Predictions about the year 2050
As a counterreaction to claims that technology is changing faster than ever and that future progress is impossible to foresee, allow me to make some predictions about the year 2050:
We’ll still eat food. Food will still be grown on outdoor farms. We’ll still live in houses. We’ll still drink water that comes in pipes. We’ll still use electricity delivered by metal wires. We’ll still make electricity by burning fossil fuels (though more will come from solar & wind). We’ll still have cars, probably self-driving but possibly not. We’ll still have families. We’ll still learn reading, writing, math, science, etc. in physical schools. Heart disease will still be the number one killer. Cancer will not be broadly cured, though some narrow cures will be available. CRISPR (or other technologies) will not yet have led to whole-body gene editing in adult humans. We’ll still wear clothing. We’ll still use money, issued by governments. We’ll still be living on Earth only (though humans may have walked on moon/Mars). We still won’t have fusion energy, but we’ll be closer. Electronics and media will be far better. Much more of work, life, and entertainment will be computerized. We won’t have general AI. Nuclear war will have not occurred. Most countries as we know them today will still exist. Books will still exist as a medium. Universities will still exist to teach and research. Airplanes will still fly below the speed of sound. Cars will still drive on roads. Transporting goods by humongous diesel-powered ships will still be the cheapest option. Computers will still be based on classical, binary logic. Most major companies today will still exist. Most major companies existing then will have existed today. Jobs will still exist. People will be healthier. People will be richer. People will be nicer. People will be happier.
Overall, I think life will be structurally similar to today. The biggest differences will be in improvements in electronics and software and media, as well as cultural shifts caused by those trends. The shift to solar and wind will continue substantially. Biotechnology and AI remain question marks, with high upside.
Edit in 2018: Let me further qualify these fuzzy claims by saying that ‘widespread’ is implicit. I.e., we may have had a scientific experiment produce positive fusion energy, but fusion energy will not be widespread as a form of energy production.