Attitudes and technology are changing rapidly, and often the two go hand in hand. To take just one example, we all now know how to bet on college football online, and over the next few years betting will most likely become an accepted part of everyday US culture, much like it is in the UK or Europe. This is as much to do with widespread and easy internet access as it is related to changing social attitudes towards gambling. Digital technology is creating a new world, and our perspectives are going to have to shift accordingly.
A new decade
It may not feel like it, but we’re right on the cusp of a new decade. The trends that defined the 2010s are already history, and in just a few months it will be the twenties once again. And while we’re certainly not predicting a return to flapper dresses, speakeasies and travel by airship, it’s perhaps worth remembering how dramatically different the 1920s were from what went before.
That decade saw outrageous new fashions, the rise of modernist art and literature and social attitudes that the older generation found shocking and scandalous. Political and economic certainties were destabilized, and new technology from automobiles to refrigerators and washing machines changed American life forever. What equivalent changes will our twenties bring?
The future is 3-D
Much of the technology that is set to change our lives over the next ten years is already with us; it just hasn’t become widespread yet. 3D printing is going to become an everyday resource, used in everything from healthcare to construction. Can you imagine using a 3-D printer to apply your make-up, exactly to your specifications and adapted to the contours of your face? Futurists predict that this will become commonplace sooner than you might imagine. Dentists will use 3-D printing to build new teeth inside our mouths, and clothes and shoes will be 3-D printed to order.
Everything connected to everything else
You’ll have heard a lot about the coming internet of things, and we’ve even started to see it in action, with apps to control our domestic appliances appearing on our phones and the introduction of virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri to our homes. But this is just the beginning. In the future, everything will be connected to everything else. Your fridge will order more milk when you’re running low. Your alarm clock will vibrate your bed when it’s time to get up, and will make sure the heating is on and the coffee is ready.
We can also look forward to smart furniture that adapts to our needs, and smart tableware that keeps track of what we eat and drink. With everything trackable there’ll be no need to lose anything: just call your shoes and they’ll come walking back to you!
Another phenomenon that is just around the corner is driverless cars. Though the prospect might sound scary, these will actually be far safer and virtually crash-proof. Individual car ownership will become a thing of the past. When we need a ride we’ll simply call up a car via an app on our phones, and be driven smoothly to our destination. In-car entertainment will help us to pass the time as our environmentally-friendly electric car communicates with traffic control and satellite navigation to find the most effective route.
It seems certain that in the 2020s we’ll all be living healthier lifestyles than our parents’ generation. Health awareness is rising, and food producers will bow to pressure to cut back on sugar and other additives, replacing them with extra nutrients and fiber. Vegetarianism and veganism will become much more normal, and specific dietary requirements will be catered for pretty much everywhere you go.
At the same time our lives will become much more integrated with the internet. Online dating will become the usual way to meet a prospective partner, with virtual reality dates also becoming commonplace. VR will also be used in live sports broadcasts, theme park rides and education. There will be very few aspects of our lives that won’t be conducted online in the ’20s, and one result of this could be that the US will become a cashless economy, with digital credit replacing paper bills.
Of course no-one can predict what will happen over the next ten years with absolute certainty. Issues like climate change need to be dealt with urgently, and if anything the pace of change is getting faster and harder to foresee. All that is certain is that things are going to be very different – and that in ten years we’ll look back on 2019 and think wow, if only we knew what was coming.