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What May Happen in the Next 100 Years

Rohin Dharmakumar
Published: 12, Jan 2012

After relatively underutilized degrees in computer sciences engineering and an MBA followed by a decade of tangential career choices ranging from technology outsourcing to public relations, I realized my passion lay in connecting the dots between market opportunities, technology, entrepreneurs and the ecosystems that bind them together. A big fan of underdogs and of possibilities, I try my best to tell stories the way my brain sees them.

An artist's imagination of 2000, in 1882



It started as an innocuous discussion thread on the Forbes India email list. My colleague N.S Ramnath posted a link to a BBC News article about how in 1900 John Elfreth Watkins, an unknown civil engineer in the US, uncannily predicted many things that would come true within a 100 years.

The predictions ranged from digital colour photography to mobile phones to the rising height of Americans.

After a few comments from colleagues marveling Watkins' eerily prescient predictions, our deputy editor Shishir Prasad weighed in with his own prediction: "Rohin will diss this in the next post!"

And sure enough, I did. (to paraphrase the Oracle from The Matrix, would I have dissed it if Shishir hadn't said anything?)

While agreeing that Watkins had done some nifty Nostradamus-channeling, I felt that predicting the future so far out wasn't that big a deal. Half the stuff is already been done by science fiction writers and Hollywood directors. The rest can be extrapolated by any reasonably intelligent and well-read person.

To prove my point, I put forth my own list of predictions for 2100:

- Human beings will live to 150 using medical advancements

- We will communicate with people around the world instantly, and without using any aids(embedded chips that read our thoughts and transmit them)

- Machines would have become sentient, with a collective and individual intelligence of their own(singularity)

- Sex, both for procreation or pleasure will become very rare(super efficient IVF that guarantees perfect children; avatars/humanoids /virtual reality for pleasure)

- Physical travel will be unaffordable for most people, unless you're mining on Mars.

- Our diets will consist of man-made tablets, powders, juices.

- Natural fruits and vegetables will be more for the gazillionaires.

- Knowledge will be implanted/transferred to our brains.

- People will have multiple life-like holographic avatars that can perform tasks for them simultaneously, often with other avatars.

- There will be one global currency, of which there will be no physical variant.

- Programmers and hackers will be the investment bankers and bankers of then.

Ramnath then raised a very valid objection to my list, saying "If people agree with your list, you are probably wrong. In the sense, it might not take 100 years."

He was right. Many of the things I talked about, for example about thought-based communication, programmers becoming the new global brahmins and personal avatars might not take 100 years to materialize.

IBM says mind-reading machines might become reality as early as 2017. According to the WaPo, programmers are already the political elite. And one of the predictions made by Prof. Lynda Gratton of the LBS in her very interesting book, "The Shift: The future of work is already here" (which incidentally, I'm currently reading), virtual avatars and agents will already be performing much of our work by 2020.

So I took another shot at my predictions, pushing the boundary of my thinking to hopefully a point where others would find them implausible, and therefore possible.

- Mankind would have engineered a third sex - neither/both man and woman - combing the (cliched) strengths of men(e.g. spacial correlation) and women(e.g. EQ).

- Children will be born inside newly grown surrogate clones, who will be discarded after birth.

- There will be no states by large corporations who control everything.

- The same states will auction the right to have children(not to bear them), but only the very rich will be able to afford them.

- Our home interiors will be made of shape shifting materials that will rearrange to form newer shapes depending on designs fed to them. For instance your living room may be a beach with a beach chair one day and a meadow with a view of the swiss alps another.

- We will be completely and utterly self sufficient on energy(solar), food(artificial), water(desalination) and population(seriously below threshold rate). Mankind will then be pointless and aimless.

Do they sound more outlandish compared to my first set? Possibly.

Here's when our resident social media editor and nocturnal man-of-words Peter Griffin chimed: why not ask Forbes India staff to add their own predictions to this list, then have our readers rank those ideas and make some predictions of their own.

Sounds like a plan, Peter!

Watch the Forbes India blog pages over the next few days on how to join us in this interesting exercise.

Edit: Readers are welcome to add their predictions or critiques as comments to this post too.

