2020 vision: Gazing forward for the new year

Waymo, the self-driving car. Although, what a name! (Photo: Wiki Commons)

The new year brings a brand new decade. And if you think about all the big changes that occurred in the last decade — iPads, Instagram, self-driving cars, ride-sharing apps, bitcoins, Candy Crush — well, we can only imagine what the world will look like by the end of this one.

So today we put on our prognostication glasses, with an eye toward achieving 2020 vision. Let’s put the future in focus and talk about what the years ahead will see. We’re talking revolutions instead of resolutions for the new decade ahead. And no, this isn’t at all about politics.

With 2020 vision, we see a few revolutions already under way. Last week, I ordered red wine with a scroll and a touch on an iPad at one high-end restaurant, while a friend ordered a burger and milkshake the same way at Shake Shack. Awesome, and weird. Plant burgers now emulate beef, and a fingerprint can get you through airport security or into a sports stadium. 

Parking apps are becoming visionary, too. Who carries spare change anymore, when meter payment is done on a smartphone and you can reserve a spot at the mall or the airport a week in advance? I don’t think my kids even know what a quarter looks like.

You don’t need 2020 vision to see some innovations in the works. Teams from Tesla and SpaceX and Virgin Air are working on the hyperloop, which would put passengers in pods hurtling at 600 mph through vacuum tubes.

2020 Vision might be literal in the decade ahead, too. Microsoft, Snap, Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are all working on computers we wear on our faces that would replace smartphones. Instead of everyone being glued head down to their small screens, they’ll be gazing outward, reading messages on their lenses or asking their eye wear to make a call. It promises to bring new meaning to the idea of a blank stare. 

With my own 2020 vision, there are some things I’d rather see revolutionized than smartphones. I mean, if smartphones become glasses, can’t they redesign eye wear? Glasses haven’t changed in centuries. Or electrical cords, which surely look like they did in Edison’s day. They tangle; they’re too short or too long. And water. We buy it, bottle it and flavor it, but we still have boil water advisories every month or two. And with 2020 vision, we’d definitely scan the horizon for a better way to repave. Asphalt – especially in New Orleans – certainly hasn’t kept up with technology.

Speaking of technology, not everything benefits from being revolutionized. Like video: the idea of visual manipulation through deep fakes –putting Nicholas Cage, say, in an old movie, or Marilyn Monroe in a new one – is terrifying. Where will YouTube and Tik Tok eventually take us?  Real people already are being replaced by avatars, and we’re not just talking Siri or Alexa here. The Chinese state news agency has launched two virtual news anchors, and Amazon is reportedly working on a wristband that will understand and respond to the user’s emotions. And you don’t need 2020 vision to know that blind date has taken on a whole new meaning in this era of Tinder, Bumble and OKCupid. In the future, a swipe right may be more about quality than quantity, with artificial intelligence, video meet and greets and even DNA matchmaking narrowing down the choices for Mr. or Ms. Right.

Looking ahead can be disconcerting. At a future-gazing conference in London this fall, experts had some game-changing predictions for the next 10 years — virtual referees instead of real ones on the soccer field, domestic robots in one out of every 50 living rooms, facial recognition ticketing to major sports events, neural implants that connect the brain to a computer.

Maybe we need blinders for all of this 2020 conjecturing. Perhaps we should focus less on where we’re going, and how we’re getting there, and more on where we are today. Because you don’t need 2020 vision to know that the world is getting more complicated. So let’s focus on getting along instead of getting ahead. Happy new year, and may 2020 be revolutionary for you in all the important ways.


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