Tuesday, January 1, 2008

8 Predictions for 2018

It's the new year, the time for making predictions. Some interesting predictions for 2008 I've read include those of John Battelle and Joseph Weisenthal. Since there will be plenty of posts making predictions for this year, I decided to look a bit farther into the future, and make predictions for over the next 10 years; what the world will be like on January 1, 2018.

1) Moore's law will start to slow down; instead of computers increasing 35-fold in computational power over the next 10 years, it will be closer to 15-fold. However, computers will use substantially less power. There will not be "AI" as envisioned in the movies, but computers will solve a lot more problems than they would be expected to do today.

2) For at least one year during this time period, Microsoft software will not be on a majority of new consumer PCs. In response to this, Microsoft will retool and finally come out with an OS that is secure, not bloated with features, and has a simple licensing scheme. Desktop computers will still be in similar form to what they are today, but they will be significantly cheaper, and displays will be larger. The "smart house" will not exist as prophesied where everything is on the network, but there will be, for example, wireless-enabled washing machines that broadcast when your laundry is done (Random Hall had something like this in 1999).

3) The continually increasing number of legal issues related to content creation (like indefinite copyright extension, excessive copyright issues and patent trolls) will cause the current system to break at some point, with a significant retooling of laws allowing for more usage, not less. File sharing will cause the RIAA and MPAA to have to retool their business models significantly.

4) Passive data collection and sharing will increase substantially. There will be a "Web 3.0" bubble based around allowing you to take advantage of data in your life in new ways. You will be able to track everything you do in minute detail. This will cause concerns of "Big Brother" to explode into the national consciousness. However, problems will arise not from the government, but from stalkers and extremists. These will generally be solved by privacy restrictions and decentralization, but there will be a significant portion of the public that avoids these types of programs completely.

5) The transportation grid will look substantially the same as it does today; there will be no flying cars, computer-controlled cars, or cars that go 200 miles per hour. The car will not be abandoned for travel by rail, on bicycles, or by foot. Congestion in cities will continue to worsen, even as taxes such as London's congestion tax become more popular. However, there will be flights from New York to Sydney that take only half as long as the flight does today.

6) The price of oil will be, after adjusting for inflation, around twice what it is today. At some point, perhaps not within 10 years, but certainly within 20, there will be an actual shortage in the US with gas lines, factories shutting down, etc. (This will not be a full-blown energy crisis, just a lack of petroleum.) Political concerns will prevent the government from doing anything significant to ameliorate the situation. There will not be a push to the electric car. The hydrogen car will be promoted, but it will not be economical because of systematic issues in the auto industry.

7) There will be substantial developments in solar panel technology. A solar panel using technology similar to photosynthesis will be in development. There will also be cheaper options to produce wind power. There won't be fusion power, though it will be "15 years away" instead of the "20 years away" it has been for the last 50 years. This will be sufficient to push the upcoming energy crisis at least 20 years farther into the future.

8) The US will have at least 15,000 forces in Iraq throughout the next 15 years. There will be a declaration of "victory" in Iraq (again). However, there will not be peace in the Middle East in general. The threat of "Islamic terrorism" will stop being the primary international concern in American politics. It will be replaced by either Mexico, China, or the UN.

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