A friend of mine was reading a bunch of blog articles (some of them mine, about autonomous automobiles (can we can them auto-autos?) and wearable tech) and said, “I wonder what my life will be like in five years?” So I started to think about it.
The Institute for the Future‘s rule of thumb is that to predict 5 years ahead you need to look 10 years back. I guess that’s a Moore’s Law corollary but even the delta from 5 years ago is huge, and has implications for 5 years from now. I mean, I moved my TV from one room to another today just by picking it up by myself. I could not have done that with a 60″ TV five years ago.
Then I plugged it in and it picked up my FiOS right away, so I can watch Netflix or Hulu (which started 5 years ago) or Amazon or YouTube, or, you know, TV on it. What will it be in five years? Chromecast just killed HDMI cables, so in five years I won’t have to manually move my TV; I will just tell my house which monitor I want to watch. I’ve used Skype for over 8 years, but now it’s owned by Microsoft, decrypted for the NSA, and packaged on my TV. Also, it’s my second choice after Google Hangouts (multi-party video chat wasn’t available 5 years ago).
However, a lot of trends that we think of as “emerging” really emerged initially 5 years ago.
Five years ago was August 2008
The economy was melting down, with Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy. Apple’s App Store was standing up, with Instagram and Angry Birds becoming the first killer apps. The iPhone had been available for a year, and Google had just released its competition, the Android OS.
Bernie Madoff would be arrested that fall. Pakistani terrorists would leverage social media and instant web-based communications to efficiently target residents and guests of a luxury hotel in Mumbai. Witnesses would report that the terrorists monitored their Blackberries with one hand while firing with the other.
The Large Hadron Collider (the biggest machine in the world) had not yet opened for business. We discovered a meteor BEFORE it hit us, for the first time. China became the third country in history to conduct a spacewalk, and SpaceX became the first commercial company to put a space launch vehicle in orbit. A new age of surgery began with the implant of an engineered trachea into a Columbian woman. Tissue engineering suddenly stopped being theoretical, as did bionic eyes; two patients received them in 2008.
HD DVD died and Windows 7 started. Cloud computing took off but the idea of city-wide Wi-Fi crashed and burned. Yahoo got bought by Microsoft but seemed terminal, while Google started its sweep of the Risk board with Chrome, Android, online apps, and display ads. Chevrolet announced a mostly-electric car, the Volt. A fully-electric car, the Tesla Roadster, started shipping to customers for $100,000 each.
23andme launched, allowing anyone to get their genome sequenced for $399 and kicking off a personal-genomics revolution.
The Global Seed Vault opened as a backup for the backup because half the seed banks in developing countries are at risk from natural disasters or general instability.
A satellite used the new protocol to relay an image of the Cape of Good Hope back to Earth and inaugurated the Interplanetary Internet.
Of Time’s top 50 websites of the year, the only ones that survived until today have become mainstays: Hulu launched to mockery of its name, and for being a ham-fisted corporate knockoff of YouTube, but with Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime, it delivered the final blow that untethered TV from that box in your living room. GasBuddy aggregates user content to help you find the cheapest gas. Yahoo! Answers aggregates user content for all sorts of questions which range from the actually helpful to the funny to the deeply tragic. Rate My Professors, Mint, NexTag, TinyURL, Urban Dictionary, Someecards, Apartment Therapy, Kiva, and Petfinder were also notable that year and should be familiar names to you.
In 2008, the immunization of companies assisting NSA wiretaps became a hot-button issue, as did P2P network monitoring.
Emerging tech we thought would rock our world: Edible electronics (A biomedical company has created a system to embed tiny computers and sensors into drugs and link them to a cellphone or the internet in a bid to make the monitoring of drug efficacy foolproof.), flexible displays, GPS in every device, the memristor, and USB 3.0. The last three are in use, but I still don’t have my e-paper!
So what do you think? Which of today’s emerging trends will survive and thrive five years from now?