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Forbes “Life in 2020” Articles

Forbes has recently published a package of articles on predictions for life in the year 2020, and their social media wing emailed me to publish the links, so here they are! 2010 is a good year to make predictions for 2015 and 2020. If you want to be a futurist in 2015 or 2020, start now with some predictions! Anyway, here is the blurb and links:

You will be healthier. Your technology will be more human. You will fight to keep your job. You will walk to work. There will be nowhere to hide. Your life is about to change.

Transportation in 2020
In 10 years, your commute will be short, cheap and, dare we say, fun.

The Classroom In 2020
The next decade will bring an end to school as we know it.

Your Choice In 2020
How big computing will make every action a transaction.

Your Computer In 2020
Traditional computers are disappearing; human beings themselves are becoming information augmented.

Your Home In 2020
Goodbye, McMansions. In 2020 we'll build for the triple bottom line: people, planet as well as profit.

Your Job In 2020
In 2020 you will fight to keep your job.

Your Diet In 2020
In 2020 you will finally start taking care of yourself.

Your Health In 2020
Passive patients will become empowered participants.

Making Whuffie
Social networks change the way we look at the world and introduce new economic incentives.

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  1. I predict that in 2020 the predictions for 2030 will be mostly the same. And for 2040. And 2050.

    Look at any future world predictions of the past and you’ll see a repetition of the, er, same new same new.

    IMO, what futurism is missing most is specific and detailed scenarios of how hypercomputing (from our exaflops-starved perspective) will actually change the world.

  2. Given the increasing sophistication of chemical/protein simulations it’s quite likely that in the next decades some megacorp comes up with some genuinely harmless synthetic drug that makes people totally content and happy and then everyone just mostly sits around all day being very happy and content. Unless they have to work for food. Which they don’t because the bots handle that.

  3. Ultimately we will all become flobots, bots whose entire existence consists of remaining deep in the as much as possible, thinking we’re achieving a lot without really achieving anything. …A lot like these days, actually. ;-D

  4. I’m struck by the cultural content of these predictions. Though a tricky business, it’s important for futurists to include this critical factor. The Forbes team seems to envision socially and environmentally conscious capitalism as ascendant in 2020.

  5. Bleh. I, for one, think all of this isn’t even a serious attempt at futurism; it’s just a blatant attempt to pander to the Stuff White People Like crowd. These articles are ridiculous, and to give extra emphasis to the meaning of the word “ridiculous”:

    “If you don’t read a lot of judicial opinions, you may not understand the full weight of what it means when a judge calls an argument “frivolous” or “ridiculous.” Perhaps an analogy will help explain the attitude of judges.

    Imagine a group of professional scientists who have met to discuss important issues of physics and chemistry, and then someone comes into their meeting and challenges them to prove that the earth revolves around the sun. At first, they might be unable to believe that the challenger is serious. Eventually, they might be polite enough to explain the observations and calculations which lead inevitably to the conclusion that the earth does indeed revolve around the sun. Suppose the challenger is not convinced, but insists that there is actually no evidence that the earth revolves around the sun, and that all of the calculations of the scientists are deliberately misleading. At that point, they will be jaw-droppingly astounded, and will no longer be polite, but will evict the challenger/lunatic from their meeting because he is wasting their time.

    So, when a judge calls an argument “ridiculous” or “frivolous,” it is absolutely the worst thing the judge could say. It means that the person arguing the case has absolutely no idea of what he is doing, and has completely wasted everyone’s time. It doesn’t mean that the case wasn’t well argued, or that judge simply decided for the other side, it means that there was no other side.. The argument was absolutely, positively, incompetent. The judge is not telling you that you that you were “wrong.” The judge is telling you that you are out of your mind.” –

  6. I cannot agree, Tom. The predictions all strike me as at least vaguely plausible. Which ones in particular do you take issue with?

    I am especially interested in the potential of cheap sensors and processing power to transform the marketplace and conceivably reduce some of the horrible inefficiencies of the present distribution system. Today so much stuff goes to waste because it is apparently too much trouble to find a buyer. (Think day-old bread.) Ubiquitous intelligence could better coordinate supply with demand and theoretically benefit both companies and consumers.

  7. Tom, I agree with you to an extent, but not completely. Some articles, like the transportation one especially, are SWPL futurism at its finest. But some of the points in other articles make sense — for instance, the homes article points out the rise of mid-sized cities like Portland where people can bike and walk around more easily than in a huge city. Also, I think the jobs article (written by Martin Ford, who Dr. J interviewed a little while ago) is on point and not too optimistic. The classroom article is a little optimistic but I think the changes it describes could come to pass, and already have been over the last 10 years. (Greater interactivity and less emphasis on rote memorization.)

