Future Visions

Here’s a change-of-pace blog that explores many likely changes that appear to be in store for us. We’re usually so preoccupied with our daily responsibilities that we don’t often sit back and ask where we’re heading … not in a year or two but in ten or twenty or fifty years.  I’m including this item as a sustainability blog purely to stretch our vision … and within which to prompt each of us to think about what we might do in response.

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The future is almost here … it’s both scary and exciting.

 

Bryan HustonFollow

Vice President of Sales & Marketing,

Acme-Hardesty Co.

September 19, 2017

 

Predictions!

1. Auto repair shops go away. A gasoline engine has 20,000 individual parts. An electrical engine has 20. Electric cars are sold with lifetime guarantees and are only repaired by dealers. It takes only 10 minutes to remove and replace an electric engine. Faulty electric engines are not repaired in the dealership but are sent to a regional repair shop that repairs them with robots. Essentially, if your electric “Check Motor” light comes on, you simply drive up to what looks like a car wash. Your car is towed through while you have a cup of coffee and out comes your car with a new engine.

2. Gas stations go away. Parking meters are replaced by meters that dispense electricity. All companies install electrical recharging stations.

3. All major auto manufacturers have already designated 5-6 billion dollars each to start building new plants that only build electric cars.

4. Coal industries go away. Oil companies go way. Drilling for oil stops.

5. Homes produce and store more electrical energy during the day and than they use and will sell it back to the grid. The grid stores it and dispenses it to industries that are high electricity users.

 

(Other trend observations:)

 

  1. The FUTURE is approaching faster than one can handle! 

 In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 5-10 years and, most people won’t see it coming.

Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on film again? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a time, before it became way superior and became mainstream in only a few short years. 

It will now happen again (but much faster) with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution.  Welcome to the Exponential Age!!

 

  1. Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

 

  1. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.

 

  1. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

 

  1. Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go-player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.

 

  1. In the U.S., young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM’s Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So, if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only omniscient specialists will remain.

 

6A. Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, its 4 times more accurate than human nurses.

 

  1. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

 

  1. Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. own a car. A baby of today will only see personal cars in musAround 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it; you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. The very young children of today will never get a driver’s license and a baby of today will only see personal cars in museums.

8A. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 mi (100,000 km), with autonomous driving that will drop to 1 accident in 6 million miles (10 million km). That will save a million lives worldwide each year.

 

8B. Most car companies will doubtless become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.

 

8C. Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi are completely terrified of Tesla 

  

  1. Insurance companies will have massive trouble because, without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

 

  1. Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

 

  1. Electric cars will become mainstream about 2020.  Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity.

 

  1. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can now see the burgeoning impact.

 

  1. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil.  Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that simply cannot continue … technology will take care of that strategy.

 

  1. With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water.  Desalination of salt water now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter (@ 0.25 cents). We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.

 

  1. Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There are companies who will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it. It then analyses 54 bio-markers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world lass medical analysis, nearly for free.

 

  1. 3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies have already started 3D printing shoes.

 

  1. Some spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past.

 

  1. At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home.

 

  1. In China, they already 3D printed and built a complete 6-story office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.

 

  1. Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, first ask yourself: “In the future, do I think we will have that?” And, if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner?

 

20A. If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. Any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.

 

20B. Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a short time.

 

  1. Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all day on their fields.

 

  1. Aeroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows.  Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore.

 

  1. There are several startups who will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

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What do you think about these forecasts? Some are already happening, of course.  But will the trend continue?

Questions that I have include such sustainability aspects as:

 

  • What about global warming, food production, and rising oceans?

 

  • What about human happiness?  If these trends become reality, what will our lifestyle look like? Do you look forward to that?

 

  • What about governance?  Will we still live in nation-states as we have for centuries, or will national boundaries become irrelevant?

 

These projections are great for stretching our vision, for getting us to think about why we’re here and what we want from our lifetime … our quality-of-life experience. How do these projections affect our personal values?

I grew up spending my summers canoe-tripping in Canada. One of the biggest mantras I was taught was “Always leave the campsite better than it was when you got here.”  Well, Planet Earth is our campsite.  What are the impacts of all these projections on the thinking in that mantra?  Will they actually improve our ability to do this or detract from this thinking?

I hope these projections provide you with substance for some lively discussions.

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