Great Scott! what’s next after Back to the Future

21 October 2015 is Back to the Future Day, roughly 26 years after Back to the Future II came out in November 1989.

The BBC has a look at Back to the Future II: What did it get right and wrong?.

But, I thought i might be interesting to make a forecast for what I see as being mainstream in 2041, 26 year from today.

  • Car’s as a Service: Self driving cars have lead to fewer vehicles sold (and a consolidation of car companies). Fewer parking lots and parking spots meant more room for real estate, and more room for bike lanes and sidewalks. There are fewer taxi and long haul truck drivers. All vehicles are zero emission, a mix of hydrogen and pure electric. People still complain about rush hour, even with surge pricing and more remote work.
  • Personal Communication is Wearable and Distributed: The device now know as the cellphone has become multiple wearable devices, which are implanted (and powered by the body) or applied to the skin or on the skin via electronic tattoos (of course, there are also video tattoos); Augmented reality spec’s are common and hearing and talking is done via bone conduction (sometimes on the spec and sometimes on a behind the ear patch). Additional display is via wrist bracelets; all of these wearable have outward (environmental) and inward (medical) sensors. Artificial eyeballs are the cutting edge trend.
  • New homes are built with ultra thin graphite beams, diamond sheets with programmable surfaces for windows, and Aerogel for insulation in the graphite honeycomb walls. Many newer urban dwellings are part of a mixed stack of smaller retail units on the ground, larger retail or public spaces above that, and either office or residence above that (sometime both if it’s a highrise above 11 stories), all terraced and along public transit. Major cities have many of the new Skyscrapers, a building over 100 floors tall.
  • Most existing buildings have been retrofitted with rooftop solar panels; they are heavily re-skinned with nano thin coverings to improve insulation, or have used spider size robots to crawl inside walls to re-insulation them with Aerogel.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing : The “100 mile Diet” trend will be joined by “Made in 100 miles” trend, made possible by 3d printing and local robotic assembly;

Everything in this short list seems doable, but I would worry about mass unemployment due to car-as-a-service and robotic assembly, and the compromising of privacy and security (both from government and companies) leading to a backlash against the newest forms of personal and home devices.

As an side note, I see to related techniques in making near future forecasts : one is William Gibson’s observation that the “future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” and the other is to look at what is normal in the lifestyles of the 1% and figure out a technological way to give “Us the Masses” the same effect. So, we do not get Castles and Mansions but private homes; No Minstrels but radio (and then TV); no Butlers and Maids but Ovens, Dishwashers and washing machines; No “Horse and Carriage”, but Cars; No Chauffeur, but Uber and then Self Driving Cars;

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