Everything comes at us faster and faster as time goes on.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


Big changes over the next 30 years

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

A lot can happen in 30 years.

You might think I'm getting nostalgic about the 30 years I've been writing this column -- it launched in 1983 -- but actually I'm looking ahead. Things have changed dramatically since the early '80s, but life is going to reshape itself much more in the three decades to come.

How do I know? Simple math.

We know for sure that technology changes every now and then. Every few years, in some cases, and every month or two in others. But arithmetic tells us it is the rate of change that changes the most. Let me put that in plain English: Everything comes at us faster and faster as time goes on.

Of course, it helps to do a little soothsaying. I got lucky in 1988. I predicted tiny cell phones at a time when the smallest one needed a closet of its own. In the same year, I fantasized about music on chips -- on what we now call memory cards -- taking up only 10 percent of the space needed on CDs. All these years later, MP3s have made me a prognosticator's best friend.

As it turns out, the future is easier to forecast than it used to be. We're basically all done with trends; we've set them and now we travel on them. The destinations aren't clear, but the routes are there for the taking.

With that in mind, I see five developments that will change our lives over the next 30 years.

By 2015: Electronic book readers and tablets will turn the page when you look at the edge of the screen. This is already possible, but costs too much for production units.

By 2017: Blazingly fast Internet connections, both wired (using fiberoptic cables) and wireless (using a new, long-range version of Wi-Fi) will be available in most areas of the country. Super fast wired connections are already in place in some cities. in seven years we we will all wonder how we got along with our "slow" cable and FiOS service.

By 2021: Driverless taxis are approved for major cities, with driverless cars of any kind OK'd for limited-access superhighways. Honda introduces riderless motorcycles for desert racing. They will catch on quickly and become an industry trend, ideal for high-speed emergency package delivery between cities at speeds of 250 to 270 mph.

By 2030: Most wind turbines will be replaced by piezoelectric panels that generate electricity when stressed (bent slightly) by the wind. Expensive solar panels reach the end of their reign, supplanted by solar paint on buildings and signs.

By 2043: Quantum communication devices become affordable for consumers, providing nearly instantaneous connections to the International Mars Colony. At 1,000 times the speed of light, these phones will let wealthy Americas call family members and friends on Mars duty. Call service will become cheaper, of course, in the following year, 2044 -- but that's a subject for my 30-year predictions in 2043. See you then!