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    Futurists Tell Us The Most Amazing And Scary Things To Expect In The Future

    Consider this a sneak preview of tomorrow.

    The 2020s have long been a decade used in science fiction movies, TV shows, and novels to represent a far-off, distant future. Amazingly, we’re not only living in that decade now, but already headed into year two of it!

    UFA

    The classic silent film Metropolis, released in 1927, envisioned a distant future (with robots, of course) in the 2020s.

    This got me thinking about BuzzFeed's younger readers, many of whom will live to see calendar years even more mind-bogglingly futuristic, like 2080, 2090, and even 2100. What will life be like for them over the course of their lives? How many changes will they see over the next 10–80 years?

    To find out, BuzzFeed connected with some of the world's leading futurists and asked them to forecast what the years to come might bring. Here are their fascinating and thought-provoking insights:

    Public transit will be radically different in the future — and traffic will be a thing of the past.

    Donald Iain Smith / Getty Images

    "Twentieth century public transit will be replaced by private transportation in van-sized smaller vehicles and single-person pods, driving on roads that are rarely congested because everybody follows tools like Waze which work together with cities to stop too many cars bunching up in the same place before they get there."

    Brad Templeton

    Family road trips will be in self-driving recreational vehicles accessorized with robot assistants and food replicators.

    "Self-driving RVs will pick you up from your home and be pre-programmed to drive the route you chose (including parking themselves in the designated spaces in RV parks), and they'll stop along the way at national parks...with reservations, of course. The RV will have internet-on-the-go to allow the kids to play computer games when the vehicle is in motion. The entertainment module will be tailored to the child’s age and interests so that you will never hear, 'Are we there yet?' The RVs will be equipped with food replicators, so if the parents don’t want to cook, they won’t have to. Robots will handle the setup and tear down, including making sure that the black water is flushed. All the family has to do is enjoy their time together on this all-inclusive holiday."

    Joyce Gioia

    Space travel will become increasingly common to the point where we may create human colonies in our solar system — and potentially, eventually, beyond!

    Coneyl Jay / Getty Images

    "Just a few short years ago, space travel was largely relegated to official government space agencies — with space missions becoming increasingly few and far between.

    However, investments by private industry in the development of reusable rockets (dramatically lowering the costs of space flight) have changed the dynamics of space travel to the point where this is now a new growth industry — not just for the future, but now!

    A human hasn't set foot on the moon in 48 years, but that’s about to change. Missions are being planned to send human crews to both the moon and Mars starting in 2024.

    What’s even more exciting is that scientists have recently discovered water on the sunlight portions of the moon. They’re not yet sure if this water is from below the surface of the moon, was perhaps deposited by meteorite impacts, or formed by the interaction of energetic particles ejected from the sun.

    And, while we’ve known for some time that frozen water exists on Mars — primarily in polar regions — recent discoveries indicate that water flows from time to time near the Hale crater.

    This bodes very well for the establishment of self-sustaining human colonies in our solar system.

    Furthermore, astronomers have recently confirmed the existence of over 4,300 exoplanets (planets outside of our own solar system) — and one recent estimate I’ve heard suggests there are at least 300 million exoplanets in our galaxy alone where human life could be supported. And, there are billions of galaxies — which are likely to have planets as well.

    What an exciting time to be alive. Our kids or grandkids may someday live in outer space, and our human civilization will no longer be limited to planet Earth!"

    Shara Evans

    Alternatively, our grand attempts to expand humanity into outer space may fail and be abandoned.

    "We'll see efforts to construct a Mars and Lunar base, however, this is very much 20–30 years out and not the grand visions painted by Elon Musk, but extremely limited and costly to the point where they'll be abandoned 20 years later as we face another economic and environmental collapse."

    Theo Priestley

    The next 10–25 years will determine whether humanity lives or dies.

    James Leynse / Getty Images

    "Humanity is headed for a very interesting, species-defining 10–25 years. We will either solve many of the enormous woes plaguing our species/society, or we will spark the beginning of the end.

    Here are some thoughts:

    —The United States will fix its broken healthcare system or collapse to mediocrity (either way, it will lose its superpower status).

    —Small towns will virtually die from autonomous trucking.

    —Genome and gut biome sequencing will become low/no cost monthly checkups.

    —Paper money will be banned by governments.

    —Artificial general intelligence will still be 15–20 years away.

    —Mega corporations (like Amazon) will start buying up nation states.

    —There will be at least one earth-shattering incident of accidental bioterrorism.

    —The rich will have access to black market designer baby clinics.

    —And your most valuable 'smart wearable' will be your toilet to monitor gut health."

    Matt Ward, author of Death Donor: A Dystopian SciFi Technothriller

    How we make babies will no longer require a male and female participant — and this freedom will give all people a better ability to have the family they want.

    Donald Iain Smith / Getty Images

    "In the next decades we’ll see biotechnology deliver a reality-bending emancipation: a full decoupling from nature’s requirement of male and female participation. The first signals of such changes came 100 years ago.

    At the turn of the twentieth century, bicycles gave women the freedom to travel without male chaperones. Granting true social mobility, bicycles boosted the suffrage movement and its ultimate achievement: a woman’s right to vote. As Susan B. Anthony said, 'The bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.'

    When the contraceptive pill was introduced, women could delay pregnancy and invest time in education and career instead. Ten years later, college enrollment of women was up 20%. Today, women earn more bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates than men.

