It’s fascinating to look at trends that are beginning today and think how they might play out in future.
Here are some dramatic predictions that I see happening or at least beginning to happen by the year 2030, written from the perspective of my future self in that year.
75% of universities around the world have gone out of business
Why have most universities shut down? To start let me explain what school “was” like in the year 2013…
In 2013 a university tuition at Harvard was around $54,000 per year, and standard universities in the US cost over $20,000. Even back in 2013 many universities were putting entire courses online for free. Organizations such as Coursera, the Khan academy and Udacity had already appeared, enabling the world’s best lecturers to give their lectures for free online.
A few short years later, one of the top ranked universities took the step of not just offering their material for free online (as they did in 2013), but actually offering degrees to anyone who reviewed the information and passed all examinations. The cost to take the exams was less than 10% of the cost of a traditional degree. In other words, it became possible to get Harvard-quality degree at the cost of less than $5,000 per year by reviewing the course materials online, participating in online peer to peer tutoring and then taking accredited examinations. Organizations were created around the world that provide these examinations locally, starting in India and Kenya.
Quickly several other top tier universities followed and millions of students from around the world started studying at these best-in-the-world universities. Students from across the US, India, Kenya, Brazil, and the Philippines, when presented with the opportunity of gaining a degree from Harvard, jumped at the chance. Many of the lower tier, less prestigious universities simply could not compete and were forced out of business.
An online economy evolved around tutoring and one on one mentoring for students. So although it is possible to gain a degree at less than 10% of the previous cost, many wealthy students choose to pay significant amounts for one on one or group tutoring outside of their free online university education.
The 25% of universities that survived have done so by either building up their own online course offering, by partnering with top-tier universities to provide local testing services, or by renting facilities and equipment to students for courses that need specialized equipment and cannot be taught entirely virtually.
10% of the wealthiest companies in the US are considered to be “Virtual corporations”
Now that students in India can receive a degree from Harvard, the competition for jobs and talent has become truly global. However immigration laws have not kept up and it is still very difficult to procure immigration visas to many rich countries. This has accelerated the pace of the globalization of work. Chinese companies often outsource work to US individuals when they are unable to find someone adequately qualified in China.
Companies are now operating increasingly virtually and the “virtual corporation” has been defined as a company that has less than 10% of it’s workers in an office at any point in time.
90% of taxi companies have gone out of business
By 2013, three US states had already passed laws permitting driverless cars. It was the beginning of the phenomenon of autonomous vehicles. This led to the organization of “driving clubs” where a group of 1,000 people share 50 automated cars between them.
To order a car, members simply call an automated service and request the delivery. The economics of this type of shared driving group are such that taxis driven by real people no longer make financial sense. Unfortunately most taxi companies were too late in providing autonomous vehicles because of legal liability concerns. The driving clubs bypassed the legal liability issues by starting as informal groups. 80% of members of these driving clubs no longer have their own car.
Automated delivery vans with delivery robots enable 2-hour delivery in urban areas and are disrupting the concept of retail stores
Another way that autonomous vehicles are creating significant disruption is in fast delivery of items ordered on the Internet.
A company evolved in San Francisco that provides 2 hour delivery of any item at a delivery cost as low as $4 within 2 hours and $2 within 24 hours (in 2013 dollars).
This is possible with an autonomous vehicle that has a robot inside. The robot calls the recipient to let them know when they are arriving and then gets out of the delivery van to deliver the item. With a fleet of automated delivery vans this company is able to deliver items within 2 hours in most cases from a warehouse in the same city. The entire distribution process is completely automated with no people involved in the transport of the goods from warehouse to household. Welcome to the age of hyper-efficient supply chains and delivery mechanisms.
50% of supermarkets have gone out of business
With such cheap and fast delivery of any item there is little need to drive to a supermarket, pick up an item and drive home. It’s so much more convenient to simply order the item online and then receive it at your door 2 hours later. Tablet apps are making this process a whole lot easier as they simply show you a list of what you’ve ordered previously and allow you to tick whatever you want to order this time.
Artificial intelligence (AI) assistant apps allow you to automate the whole process. Your AI assistant will detect whenever you dispose something in the garbage bin and ask you if you want a resupply of the item. The entire supermarket purchase process for households takes 5 minutes versus more than 1 hour previously.
