The year is 2068. It’s the end of your working day in Canberra. You step into your commuter pod, fly along a pneumatic tube, and ten minutes later, you’re standing outside your home in Fiji. Inside, a personal robot brings you a cold drink—he doesn’t have to ask, he can sense that you’re hot and tired—and you settle down on the couch to plan your upcoming holiday under the ocean.
It might sound like the fever dream of someone who’s watched too much The Jetsons, but scientists are working on all these technologies now. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite future predictions to create a picture of what life might be like in fifty years’ time.
We’ll travel anywhere in the world, almost instantly
Imagine being able to travel anywhere in the world in just minutes instead of hours. Stockholm to Helsinki, a journey of 500kms that takes 12 hours by car and ferry? 30 minutes, tops.
This is the business case put forward for the Hyperloop, a proposed method of transportation using a vacuum tube and championed by Elon Musk (who else?). A trial run was debuted in 2017, with several companies working to improve the technology.
If travel time between cities can be accomplished in minutes, we can:
- Live anywhere we want. A beach shack on Bruny Island for a Darwin deep sea diver? No problem!
- Stop paying premium prices for capital city properties just because that’s where we work
- Experience other cultures and places, increase workplace diversity and break down geographical barriers. We’ll basically be a 1970s Coca-Cola commercial.
Our computers will be as self-conscious as we are
We’re not talking about shy Samsungs or apologetic Apples, but computers that have a sense of self. Jürgen Schmidhuber, artificial intelligence pioneer, thinks that computers are 25 years away from having a neural network comparable to the human brain. We’ll be able to ask a robot doctor to diagnose our illnesses, enjoy the strumming of a robot musician, and share our homes with robots who are as much companion as they are servant.
Prototype humanoid robots already exist, but the new generation of AI means that they’ll be able to anticipate our needs instead of waiting to be programmed. Either that or they’ll overthrow us and become our robot overlords. It’s a risk.
If robots become self-aware, we can:
- Never do a lick of housework again, with robot servants cleaning up after us instead.
- Offer companionship to the elderly and infirm, helping them stay in their own homes for longer
- Leave our children in the trusted hands of our robot nannies—by the time you’re home from the movies, they’ll have learned a second language!
We’ll work in our cars instead of driving them
Driverless cars are already in development, but their rise has a number of unexplored implications. At the moment, we think of driverless cars as a chance to put our feet up and watch some Netflix on the go. But once we no longer have to keep our hands on the steering wheel, we can use that space for anything we like. Imagine turning your vehicle into a home office, getting a jump start on the day before you even get to your workplace. Or how about investing in a driverless caravan and grabbing a nap and a snack while your vehicle does the driving?
And that’s not the only way that driverless cars can affect how we live. In the future we might:
- Order a car when we need one, rather than owning and storing one for personal use. No more bulky garages taking up floor space!
- Skip out on circling the city streets trying to find a park: cars can deposit us at our destination and drive outside the city limits until they’re needed again.
- No longer stress about our long commute. If we’re able to sleep, work or relax in the car, living in the outer suburbs ceases to become a problem. We might even see prices drop in inner-city suburbs, with people heading further out in search of space.
We’ll all live underwater
The Beatles wanted to live in a yellow submarine, and according to some scientists, the technology already exists to create small underwater colonies. In the future, one response to overpopulation issues might be to dig down instead of building up and create entire underwater cities. Atlantis, anyone?
By creating modular systems where families live in interconnected ‘bubbles’ with piped-in air and other life support systems, the size of the underwater habitat can be increased or decreased according to need. Aquanauts can supplement a diet of preserved food with local fish and plankton, speared straight from the water. You’d probably want to eat it raw, though: nobody enjoys the smell of cooking fish in an enclosed environment.
As underwater technologies get better, we can:
- Take holidays under the sea—wake up and see coral reefs outside your hotel window
- Offer marine biologists the chance to explore and analyse their environment in great detail
- Archaeologists, too, can get in on the action and search for lost treasures
- Build living environments away from the problems of global warming and other natural disasters
Fifty years ago, our current world was almost unimaginable. Whatever the future holds, it’s likely to be just as transformative and exciting for our children. Unless the robot overlords get us first.