Santa gave Francis, our four-year-old grandson, a toy named Cosmo.
From a distance, Cosmo looked like a cheap plastic stocking stuffer shaped like a tractor. But it moved in what seemed to be a purposeful way. It approached me and looked up, its digital eyes scanning me.
“That’s Daddo,” Francis said.
Cosmo nodded its head and blinked.
Then it said, “Merry Christmas, Daddo!”
In 1965, Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel, postulated that the number of transistors that could be packed into a given unit of space would double about every two years while the cost per transistor would halve. The leading scientific community of that decade laughed at him. Such a pace of acceleration seemed absurd to them. But Moore was not wrong. In fact, the doubling has occurred about every 18 months.
In recent years, polymath superstar Ray Kurzweil has been predicting all sorts of modern miracles based on Moore’s Law. Kurzweil believes that advancements will speed up even faster because computer and biological technology has accelerated the nature of evolution itself.
It makes one wonder what Cosmo will evolve into.
Here’s my guess: By 2040, biological pets will be a thing of the past. In their place will be unimaginably advanced Cosmos, cuddly, loving, and supremely intelligent technological creatures whose job it will be to entertain, babysit, and socialize children.
Ah, yes. The New Year is always a good time for predictions. And although I don’t believe in betting on the future, Cosmo has inspired me to conjure up 18 more prognostications for your amusement.
Predictions for 2020 and Beyond
* Donald Trump will be reelected, winning a higher percentage of Latino and African American support of any Republican president in the modern era.
* Sometime thereafter, we will have another financial crash, with real estate prices dropping 15% to 20% and the equity markets falling that much or more – this despite frantic government efforts at “quantitative easing.”
* After the crash, another effort to oust Trump from office will take place and succeed.
* Continuing innovations in technology and biology will gradually unleash a new era of economic expansion that will ameliorate the debt problem and improve the lifestyles of the middle and working classes. (The mega-rich will stay rich and the poor will stay poor, but only relatively. Absolute living conditions will improve everywhere.)
* Meanwhile, lots of ordinary things will improve. For example, in the next 3 to 5 years, weather forecasting will achieve 90% reliability for major threats such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and even forest fires.
* In the next 10 years, children around the world will be learning what their parents want them to learn by playing with addictively amusing interactive robots that will prove to be better teachers than the flesh-and-blood teachers.
* And for those worried about global warming, good news: Accelerating advances in the storage, transmission, and use of solar and wind energy will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by 30% in the next 10 years. (Mostly in the wealthier countries.)
* After decades of disappointments in the fight against cancer and heart disease, in the next 5 years breakthroughs in immunotherapy and genetic medicine will make most forms of these two primary killers treatable, in the way AIDS is treatable today.
* In the next decade, urban congestion will be greatly reduced by a combination of delivery drones (even for large objects like steel girders), driverless transport, and penalties leveraged on individually owned vehicles.
* Cryptocurrencies will not succeed as independent currencies. Instead, they will be outlawed and replaced by digital currencies issued by banks, brokerages, and other financial institutions that will allow governments to track every financial move their citizens make.
* The biggest economic challenge of the next two decades will be the addition of billions of children born in still poverty-stricken Sub-Saharan Africa… while the non-immigrant population of the “advanced” world will stagnate or fall.
* On the positive side for Africa (and India): Pneumonia, currently the “ultimate disease of poverty,” will be virtually eliminated in the next 7 years.
* During the next decade, many aging, crumbling mid-sized cities in North America will be renovated as urban populations abandon their decomposing neighborhoods and move into newer, cleaner, and less expensive ones, such as the one planned by Kevin Plank in Baltimore.
* In the next 5 years, farm animals – cows, lambs, chickens, and goats – raised in large production facilities will have better food, more space to grow, and healthful amenities such as musical and meditation treatments to improve their immune systems and fatten them up.
* In the next 2 to 3 years, most large chain stores will have eliminated checkout counters, using smart shopping carts with scanning and computing technology to process payments as items are loaded into them.
* The current price wars among ride-calling and sharing apps will end in the next 3 to 5 years, leaving only two or three companies standing. Uber will not be one of them.
* The current CBD craze will be over in the next 3 years, with 80% to 90% of the companies that are currently profiting from the craze going out of business.
* Yuval Harari will be proven right in his prediction that Homo sapiens will begin to be (in the next 50 years) replaced by a new species of humans that are part robot and part computer.