What the Year 2020 Will Look Like


Everyone likes to make predictions, and I am no different.  There was a time in my life that my job depended upon my knowing exactly where the cutting edge of technology was.  I was quite fortunate for having worked at M.I.T. in the mid-1980s on a computer development project.  We were working on networking computers, and describing what a computer work station should look like software wise.  It was a good education in the sorts of things to look for.

As far as computers are concerned the speed of the home computer will continue to increase but not at the rates that we have seen in the past ten years.  The top end of home computing speed right now is about 3.2 gigahertz.  By 2020 I expect that speed will be roughly 4.5 gigahertz.  What will hold down speed is the ability of chip makers to produce processors that have more and more transistors on them.  They have already introduced the idea of dual processors to mimic speed increase.  What is really happening is two processors doing the work that one used to but at the same relative speed.  The breakthrough will come when they develop processors that use light instead of electricity.

What will continue to move forward in leaps and bounds is the ability of computers to deal with graphical data.  The time it takes a computer to find a piece of data and display it is the heart and soul of computing.  But right now one of our great limitations is the ability of the Internet to pass data along.  There is a little thing called “bandwidth” that dictates how much data can be sent at any particular moment in time.  That bandwidth is the same as the size of a pipe dictating how much water can be pushed through it.  Therefor, the two most important parts of the Internet are the computers that hold the data and their ability to retrieve the data, and, the ability of the transmission lines to carry that data.  Both those things are going to increase dramatically.  There will be a dramatic shift from the copper wire carrying data towards fibre-optics carrying data.  That alone will increase both bandwidth and data speed.

Here is a hurtful prediction.  Expect the price of gasoline to be around $10 a gallon.  With that the death of the SUV and the American full size car will have happened.  Also, the death of Chrysler Corporation along with the possible deaths of Ford and GM.  Why?  They still have not gotten it.  That it is simply the types of cars offered by Toyota, Nissan, and Honda.  Toyota’s largest sedan is about the size of American mid-sized cars while the rest of their fleets are the size of or smaller than American small cars.  What can save GM and Ford will be their ability to supply small fuel-efficient cars, more so than they do now.  But also, they need to make more readily available their hybrid cars.  Case in point, I tried to buy a Ford Fusion hybrid this past summer.  I was told that the waiting time for such cars was 90 to 120 days.  I was not willing to wait.  I could have bought a Prius however without a wait.  That means American automobile manufacturers are not being fully competitive with the Japanese.  That will be their downfall.

There is one type of automobile, not now available anywhere, that could become popular with the fast rising prices of crude oil.  That type is the liquid natural gas car.  The only thing that need be put in place for that to be viable is a distribution system for automobiles.  There is actually a good distribution of this fuel for buses and trucks.  Furthermore, the fuel is far more ecologically friendly and is in abundance in North America.  What could push this fuel into the forefront is the stability of the middle east.  If it destabilizes greatly, which it could, that would quickly push up the price of crude quickly.

By 2020 I expect China will begrudgingly abandon the Communist Party as its population moves towards 1.5 billion.  This will be in large part due to the increased difficulty of importing oil and other resources not natural to China.  As the Chinese economy increasingly relies upon capitalism to fill its needs, and the older party leadership dies, it will find itself migrating away from Communism.

Expect by 2020 the Euro to be a memory as more and more countries abandon it in favor of its own currency.  While European economic unity continues to be a good idea, its single currency will be found to be an impediment to the economic stability of individual countries, and therefore abandoned.

One of the strange results of the coming oil shortage will be the decreased unemployment.  Americans are going to find it more economical to buy local, or buy American.  The price of transportation long distances will increase much faster than markets can bear.  That will mean imported goods will increase enough in price that Americans will look for lesser expensive domestic products.  This, of course, will in turn put a lot of American to work.  But it will also make American goods more desirable in foreign markets.

Environmentalists will be unhappy with this because there will be a huge push for production of electricity from coal.  It will also lead to the beginning of a new series of nuclear power plants.  But because of the time it takes to build a plant they will not start coming on-line until the very end of the decade or later.  Still, that will mean our becoming more independent of foreign oil.

George Clooney will get married.

So will JaLo, yet again.

The number of cable channels will more than double if not triple.  The 998 channels now available will not be enough to handle the demand.  Expect big increases in the number of religiously based networks and sports networks.  Cable television will become much more specialized in those areas along with news networks that will start offering news programs based in foreign countries.

Manned space flight will not return but there will be an increase in unmanned space activities in the world of science.  Along with that will be the increased use of satellite telephones.  Companies now offering cell phone use will soon switch to satellite cell phones simply because the need for earth based physical plants will decrease dramatically with their increase.

Satellite radio will increase dramatically and decrease the number of broadcast radio stations greatly.  Satellite radio and GPS systems will be standard equipment in cars.

Well, that is it for now.  I expect there will be a part 2 to this as I consider the subject some more.

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