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Vancouverite Predictions On What the Future Will Look Like

05/07/2014 02:49 EDT | Updated 07/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Recently, I've noticed a great many articles and infographics that talk about where we are headed in the world with all of this technology. With wearables, Nike recently walked away from the FUEL band, Google is still hawking Google Glass, and Facebook even joined the game with the purchase of the Finnish company MOVES. With health-related technology we are seeing an increased amount of personal medical insights from companies like 23andMe (even though the FDA didn't like the DNA markers they showed) and loads of apps that help patients self-diagnose skin conditions, heart arrhythmia, and a number of other ailments (a modern hypochondriac's dream). With general life, we are seeing the rise of mobility and even the dawn of mesh networks that may even make conventional carriers obsolete (I imagine this will be a hard- fought battle, so don't hold your breath).

Humanity is careering towards "singularity" -- a moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence with far-reaching effects on civilization, and perhaps how humanity operates.

I have been collecting a number of predictions from Vancouverites on where they think the world is heading with technology as part of a gathering of minds at an upcoming conference called From Now. Each attendee has offered up their view of what and when things will happen. I wanted to share my top-5 predictions with some more insights:

2018: A group of people will be standing around a water cooler listening to a co-worker complain about how he can't figure out how to program his couch.

This seems pretty fantastical. However, as home-goods manufacturers start to integrate computers and intelligence into housewares and furniture to create connectivity and control, it may not be that far-fetched. Interaction designer Simone Rebaudengo has imagined a world of "needy" products that want nothing more than to be used, which is wonderfully shown with "Brad the Toaster". Brad tests you and decides whether you will be a worthy host. If the toaster is not happy with you, it will share and reassign itself to a new owner (it will arrange its own shipping) and you will lose that friend.

2021: We will only have friends on social media, and the iPhone13, known as 'The Unlucky One', will be powered by body heat, never leaving a person's side. Ever.

To me, this scenario seems grounded in some science-fiction nightmare. We are even more reliant on our devices, Apple or otherwise, and we pick them up and use them over 150 times a day, according to recent research, so it might not be so crazy after all. Ann Makosinski, a student from Victoria, recently won the 15-to-16 age category at Google's Annual International Science Fair for her "Hollow Flashlight," which runs off the heat from the palm of the hand using a special material that generates electricity from the heat flowing between the palm on one side and the ambient air on the other. This is absolutely amazing. The act of charging devices is a pain, and I feel that holding the device to gain body heat may be the answer going forward, thus creating even more dependency between user and device (let's hope devices like Brad won't need hugs too).

2025: Major power grid failure forces re-evaluation of our dependency on automated systems.

Connectivity will increase with the upward trajectory of the amount of devices that are enabled to be part of the "Internet of Things." Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) predicts some 25 billion devices will be connected by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. Automation of processes, increased cost reductions, and reduced waste are some of the benefits but with them comes reliance. Hospitals are moving down this path with the use of robots like Da Vinci and even some of the early trials of "The Internet of Robots". But more immediate are autonomous vehicles (cars that drive themselves), such as those being developed by Google and more traditional manufacturers like BMW. What happens when even one car fails and veers into other lanes of traffic? Serious consequences due to increased technology and a lot more development and testing needs to go into this.

2030: An end to physical disabilities due to prothestics, exoskeletons, and wearable technologies, which will advance to the point they will fully compensate for disability, while perhaps even augmenting disabled lifestyles in the process.

I personally think this will happen a lot sooner than this. However, by 2030 prices will be much more affordable for the general population. It is rumoured that a paraplegic teenager fitted with a robotic exoskeleton that translates brainwaves to actions - developed by a team of scientists around the world called the Walk Again Project - will kick the first ball of the World Cup in Brazil this year. Exoskeletons will go beyond making the disabled able, to providing able-bodied people with even more strength and stamina. This will the tipping point for this technology, but industrial and military uses will likely drive innovations forward a lot more quickly.

2034-44: Device-to-device communication will be the new paradigm. Protocols will be written to handle big data. All data will be processed online. New private distributed processing (niche) networks will emerge.

I already mentioned the "Internet of Things" here, but it introduces an important subject -- protocols. For data to come together quickly and efficiently, we will need a lot of the services we use to open up and allow us to collect, aggregate and process data to derive insights about what we are doing at a personal, household, community and city-level. Private networks will become huge business at this stage of the game, as will management of personal data using one-to-one agreements on a personal, business, and government level.

These predictions just skim the surface of what we are thinking and some of the things that point us in that direction. It's likely they will change and that some of them will prove to be totally wrong. But one thing is certain; humanity is changing at an incredible pace.

Add some of your predictions and thoughts in the comments below.