exemplify this process, let us look at the following list:
- communication connections
- file storage
These are all items that use to exist in physical form yet no longer do (for the most part). What was once an arrangement of atoms are now bits in the digital world. Any industry that saw digitization was radically transformed.
Of course, there is something else to mention: each of those is now abundant. This transformation from the physical world eliminates the scarcity. Again, if we go back 30 years, few imagined that all those items would "disappear". Naturally, they are still with us yet not in physical form.
What is going follow this same path over the next 30 years? It is likely we see stores and offices basically disappear. After all, with an immersive Internet, what need is there to physically enter these places. We can get near the same experience, for the most part, in the virtual. Sure, there might be a few instances where a physical presence is needed but that will be the minority.
In this realm, we also see the disappearance of screens and separate computing devices. Since they will be all around us, they will be ubiquitous. Most everything is going to be connected and have the ability to do computation. Cooking and need a recipe? You can bring that up on your countertop.
Certainly, humans have biological needs that cannot be overcome, at least at this point. Food, clothing, and shelter are still going to be required. What will change is how, and where, these are produced. We will see much of it done locally and for far cheaper than today. As devices basically automate more things, we see the cost ended up being raw materials. Of course, with advancements in the material sciences, we can see how the materials utilized can change to offer lower cost options.
In conclusion, much of the world around us will look similar to what we see now. There will be some marked differences yet it will not be the overt Sci-Fi world many envision. The driving factor continues to be computing. We see massive gains taking place which affects everything. The tentacles of this then spreads throughout particular industries. It is simply something that is unavoidable.
Paradigm shifts are going to happen with regularity. Each decade, in some ways, will make the previous one unrecognizable. For example, in the 2000s, it was common for the developed world to have stores renting videos. By the early part of the 2010s, the landscape changed since that was no longer a part of our lives.
We are going to see this process repeated many times over the next few decades. For those who are around, it is going to be a wild ride.
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