Now that we’re well into January, Happy New Year!
I like to wait a bit for the interwebs to clear of the flocks of listicles and prediction articles that inevitably begin flooding in around December each year. Then I can read all the best ones and nod or scoff as required before writing my own.
Tech or web design predictions for 2015 are pretty safe to make for the most part. Around half the lists I read laid out web design trends that were basically a rehash of what they predicted in 2014 or trends that are already growing and poised to take off.
I say there’s more fun to be had in truly long range predictions. Not for next year, not even for the next five years.
What will happen to web design, the internet and tech in 2025? What about 2030?
Much more scope for being dead wrong and for moving away from the smart money predictions and into the truly (r)evolutionary.
Before you start skimming this blog for references to interstellar travel complete with Captain Kirk style alien encounters or cyborg mutations that take over the human population following the zombie apocalypse, let me reassure you. These predictions are based mainly on nascent tech and design that is showing promise and has about a ten year development window. That’s right – even the risky bet tries to follow the smart money. For the most part.
Thank you to all the bloggers and futurists from whom I sought inspiration (or just outright borrowed). Links to the reference articles are at the end of the blog.
Right now, the internet is mainly a collection of different pages and resources that have a generally the same structure. Pages link together and to other pages. You can download resources. Search for information. It’s like a enormous, easily accessible, sometimes crazy encyclopedia of anything you can imagine.
Websites are designed to help users navigate this encyclopedia as easily as possible. Websites are (should be) organized according to certain rules. These rules have tightened, changed and morphed over time, but mostly web design follows human nature – there’s certain ways we want to absorb and share information.
The future of the internet though, will be built by a generation that was raised on, with and for the computer age. That will change how and when we access technology.
Some predictions have done away with the idea of websites as we know them all together by 3030. Information will be accessible by a range of devices, including wearables, and by non-humans (like your fridge). It seems that the internet, rather than being a collection of information that we can access if we prefer, will be completely linked to our lives. Accessible from anywhere. At any time. And sending information continuously.
Such full integration seems well on its way and therefore not worthy of this prediction list. After all, we’re already constantly connected by our smartphones.
The thing is that I don’t think we can even fully appreciate what being constantly connected to a stream of information will actually look like. I’m not talking about neural implants (though some are). I’m talking about how technology will be our constant companion and how the next generation will not only not be able to separate themselves from technology, they will not be able to even imagine such a thing.
That, of course, will affect how we design websites. Web design in fact, will no longer exist. It will be information design. How do we get the information that we want to and from our users in whatever way they choose to access it? Desktops and laptops and even smartphones will be archaic relics, clumsy as the original IBM or the first Apple PC. The only limits will be human hardware – how we disseminate, understand and share the information bombarding us.
Wearables, the internet of things, AI, robots replacing repetitive tasks in factories, self driving cars. These technologies are definitely going to turn the world on it’s collective head. As these already existent technologies evolve and become more affordable, they will proliferate.
I stand by my prediction that wearables aren’t going to go mainstream anytime soon, but this doesn’t mean that I think they are going to be relegated to the dustbin of technological history. No indeed.
After all, touch screen technology was little more than a fascinating if practically valueless tech until the iPod and new software brought touch to the everyday user. Wearable tech, I predict, will be the same. Technologically exciting but practically unappealing until we have the software and the cultural shift required to push them into the mainstream. 2030 should be plenty of time to spark this r/evolution.
Tech that will touch us all…
I’m going to use up the rest of the blog (and the final lingering bits of your attention span) to talk about the changes that will be realized with 3D printing.
As with other technology, 3D printing actually came into being in the 1980s and industry latched onto the newest iteration of stereolithography to more easily construct 3D models of industrial equipment.
Today, 3D printer technology has grown, pushed by newer hardware, open source software and the contributions of a robust and enthusiastic early adopter pool. The possibilities for 3D printing are vast and the potential for economic disruption, advancements in health and industry, and food creation and distribution are both remarkable and unsettling.
As our collective level of cultural adaptation to how we produce and consume goods shifts to accept complete artificial manufacturing, 3D printing will move quickly beyond the quirky, beyond the almost gleeful “look at what I can print!” mentality that is already disappearing.
3D printing has the potential over the next decades to turn everyone into a manufacturer of their own goods, builder of their own business space, constructor of previously unimaginable products that will change our lives. This level of productive disruption will take the power to create out of the hands of the few and put it into the needful hands of the many.
Bio-printing has the potential to change the way we view health and organic material. Suddenly, “tea, earl grey, hot” will not be science fiction, but science fact, and accessible to everyone the way that televisions and microwaves became accessible. And normal.
Printing food and internal organs is technology we’ve already realized. 3D printing prosthetic limbs and new nervous system material could return mobility to millions with amputations or spinal cord damage.
Of course, as with any new technology, the fear of what could happen if misused or abused by unscrupulous actors holds us back. Perhaps rightly so. Giving anyone the power and design to print weapons that could cause massive human harm and suffering cannot be a good idea. But to realize the potential of a technology with such capacity for helping humanity live better and healthier – well, that cannot be a bad idea.
3D printing will change the way we share our standard of life with the developing world. Accessible, open source, cheap technology has the potential to truly change the lives of millions who cannot access even basic necessities. As the cost of locating, storing and sharing information shrinks to almost nothing, everyone will have the opportunity to share in the best of the world.
You made it! Or did you? TL;DR – Full information integration blurring the divide between real life and connected life more completely; wearables to evolve beyond watches to keep us connected; 3D printing brings us closer to equality.
For all you keeners out there, moar!!!
These are a bit out there, but fun read nonetheless: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/10-hi-tech-inventions-well-be-using-1451863