This timeline of predicted inventions, adaptations, developments and discoveries offers a briefing that includes major statements made in 2006 or earlier by futurists, technologists, scientists and other experts. These experts see the items on this list as highly likely changes to come over the next 150 years. Those listings that are not attributed to one or two specific individuals are developments that are commonly accepted by many experts as proven to be likely, and they are being brought to reality by a number of innovators at many locations around the world.
Use the 2010-2014 quicklinks below to jump to an item of interest or simply browse down the page.
The National Science Foundation is funding a program to develop a re-design of the next-generation Internet, creating a new network that will be suitable for years to come. It is called the Global Environment for Networking Investigations (GENI). The new Internet will focus on security as its main concern. It is expected to be able to handle the increase in Internet traffic expected as more people come online, and also be geared for the increase in content-delivery demands as more video and other large-scale projects are made available online.
The development got under way in August 2005 when the U.S. government provided six small planning grants to the National Science Foundation to begin the project. Internet pioneers support the NSF idea; Leonard Kleinrock said it must be built to handle the boom in internet demands from sources other than computers, such as cellular phones, GPS/RFID-type tracking and hand-held organizers; David Clark, a senior research scientist at the Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT, said while the turn-of-the-century internet is operating at an acceptable level, “There are some things where you say, ‘That doesn’t work right.'” He said he expects this project will go beyond current efforts such as IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6), which would only incrementally improve the internet.
Goals for the GENI initiative include new naming, addressing and identity architectures for the internet; advanced security architecture; a design built to handle a great deal more material at faster rates; traffic documentation; and new applications and services. The NSF announcement said GENI will “enable the vision of pervasive computing and bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds by including mobile, wireless and sensor networks.”
Radio-frequency identification detectors are already in heavy use today, but by 2010 they will be even more ubiquitous, woven invisibly into everything everywhere. As of 2006 companies were using RFID in: ID cards to track employees at work; pre-paid passes that record usage and deduct payments at mass-transit systems and tollbooths; tags that monitor student attendance and location in some schools; tracking of shipments of goods and delivery of services.
Global positioning systems (GPS) allow the calculation of the exact position of anything anywhere in the world. By 2006, these were being incorporated in car-safety systems and in cellular phones, making the devices tools by which people can be tracked and located.
By 2010, you may be able to skip going through any sort of checkout and payment process when you shop or travel. You and all items you intend to purchase will have RFID tags; as you pass out of the door, you will be instantly billed for the items you carry. Passports are also being equipped with RFID tags. Hitachi introduced the tags above in 2005. They are tiny when compared with the tip of a pen.
Some humans and animals are already carrying RFID devices implanted under their skin for identification purposes. Lost pets can be found and returned more easily when they carry such tags. Humans tie their medical records to the RFID number, and emergency personnel can access their identity and medical history (blood type, allergies, pre-existing problems) by using an RFID reader and matching a code number to a patient’s file.
This can also be tied to the idea of “IP on everything,” which network engineers use to explain that nearly all material items will be networked in the future, from shoes to toasters.
The sort of continuous tracking enabled by GPS, RFID and IP on everything has some negative implications in regard to freedom and privacy. These tools can be used by criminals or others to exert control over people and track them. A debate will continue to rage over the negatives and positives of the use of these devices and their networking.
Innovators are developing interactive guidebooks tourists can use while traveling in vehicles or on foot, alone or in groups all over the world. These tools use GPS signals and allow travelers to hear a guided narration of what they are viewing along with related pictures and sound effects. Some of the places mapped to introduce the new guidebooks are Alcatraz in San Francisco, the Louvre in Paris, Edinburgh Castle and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. These types of guides will also be applied in other settings, including industrial training on special equipment, possibly even being used to train robots in future decades beyond this period of time.
Computational capabilities are accelerating rapidly, as indicated by IBM’s announcement in 2005 that it had doubled the performance of the world’s fastest computer, named Blue Gene/L (pictured at left), from 136.8 trillion calculations per second (teraflops) to 280.6 trillion teraflops.
Supercomputer speed rankings are released every six months, and there is a healthy competition among top computer scientists. The United States has plans to create a supercomputer with petaflop capability by 2010. A petaflop – which equates to 1,000,000,000,000,000 operations per second – is equal to 1,000 teraflops.
A supercomputer that will operate at a speed of 10 petaflops (or 10 quadrillion floating-point operations per second) is the 2011 goal of Japan’s technology ministry. This would give it a capability close to the computational capacity of the human brain. High-speed computers are used to run simulations (for example, to study the formation of galaxies and to project the paths of hurricanes). Many scientists say they expect that computers will soon surpass the intelligence capacity of humans.
Nearly everything we eat is derived from livestock, crops and microorganisms bred specifically as food. Humans have been modifying these products and redistributing the genes geographically for most of their history. Thanks to gene research, computer modeling and the sharing of new knowledge in science and technology through the internet, the positive attributes of modified foods will continue to be refined.
