At the end of 2009, Forbes magazine asked frog to help them envision the future in 2020. In December, they held a workshop in San Francisco that brought designers, futurists and journalists together to think about the current state of computing, how we might experience it 10 years from now and, perhaps most importantly, how we might make the transition into these possible futures.
The day-long event led to an extensive online feature: “Your Life in 2020,” a collection of illustrated concepts and videos that envision the future of ubiquitous computing. In that future, your computer is not only incorporated into every aspect of your life but is a part of you. With this in mind, they imagined how future technology would influence the key areas of Social, Travel, Commerce, Healthcare, and Media. Here is an extract of the workshop:
Small is the new big, and sharing is the new byword. Cars will tamp into smaller and smaller footprints and practically everyone will ride a bike, sending SUVs the way of the horse and buggy. Rideshare programs like SmartCar and ZipBike will go from fringe to mainstream. And trains will be hooked up to a massive e-network, so you can book and buy tickets on your cell. For those who still have to brave the highways, traffic will be dictated by personality. Type A? An on-ramp tracks you ahead of other cars (and quarantines your road rage), so you can drive as fast as you please — within the speed limit, of course.
Ten years from now is “the end of the classroom as we know it,” George Kembel of the Stanford d.school writes. Professors will be a “team of coaches,” and class projects will be like Choose Your Own Adventure — open-ended and actually pretty fun.
The good news is that you’ll be doing less of it. The bad news is that it won’t necessarily be by choice. Computers will be 32 times more powerful than they are now, meaning practically everything will be automated. Automation, of course, is code for layoffs. The service sector and manufacturing will take it on the chin.
Technology will make it reallllly hard to inhale a whole box of Oreos. Every time you pop something in your mouth, a device adjusts your personal nutritional rating, inching up when you eat something healthy and down (way down) when you eat all the Oreos. It’s like having Jillian Michaels by your side all the time, except less annoying. The devilishly complicated FDA guidelines will be replaced by a universal food decision icon “that is easy enough for even a 5-year-old to grasp,” writes IA Collaborative’s Dan Kraemer. (See above.) And smart refrigerators will scan your kitchen for ingredients, whip up an ultra-healthy menu, then preheat the oven. They’re the new (faintly fascistic) personal chef.
Computers will be able to track everything we do. Everything. As Frog’s Mark Rolston tells it, they’ll monitor your health as easily as you might update your Facebook page. They’ll shop for you, no need to wade through department-store racks. If you see a great pair of shoes on someone walking down the street, your mobile handset or AR-equipped glasses can identify them, and then do the price-shopping for you. You’ll be able to interact with an Xbox 360 without ever touching a control. See Project Natal.
Never again will you have to utter the words, “So, what do you do?” (And never again will you have to stammer through an answer.) It’ll all be right there on an overhead display, a sort of speech bubble for the wired age. Sounds cool, right? Until you think about the last time a computer had that much power.