    The “choices” article is also more or less plausible to me, simply extrapolating continued advanced in IT, personalized medicine, and the quantified self type ideas that we saw Gary Wolf talk about at SS09. Did you skim all the articles or just a few and the headlines? When I read the first article and just the headlines, I had a very strong impression it was all SWPL nonsense, but on skimming more articles I see some good points.

  8. The transportation article in particular makes cultural predictions more than technological ones. The sort of trendy, consumerist environmentalism envisioned by McCallion as ascendant already exists in force across the planet and shows no signs of dying off. That fact alone makes his scenario plausible to me, though hardly inevitable.

  9. I didn’t actually like the jobs one by Ford all that much. Just because we’ll have >=1,000 times more computational power in 10 years doesn’t mean that computers will be 1,000 times more powerful to do things in the world.

    As far as I can tell, about 95% of currently non-automated jobs are pretty much AI-complete, at least in the sense that people wouldn’t believe that the computer was doing the right job unless it could explain itself to them in normal language. Another 3-4% probably won’t be replaced either, because network effects tend to inhibit of unilateral adoption of technologies like these.

    I work in pharmaceutical forecasting, which seems like a job ripe for an AI to steal (in fact, a recent summit detailed how AI algorithms are taking over traditional time-series models). However, most of my job is interacting with executive management and marketing, which computers can’t really do (until human-level AGI, hence the AI-completeness).

    So I really can’t see much deterioration of the job market due to AI in the next ten years. However, once we have HLAI, say in 15-20 years, I think things may start to change.

  10. Dave is clearly overestimating his own importance. There is no reason to believe that the executive management and the marketing wouldn’t trust a narrow-AI programme to do his job.
    IMO, robotics and AI will continue to replace jobs. This comes on top of an already inflated economy, in which large groups of people perform activities which are economically and socially useless, a bubble which is now slowly bursting.

  11. No flying cars, no lunar colonies, no Uplifted apes and dolphins, no IQ-boosting genetic mods, no on-again off-again sexual transformations, no cyborgs, no artificial hibernation. But we’ll all have the satisfaction of becoming the sort of people who subscribe to Forbes.

    Is this the future we deserve?

  12. Do you ever wonder how music is going sound in as little as 15 years?

  13. pold: “There is no reason to believe that the executive management and the marketing wouldn’t trust a narrow-AI programme to do his job.”

    Wrong. The biggest reason why AI techniques haven’t been adopted already is because they seem like a “black box” by management, because the AIs can’t explain themselves. This is exactly my point – until AIs get smart enough to explain what they are doing, people will not trust them.

  14. “Wrong. The biggest reason why AI techniques haven’t been adopted already is because they seem like a “black box” by management, because the AIs can’t explain themselves.”

    That argument doesn’t convince me. Some chief executive at some company around the world will finally adopt these narrow AI programmes and they will gain a competitive advantage. It doesn’t matter whether you call them stupid or gullible. They will be succesfull and force their competitors to do the same.

  15. They won’t be functional until they can converse in human language, plain and simple.

  16. Dave: “They won’t be functional until they can converse in human language, plain and simple.”

    I certainly agree with you that AI cannot truly begin to integrate with human society until it can sufficiently ‘explain’ its choices (by ‘sufficiently’ I mean holding up to human scrutiny).

    However, there are current applications of AI that many people trust, even if the program’s decisions/suggestions are not ideal. For example, Google Maps will occasionally send me on an illogical loop-de-loop, but for navigating the streets and getting me where I need to be, it’s good enough.

  17. Chris: Your example works because there is little downside risk involved – i.e., if Google sends you the wrong way, nobody is hurt that badly.

    With a company, however, multi-million dollar decisions are commonly made off these types of analyses. A corporation is not going to trust something that can’t explain itself for these types of decisions.

  18. I am disguested by the thought that Bernie Madoff will be killed in prison. If that happens as he was already assulted and severely injured it will be because he is a Jew.

    Jews are no longer going to be arbitrarily killed or maimed without serious consequences for the attackers. It’s not only the Moslems who can issue fatwahs and have an enemy killed thousands of miles away.

    I know this is just some idiot prediction but people should be warned it will not be tolerated.

    Bill Levy

  19. Wow, this is saaaaadddd. In fact, all u are! Just kidding, but i don’t get this… Can someone help me with it??

  20. Ok I read it fully and I understand but this is just rude!! Honest to god, whats wrong with you?!!

    Your really sad, you know that? And the weight thing?? UR ALL WRONG!!


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