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March 06, 2011

Ten Predictions for 2030

I spent this weekend with my two sons in Ft Myers, Florida as part of our annual pilgrimmage to the Red Sox spring training camp.  While not chasing after foul balls (thanks, Youk!) and autographs, we spent some time talking about what the future might look like.  We ended up making a provocative list of what we called “10, 2030” – ten predictions for the year 2030.

For context, my sons are 8 and 11.  Looking back 19 years ago (1992), I realize that I had my first cell phone, dial up access to bulletin boards, a love affair with email, and was doing consulting for AT&T on Apple’s first mobile computing device, the Newton.  In short, nearly 20 years ago, the fingerprints of the future were evident in the present.  Similarly, my sons are seeing fingerprints of the future in what they see, read and hear about today.  Trying to focus on the right things to extrapolate off, and having some fun with it, provided us with great entertainment.

 So here are their top ten predictions for the year 2030:

  1. Two out of three of my children, as a reflection of the entire US car market, will own an electric car (they are convinced oil will be a thing of the past, although according to the International Energy Association and The Economist, oil demand in the US will shrink only modestly in the next 20 years)
  2. School classrooms will be converted into all digital environments where Individual student desks will be converted into desk/tablet computers with a touch screen per child linked to SmartBoards and the Internet with a host of applications available.
  3. Advanced techniques in genomics will results in a cure for both cancer and ALS (others I’m sure, but those are the diseases my sons were most focused on due to our family history)
  4. Super-fast, high speed trains will finally be installed on the Northeast Corridor, allowing Boston to NY travel to take 2 hours and NY-DC a mere 1.5 hours.  My sons seem to think magnetic technology is the state of the art.  I'm not sure where they got this factoid, but it sounded good to me.
  5. Commercial travel to the moon will be possible and relatively common for super-rich thrill-seekers.  Sort of like private jet travel today.
  6. Voice-controlled, self-driving cars will be prevalent.  Perhaps not even brought to you by Google.
  7. No one will carry wallets any more – all functionality of a wallet (payment, coupons, identity) will be embedded in your mobile device
  8. No wires anywhere – wireless power/electricity, wireless Internet, high bandwidth data will result in the taking down of telephone polls in large parts of the country.  A corollary to this one is that my sons don't think hardly any homes will have landline, wire telephones any more.
  9. Hover boards will be sold commercially – still high-end devices, but useful for urban transportation as an alternative to bicycles.  This one struck me as a stretch, but they're quite convinced of it, and they haven't even seen this hilarious AliG clip.
  10. A woman will be elected president of the United States.  I pointed out to them that there would only be four elections (not counting 2012 - sorry Sarah Palin) between now and 2030 for an American female head of state to be elected but they were bullish on this one as well.

Here were a few that we discussed but were ultimately rejected as plausible, but not likely by 2030:

  1. Humans landing on Mars
  2. Hover cars (i.e., cars that floated above roads at high speeds)
  3. Cars that converted into airplanes
  4. Home robots that do household chores – dishes, laundry, changing diapers
  5. Life discovered on another planet
  6. Electronic ink on flexible, paper-thin screens that mimic a book – but, like a Kindle, download wirelessly and electronic

At one point, I mentioned to my sons that I might blog about their predictions because I thought they represented an interesting window into the future.  My oldest got concerned and objected, "But Dad, what if we want to invent some of this stuff and people steal our ideas?".  And that's when the lecture on execution began...


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Interesting, 90% of those predictions are focusing on technical innovation, how about fashion, building, finance, food,books and love? :)

Technical would be part of our daily life but not the whole. However, this share also identify how technical influence us at this moment.

Mobile devices will not be devices at all. They'll be implants, no clumsy screens, or buttons.

The controls, visuals, and audio will be tapped right in. The same technology that handles the wallet disappearing will be embedded and passive. Everything that is a fancy feed or service or check-in or status update will be passive.

Think about how computing (and privacy, for that matter) have changed over the last 20 years. We have 20 more before 2030, that is a lot of change.

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Thanks, Josh. The expansion of implants is an interesting angle. We are investors in a few implantable medical device companies and the things folks are working on is mind-boggling.

