The business of predicting the future is a lucrative one. Manufacturers love talking about it because it’s good PR, and consumers love reading about it because, well, it’s the future. And the future is cool.
But there’s a limit to what one person can know, and most predictions are bound for the dustbin of history.
If you really want a prophecy to have a shot at coming true, you need to base your predictions on tangible, real-world evidence. That’s why we’re so interested in Thomson Reuters' shiny new report, The World in 2025: 10 Predictions of Innovation.
Instead of leaning on trend-spotting and interviews with crystal ball–toting futurists, the analysts combed global patent data and research reports to extrapolate trends over the next 11 years. They then identified the areas with the greatest commercial and scientific interest, and separated them into 10 categories.
Surprisingly, one of those predictions is that scientists will actually be experimenting with teleportation. Let's be clear: We won't be taking vacations to Thailand by stepping through a glowing portal or anything, but Thomson Reuters thinks that "a significant investment in and testing of quantum teleportation will be underway using other [non-human] forms of matter."
According to the report, we have the Higgs Boson discovery at the Large Hadron Collider to thank, and it finds us "on the precipice of this field’s explosion." So you heard it here first: Star Trek-style transporters might be a very real thing for our children—or maybe our children's children.
The rest of the predictions are mundane by comparison, though still enticing. The most immediately obvious is that everything, everywhere, will be digitally connected and “responsive to our wants and likes.” This trend has been described in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people, but it’s most often referred to (unfortunately) as “the Internet of Things.”
“Thanks to the prevalence of improved semiconductors, graphene-carbon nanotube capacitors, cell-free networks of service antenna and 5G technology, wireless communications will dominate everything, everywhere,” the report concluded.
It also prognosticates that homes and automobiles will all respond to user commands, appliances will think for themselves, and entire geographic regions will be coordinated through digital networks. Need an example? Imagine farmlands that can seamlessly, instantaneously respond to the needs of urban population centers.
Now, that’s all pretty generalized, and we're not convinced that all households and vehicles will be equally connected. The best way to think about it is like this: Mass connectivity and automation will be focused in centers of wealth—be it individuals or broader geographic regions.
As for the technology driving these trends, researchers cite the rapid growth of carbon nanostructures, which will allow for more powerful, longer-lasting batteries. These supercapacitive cells will be used not only in phones and computers, but in cars, airliners, buildings, even the electrical grid.
When it comes the Internet of Things, though, there's a giant elephant in the room: security. If you’re talking about uniting everything from cars to dishwashers within the same digital ecosystem, you’re talking about an unprecedented level of exposure to hacking, malware, and general digital corruption.
Cynics argue that this represents a full-on doomsday scenario. More likely, manufacturers will simply need to develop more robust security protocols, paving the way for a much larger, much more profitable digital security industry.
Beyond the much-ballyhooed Internet of Things, the report makes a number of other bold predictions. Solar power, for example, will become the primary source of energy on the planet. Meanwhile, indoor agriculture and disease detection will render food shortages a “thing of the past.” Petroleum-based plastics will be replaced by more environmentally friendly cellulose. Cancer treatments will have far fewer toxic side effects.
How’s that for rose-colored glasses?
Images: Thomson Reuters