Some supermarkets however have evolved their business model to become more of a discovery engine for new products. Companies pay supermarkets to display their products and provide samples for consumers. Any consumer that takes a sample is required to provide their identity and verified email address so that the manufacturer can follow up and entice them to purchase the item again. Protests have broken out in some of these supermarkets as companies refused to give out samples to households with low income levels. The protesters were incensed that their income should be a requirement for receiving samples.
Shopping in real life is for experiences and services, and shopping for goods and necessities is almost always done online
Online shopping is now better than retail shopping in most respects: it is cheaper, easier, in most cases faster as you do not have to drive to the shop. Retail stores are more frequently being turned into promotional outlets, where customers can have a fun experience sampling products that will later be ordered online and delivered.
Cable television is dead
This one is not much of a surprise. The last cable television network ceased to exist in 2026 and now television viewing is available on demand on the Internet.
24/7 recording of your life
Some people are recording their entire life through wearable cameras that are attached carefully behind their ear lobes and through immersive 3d reality glasses (the precursor of which was “Google Glass” in 2012).
The trend of recording their entire lives started for a few different reasons. Some individuals want a record that they can go back to, in the hope that they will somehow be able to get these memories re-installed in their brain (the technology for this does not yet exist). Others record their life just for fun.
Police are also mandated to use this technology to gather evidence for crimes. Criminals that are released on premature parole are required to record their entire life to prove they have not participated in any crimes (this information is kept private from all humans, artificial intelligence agents analyze the videos to look for any criminal activity).
Cell phones are totally out of fashion
Any respectable teenager wouldn’t be caught dead with a cell phone, although some people over the age of 70 still use them.
The replacement technologies fall into two categories:
- The same glasses that allow people to record their lives also provide instant voice and video chat, Internet browsing, and have replaced computers for many people.
- Some people who prefer a more grounded “real life” experience prefer a more simple device that attaches behind the ear and operates via an AI agent with audio instructions to connect phone calls, research contacts, ask for directions etc.
Climate change effects are not yet catastrophic, but there are some technological solutions that look promising to reduce greenhouse gasses
Climate change is causing some increase in droughts in Africa and would have the potential of causing famine, but this has been effectively compensated for by GMO crops developed by the Gates foundation.
The summer arctic sea ice has diminished to almost zero but sea levels have not yet risen significantly. There is not yet any panic or any significant increase in concerted governmental action around climate change compared with the year 2013. There are however some promising new technologies such as low cost solar cells and there has been increased use of electric and hybrid cars that offer hope that climate change can be averted.
China has taken major measures to increase air quality. Chinese cities are not livable with a 60% decrease in dangerous particulates in the air around major cities in China compared with 2013.
The smart grid and smart devices have made energy distribution and use a whole lot more efficient
The electricity grid has become a lot smarter and government mandates have increased the use of smart energy devices. These devices save energy and distribute electricity load more effectively. Simple examples are refrigerators that turn off for a few minutes when electricity load on the grid is too high, and electric cars that charge at night.
The U.S. is no longer importing oil
In 2012 fracking for shale oil started to increase oil production in the US significantly. That same year, the International Energy Agency predicted that the US would become the world’s leading oil producer by 2017 and would become self sufficient in oil in the 2030s. They were right.
Intelligent systems are disrupting multiple industries
In 2012 IBM’s Watson beat the top rated player in Jeopardy. This kind of artificial intelligence technology has evolved significantly to disrupt multiple industries:
- AI bookkeepers – these allow you to scan a bunch of documents, upload them to the agent, and then the agent sends you a list of questions that they need clarified (pretty similar to a normal bookkeeper really!). These AI bookkeepers are so effective that real life bookkeepers cannot keep up, and the occupation of “bookkeeper” has died out. A real life accountant gets involved in less than 1% of queries where the AI agent is not able to solve the issue.
- Call center agents – they now respond to your call in a lifelike voice. It’s sometimes hard to detect if you’re speaking with a live agent or an intelligent system.
- Virtual lawyers – large law firms use intelligent agents to take on legal cases at 10% of the cost of traditional firms.
Very fast DNA sequencing and other crime scene investigation technologies make crimes very difficult to get away with
A crime scene robot collects a variety of evidence at the scene. Thousands of samples are gathered and analyzed for DNA evidence and compared with databases automatically at the scene.
Even if a person is not on the DNA database the DNA analysis is able to see if any of their relatives are on the database by comparing the DNA sequence for familial similarities. After identifying the DNA, other databases are automatically cross-referenced giving the police force a very accurate history of everyone who has been at the crime scene and their historical activities for the past few weeks. Crime is becoming very difficult to get away with.
