Peter Diamandis on 2018 Forecast from Silicon Valley
Technological advances are accelerating at a rapid pace and this year will be no exception.
Fasten your seatbelts because here’s a forecast of major trends from Peter Diamandis, one of Silicon Valley’s most influential thinkers and entrepreneurs.
Communications: A fifth-generation wireless system, called 5G will roll out this year, allowing users to download a movie in one second, among other attributes. At the same time, hundreds more satellites and helium balloons by Google’s Loon Project will provide connections to the half of the world currently unconnected. This will generate major economic growth.
New Money: Cryptocurrencies or tokens (ICOs) will get attention and gain more participation this year. In December, the top app online globally was Coinbase where 13 million investors opened accounts to trade in digital currencies, notably established ones like Bitcoin and Ether, boosting their value. Bitcoin now has a market capitalization value of US$200 billion and Ethereum US$100 billion.
But buyers beware. One entrepreneur suggested that investors “only put in money you can afford to lose” unless you understand digital currencies.
Energy: Coal and other fossil fuels are now more expensive than solar or wind. For instance, the cost of coal ranges between 3 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh). Solar in Mexico now costs 2.7 cents per kwh and 2.4 cents kwh in the United Arab Emirates.
China and India have stopped construction on 200-plus coal plants in favour of solar and wind. Europe, specifically Germany, is the world leader. The internal combustion engine is going to be banned in several countries, including Germany in 2030, and the continent will move first toward electric cars. Meanwhile, Mercedes Benz has announced all its vehicles will be electric by 2020.
This is hardly surprising because the European Union has never been energy self-sufficient, mostly dependent on oil from troublesome Russia and the Middle East.
Germany, for instance, now generates 33 per cent of its power from renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass and on many days of the year is 85 per cent renewable. Gigantic wind farms off Scotland will provide most of its power this year.
Healthcare: A cheap handheld device called the Tricorder — first seen on sci-fi series Star Trek — will be available to consumers this year and can detect 15 diseases better than physicians. A new blood test will be available to detect Stage 1 cancers for prevention and the first kidney, 3-D printed from cell tissues, is to be implanted this year.
Transportation: Driverless cars, taxis, buses have been approved this year in Singapore, Beijing, Estonia and many U.S. regions. The development of lighter batteries providing longer range is being pursued by Tesla and other auto companies collaborating with tech giants.
Robotics: Japan’s Softbank has set aside US$1 trillion to buy technology start-ups including robotics companies. Japan will dominate the field, driven by the need for robots because of its aging population, and leverage its enormous capability in electronics. Advances in the development of artificial muscles will lead to the proliferation of humanoid robots. In a sign that humanoid robots are coming sooner than we think, Saudi Arabia gave “citizenship” to a robot named Sophia last year.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has estimated that 1.6 million drones (robots) will fly daily, and be regulated, by 2021.
AI and computation: A major milestone was also reached last week when artificial intelligence machines demonstrated that their AIs could read and comprehend text at levels equivalent to the average human being.
Space: The Saudis have invested US$1 billion in Virgin Space, Richard Branson’s space travel company. The cost of space launches continues to plummet and the private-sector space industry has replaced governments. Optimistic estimates, by Elon Musk, is that he will land on Mars in 2024.
Published Financial Post Jan. 26, 2017