This week, UK’s government set out plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 – so what else will we see in 23 years’ time?
Here, with the help of Europe’s top futurist Ray Hammond, we create a picture of how the world might look in the post-petrol age.
We will all wear a huge range of sensors that will constantly monitor things such as blood pressure, blood sugar and blood oxygen level.
Longevity will rise, with many living well beyond 100.
Children born in 2040 will have a more or less indefinite life. With gene therapy, stem cell and nano-scale medicine, barring an accident or fatal disease, we may live for ever and look much younger. With exoskeletons – artificial, externally-worn support structures – the elderly will stay mobile for longer. Now they are bulky and rigid but they will be soft and comfy.
People will fall in love with robot partners, which will impact relationships.
As it is we have a habit of seeing human characteristics in inanimate objects and with robots growing more advanced, it is inevitable that some people will couple up with them.
Weddings will become rarer and promiscuity will go off the scale as social attitudes get more relaxed.
On average, women today have nine sexual partners in their lifetime and men have 11 – expect that to rise to 100 for women and 200 for men.
Most cars will be driving themselves, with motorways and roads having self-driving lanes.
Driverless traffic could travel in convoys, forming “road trains” and allowing vehicles to drive much closer together, freeing up motorway space.
The only place where you could experience being in control of a car yourself would be a licensed race track.
Ahead of the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars in 2040, we can expect scrappage schemes during the 2030s which will phase them out. Our roads will look and sound very different.
As for air travel, there will not be huge changes. The dawn of electric and self-flying planes is possible but they will still be a small minority.
We will see hyper-loops – transport tubes through which passenger pods can travel at up to 700 mph.
As the world’s population booms from the present seven billion to more than nine billion, we will not be able to farm meat as we have done up to now.
There won’t be enough space for all the animals we would need plus their methane emissions could cause unsustainable environmental damage.
Instead, we will see artificial tissue – meat – grown in factories, without the need for a living animal.
Burgers have already been produced and eaten in a lab and by 2040 up to 40 percent of meat will be artificial or from substitutes such as plants. It will be engineered to look, taste and smell like the real thing.
Insects will also be a staple in products resembling their meat versions, such as sausages or burgers. They are protein-rich, cheaper and greener.
And with most people living in cities, crops may be grown on vertical farms up the sides of skyscrapers.
Our smartphones will have more or less disappeared, replaced by control centers which we will wear in a series of devices around our body.
For example, we will wear smart contact lenses, with texts floating in front of our eyes and earrings that send messages from a virtual assistant into our ears.
We won’t look as if we are wearing anything extra but it will be as if we are looking through a smartphone at the real world, albeit one more powerful than anything we know today.
Our social networks will also become integral to the real world. We may see a stranger in the street and, using facial recognition software linked to our control centers, will instantly know their name and be able to access their profile.
As a result, privacy will be a hot topic.
We will have to face the question of whether machines will be our slaves or our masters.
Computers will be as good at problem-solving as humans, with the prospect of soon surpassing us.
Then the question will be whether we let them take control or try to regulate and modify artificial intelligence. Or genetically modify humans so we can compete with machines.
Our decisions could have profound effects on world order. If the West chooses to regulate its machines, it could be at a disadvantage compared to countries that allow computers to develop unchecked.
Today people are glued to phones and iPads – but to imagine life in 2040, magnify that by 100.
We will spend most of our time in virtual worlds, whether at work or at leisure. Instead of looking at a device, we will experience this as if it were real. It won’t even seem artificial. The novelty will be leaving the virtual world to meet humans in real life, an activity that will become rarer.
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