James Hughes Ph.D., author of Citizen Cyborg and executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) recently responded to a journalist's question about what he thought would be the five biggest changes to American life and society between now and 2020.
1) Radical Life Extension. Dr. Hughes suggested that emerging technologies applied to healthcare will cure/prevent diseases and slow the aging process. There will be a growing realization that radical life extension is possible.
2) Retirement Reform. As a result of Trend Number 1 happening, we’ll eventually need to see large changes in retirement, work, pensions and taxation to take into account the extended life expectancy.
3) Unemployment/Workforce Retraining. Advancements in automation, robots, artificial intelligence, etc. will lead to an increase in machines being used instead of human labor. The workforce will need to undergo massive retraining.
4) Sustainability. Hughes says that the growing application of emerging technologies, such as genetic engineering of crops and nanotechnology, will be applied to the challenges of ecological sustainability. Hughes mentions that the investments begun under President Obama to expand the development of renewable energies will greatly reduce our consumption of coal and oil. Nanomaterials will allow us to reduce our use of resources in manufacturing.
5) Impact of Telecom/IT Convergence. The merger of computing and telecommunications will result in a ubiquitous interactive intelligence environment, for those with access to it.
Dr. Hughes sums his predictions up by saying "unfortunately for us futurists, the most important trend will be the rapid acceleration and completely unpredictable cross-fertilization of technologies. So 2020 will probably take the five trends above for granted, and be consumed with the issues raised by technologies we can't even imagine today."
To read the original article, go to ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/hughes20090521/