I’m a bit skeptical about claims regarding the glorious future. One reason for the skepticism is the fact that the West seems to be careening toward a very bad period, similar to what happened at the end of the industrial revolution. Super intelligent robots, the singularity, forever life and so on assume a quickening pace of technological discovery. A crisis period like the end of the 19th through the middle 20th century would put a halt to that sort of progress, by redirecting resources to the crisis.
Then there is the fact that predictions about the future are always hilariously wrong. We should probably be thankful that these predictions prove to be wrong. Imagine dressing like this. The mistake futurists always make is in assuming current trends will continue unabated into the future. They also always assume things will unfold within their lifetime or close enough to it so they can get their hopes up for actually seeing it. If you spend your days dreaming of the glorious future, you hope to see it.
All that said, I enjoy reading the predictions. Stories like this are catnip for me because they seem plausible. Quality of life improvements always attract investment. Come up with a practical way to transport humans from Sydney to London in two hours and you are a going to make billions. Even a six hour flight would be awesome. Making air transport faster and more pleasant is the sort of opportunity that is possible and potentially wildly profitable so I can see it taking a big leap forward in the near term.
That got me thinking about what else smart people, with an eye on profit, will be looking to improve in the near future. The most obvious place to look is health. I don’t mean living forever stuff. I’m thinking Viagra level improvement. The penis pills made their inventor billions because it addressed a basic human desire. There’s not a great demand to live forever, but there is a great demand for a long life.The longer the better. Make the daily existence of people better and you will become richer than Midas.
My guess is the next Viagra will be a pill or treatment that solves gray hair. I don’t have much in the way of gray hair, but most people my age are “dealing” with it. Woman start dying their hair as soon as they see gray. Men often go the same route, opting for ridiculous looking home treatments. Then there is the beard dying business which always looks bad. Science has a pretty good understanding of the process, so solving it is plausible. Come up with a cure and the geezers will beat a path to your door.
Along the same lines, skin tone is one of those quality of life issues that many people would pay to address. Women get treatments for their hands, to address the effects of aging. The “Madonna Mitts” problem is a big deal to women. Of course, both men and women get their faces stretched and use botox to get the wrinkles off the mug. John Forbes Kerry looks like Frankenstein because he has had so much work done to his face. Modern people want to look young and skin tone is a big part of it.
Like gray hair, this is an area that science understands enough about to think a solution is plausible. It’s really not a solution that’s needed, as much as it needs mitigation. The age at which humans start fretting over skin tone is the middle years. By the time you reach your late fifties you have come to terms with your mortality and get on with enjoying your time. A pill or treatment that helps the 30-year old women look 25 for a few more years would make the inventor a billionaire.
Finally, I was at the diner the other day and the place was full of geezers. It was also full of walkers and air tanks. The complaint most people have when they age is the lack of energy. This is mostly due to reduced cardiovascular capacity. By the time you get in your 60’s, walking up hills and taking the stairs is taxing. That’s why people in their 80’s have to use walkers (often) and carry air tanks. But, this is also a complaint for people in their middle years. Being tired is probably a top-10 complaint about aging.
Again, this is something we know a bit about so addressing it is plausible. Athletes have been using drugs to goose their cardio for years. Sharapova was just banned from tennis for using the drug meldonium, which is prescribed in Eastern Europe for people suffering from congestive heart failure. In the West, we have all sorts of drugs for people suffering from lung and heart disease that preserve their cardiovascular capacity or at least extend it for a while.
If someone were able to come up with a supplement for people to take, like a daily vitamin, that would offer just a subtle boost to their cardio capacity, thus giving them more energy, without the long term side effects of current drugs, the market would be huge. Look at how many famous people in entertainment and sports abuse Adderall so they can be more alert. Maybe the answer is simply a pill for better, deeper sleep, but boosting cardio capacity could be part of it. Imagine how much money you would make if your little pill offers increased vigor throughout the day.
There you go, my glimpse into the glorious future.