Crops will continue to be developed to be resistant to diseases, pests and herbicides; they will be developed to screen out allergens (such as the allergenic proteins found in nuts); vaccines will be bred into plants or possibly into livestock – for instance in milk in dairy herds. Fruit can be bred to carry additional essential vitamins and other medicines. People may be able to get necessary medical treatments just by eating.
By 2012, clothing may be equipped with sensors that can detect body warmth and send a signal to the thermostat controlling the temperature of the room to automatically decrease or increase the temperature of the room based on your body temperature. The sensitive fabrics may also be able to sense your mood and can be set to automatically adjust the lighting in a room.
Clothes may eventually be able to sense and respond to the weather, monitor your vital signs, deliver medications, interface with information systems and automatically protect injuries.
E-ink and e-paper and flexible, foldable computer displays were already in testing stages in 2006 and by 2012 to 2015 they may be common. They can allow, for instance, the easy and instantaneous changing of the printed price tags on every item in a store; easy-to-change signage on trucks, inside and outside retail outlets and along highways; the constant updating of the stories and photos in a newspaper – with moving photos or video possible.
The following are excerpted from the British Telecom Technology Timeline (information was compiled by Ian Neild and Ian Pearson from worldwide sci-tech reports in 2005):
- Artificial Intelligence units used as classroom assistants
- Toys have built-in tracking technology
- People have some virtual friends but don’t know which ones are virtual
- Mood-sensitive home décor comes into use
- First divorce due to virtual affair with computer game character
- Addiction to online games seen as a major problem
- DNA used to assemble electronic circuits
- First bacterium assembled from scratch
- AI soccer teams as TV entertainment
- Chips with 10 billion transistors
- Electronic prescriptions reduce fraud and improve speed
- Quiz shows screen for implant technologies
- 24/7 blood-chemistry monitoring
- Laser-activated drug capsules
- Ultrasound or radio-activated medicine capsules
- Blood-analysis chips
- Supermarkets used as major source of medical alerts
- Remote control of insects by neural implants
- Emotion detection used in businesses to select front-line staff
- Instant electronic identification of pathogens
- Lifestyle monitoring and insurance linked to medical records
- Online surgeries dominate first-line medical care
- Video tattoos
- Cyber-drugs (electronically activated drugs)
- Automated pain relief for soldiers
- Bacteria in toothpaste to attack plaque
- Antibacterial coatings on domestic appliances, phones, etc., especially in hospitals
- Smells embedded in ordinary household objects
- Flexible displays used for body monitoring and alerts
- Emotional jewelry
- Hand-held scanner to detect tumors using tissue resonance interferometer
- Smart pill bottles remotely monitor medication taking and use alarms
- Hotels offer some hospital services
- Extensive remote-sensing use in environmental management
- Effective prediction of most natural disasters
- Chips on food packaging tell when food is at its best
- Most homes have wireless networks
- Smart paint available (contains microchips or nanomaterials)
- Digital bathroom mirrors
- Personalized response from household gadgets
- Mood-sensitive light fixtures/bulbs
- Smart, responsive home and work environments
- Virtual windows open new worlds
- 1 billion internet users in 2010
- Automatic video capture of personal events
- Electronically mediated tribes become major social structures
- Viewers able to pick any angle or player view while watching sports events
- Augmented reality at sports grounds to enhance spectator experience
- Frequent use of multiple Net identities causes personality disorders
- Cheap miniature cameras cause social backlash
- Personal black boxes record everyday life
- Ability to digitally replace or enhance people in your field of view
- 3D “Minority Report”-style air display for information appliances
- Projected augmented reality
- Full-voice interaction with computers
- Voice synthesis quality up to human standard
- Data loss because of format changes becomes major business problem
- Chips with 1 billion transistors
- Quantum effect interferometer for flux measurement
- Use of carbon fullerenes for on chip interconnect
- Self diagnosis using gene chips for domestic use
- Liquid drop lenses for camera phones, etc.
- Terahertz scanners
- Self-organizing adaptive integrated circuits
- Molecular sized switches
- Intelligent materials with built-in sensors, storage, and effectors
- Smart skin for intelligent clothing and direct human repair
- Use of bacteria to assemble small circuits
- Optical neuro-computers
- Simple quantum computer, 4 Qubits
- 100GB memory sticks (typical 2005 HD capacity)
- Ultra-simple computing – just-in-time OS
- Bacteria used in detection of explosives
- Autonomous weapons authorized to fire at own discretion
- Household access by facial recognition
- Criminal tagging augmented with video and audio sensors
- Extensive use of electronics to monitor police behavior
- Immersive VR shopping booths
- 60 percent of internet accesses from mobile devices
- Single address for emails, phone calls, etc.
- HDTV over broadband
- Assisted lane-keeping systems in trucks and buses
- Most new cars fitted with positioning systems as standard
- Pollution-monitor chips built into cars
- Light-emitting fabrics used in clothes
- Smell-emitting clothing, uses context
- TV-quality video screens built into clothes
- Jewelry that changes shape, color, and texture
- Portable translation device for simple conversation
- Shape-changing fabrics
- Terahertz jammers in clothes as personal modesty shield
- Dual appearance – you can change how you look with quick tech
- Laws restrict what can be shown on video clothing
View predictions for other time-spans: