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 about what they expected to be (at that time) highly likely changes to come over the next 150 years. The items that are not attributed to one or two specific individuals are developments that were commonly accepted by many experts in the earliest years of the 2000s as already proven to be likely, and they expected them to be brought to reality by a number of innovators at many locations around the world.
Use the 2015 quicklinks below to jump to an item of interest or simply browse down the page.
We are probably at least 50 years away from teleporting humans from one location to another, a concept commonly found in science-fiction stories like those told in the “Star Trek” films and TV series. But British astronomer David Darling writes convincingly in his 2005 book, “Teleportation – The Impossible Leap,” that we are close to being able to teleport individual atoms and molecules – the first step toward human movement. Next would come the teleportation of macromolecules and microbes, which would eventually lead into the teleportation of humans.
How possible is this? As of 2005, researchers had successfully teleported beams of light across a laboratory bench, and the quantum structure of a trapped calcium ion to a second calcium ion had been teleported. Networked quantum computers are the key. They are more complex than today’s commonplace, bit-oriented computers, and will be able to accomplish more complex tasks. They use quantum mechanical aspects such as “entanglement” and “superposition” to perform operations on data.
“Teleportation is going to play a major role in all our futures,” Darling writes. “It will be a fundamental process at the heart of quantum computers, which will themselves radically change the world.” He adds that replication of inanimate objects will also be developed through the same scientific developments. He says it is “a question of simply overcoming technical challenges,” and adds that quantum computing is the “factor that changes the rules of what is and isn’t possible.”
Michio Kaku, a co-founder of String Field Theory, also predicts this: “The nation which dominates the world economy may be the one which masters the nano world of atomic and quantum computing. Then quantum events … will be the source of the world’s wealth. The Silicon Age is coming to a close. Welcome to the Quantum Age, where even button-down bankers will have to learn the mysteries of the multiverse.”
Teleporting a living human would require a machine that can isolate, classify and track more than a trillion atoms then send them to another location for reassembly in perfect order. Darling predicts robots or humans will be teleported to other planets or even across interstellar distances.
He projects that, when nanotechnology is mature, an automated nanoassembly unit could be teleported to any destination – perhaps a far-flung planet – and given remote orders to build a robot explorer from the molecular level to full functionality. The robot could then evaluate this new terrain and send the information back to Earth. No space travel involved. It could also be possible to build spacecraft in remote locations using local materials and then use the remote locale as a base from which to explore in the spacecraft.
By 2015 developments in biotechnology will be improved in regard to profiling, copying and manipulating the genetic organization of plants and animals, facilitating better diagnoses of problems, new treatments and the tracking of disease movement.
The human genome is made up of 3 billion chemical bases (or letters), strung in a sequence over 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each human’s individual genome is nearly identical, but there are 10 million points in the sequence at which our individual codes may vary.
According to a projective study by experts at the RAND think tank, by 2015 genetic profiling will be used in new ways in security and law enforcement. Genetic engineering will be used to modify more plants, insects and animals in the food chain. Organisms will be further engineered to produce and/or deliver therapeutic drugs and organic compounds. Plants may also be further engineered to optimize their pollution-fighting properties and help the environment.
Ethical and health concerns will probably limit wide-scale cloning of humans in regulated areas of the world in 2015. Most studies of the future by think tanks and UN-funded organizations project that fringe individuals or groups will probably be cloning humans (for those willing to pay a great deal for it) in unregulated nations or in illegal black-market operations.
Cloning in regard to engineered agricultural products, livestock and research animals is expected to be much more common and create significant changes by 2015.
It is expected that by 2015 a number of models of popular cars and trucks will be equipped to drive themselves at least part of the time with the help of on-board computers, GPS satellite navigation, and sensors, lasers and video cameras that will detect other objects around them. However, most experts say that people will generally want to retain control for some aspects of driving and manual options will still be included in vehicles. The concept car pictured here is the winner of a 2005 Peugeot design contest; the car design was proposed by Andre Costa.
General Motors announced in 2005 that it expects it could have a self-driving car that could pilot itself in heavy traffic at a speed of up to 60 mph in production by 2008. A team from Stanford University won a $2 million cash prize in 2005 for designing a robotic car that maneuvered across a difficult 132-mile course in the Mojave Desert.
A car on autopilot would allow the driver to take a nap, read or complete work for his or her job. There might be a feature for dimming the windows or altering their look to provide a more soothing interior environment with few distractions.
KPMG analyst Bernard Salt says cars will also be “smaller and tailor-made to the owner’s specifications; they will be micro-designed and micro-marketed; an electronic fusion of home and office; a communications center as much as a means of transportation.” He says people may also have the option of owning cars that have changeable exterior colors to fit their moods.
