Welcome to your life in 2020

I don’t know about you but I often try to imagine what the world might look like in the future and what I might be doing in it.  2020 is a particularly interesting year for me.  It is the year of my retirement, I hope.
“Retirement: entering a period in life where I don’t have to work to live but will choose to work at something, just because…”
I wonder what changes I will experience, initiate, or resist… over the next 10 years?  Warning, wild (or mild?) speculation follows…
Mobile communications devices: all landline phones are relics now – mobile devices are very small, thin, and foldable but are able to take on a rigid form when necessary.  They have a holographic image capability to project a 3D color image of live video calls, video media, virtual worlds, digital information, online applications, etc.  Multiparty communications present each party in the holographic image as if they were there.  Interactions and input with this digital world involve gestures, virtual touch / manipulation, natural human speech, and unrollable keyboards (I’m resisting the brain – device integration step!).  They detect and connect with other nearby devices, large screens, large projection systems, sound systems, cameras, cars, whatever makes sense to connect with.

Laptops and netbooks: huh?  oh ya, those last decade devices.  These are now only available as pre-owned devices for “old-timers”.  Having served us well, they have begun to move out of the way for small mobile devices which replace all other digital interaction devices.

Print on demand: designers rule in 2020.  They use the same type of 3D holographic tools as mobile devices but with a sophisticated “drawing” application to create 3D digital designs of all kinds of products.  Designers show case, support virtual trials, and sell the use of their designs through using the infinite shelf space of the Internet to businesses and consumers who “print” physical products on their multi-pass multi-composite atomic imprinting devices.  These “printing” devices literally print a product based on the design at a molecular level but placing atoms in precise arrangements one atomic layer at a time. Within minutes, people print a new mobile communications device, a coffee cup, a new toaster, a plate, fork, or t-shirt.  The buyer has some choices for color and shape.  The size of the “printer” determines the size and type of the product that may be printed.  The designer controls how many copies may be printed.  Traditional manufacturing businesses are nearly extinct.  The power of production has moved into the hands of the individual.  New models are being designed to allow reuse of existing physical products as the raw materials to produce different products.  The new printers will “absorb” physical objects and sort their atoms into the raw materials needed to produce new products.  Sounds dangerous…

K-12 Education: practical forms of the Holodeck (Star Trek artifact) File:Holodeck2.jpgare successfully being piloted by innovative educators and students.  Student and educator learning is being transformed through real world scenarios and environments as well as virtual digital imaginative worlds all through the safety of the Holodeck.  Teachers and students in the pilot projects use sophisticated tools to create Hololessons and Holomodules and they store these in the global Holorepository for easy access by other teachers and self-directed learners to use, understand, and modify.  Students and teachers connect their Holoworlds to others around the world for virtual multicultural experiences through their participation in Holoreal reenactments of important historical events.  Students are engaged, along side their teachers / learning coaches, in designing, creating, and connecting these worlds.  The possibilities are seemingly endless for rich educational experiences.
Seriously though, maybe not by 2020, but can’t you see glimmers of  possibilities in our lifetime?  I will have the good fortune to attend a very interesting conference this summer put on by the World Future Society.  Their focus is on the discipline of Futuring.  For an example of their work check out 20 Forecasts for 2010-2025, Trends and Breakthroughs likely to Affect Your Work, Your Investments, and Your Family.
“Foresight is critical to achievement in all areas of your life, including your major life decisions. People who lack foresight are likely to find themselves unemployed when jobs are unexpectedly lost to new technologies, competition from overseas, or shifts in consumer tastes. Foresight is the key to survival in a world of disruptive innovation.”
Let that quote sink in…  Pause for thought isn’t it.  I worry about where we are headed with technology.  Ray Kurzweil, the author of The Singularity Is Near and creator of the highly valued Kurzweil 3000 literacy solution (assistive / adaptive learning technology) , is interviewed in WFS’ latest journal edition and is a keynote at the July conference. His view is that sometime this century human level intelligence will exist in machines.  Machines will equal or surpass human mental capabilities.  He’s writing a new book “How the Mind Works – and How to Build One”.  I’m not sure I like that prospect personally, but with the accelerating increases in machine performance, maybe…

Anyway, feel free to speculate with me here about life in 2020, or beyond.  What do you think life will be like then?


  1. Beam me up Brian 'Scottie' Kuhn,
    I want to join you for the ride!

    The creative juices aren't flowing enough for me to add something new here, but I'll leave you with a great quote (favourited on Twitter here http://twitter.com/Ask_Kim/statuses/13173741806 )

    Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    Like you, I see a lot of magic lined up for our retirement years!

  2. A very interesting blog. I agree with what you wrote about small mobile devices. People will soon have everything they need (internet, phone, music)in a single mobile device. Recently, I have been reading articles about a link between heavy use of these devices and an increased risk of certain forms of brain cancer. Small mobile devices are becoming increasingly more powerful and teenagers are using them more frequently. I wonder, in the future, if these individuals will develop health problems from long term exposure to small mobile devices?

    The partnership between Sony and Google to create Internet TV is something I'm looking forward to seeing in the near future. As I understand it, these TV's will be available in Canada in the Fall of 2010.

    What a great quote about foresight. It is true that many people who lack foresight often find themselves unemployed. People who are very successful in the business world often have tremendous foresight (i.e. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs).

    I'm not sure about technological advances in education. People in education seem really reluctant to change, there are an increasing number of rules and regulations and school districts don't have the money to invest in expensive forms of technology.

    One thing you didn't mention, which I think is going to be a huge issue in the future, is the environment. I would encourage anyone to read the books written by David Suzuki, Wade Davis and Al Gore.

  3. Dave: I like the Clarke's 3rd law - nice.

    J Preshaw: I don't think the research is conclusive on mobiles and health - most people (young people) don't talk on the phone as much as they text, IM, search, etc. and the likelihood of health issues are probably low - I'm not an expert on that though.

    Education is a slow pace of change kind-a place but as more young educators enter the system, things seem to be speeding up. I think the cost of education is also causing some disruption as are/will the demands from families and learners.

    Environment... another topic I'm interested in - education is the place to start to change thinking about resources, scarcity, impact, and the behaviors and attitudes needed to correct course - our current trajectory isn't looking very promising... education is a powerful tool to change the world.

  4. Great idea on the 2020 lifestyle. Wondering what you think of the personal/privacy debate? If we want technology to remind us when to by milk and what to get the wife for her birthday then it will sure have to know a lot about us in the data cloud.

  5. James: I am quite concerned about the personal privacy issue. Mainly from the perspective of how little value increasing numbers of people put on this. They don't get the slippery slope aspect. Little by little, too much is known by too many people and conclusions and decisions can be made about us that aren't favorable. I'm not paranoid just a historian... it happens. It can happen much faster now if we're not careful. Sorry, you sparked a hot spot for me :-) I will write more about this in the future for sure.

  6. What will we actually be doing if robots are the workers? The rest of us will have to use alternate currencies, grow our food communally and hang out and play???

  7. Ruth - I read a book a number of years ago titled "The End of Work" http://www.foet.org/ by Jeremy Rifkin. He writes about this from a historical perspective and forecasts alternate economies. It's worth a read if you're interested. Theoretically, the utopian state is possible, practically, I'm not so sure. Humankind is known to be rather greedy and self-serving, unfortunately, so... time will tell.


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