    In vitro fertilization and gene editing paralleled the rise of same-sex families and rights, and a growing acceptance of non-binary gender identities. These trends will deepen in the next decades, as baby-making moves from the bedroom to the science bench.

    The future of reproduction draws from Nobel Prize-winning science, in which skin cells are reverse-engineered into sperm and ovum, and genes can be edited. Whether a baby is produced from your own skin cells, or combined with someone else’s, we will be able to cut out inheritable diseases and add preferred traits in. Fully synthesized human genomes are not far off either, nor are artificial wombs. While our ability to engineer life may render gender immaterial, issues of equality will stalk us in this new ground."

    Cecily Sommers

    Synthetic biology — a new engineering approach to biology that lets us redesign cells — will revolutionize the future by allowing us to create things in laboratories that don't exist in nature.

    "Forget the ages of hardware and software. The next decades will bring the time of wetware, i.e. biology in its sophisticated form.

    Synthetic biology allows us to create organisms or biological systems in a laboratory that do not exist in nature. This is done with the help of predetermined DNA sequences called BioBricks. With the help of synthetic biology, we could try to solve big global problems like diseases, climate change, and hunger.

    A great example of this is how it could dramatically change food production. It is possible, for example, to grow various proteins in gene-edited cells. This could mean manufacturing egg protein or milk protein in so called 'cell factories' in bioreactors. As a result, the future may bring a time when we give up using animals in food production, and significantly decrease the emission of greenhouse gases.

    Synthetic biology also has challenges, which are connected to the ethics of its use. As a technology with huge possibilities for good and unfortunately for bad, we should be extra careful how and why it is used in the future."

    Elina Hiltunen

    You'll see a lot more of augmented reality and spatial computing (which could potentially allow you to do things like have a conversation with your friend in their room even though it's thousands of miles away from where you physically are).

    Gorodenkoff / Getty Images

    "Augmented reality and spatial computing will begin to overtake virtual reality, mainly driven by ubiquitous form factors like the mobile phone. AR glasses will still remain a niche tech toy as a result of further privacy violations and concerns.

    The metaverse (not virtual reality) will kick off a movement and resurgence in creating living, breathing worlds for people to take part in, partly driven by the successes of Unreal Engine and Fortnite, and creator platforms like Roblox, but also fueled by the current pandemic and alleviating lockdown."

    Theo Priestley

    But brain-computer interfaces probably won't happen, and neither will singularity (which is good if you fear a future where technology overtakes us a la The Terminator).

    "Further out, the promises of brain-computer interfaces like those envisioned by Neuralink will crack, and Kurzweil's dream of a singularity will disappear when we realize it's just too hard to achieve with our current technology and lack of understanding of the brain itself still."

    Theo Priestley

    We may be able to radically extend our lives — to the point of even becoming immortal!

    Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

    "The most exciting scientific development of the next 10–60 years will be radical life extension. We are talking about actually reprogramming biology to extend our lifespan, massively. The unprecedented speed of vaccine development for COVID-19 is a testament to the progress in biotechnology and genetics. As futurist Ray Kurzweil has said, 'Biotechnology means mastering the information processes of biology.'

    Because it turns out we are made of language: our genes are software programs. DNA is code. We are alphabetic all the way down. Information is more primary than matter. And our capacity to reprogram the software — the language — of life, is advancing with unprecedented, exponential speeds.

    There’s a beautiful line by physicist Freeman Dyson where he writes of 'A new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses...'

    Please understand: this is not a sci-fi pipe dream. We’ve all been told that digital technologies accelerate exponentially. Well, guess what: biology is now an information technology and has been subject to this same exponential progress. In fact, gene sequencing is said to be leapfrogging even faster than at exponential rates.

    What this means is that the level of disruption we’ve seen in Silicon Valley in the last 30 years is analogous to what we will soon see in biotechnology, disrupting healthcare and changing the world. You might remember a Time magazine cover story from a few years back called: “Google And The End Of Death” about how Silicon Valley is getting into the immortality game.

    We will see more startups that deal with DNA instead of digital code. Digital biology. A world of software that writes its own hardware. A world of programmable biology and Crispr gene editing.

    Self-determination will take on a whole new meaning.

    Imagine if we didn’t have to die of old age. No more cancer or Alzheimer’s, no more saying goodbye to everyone you love. The human condition utterly transformed. Certainly, it will be an adjustment. But ultimately I see it as a natural next step for our species. As futurist Ray Kurzweil said, 'We didn’t stay in the caves. We haven’t stayed on the planet. And we won’t stay within the limitations of biology.'”

    Jason Silva

    But this newfound immortality may still, in the end, mean that the things that define us as individuals cease to exist.

    "Some people may become immortal in this century through genetic manipulation, robotics, nanotechnology, computers, or mind uploading to virtual worlds. Immortality is not such a rare thing — some invertebrates are essentially immortal. Already we are getting glimmers of how to use brain-computer interfaces to link us to advanced artificial intelligences to expand our cognitive abilities.

    If your body could survive indefinitely, would 'you' actually persist? All of us are changed by our experiences — and these changes are usually gradual, which means that you are nearly the same person that you were a year ago. However, if your normal or enhanced body survived continuously for a thousand years, gradual mental changes would accumulate, and perhaps an entirely different person would eventually inhabit the body. The thousand-year-old person — this orchidaceous Ozymandias — might be nothing like you. You would no longer exist. There would be no moment of death at which you had ceased to exist, but you would slowly fade away over the millennia, like a sand castle being transformed by an ocean of time."

    Cliff Pickover

    BuzzFeed Daily

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