The Global Futures 2045 Congress concluded recently in New York City. Geneticists, technology entrepreneurs, inventors, and futurists gathered to discuss how the world will change over the next three decades. Here’s some of what they predict.
Your brain will be healthier and more effective, thanks to “brain maps” now being developed. Neurological diseases will become treatable; brain implants will be common; genetic and cognitive enhancements are on the horizon.
“Biotechnology” advances will enable tiny computers to perform medical therapy and create machines that function biologically. Engineers will perfect devices that connect our brains directly to the world’s computers (“the cloud”), transforming our cognitive abilities. “Life extension” technologies will keep our brains alive in a robotic surrogate or upload our consciousness to computer hardware, creating an “immortality” industry.
However, the news isn’t good for everyone. As some are able to advance their cognitive functions through technology, they will gain significant advantages over the rest of us. “Technocracy will be the new aristocracy,” one futurist predicted. And 50 percent of the Fortune 500 companies will not exist, as avalanching technological developments render some organizations obsolete and others even more significant.
Will any of this actually come to pass? The Chinese have a saying: “To predict is difficult, especially with regard to the future.” As an example, IBM’s chairman famously stated in 1943, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Albert Einstein claimed in 1932, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.”
The man who invented television predicted, “Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.” (I remember watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, on our TV.) The Decca Recording Co. rejected the Beatles in 1962, stating flatly, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
We’re not good at forecasting tomorrow’s weather, much less three decades of innovation. But we try. There’s something about predicting the future that gives us a sense of control over it. If we think we know something is going to happen, we think we can prepare for it. Of course, as has often been noted, life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.
The prophet prayed, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Rather, “a man’s steps are directed by the Lord” (Proverbs 20:24). Is he directing yours today?