Imagine 10 years from now, you order a Bacon andCheese Whopper, only for a monitor to tell you precisely how manygrueling miles you’ll have to run to burn it off. Or someone justglances at your shoes and knows where you bought them. Or considerthis: You walk into a bar and your entire dating history is thrown upon display. Would you run for the hills? (I sure as hell would.)
Welcometo 2020 as envisioned by Frog Design, a voyeuristic fantasy in whichpretty much everything is transformed into digital data. Buying a train ticket is as easyas sending a text, shopping goes down on your PDA, and privacy goes out the window. Creepy, but hey, it’s the future.
The project, called “Your Life in 2020,” broughttogether Frog, tech guru John Maeda, and a raft of other designers,futurists, and journalists at a conference in San Francisco inDecember, and the results were recently presented (and these concept images have just been released). At the heart of the matter is a seamless marriageof physical and digital worlds, with Aldous Huxley as officiant. “It’s no longer ‘technology’ in 2020anymore,” Maeda writes. “It’s just how we get things done.” We have thehighlights below.
Small is the new big, andsharing is the new byword. Cars will tamp into smaller and smallerfootprints and practically everyone will ride a bike, sending SUVs theway of the horse and buggy. Rideshare programs like SmartCar andZipBike will go from fringe to mainstream. And trains will be hookedup to a massive e-network, so you can book and buy tickets on yourcell. For those who still have to brave the highways, traffic will bedictated by personality. Type A? An on-ramp tracks you ahead of othercars (and quarantines your road rage), so you can drive as fast as you please — within thespeed limit, of course.
Ten years from now is “the end of theclassroom as we know it,” George Kembel of the Stanford d.schoolwrites. Professors will be a “team of coaches,” and class projectswill be like Choose Your Own Adventure — open-ended and actually pretty fun.
Thegood news is that you’ll be doing less of it. The bad news is that itwon’t necessarily be by choice. Computers will be 32 times morepowerful than they are now, meaning practically everything will beautomated. Automation, of course, is code for layoffs. The servicesector and manufacturing will take it on the chin.
Technology will make it realllllyhard to inhale a whole box of Oreos. Every time you pop something inyour mouth, a device adjusts your personal nutritional rating, inchingup when you eat something healthy and down (way down) when you eat allthe Oreos. It’s like having Jillian Michaels by your side all the time,except less annoying. The devilishly complicated FDA guidelines will bereplaced by a universal food decision icon “that is easy enough foreven a 5-year-old to grasp,” writes IA Collaborative’s Dan Kraemer. (See above.) Andsmart refrigerators will scan your kitchen for ingredients, whip up anultra-healthy menu, then preheat the oven. They’re the new (faintly fascistic) personalchef.
Computers will be able to track everything we do. Everything.As Frog’s Mark Rolston tells it, they’ll monitor your health as easilyas you might update your Facebook page. They’ll shop for you, no needto wade through department-store racks. If you see a great pair of shoes onsomeone walking down the street, your mobile handset or AR-equippedglasses can identify them, and then do the price-shopping for you. You’ll be able to interact with an Xbox 360 without ever touching acontrol. See Project Natal.
Neveragain will you have to utter the words, “So, what do you do?” (Andnever again will you have to stammer through an answer.) It’ll all beright there on an overhead display, a sort of speech bubble for the wired age. Sounds cool, right? Until you think about the last time acomputer had that much power.