  • Anasuya Kundu

    Instead of imagining and predicting as done here, we need to imagine and work for a future (may be 200 years later) where there will be no poverty, illiteracy, war, terrorism, life threatening diseases, pollution, foods produced and preserved with harmful chemicals and many more.

    on Sep 21, 2016
  • varsha Varadarajan

    Can't believe this.....this will make the mankind completely it has become partially artificial now

    on May 26, 2015
  • surya kumar

    Well the future of Humanoids and robots is something which Issac assimov has discussed in novels well before even the people were ready for it. He has also discussed of women wanting to have Sex with Humanoids to pleasure themselves. The Future (in 50-100) years will be more about colonizing other planets and inter space travel with nuclear Fusion.

    on Aug 6, 2012
  • jershy

    One prediction I can make is that men's razor's will have a dozen blades and promise an improved shave!!!

    on Jan 17, 2012
  • d s Wednesday, June 08, 2005 the living will compete with the dead for work It is an idea i have had for a long time and the need to publish it was triggered by a futurologists prediction that the human brain could be download to a computer by 2050 - a thought many of us have had. It is going to happen in many of our lifetimes Sure, the brain will get downloaded to a computer by some day - but what does it mean for us today? Lets us imagine a world, where this has already happened. The soul of some people will be on a computer - if they opt for it or maybe it will be compulsorily done in some cases. so, you will have the knowledge of certain people available 24*7. It is only natural they can be expected to compete with those alive for work - so they can get money for the needs like a far more powerful processor! (unless legislated by law.) In many professions, a person's work may actually be more productive after he is dead and loaded on a computer. Imagine a stock investor rumaging all the time for information. he could trade seamlessly on the computer system and hope to be best investor over a 1000 year period. A computer programmer can be programming without rest. Why it matters today Many of us a making career choice based on the situation today. Of course, we should do what we like - but in terms of ecomonic potential it is better to chose careers where there is a minimal possibility of the dead competing.

    on Jan 14, 2012
  • Manik S Hundgenn

    100 years is a big span of time and in the terms of today's avancing technology, we can easily say its equivalent to 500 or more last years starting from 1900 century. So the new things that can imagine would be- 1.Full body helath analysis in a single scan or ltime analysis all the time and pre-warning of the risks both long and short term. 2. If LHC and quantum mechanics keep going fine, we might be able to teleport at some cost ofcourse. 3. If biotech is good enf, we will be able to live in homes that would be trees themselves with defined structures and all secondary facilities. 4. People with faster means of transport will prefer staying at outers than the main cities. 5. Social awakening about religions and cultures. People will tend to be aggressive for terrorism acts and such happenings.

    on Jan 13, 2012
  • arun

    A pattern that I often see is that people who predict the future are very often overly optimistic. I actually don't mean this as a reference to your predictions - just making a general comment. Look at the picture you have attached for example. Forget personal "air vehicles", we have actually regressed significantly in the last 30 years when it comes to commercial air travel. Our parents had the ability to cross the Atlantic faster than the speed of sound - we currently cannot, and neither is supersonic travel anywhere in the horizon if you see what Boeing and Airbus have planned. They are focusing on better fuel economy and in giving you better personal entertainment and better wireless broadband. They are not focusing on altering the way you travel by air or even the speed at which you travel. Aeroplane development cycles are at least a decade long, so I can confidently say that we will also not see a radical change in our lifetime. The way I see it, incremental innovation happens at a steady pace, but radical innovation happens in a very non-deterministic way and often in bursts and starts. Hence, predicting revolutionary innovation and its offshoots is incredibly hard. Even then, social and economic reasons often play a large part in distorting and suppressing the way we evolve. Look at nuclear energy for example. Most of the significant research that happened was during the Cold War which finished decades ago. After 30 years of research, we are still nowhere close to even creating a thorium reactor, forget ambitious stuff like portable fission reactors or fusion or even creating a safe fission reactor. A breakthrough discovery in areas like energy generation and storage, genetics, and materials will probably pave the way to the future. Another thing I would like to point out - we often assume that humanity's progress will only be in a positive direction in all aspects of our lives. That can be untrue too. For example, we can very well make life altering progress in terms of energy generation and computing but actually regress in our ability to control diseases. Again look at the last 50 years. What progress have we really made in terms of our ability to control communicable diseases? TB kills more people today than it ever did, and in fact, a new completely drug resistant strain of TB has evolved in the Hinduja hospital in India. Commercial interests dictate healthcare research into lifestyle based chronic diseases, not infectious diseases. This is why we have 30 products to battle obesity and hypertension, but hardly any to tackle TB and chikunguniya.

    on Jan 12, 2012
    • rashi

      Hats off to your practical thought process Mr.Arun. I completely agree with u. We r nothing without nature. Our children will grow old and weak early. Food shortage and artificial foods will eventually deteriorate health. Flora n fauna all extinct. N too much information n pressure may drive children crazy. Girls will be no more beautiful n Der wud be nothing manly about boys.

      on Dec 16, 2013
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