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We had a few personal family predictions that I edited out, but my boys (ages 11 and 8) are certainly more focused on technology than love and fashion right now. I predict that will change in 10 years!

Fun post. Thanks to your kids.

Of the 10 i think #4 is least likely simply due to all of the bureaucracy in the way. Really looking forward to #5, #7, and #8. Can we combine them? Voice controlled, wireless shuttle to the moon. Awesome.

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I love it. I'm going to pre-buy my ticket at Amazon now.

Hi Jeff, I think your kids are spot on with their predictions, and I could see #2 (classroom tablet computing) and #7 (smartphones replacing wallets) happening in the next 5 years. Only the hoverboard gives me pause, but this definitely should be a list that stretches the imagination.

I guess the profound question would be: with all of these advancements, will we as a humanity be happier and more at peace with one another?

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Ah…now that’s a deep question I’ll save
for another weekend getaway.

I'm going to say 'thumbs down' to high-speed trains in the US by 2030 (unlike China, the US is incredibly inefficient in planning, funding, executing high-speed trains... it appears to take over 20 years to from US gov't 'green light' to finish).

I'm going to say 'thumbs up' to life on mars by 2030 (it will be single-cell and may be a result of contamination from our own planet).

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Thanks. Interesting about Mars - what will be the implications?

I've seen plausible hoverboard designs using ionizers to electrically charge the air then using electro-magnets to keep the charged air under the board creating lift. Problems with cost, power, and thrust to wieght ratios are the biggest problems.

Commericial flights to the moon would involve someplace to stay when you get there, which would imply a reversal in the UN's decision that says no nation may claim any land or mineral rights on another celestial object (private companies are technically in the gray area but generally assumed to be a no go).

Many engineers would agree with your kids on most if not all of those points (some smart kids you've got there). But we have had the technology to send people to mars since 1972, its going be whether someone actually gets there project funded and then actually executes on the plan. (note: the constellation project was recently cancelled which was the US's plan to send humans back to the moon and on to mars. also with the retirement of the shuttle by 2030 the flights of this planet may indeed be commercial or offered by the ESA, RSA, or the chinese.)

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Thanks, Devin. Redeyes to the moon with sleeper beds? Can't wait!

Thanks to your kids and you sharing your insights...

Some of them remind me of the predictions people made in the late 50s on how the world would be in 2000... i´m not sure cars and plane will ever join, except in a very small niche; i believe it´s all about very high costs becaude of the mixed design (everything is doubled in a plane), and very high maintenance costs; it reminds me of the french concorde, the ultra modern, ultra fast plane (paris-new york in 3,5 hours) launched in the 70s that would blow the rest of the market away...
but who knows??? i hope i´m wrong and all these great things happen.

Some others seem very feasible. Number 7 will happen a lot quicker with some hot products arriving soon like jumio and evolucard.

And finally we will have lots of other great innovations. I particularly think that a new generation of batteries can lead to a major change in tecnology. It´s something your kids see and the reports don´t!

I also expect great things in the health industry, robots, agriculture, water processing and maybe the most important of all: energy. That´s a lot of work to do, for your kids, for our kids.

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Thanks, Jean Luc.  It’s an exciting time
for sure.


In secondary school I was practiced as a magician. I earned allot of money by performing for school parties and private birthday parties. It was much harder than performing for adults who are conditioned to see what they expect or want. Young people see “what they see” much harder to trick !, with hopes and dreams they believe to be not only right but best. Your kids see what they expect -- a bright future - from us ! - one filled with opportunity, potential and fun !

Victor Walker


I agree with everything give or take a few years although the @deldallas's concern about the US as a whole getting the high-speed rail is valid. I differ however on the future of wireless, which while we wont have wires connecting devices there will always be the issue of limitations to wireless which wireline does not have. How visible wireline will be and the exact purposes of the fiber wirelines is yet to be determined.

Funny thing is, these are the exact same things I said when I was their age but it's taking way more than 20 years. with today's rapid pace of tech development there is a a good chance most of these predictions will actually come to fruition.

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