Whether we love it or hate it, whether we can’t live without it or we wish to escape it, whether we rush to embrace it or take a sidelong, mistrustful glance at it, few can deny that technology will only continue to play a bigger and bigger role in our day to day lives. Already we’ve reached technological heights that were the stuff of science fiction just a few decades ago. Artificial intelligence grows more sophisticated every year. Robust medical technology stands poised on the brink of a revolution which could see the diseases of yesteryear all but wiped out within a generation and (no kidding) we have the technology to build actual working lightsabers. And while we have come a long way even in the past decade, we show signs of going even further as we usher in the 2020s.
Indeed, many of the technologies that will go on to shape tomorrow already exist in some form or another today. With the sun drenched optimism of summer beginning to ebb and the autumn season beginning to reach out its windy tendrils into our skies and our mindsets, it’s time to look to tomorrow with a sense of hope and optimism. Let’s take a look at how today’s technologies will drive tomorrow and how technology will drive change in 2019…
The retrotech craze hit big in 2016 and as we head into a potentially grim and depressing future under the rule of some of the most divisive world governments in living memory, retrotech’s appeal lies in offering us both a happier past and the potential for a brighter future. Retrotech is not just the preserve of nostalgia hungry hipsters, it’s a growing market that offers an understandable selling proposition. It offers users a sense of familiarity and fond remembrance while also hinting at future applications that could help make tomorrow a better place. Aside from a fond remembrance for cell phones that simply allowed us to talk to each other rather than fall down an antisocial digital rabbit hole, 2019 will see new technologies that honor the present while embracing the future.
This is neatly encapsulated by the return of the Nike Air Jordans or (a slightly more upmarket version) in the form of the 2019 Bentley Mulsanne. This reimagining of a 1930s classic offers its (seriously monied) clientele all the horsepower, luxury and digital amenities of a luxury car in the 21st century, but with a little piece of history built into each one. The crankshaft of Bentley founder Walt Own’s original Mulsanne was lovingly cut into 100 pieces and a little sliver of the ancient component occupies a little space in the rear arm rest of 100 2019 Mulsannes.
As we crawl one step closer to 2020, our love of retrotech will reach whole new heights.
Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
Whatever the detractors may say, Cryptocurrency and its parent technology blockchain are here to stay. While many have hailed Bitcoin’s slump in value as the popping of the cryptocurrency bubble, there’s no real evidence that cryptocurrency use will ebb in 2019. Quite the opposite in fact. As commercial giants like McDonald’s, eBay and Microsoft now accepting Bitcoin as a viable form of remuneration and shopping leviathan Amazon likely to follow suit, cryptocurrency looks set to gain even more mainstream legitimacy next year despite the protestations of the financial services industry (who, if you think about it have a vested interest in smearing cryptocurrency anyway- just look at this piece of anti crypto propaganda from Poland’s national bank).
But as exciting as the future of cryptocurrency may be, the blockchain technology upon which it’s based shows even greater signs of growth. Not only will 20% of the world’s national banks be using blockchain technology by 2019, the technology could truly democratize the so-called “sharing economy” at which the likes of Uber, AirBnB and Lyft are at the forefront. But as it stands the sharing economy is merely a hybridized form of capitalism; one which has seen Uber in particular, drive out its competition by undercutting them on prices while syphoning away a goodly portion of the profits for itself. Blockchain technology could theoretically be used to allow the sharing of resources for remuneration without the need for a digital intermediary to absorb a chunk of the profit.
VR and AR
Virtual and augmented reality are (relatively) old technologies that have been rediscovered and given a host of new potential applications. While VR has existed in some form or another since the mid 1980s but in terms of consumer application, it wasn’t envisaged as much more than a platform for making video games more immersive. Gaming technology wasn’t quite up to the task of providing the kind of immersive experience that gamers were hoping for but VR experienced something of a resurgence in the 2010s with a host of industrial and consumer applications.
In 2019 we will see more widespread use of VR and AR in everything from surgical procedures and medical technology to shopping. Indeed, the supermarket giant Walmart has been very enthusiastic about the prospect of moving towards a virtual shopping environment and it’s not very hard to see why. A virtual store would offer the tiniest fraction of the overheads while still offering an immersive and enjoyable shopping experience for the consumer. There is, of course a downside to this prospect. As drone technology and chatbots become more and more sophisticated, the need for frontline customer service representatives becomes more and more surplus to requirements, meaning that some of the world’s biggest employers could soon scythe down the number of positions available to non-skilled blue collar workers.
Moreover, a variety of industries and businesses are already using VR and AR for remote employee recruitment and training and it’s likely that this will only become more widespread as the technology becomes more ubiquitous and affordable.
Mobile devices and the Internet of Things
This year, mobile use officially edged out desktop use as the platform of choice from which to consume media, make e-commerce purchases and manage our communications and social media accounts. While mobile use took the lead this year, it looks primed to widen the gap next year as we turn more and more to mobile apps to handle everything from our money management to our gaming.
Next year we can also expect to see us rely more and more on the Internet of Things. This means that we will be pairing more and more devices upon which rely to our mobile devices. When you pair a smartwatch or a fitbit with your phone, for example, this is just one instance of the Internet of Things in action. While for many of us this means that we will be using more wearable tech, one of the areas in which the IoT is showing exponential growth is the automotive sector. Indeed, it’s estimated that a billion cars will be connected to the internet by 2020. If you plan on buying a new car next year, you’ll be hard pressed to find a model that doesn’t offer connectivity to your Apple or Android device.
3D printing is a technology that has boomed in popularity over the past few years and has potentially offered the world something very exciting… A way to truly democratize the means of production. No longer need we continue to be beholden to the manufacturing industry and its decades of profiteering. As more and more of us take up 3D printing and the technology grows more sophisticated there’s scope for us to be able to build virtually anything we want to our own exact specification. While 3D printing in plastic is fairly commonplace, we have recently seen the transition to 3D printing of metals with printer giant HP currently working on the Jet Fusion model. But 2019 will bring us something truly special…
3D printed houses!
Dutch company Van Wijnen is currently working with its native city of Eindhoven to create the world’s first community of entirely 3D printed houses. These houses which will be 3D printed in concrete could potentially save the world from a growing housing crisis that currently sees an entire generation struggling to cover their living costs due to a fundamentally exploitative and ludicrously under regulated private rental market.
3D printed houses are cost effective as none of the material used goes to waste and the homes themselves offer endless opportunities for personalization and customization. While the technology is still in its infancy it could revolutionize the entire construction industry.
Finally, in 2019 we will make significant headway in a potentially epochal technology with the potential to change countless lives. Genetic editing could offer treatments for diseases long thought to be incurable within our lifetimes from cancer to herpes simplex and even inherited conditions like Huntington’s.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat) is a relatively recent breakthrough that has made the prospect of gene editing far more viable than we had previously dared to hope.
As the year starts to wind down and the sun starts to burn a little less bright, we can take solace in the knowledge that there’s a whole lot to look forward to next year!