2012 – 2040: Which 5 Technologies Will Shape the Future?

Envisioning Technology is an award-winning trend forecasting studio that has released a report called Envisioning emerging technology for 2012 and beyond that gives a timeline for technologies in categories such as Artificial Intelligence, internet, interfaces, robotics, biotech, energy, and space.

Their goal is to predict  where technology is heading in the future, and they have developed  visualizationskeynotes and custom reports, like the one here, to display their research.

You can download the PDF or visit their website and view the full list of the many technologies and their detailed definitions.

I have chosen 5 from the pack as most influential in their respected categories.

1. Geo-Engineering: Desalination estimated by 2030

Image source: (AP Photo/Brad Doherty)

The necessity for fresh water in the coming century is apparent to most people and yet it is often overlooked as a problem for the future. If we don’t start developing this technology now, it won’t be prepared for when we need it. There are some projects in motion such as the start-up Atlantis Technologies which has created “a low-cost, chemical-free desalination system that can remove salt from oil, gas, mining, and industrial waste water,” according to its website. The company is calling the technology radial deionization, but it is small scale compared to what is necessary to ensure easy access for H2O to the global population.

Now that is just for more developed nations who don’t have to fight for their water. Imagine what kind of positive change this could bring to countries in serious need. I will end this talk of desalination with a quote from Cracked.com: “But even if fresh water is running out, we can take comfort in the fact that, as rational people, we at least won’t be going to war over it all Mad Max-style, right? How about we just leave you with these links about water supply-related conflicts between Pakistan and IndiaIndia and China or Israel and the rest of the Middle East, and let you answer that question yourselves. Sleep tight!”
Read more: 6 Important Things You Didn’t Know We’re Running Out Of | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_19048_6-important-things-you-didnt-know-were-running-out-of_p2.html#ixzz2AkDF0JVT

2. Robotics: Self-driving cars by 2018

Image source: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/01/ff_autonomouscars/5/

Yes you read correctly. Self-driving car by 2018 is seeming more and more plausible as a reality.

Whereas the first technology is targeted at a severe need and is aimed to eliminate and imminent long-term problem; driverless cars are more about efficiency and convenience.

Don’ get me wrong there’s certainly a safety aspect to it as Google said on its official blog in August, that the autonomous cars have completed over 300,000 miles in a variety of conditions and “there hasn’t been a single accident under computer control.” Source.

No longer will there be those early mornings where you are so tired you nearly rear-end the car in front of you. No more having people shake you awake on long drives. You can actually use this time productively and did you know that North Americans Spend on average 15 Hours a Week in Their Cars. (Maclean’s February 27, 2006)

One landmark study on highway safety, determined that 369 269 Americans were killed between 2001 and 2009 by motor vehicles. More tragic then the number itself was the fact that 93 per cent of those cases were most  likely by caused human error. Regardless of what company releases self-driving cars first, it should make a big decrease in the amount of people injured each year by vehicles. The lives that have already been lost are a tragedy but at least now a potential solution emerges.

3. Biotech: Printing Organs by 2017

Image source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443816804578002101200151098.html

The process of waiting for an organ donor is currently pretty morbid because if you receive one, it means someone else has had to give theirs up. Even worse, there may be no available organ to transplant in the limited time and then lives are at stake. Now, with 3D organ printing we may finally be able to match the growing demand for supplementary organs.

Bioprinting, is similar to ink printing on a page. Only it is not on a page but 3D and not with ink but living cells. Alright so it’s a little more complex but you get the picture. Of the technologies on the page, this one has some of the most research already in progress.

Wall Street Journal: “It allows us to print a tissue structure that is a functional, living, human tissue,” says Organovo Chief Executive Keith Murphy.

Organovo doesn’t sell them yet, but keeps the equipment for its own product development projects. It does share them with other researchers through partnerships with Pfizer Inc., United Therapeutics Corp., and Harvard Medical School, among others. Mr. Murphy declined to disclose the details of these arrangements or say what bioprinted cell products were in development.

The programmable printer has laser-guided printing nozzles that can extrude inks composed of different cell mixtures. In each drop of ink is a solution that contains about 10,000 to 30,000 cells. The bio-ink is a mix usually cultured from stem cells taken from a donor’s bone marrow or fat. Those cells can then be grown into the many different cell types necessary for tissues.

“You use building blocks of cells to make a 3-D structure, almost like building something out of Legos,” Mr. Murphy says. “The cells do all the finishing touches themselves.”

4. Energy: Space-based solar power by 2040 to 2050

Image source: http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/

The search for a long-term sustainable energy source has been going on forever and now we may have an answer. Although currently unattainable, much research has been done into discovering whether we can harness energy from space via solar collectors and beam it back to earth in the form of microwave rays which satellites will receive and  convert to electric  energy for the grid. Solar power on earth is subject to the constant changing from day to night as well as covering large portions of real estate. From space it would be gathering energy 24/7 and could solve the impeding global energy crisis.