Scientists are working on making materials that have one or more properties that can be dramatically altered. At left is a smart fluid developed at the Michigan Institute of Technology. A new generation of “reactive” building materials and coatings equipped with sensors, actuators and computers will allow development of such things as:
- Aircraft skins that can adapt their shape to offer the best response to airflow.
- Prosthetic arms and legs that allow growth of natural tissue around them.
- Small robots that mimic the actions of birds or insects and can be used for exploration, research or spy missions.
- Retro-reflective material that can make it possible for clothing to make the wearer invisible – seemingly transparent.
Also, buildings, bridges and roads may be equipped to sense changes in the weather and respond, and they may also be made to detect cracks or other flaws and possibly self-repair them.
Everyone has wondered how long they should heat something up in the microwave, and sometimes a wrong guess can lead to an explosion. By 2015 food may come with microchips in the packaging that communicate with kitchen appliances regarding complete storage and preparation instructions. Nutrition scientists also project that developments in food technology and engineering may enable marketers to offer convenient healthy snacks that are customized at the point of sale to meet each individual consumer’s nutritional requirements and personal preferences.
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):
- Highest-earning celebrity is synthetic
- Dolls come with a personality chip and full sensory input
- 25 percent of TV celebrities are synthetic
- Expert systems surpass average human learning and logic abilities
- Computer agents start being thought of as colleagues instead of tools
- Autonomous AI sales staff units become AI stalkers
- First multi-celled organism assembled from scratch
- Self-aware machine intelligence
- Computer-enhanced dreaming
- Thought-recognition used in sleep enhancement
- High-speed civil transport supersonic jet, 300 passengers, 1,500 mph
- GPS and engine-management systems linked to limit speed automatically
- Paper and coins largely replaced by electronic cash
- Most tickets electronic
- Personal taxation at point of sale
- Automatic dialing from smart business cards
- Augmented-reality overlays used in stores
- Reverse auctions in personal shopping devices (nearby stores bid to provide items on shopping list)
- Hotel in orbit
- Scalable AI as major military threat
- Positive clean ID required for access to many places
- Terrorist use of genetic modification to pollute crops and damage economy
- Most fighters and bombers flown remotely
- Use of network resonance as security threat
- Ambient intelligence detection of minor crimes & anti-social behavior
- Identity theft forces all transactions to use biometrics
- Domestic augmented-reality used to give virtual makeovers
- Biometric ID required for every phone call
- Use of mutant insects for attack purposes
- Robot dance tutors
- Nanowalkers, nanoworms, nanofish
- Mechanical intelligence using MEMS and NEMS
- Supercomputers with speed exceeding 1 ExaFLOPS
- DNA computer
- Use of bacteria for processing and storage
- Desktop computer as fast as human brain
- Use of polymer gels for information processing
- Kitchen rage caused by electronic gadgets
- Electronic implant equivalent to Botox
- Use of virtual-reality scenes in household rooms as decor
- Replacement of people leads to anti-technology subculture
- Most electronic toys are hybrids, with half on internet
- Anti-noise technology built into homes
- Active wallpaper responds to inhabitants’ moods, etc.
- Neighborhood video-surveillance networks
- Washing machine aware of contents and selects cycle
- Augmented-reality offices used in telework centers
- Palm-top printing puts buttons on skin
- Glasses-based computer displays dominate in the office
- Electronic responses can be automated based on conversational inference
- Windows with coatings to re-direct sunlight
- Nanotechnology toys
- Paper money replaced by smart media
- Spread of nomadic information companies leads to global taxation
- Academic learning is argued to be unnecessary in the age of smart machines
- Integrated taxation in all transactions
- Return-to-sender viruses, corporate counterattacks
- Nano devices roaming within blood vessels under own power
- Use of humans’ own tissues to grow replacement organs
- Direct electronic pleasure production
- Context-sensitive cyber-drugs
- Electronic stimulation of brain sensations as recreational substitute for drugs
- Some implants seen as status symbols
- Gene-gel stimulation of re-growth of natural teeth on demand
- Retina regeneration using fetal retinal cell injection
- Emotion logging and recording
- Emotionally specific drugs
- Micro-fluidic chips used for gene sequencing in every GP surgery
- Self-certification for prescriptions using electronic diagnostics
- Outpatients at home – remote tele-medical consultations
- Genetic links of 90 percent of diseases identified
- Individual’s genome part of their medical record
- Synthetic organs created by printing layers of cells
- Synthetic viruses created
- Sensory augmentation using sensory implants, nanoparticles, etc.
- Use of stem cells to treat human brain after strokes or accidents
- Gene therapy generates new hair cells in humans
- Sensory implants allow direct sensing of cyberspace entities
- Robotic cleaners in hospitals
- Biometrics and medical tests linked to benefits and disability allowance
View predictions for other time-spans: