Forbes | the World in 2033

in print | feature with: Ray Kurzweil
December 11, 2018

publication: Forbes
story title: the World in 2033
deck: Big thinkers + futurists share their thoughts.
section: brand voice | SAP
author: by Todd Wilms
date: February 8, 2013

— archive file —

Put yourself back in year 1993. Could you have predicted the success of the web, tablets + smart-phones, private space travel, the rise of terrorism, or the myriad of small changes that impact how you live today? To predict our world in 2033: you need the voices of the smartest minds to spot trends in their fields — and give us insight into where we’re heading. Interviewed for this story are 8 visionaries, leaders, and big thinkers:

  1. on technology | Ray Kurzweil — at Google co.
  2. on global conflict | Robert Kaplan — at Stratfor co.
  3. on education | Shantanu Sinha — at Khan Academy org.
  4. on space travel | George Whitesides — at Virgin Galactic co.
  5. on global work-force | Oliver Bussmann — at Bussmann Advisory firm
  6. on catholic church | John Allen — at National Catholic Reporter
  7. on world climate | Gene Robinson PhD — at James Madison Univ.
  8. on digital wearables | Paul Brown — at Boston College

— introduction —

You’ll see these visionaries agree on 2 things:

  • there will be change — sometimes dramatic change — in our future
  • and there is hope

no. 1 — Ray Kurzweil | on technology
at: Google co.

In 20 years from now: bio-medical technology — re-programming biology as an information process — will be in a mature phase. We’ll routinely turn off genes that promote disease and aging such as the fat insulin receptor gene that tells the fat cells to hold onto excess fat. We’ll be able to add genes that protect us from diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Major issues such as these will be under control.

We’ll be growing new human organs from cells that are created from our own skin cells. We’ll be able to re-juvenate our organs in place by gradually replacing aging cells that contain genetic errors — with biological cells that are healthy. Overall, we’ll be adding more than 1 year, every year to a person’s remaining life expectancy — that will be a turning point in life extension.

We’ll be on the digital web, all the time in virtual / augmented reality. We won’t be looking at devices such as tablets and phones. Rather, computer displays will be fully integrated with real reality. Three-dimensional pop ups in your visual field of view will give background information about the people you see, even a tip that someone just smiled at you while you weren’t looking. The virtual display can fully replace your real field of view putting you into a totally convincing fully immersive virtual environment. In these virtual environments, you can be a different person with a different body for each occasion. Your interactions with the realistic virtual projections of other people will also be completely convincing.

Search engines won’t wait for you to ask for information. They will know you like a friend and will be aware of your concerns and interests at a detailed level. So it will pop up periodically and offer something like “You’ve expressed concern about Vitamin B12 getting into your cells, here’s new research from four seconds ago that provides a new approach to doing that.” You’ll be able to talk things over with your computer, clarifying your needs and requests just like you’re talking with a human assistant.

Artificially intelligent entities will be operating at human levels — meaning they will have the same ability to get the joke, to be funny, to be sexy, to be romantic. However, the primary application of this tech will be to improve our own ability to do these things.

note: Ray Kurzweil is a best selling author, inventor, futurist
note: Ray Kurzweil is a director of engineering at Google co.

Ray Kurzweil | Good Reads
Google | home

no. 2 — Robert Kaplan | on global conflict
at: Stratfor co.

In year 2033 — global conflict will be wide-spread and chaotic, but not necessarily more violent. Rather than the post-Ottoman state system in the Middle East with hard borders and suffocating central control, there will be a series of weak states and sectarian and ethnic regions in tense relationships with each other. For example, Mosul in Iraq will have more in common with Damascus in Syria than with Baghdad, even as Aleppo in Syria has more in common with Baghdad in Iraq than with Damascus itself. There will be an independent and decentralized Kurdistan, a more feisty ethnic Azeri region in northwestern Iran, even as Jordan and the West Bank meld together.

In China there will be an ethnic-Han island in the center and Pacific coast living in reasonable harmony with virtually independent Inner Mongolia, Muslim-Turkic Uighurstan, and Tibet. Chinese Yunnan will be the capital of Southeast Asia. Africa will have a green revolution, while at the same time Nigeria pulverizes into several pieces.

In short, the next few decades will see the erosion of central authority in the former colonial world, which will be somewhat violent at first, before settling down into a reasonable harmony. Geography will be more crucial than ever, even as technology makes the earth smaller and more claustrophobic.”

note: Robert Kaplan is a journalist + book author
note: Robert Kaplan is chief geo-political analyst at Stratfor co.

Robert Kaplan | home
Robert Kaplan | Good Reads
Stratfor | home

no. 3 — by Shantanu Sinha | on education
at: Khan Academy org.

global access — in 20 years, almost everyone on the planet will have access to the world’s best educational materials. Almost every subject will be available for free online. A child in the country of Mongolia will be able to learn anything: algebra in math, string theory in physicis, Greek history in the classics.

personalized learning — Students won’t be forced to learn in a one-size-fits-all education model — with all students the same age learning the same thing at once. Rather, technology will allow the system to adjust to every student’s needs. A 35 year old can easily brush-up on trigonometry. A 4th grader would be able to learn algebra. Everyone will be able to focus on their own needs.

interactive class-rooms — Teachers will spend less time lecturing, and more time mentoring. Class-rooms will be engaging environments with almost all time spent on valuable human interactions — eg: mentorship, peer tutoring — plus more hands-on, cross-disciplinary, project learning.

competency credentials — Students will be able to prove what they know, not by seat-time, but with competency credentials. An out-of-work 40 year old will not need to go back to school and pile-up 1,000s of dollars of debt — before employers took him seriously. Instead, he could study an accounting course on the web — for free, prove what he knows, and get a job.

note: Shantanu Sinha is President + COO at Khan Academy org.
note: Khan Academy produces free web educational classes, ranging from grade k -to- college

Khan Academy | home

no. 4 — George Whitesides | on space travel
at: Virgin Galactic co.

Over the next 20 years: I believe 1000s — perhaps millions — of private individuals will travel to space. Since the dawn of the space age, just over 500 men and women have been to outer space. With only a few recent exceptions, these men and women have all been government employees, hand-picked by space agencies such as NASA and trained to an enormous level

Their missions are worth-while and worthy of our gratitude and admiration. But it’s critical to realize that for the majority of us, government space programs are not our ticket to space. The challenge of sending individuals to space is being taken-up by private companies, who have tools and motives that government agencies don’t have. Several entrepreneurs have started new businesses especially designed to tackle this problem.

Future space travel will be enjoyed by more than adventurers. In the 21 century, space-flight can become as common for travelers as taking a plane trip became — for millions of people world-wide — during the 20 century. The technology that permits flights into space, will also help passengers fly to far-flung places on earth in record time.

By traveling out of the earth’s atmosphere for a small amount of time, a non-stop trip from the city of New York to the city of Sydney might take 3 hours — instead of today’s 20 hour, multi-leg trip. I believe air travel will become more environmentally friendly. For example: airlines ferrying passengers on regional routes will run small, short-hop planes on battery cells.

We live in a fascinating time for the commercial space industry. It’s inspiring to see business leaders from different sectors applying their best ideas and practices to the unique challenges of spaceflight. The next 20 years hold exciting, unexplored territory for the people of the world.

note: George Whitesides is President + CEO at Virgin Galactic co.
note: Virgin Galactic provides sub-orbital space-flight to tourists
note: Virgin Galactic provides sub-orbital launches for science missions
note: Virgin Galactic provides orbital launches of small satellites

Virgin Galactic | home

no. 5 — Oliver Bussmann | on global work-force
at: Bussmann Advisory firm

Over the past 20 years we’ve gone from the early stages of the web — to a fully connected world. By 2033 a “born-mobile” work-force will be constantly connected to work + home life, using devices that are wearable –- or implantable. Collaboration with others around the world will be as natural as speaking, and physical work-spaces will be optional.