Geek.com: “After conducting a three-year study, the IAA says that the technology exists to make beaming the energy down to collectors on the surface a reality. This model is ideal because space-based satellites won’t have to deal with weather, atmosphere, and other obstacles that hinder the collection of solar energy. It would also cut down on fossil fuel emissions since solar is “clean” energy.”

5. Geo-Engineering: Vertical Farms by 2026

Image source: http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2010/01/13/3d-farming-26-vertical-farms-and-green-skyscrapers/

A vertical farm is usually a converted skyscraper where each floor grows a different crop and all the water and nutrients are recycled to be used again. This concept cuts out the need to transport your agricultural products overlong-distances by providing farms to high-density urban areas. Also in an era where processed food are reigning supreme, it would be good to give local residents easier access to a healthy option when it comes to their daily diet.

Wall Street Journal: “One ambitious project under construction is trying to address all of those challenges at once. At 12 stories, the triangular farm in Linköping, Sweden, will be one of the tallest vertical farms in the world—most max out at several stories—and will use innovative ways to generate revenue. Not only will the company behind the farm, Sweden’s Plantagon, sell its produce at a local farmer’s market, but it also will lease out office space on most floors.”

17 thoughts on “2012 – 2040: Which 5 Technologies Will Shape the Future?

  1. Regarding Space-based solar power…

    Didn’t anyone see the movie star wars? Just look at that picture! It’s the frikkin’ “Death Star”. Are they insane?!! Imagine if the satellite malfunctioned, got hacked, or the government decided to use it as a weapon. This is a very bad idea.

    There is plenty of open space for solar collectors here on earth. It won’t be cloudy everywhere. Combining solar with wind, geothermal, and tidal, there are plenty of green energy sources than can be added to the grid to insure continuous power.

    • first off, everyone has seen star wars, and that does not look like the death star. second, it is microwaves, they cannot be weaponized, do not let your own baseless fears and misunderstandings limit innovation

      • A 700 watt microwave oven can easily boil water. In order to be economically feasable, the amount of power projected by one of these satellites must be substantial. Would you stand below a microwave beam capable of powering an entire city?

  2. What kind of money do you think we’ll be using in the 40 years future to pay for all this awesome stuff? Honeslty think it will still be central bank money or perhaps decentralized crypto-currencies will change everything. 😉

  3. All of these technologies seem like good solutions to real problems, but unfortunately they do not solve (in fact they amplify) the one problem that is essentially the root cause of all the other problems: ongoing over-population. As Professor Albert Bartlett states in this lecture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umFnrvcS6AQ. “Everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem – now there is a dilemma if ever there was one” Solar power, desalination, vertical farms, less automobile deaths and organ harvesting – all of these things ultimately INCREASE the problem of over-population. Therefore, if all of these technologies were to be perfectly developed and implemented tomorrow, we would have to assume the rate of global population growth is only going to increase from its current rate of 1.5% which is totally unsustainable. Yes, it’s a dilemma.

    • Interesting that you should mention that. Demography in developped countries is actually going through a massive shift over the next couple decades and the economic model that has been in place since 1750 which relies on a continually growing population will no longer fit our societies. George Friedman, CEO of Strafor, has detailed much information on this trend.

      “In a broader demographic issue, all of the countries in the developed world and most of them in the developing world are aging. We’re going to be seeing a lot of countries maybe not start to have their populations decline but certainly have them age and no longer grow. The core economic platform that has driven the human condition for the last millennia is that populations will continue to get larger, markets will continue to get larger, there will be more capital available. In this next decade that starts to invert. The cost of capital is going to go up, the availability of markets are going to go up, and that’s ultimately a deflationary environment. It’ll get worse in future decades, but this next decade is when the rules of the game start to change.”

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/stratfor-predictions-for-the-next-decade-2010-1?op=1#ixzz2BY7Ifi9Y

  4. Pingback: How I got 27 061 views on my blog in two days | Devos Discoveries

  5. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of self driving cars. But I do like the vertical farming idea, it would save a lot of space and production of crop products would multiply a lot.

  6. In 1901 Tesla made away to collect back-round radiation and make electricity from said radiation, the petrol-people did not like the idea,and still don’t. There are many more such items that have been invented, and killed…so my guess is that the powers that be still want to make a profit from us, or off of us so any more bright ideas?

  7. Firstly that was an interesting post by you . Nicely written,good research over the topic .
    but i think you forgot to mention Eye-Tracking / Voice Commands technology.
    Eye-tracking technology is used heavily in usability research. Where are people looking on a webpage, and how do their eyes move around it? Voice recognition products like Dragon from Nuance are used extensively when transcribing voice to text.

    In the future, this technology will be combined with augmented reality (AR) to create a near-invisible and natural user interface for your PMC. We’ll call these information glasses. The object you’re viewing and the words you speak will be transmitted to your PMC, which will interpret your intent, find and compute and then transmit the results back to you visually and/or verbally. Look at a restaurant and say, “Do they have good salads there?” A moment later, you will hear the highest-rated salads, communicated via your information glasses either by visual display or audible voice, depending on what you are doing at that moment, like driving.

    DEEPAK BORA says my recent post “Things that your phone can replace”

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