The government really DOES know everything about you
Major terrorist attacks have forced the US government to do everything in its power to prevent terrorism. The only way they can do this is to gather and process an incredible amount of intelligence. The age of privacy is over. The CIA has full access to everyone’s online and financial activities.
Governments around the world have co-operated to eliminate terrorism and have collaborated to create a centralized database of searchable video camera recordings. This database has quickly expanded with operation “Warm Blanket” which involves 5,000 drones, each with dozens cameras, in continuous flight covering the entire US, much of western Europe and areas around the world that harbor suspected terrorists. Most importantly AI agents scour this data to look for connections with suspected terrorists. The CIA and co-operating foreign intelligence agencies can upload photos of people to the AI agent which returns a list of all instances that they were recorded by the drone network.
The AI agents are able to identify individuals by looking at the tops of their heads, or by recognizing unique signatures in articles of clothing worn by suspected terrorists. It’s often possible to see a complete history of the person’s travels over the past few years using this technology.
30% reduction in prisons and the trend is likely to continue
The costs of prisons in the US reached a crisis point leading to a new law of “monitored rehabilitation” instead of prison time. What this means is that people that are not considered a severe danger to society do not go to prison, and instead are tracked with a GPS device and a wearable video camera that records all of their activities. Child sex offenders for example can be monitored 24/7 to see if they are obsessively looking at pictures of children.
The prisons that remain are becoming increasingly automated, with less humans involved in their day-to-day operation. Despite the decreased human involvement, prisons are more safe and secure than ever thanks to AI agents that constantly analyze live videos of all prison areas, easily detecting such violations as drug use and violence. The AI agent named the AVDU (Automatic Violence Detection Unit) detect violence or facial expressions that lead to violence and then disable the violent prisoners with stun devices that are shot from robots in the ceiling. Prisons have become rather dull places actually.
Robots are the soldiers of the future – 55% reduction in armed forces personnel
In 2013 robots used by armed forces were capable of following an individual in a crowd based only on a photo. In warfare they were capable of detecting where a shot was fired from and shooting back immediately with pin-point accuracy.
In 2030 armed robots are superior in their fighting capability to humans in almost every way. They have more endurance and accuracy, and are essential impossible for any human to fight against with conventional firearms.
The “job” of army personnel is intelligence gathering and remote control operation of airborne and ground based drone forces. Jobs in the military are a lot more technical, and have little to do with physical toughness. The US Marines no longer base their recruitment effort on physical ability at all, they look only at intelligence and technical ability. Physically disabled individuals are deployed as active duty marines. In the US sending people into battle is something you read about in history books. Fighting is purely via proxy, with robot’s taking the place of people.
In 2025 in Nigeria, a US military robot accidentally killed two small children when it was trying to recapture a US government official who had been captured by terrorists. This led to an international outcry and the introduction of the International Robot Violence Convention. This convention mandates that robots are designed to capture and maim but never to kill.
In the last 5 years robots have become increasingly proficient at capturing enemy soldiers without killing, building on technology that existed in 2013 such as the US “Active Denial System”. Modern systems can now create a virtual fence around enemy combatants to contain them. If they try to cross the barrier they experience heating of their skin and pain that becomes unbearable. Some states have also used this technology on their own citizens to stop rioters.
Finally, supersonic jets enable Sydney to London flights in 4 hours (rather than 23 hours) or New York to Rio de Janeiro in 2 hours
The jet set think nothing of heading to Rio for the weekend, or travelling to Thailand for an evening of entertainment.
Simple medical devices can scan your entire body and diagnose 95% of diseases in 5 minutes
A small device the size of a suitcase is able to provide the equivalent of an MRI scan (but with a 3D reconstruction of the image), and also to conduct most routine blood tests as well as other new diagnostic advances that can detect lung cancer from a breath test for example.
A preliminary report is generated from the scan via an AI agent that is able to accurately diagnose the problem in most cases. A radiologist review is used more to “rubber stamp” the AI assessment of the scan.
Extreme poverty has reduced to almost zero
From the year 2000 to 2012, the mortality rate for children under 5 dropped by 2.65 million deaths a year. That was more than 7,256 children saved each day. As defined by the world bank, extreme poverty means those living on less than $1.50 per day (2013 dollars).
The proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty decreased from over 43% in 1990 to 21% in 2010. The trend continued, and extreme poverty was eliminated by 2030.
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