Predicting the 2020s in frontier tech
privacy, open markets, defi, climate, future of organisations, psychedelics, bio engineering, AI, quantum computation
The upcoming decade might turn into a defining one for the 21st century. I'm thinking about the future day and night but managed to publish some glass ball predictions only once in late 2016 with a strong focus on web3 and crypto currencies. This time I'll cover more ground.
Privacy enhancing technologies will be the new black of the next decade. Mass scale data breaches and overarching surveillance will push users into alternative products. The biggest consumer companies created in the 2020s will be focused on user privacy and security. At least 1 of those companies will be run as a purely virtual organisation at scale. It won't have a physical presence. It will operate outside the scope of any regulatory scrutiny - no back doors, no choke points, no compromises. 5+ western nation states will ban the usage or contribution to privacy enhancing tools, especially when it comes to financial or commercial services but also communications. The most impactful stack of technologies in the 2020s will be web3. Privacy enhancing protocols like e.g. IPFS, Matrix or Nym will be complemented by middleware and no code open operating systems such as Anytype to create end consumer interfaces taking off in the second half of the 2020s. In the physical realm more authoritarian states will intensify their surveillance efforts through through face-, gait- and tattoo- recognition besides more sophisticated approaches like cardiac signatures. Counter surveillance fashion and equipment will become high priced luxury goods.
Darknet markets will be further fragmented. They will significantly grow in transaction volumes though. Ethically questionable services like human gene editing or performance enhancing computer brain interfaces will be outlawed at least in some jurisdictions. The same will apply to 'hard to tax' cyber assets including cryptocurrencies, digitised shares of networks, real estate, art or other scarce, digital items that will represent trillions of USD by 2030. Decentralised and privacy preserving exchange infrastructure like open bazaar, bisq or open sea will enable open commerce globally. It will be complemented by broader adoption of privacy preserving cryptocurrencies or Bitcoin.
Decentralised finance (defi) will take off. Bitcoin and other non sovereign cryptocurrencies with a transparent money supply will turn into a mega trend. Nation states with weak monetary regimes will be under pressure - at least 3 of them will adapt Bitcoin as their official currency. After some experiments with corporate and central bank coins either Facebook, Apple, Amazon or Google will implement such a currency and further defi products into their payment services - others will follow their lead. Bitcoin will trade above $150.000 at least temporary. The whole banking and financial value chain will move towards the new financial railways in order to benefit from efficiency gains, openness and programmability. The old guards will pull their lobbying and mass media strings to slow down the movement but higher yields and financial sovereignty will dominate in the late 2020s.
The climate crisis is going to be the biggest challenge for humanity in the 21st century. We will see millions of people relocate and migrate towards more secure countries with more natural resources, especially water. Trillions of USD will be deployed to finance new technologies mitigating the breakdown, mostly with non tradictional fund structures allowing for extended fund life cycles and potentially lower return expectations. Asia will lead regulatory initiatives while western countries will continue to be stuck between ignorance, lobbyism and corruption of the political elites. Nuclear power plants will have a renaissance thanks to efficiency gains created through micro reactors and a shift in public perception. Gene edited plants will prove to be more resilient against droughts and other extreme whether conditions. Meat consumption will be reduced and mostly replaced through synthetic or plant based substitutes. With humanity becoming more desperate we are going to see high risk geo engineering experiments.
Governance & future of organisations
Resources and revenue streams will be coordinated through scarce digital assets. The first global networks after cryptocurrencies and smart contract platforms will be run completely virtually, without any physical presence. 1M+ people will be employed by such organisations. Governance and sustainable economic designs of such networks will turn into the web's next value drivers after hardware, software and data have become commoditised. To such networks new forms of decision making will be applied with a strong bias towards meritocracies, potentially combined with elements of liquid democracy and other progressive governance experiments. Most of those experiments will be applied at small scales before finding their way into mainstream organisations / sates in the 2030s. The industrial age was about mass society - mass consumption, mass education, mass health, mass media while the information age is about hyper customisation and choice. That will increasingly be translated into in sovereign city states and free economic zones offering radically reduced tax burdens and cheaper, more efficient 'public' services to their customers.
Longevity will become a thing in the 2020s (it already started). AI will enable predictive diagnostics, organs will be 3D printed, gene editing will be applied to cure certain diseases. Computer brain interfaces won't find broad adoption due to ethical and technical challenges. Performance enhancing drugs and gene editing products will be outlawed and move towards darknet markets. Mindfulness and meditation will go mainstream just like yoga did a few decades ago. Psychedelics will have a big revival. Natural substances like mushrooms or LSD micro doses will be used to cure mental diseases or to enhance brain capacities temporarily. Regulatory challenges and long term R&D will slow progress down but it will be more than a niche industry by the late 2020s.
Virtual and augmented reality will go mainstream. Out of 1BN MAUs more than 10M will spend 10hrs+ per day in virtual worlds. People will play games, exhibit digital art, buy land, cars, sneakers and other fancy objects. They will go to concerts together with their friends, visit the most mystical raves, learn in reputable universities, see doctors, have meetings with their colleagues, work out and have sex in virtual worlds. Full body suits, gloves and other hardware equipment will address all human senses and desires.
No general AI, no singularity in the next decade. Most of the deep innovation in AI will be driven by big tech leaving less opportunity for emerging startups. Quantum computation at meaningful scale is more than 10 years out - again most of the core innovation will be driven by big tech initiatives. Spacetech will be further privatised and turn into a trillion USD industry while nation sates and military use cases will play a less important role. Software applications will create create most of the value. Humans land on mars and on the moon again but won't find extraterrestrial life.
I'll be wrong with at least 80% of those predictions. What did I miss? Where am I completely off? Don't hesitate to comment.
Happy new year 2020!