Life in 2025: Drones, holograms and driverless cars

As you drowsily open your eyes, the day’s schedule displays itself on a holographic screen –you have a report to file by 10.00, followed by a videoconference at noon. A soothing voice tells you how well you slept and gives you some suggestions for the following night. Slowly making your way to the kitchen, you hear the coffee maker brewing a fresh cup of espresso, while the grill is heating up some toast. Half awake, your mind drifts as you watch the news projected on the wall.

The year is 2025, and, as it promised in 2015, Nasa has discovered life in space. The latest iPhone has no screen but instead projects the information directly on to your retina. Everything from fridges and toasters to toothbrushes and light fixtures is connected to the internet, anywhere, at any time.

Making predictions like these is, by nature, a dicey business, but Joeri Van den Bergh is quick to point out that he’s not a futurologist. Instead, the Ghent-based market researcher analyses trends and consumer interests to help businesses stay ahead of the game.

His focus is on the youngest generations, those born after 1980, and in his research, Van den Bergh has identified some characteristics that will define what life will be like in years to come.

“Generations Y and Z are definitely more impatient than the previous ones and want everything instantly,” he says. “In ten years, drones will deliver our goods the day we buy them online and shops will predict when we’re going to order something before we even think of it and send it to a distribution centre nearby. Phones will have holograms or be projected directly into our eyes, so we won’t need to look down. We will have smart domestic appliances that learn about our habits and perform simple tasks automatically.” All in the name of saving time.

Joeri Van den Bergh: Generations Y and Z are more impatient than the previous ones and want everything instantly

Every product will also be hyper-customised. Imagine being able to design your own car, or if that’s too far out there, how about effortlessly creating your own line of cutlery or coffee mugs? “Thanks to advances in 3D printing, technology is already there to customise everything from packaging to content,” says Van den Bergh. “In ten years, if something isn’t hyper-personalised, it will be too boring for the youngest generations.”

Meanwhile, as the dial on your futuristic clock hits 8.30, it’s time to leave for work. The electrical engine of your Google car is already running, but there’s no steering wheel or pedals, so you can just lean back and relax, enjoying the last minutes of freedom. The computer on board asks how you’re doing and engages you in a debate on last night’s football.

“Oh come on, that won’t happen in ten years,” says Silvia Talevi, who lives in Ghent. “I can’t imagine the Knight Rider scenario coming true. KITT won’t talk to us just yet.”

In her work as an architect for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Talevi is tasked with preserving the past. Among her many duties, she surveys and records British World War One and Two memorial sites scattered across Belgium. But in her free time, the 31-year-old, who moved here five years ago from Italy, likes to ponder the future.

“I’m excited about the prospects of 3D printing and how it will change the field of architecture,” she says. “With the ability to print our own customised structures, we’ll see designs inspired by nature that are much freer, braver and less conventional.” Think more Guggenheims and Gehrys and fewer Trump Towers and boxy warehouses.

“And in our daily lives, we’ll be able to go into our kitchen and say, ‘turn on the light, heat the oven, prepare the coffee’. Or we’ll be able to touch an icon on our phones and have the oven start cooking dinner before we get back from work.” As for the artificial intelligence and cars that can talk to us, her expectations are more down to earth. “I’ll be content with Siri that actually works,” she says.

What about our social lives? According to Van den Bergh, while we do have much more interaction with other people thanks to technology and social media, these connections are becoming more superficial.

In the cartoon film Wall-E, citizens of the spaceship Axiom go through life glued to holographic displays that bombard them with anything from news to ads and entertainment, and enable them to video chat with their fellow Axiomians, even if they’re sitting right next to them.

The year is 2025, and, as it promised in 2015, Nasa has discovered life in space

The film is set in 2805, but that image could well represent where life might be in just 10 years. “We already engage in a lot less face-to-face contact, but I don’t think we’ll become self-absorbed individualists and only look at our own screens,” Van den Bergh says. “On the contrary, the lack of physical interaction will eventually fuel the need for more extensive and intimate forms of bonding.”

In 10 years, he predicts, we will value the moments when we turn off all our screens and holograms and go back to the old way of connecting with others. “As apartments become ever smaller, we will see larger communal spaces, such as bars, cinemas and rooftop terraces. In the end, the physical need to be with other people will always be important.”

Talevi takes the same view. “Social media will be more ingrained in our lives but I believe people will still go out searching for human contact,” she says. “And in Belgium, especially, how can you do without going to a bar and enjoying one of the thousands of beers with your friends?”

She also dismisses the notion that in their focus on the future, people will forget where they come from. “Technology will simply change the way we interact with history,” she says. “You’ll be able to put on your glasses and feel like you’re walking through the Imperial City in Beijing. Every building and statue will be scanned and recreated digitally.”

Thanks to virtual reality, we will have the ability to visit ancient sites without ever leaving the comfort of our homes, but will this mean the end of traditional tourism and conservation and lack of new opportunities for specialists like Talevi?

Not quite. Luckily for her, she says, her employers, the British, are very committed to the preservation of their monuments. “So even if I might not be working for them in ten years’ time, my job will still definitely be there.”

And as for life in space, she responds with a chuckle. “I’m not a strong believer in alien civilisations, but would I give Nasa another decade to convince me otherwise? It’s a bit cocky to assume we’re alone out there, so yes, ten, fifteen years, maybe.”

This story was originally published in ING Expat Times

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