Leadership structures will become increasingly flat, as roles shift based on each person’s capability. Many decisions will become automated, using sophisticated analytical tools, allowing people to focus on creative tasks that are uniquely human.

note: Oliver Bussmann was CIO at SAP co.
note: Oliver Bussmann was CIO at UBS grp.
note: SAP makes enterprise software for business operations + customer relations
note: UBS is a multi-national investment bank

Bussmann Advisory | home

no. 6 — John Allen | on catholic church
at: National Catholic Reporter

First, it will be increasingly led from the global south, where 2/3 of the 1.1 billion catholics on the planet live today, and where 3/4 will be found by mid-century. World cities such as: Mumbai, Manila and Abuja will be to the 21st century what Paris, Leuven and Milan were to the 16th century — the primary centers of new intellectual imagination, pastoral leadership, and political momentum.

As that transition unfolds, catholicism on the global stage will become increasingly a church of the poor and a church committed to the agenda of the developing world. That means economic justice, multi-lateralism, and opposition to war.

Second, catholicism in the west will be increasingly evangelical — that means committed to defending its traditional identity in a secular milieu. Once upon a time, catholics were the culture shaping the west. Today it’s an embattled sub-culture, and like other subcultures, it’s learning to practice a “politics of identity” as an antidote to assimilation. In Europe and North America, in other words, Catholicism will not soften its role in the culture wars, but rather dial it up.”

note: John Allen is a journalist + book author
note: John Allen was a senior correspondent at National Catholic Reporter

John Allen | Good Reads
National Catholic Reporter | home

no. 7 — Gene Robinson PhD | on world climate
at: James Madison Univ.

20 years ago alarmists were predicting disasters in our near future — from a warming planet, caused by petroleum and coal combustion. The 1990 book Dead Heat painted a nightmare picture of our world in 2030 when the temperature might be 7 degrees hotter. The first IPCC reports of 1990 and 1995 supported such scary scenarios.

What actually happened is that the average global temperature since 1993 increased about 0.2 degree C through 2012 — with most of that occurring in the record year of 1998. At the peak of a 30 year warming trend. Since then the global temperature has plateaued, with no clear trend up or down. Because the flattening is at the high point of a warming trend, each year is labeled among the warmest recorded years. That’s a convenient way to mask this fact: although CO2 has continued to increase, temperature has not, in spite of computer models.

So what can we project for global warming in year 2033? Instead of the abrupt warming that alarmists always say is about to start — my cloudy crystal ball says global temperature could continue showing no clear trend. Or at the beginning of a cooling trend. Alarmists will continue to blame every severe weather event on climate change — and oppose all energy projects except solar and wind.

All studies supporting the alarmist view will be promoted in the press. But all studies reaching opposite conclusions will be ignored. Politicians will support schemes to tax carbon by trying to scare people about what will happen without them. But the skepticism of ordinary people will increase. Grants will be handed-out to scientists who have lab results supporting climate change, but proposals from skeptics won’t be funded. Not much has changed with the politics of global warming theory in the last 20 years — not much will change in the next 20 years.

note: Gene Robinson PhD is a professor of geology at James Madison Univ.
note: Gene Robinson PhD is a book author

James Madison Univ. | home
Gene Robinson PhD | Good Reads

no. 8 — Paul Brown | on digital wearables
at: Boston College

In the next 20 years, I believe my childhood desire to be Inspector Gadget will finally happen. Now our smart-phones are practically glued to our hands. They’re an extension of our bodies. People are calling for the next step in technology to be wearables — devices such as web-connected watches and eyeglasses. But could we skip the annoyance of having to put-on our tech — and instead just plug-in?

By 2033 I believe that digital devices will be directly implanted through-out our bodies. We’re already on the cusp of this with some human medical devices like cochlear implants for the deaf and pace-makers for patients with heart issues. We can see where this could go next. In our future society, the boundaries between machine and human, ability and disability, will be blurred. Go Go Gadget!

note: Paul Brown is a researcher at Boston College
note: the cartoon character Inspector Gadget is a tech savvy police detective in print, film, television: video

Boston College | home
Paul Brown | home

— notes —

* Gene Robinson: is Gene Dedrick Robinson PhD
* George Whitesides: is George Thomas Whitesides
* John Allen: is John L. Allen • Jr.
* Paul Brown: is Paul Gordon Brown
* Ray Kurzweil: is Raymond Clyde Kurzweil
* Robert Kaplan: is Robert David Kaplan

* SAP = Systems, Applications + Products in Data Processing
* IPCC = the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change

* CO2: is carbon dioxide — a gas