11 Bold Predictions for the Next Decade in Tech

Goodbye awkward teens, hello 2020s: The next decade in tech

Man and tech

 Lifewire / Tim Liedtke

As a rule, I never look forward without looking back. I truly believe that, as the saying goes, the past is prologue. In the days and weeks leading up to this now almost exhausted decade, we had high hopes and predictions for:

  •  A rapidly growing Internet
  • Vast and unprecedented miniaturization
  • Nano technology
  • The end of physical computers
  • On-retina displays
  • Conversations with virtual assistants
  • An artificial brain
Man with crystal ball
I wish I had crystal ball like this. Kuma Films

Where We've Been

Having just lived through this century’s teenage years, you know that our predictions were about half right. The Internet has consumed us, and we are talking to personality-starved Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, but PCs still exist, and no one is putting a display on my retina.

I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted all that’s happened in the last 10 years. It was the decade of social media, Zuckerberg, Musk, and AI.

We said goodbye to floppy drives and our short-lived obsession for e-readers. 3DTVs were briefly a thing, but now most of those 3D glasses sit unused in living room credenzas. 3D printers were supposed to change humanity, but consumers couldn’t be bothered with the finicky systems and often uninspiring 3D output.

Cloud storage and computing is arguably one of the decade’s most important technologies. I challenge you to find a business or tech consumer that isn’t a cloud customer.

Mobile broadband is taken for granted and we now watch HD video on the smallest screens wherever we are.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk will be just as influential in the 2020s as he was in this decade.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

We lost Steve Jobs and watched Mark Zuckerberg become one of the richest and most powerful tech CEOs in the world.

Elon Musk made his mark in electric and self-driving cars as well as space and solar technology. He went from a name only the most tech savvy knew to an inescapable tech and innovation personality.

The gig economy employed and made millions (mostly for those running companies like Uber), but also generated massive and still growing disillusionment, part of the great tech realignment of the early 21st century.

Artificial Intelligence is now an accepted part of everyday life and one of the least trusted technologies on the planet.

Augmented reality and virtual reality have changed how we view the world and ourselves (hello Lens), but virtual reality still lags AR in overall influence.

What's Next

Obviously, all that happened over the past 3,652 days laid the groundwork for what’s to come in 2020 and beyond.

Regulation and Trust

We can’t have a tech reckoning, for example, without the growing tech distrust of 2016-2019.

California is about to become the capital of tech regulation. The progressive state passes tech legislation faster than virtually any other and its smart and sometimes draconian laws are often followed to the letter by tech companies for all its users across the U.S. Starting on January 1, 2020, for example, companies producing virtually all smart technology will have to follow California’s strict information privacy act

Federal regulation won’t even be fully discussed in Congress or the White House until after the 2020 Presidential Election, but that won’t stop California from steering the S.S. Tech Regulation for the rest of the country. And whatever California doesn’t regulate, the European Union will.

The tech future is 'all very fascinating and frightening at the same time.'

5G and Beyond
Whatever wires remain in our connected society should disappear throughout the next decade. Whether it’s the shift to ubiquitous 5G (and 6G) or wireless electricity, power and networking cables will, at least for consumer technology, soon be a thing of the past.

In the case of 5G, competing 5G technologies will fold into one, dominant technology by mid-decade (if not sooner), which should accelerate rollout and adoption. Of course, by that time, we’ll be obsessed with 6G, whatever that will be.

Battery Power
In the next decade, scientists will squeeze every drop of performance out of lithium-ion battery technology. We’ll see new ultra-fast charging technologies, more efficient chemical components (graphite instead of silicon), and nanowire batteries that never die. In addition, mobile technology companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung will continue to tweak and enhance AI to improve on-device battery management.

Unfortunately, any real breakthroughs in battery technology, something that moves us away from lithium-ion, is illusory, at best.

Our Mobile Screen Choice
In the near-term, 2020 will be filled with a wider array of mobile screen choices. We’ll see more flexible displays in a variety of form factors, but dual and triple screens (yes, like the current dual, triple, and quadruple camera lens craze) will be just as popular. Transparent screens, which thanks to OLED are already technically feasible, might finally start appearing on some mobile devices by 2025.

Our Evolving Smart Homes
Despite privacy concerns, the smart home revolution shows no signs of slowing down. The biggest changes in the coming decade will revolve around protocols and ubiquity. There will be an underlying, agreed-upon smart home language that will enable all competing smart home technologies to seamlessly integrate and communicate. By the end of the decade, introducing smarts to virtually anything (clothing, a coffee maker, nano paint on a wall) may take little more than attaching a smart, wirelessly-enabled sticker.

Does the next decade look a little like this?.  Tesla

Car Tech
Self-driving car technology and the infrastructure to support them will meet in the middle in the latter part of the next decade, with virtually all states supporting self-driving car licenses and adding autonomous vehicle lanes (similar to HOV Lanes) to keep those who still want to drive from mixing too much with driverless cars, buses, and autonomous semi-trucks.

Also, by the end of the decade, 75% of those cars will be all electrical vehicles.

Staying Social
Our fraught relationship with social media doesn’t mean that platforms like Facebook and Twitter die in the next decade (I guess they could, but it’s unlikely). Instead, just as 2019 has witnessed the rise of TikTok, we’ll see many more new platforms come and go. If there’s a theme among any of them, it will be tighter community and real relationships as opposed to fake friends and empty-calorie Likes.

End of Cable
Throughout the 2020s, we’ll witness the steady decline of broadcast and traditional cable with a proliferation of à la carte streaming options. However, by mid-decade, consolidation and bundling will be the norm as more consumers buy combo streaming packages, essentially recreating the current cable system without the carriage fees.

My Robo Friend
If Boston Dynamics parkour-capable Atlas robotSpot robot dog, and even Sony’s new AIBO are any indication, we will see our first C-3PO-style home assistants by the end of this next decade. They’ll still be prohibitively expensive and used primarily in elder care, some production and factory situations, and by the wealthy, but I envision a personal robotics tipping point on or around 2035. The 2020s will be the spark, though.

Quantum computing holds the potential to solve world and human problems with the speed and awe-inspiring power of a Thanos Snap, but while IBM, Intel, and Google declare “Quantum Supremacy,” none of them have managed to move quantum computers out of the laboratory. I think the 2020s is when that changes. Of course, I’m worried that when they finally feed the Climate Change problem into one of these boxes that the result will be “you’re screwed.”

Not Quite
Even though we’ll probably see our first completed hyperloop by the end of the 2020s, it won’t be in the U.S. and it probably won’t be for commuters. The 2030s will be the breakthrough decade for that sub-supersonic transportation technology.

Similarly, NASA's plans to take us to Mars, which it hopes to do in the 2030s, are already behind schedule. I wonder if we’ll even make it back to the moon before 2025.

I’m certain that cryptocurrency will be a vibrant part of the economic and financial conversation in the 2020s, but I don’t see it replacing any standard monetary systems. Instead, crypto will become the immutable backend for a wider variety of secure accounting and transaction systems.

An Expert Opinion

Finally, I asked my tech and sci-fi idol William Shatner, who has seen almost nine decades of technological innovation and is, even at 88, a true digital citizen, what he sees for the future of technology (one I fully expect him to witness with us).

Like me, Shatner sees a future world of even “faster smaller better” technology. However, there’s a broader concern that will dog us over the next 10 years: “privacy and how it relates to technology being used by us and reported back to whomever,” wrote Shatner in a Twitter DM.

The actor, author, and sometimes futurist thinks we may see a more transactional world where “one may opt in on revealing privacy for some benefits. Would you allow a company that manufacturers a device to keep track of your usage of it if they offered you that device for free or at a discount?”

Wearables will only grow in prominence and utility over the next few years. Shatner and I agree that the core benefit here is the potential ability for an always-on-your body device to help diagnose potential health problems. The past few years have been filled with stories of Apple Watches and their built-in health monitoring technology saving lives.

That tension, though, between the palliative potential of modern technology and our need to live authentic, digitally unencumbered lives will remain.

Perhaps, Shatner put it best when he told me the tech future is “all very fascinating and frightening at the same time.”

So What

Anyone who tells you they know exactly what’s going to happen in the technology (or any other sector) over the next 10 years is lying. I have no crystal ball, only my experience, my research, and a sense of which way the innovation wind is blowing. I suggest we all meet on this spot right before 2030 to see if I was right.

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