Air buses, AI distilled whiskey, 3D home printers: Futurist looks ahead to 2037

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Can you imagine the year 2037?

What will people wear? What will they drive (or ride in)? What foods will they eat?

Futurist Christopher Rice posed these questions before his presentation at the One NKY Regional Summit Wednesday afternoon.

In a short 15 years, we’ll have these answers, but at Wednesday’s summit, Rice discussed his predictions. And while predictions can be difficult, Rice said the question of what we can do today and what action we can take now for the future stands relevant.

A fact we know will reign true in 2035, Rice said, is that older adults are projected to outnumber children as the U.S. slowly becomes a grey nation. Rural areas are quickly becoming older faster than other areas. Urban areas are getting younger.

Beginning in 2007 and 2008 people stopped having as many children, Rice said.

“With less people makes immigration more important for maintaining a viable workforce and entitlement system,” Rice said. “Growing older when population is declining is a very viable concern.”

After 2020, lower birth rates continued at an even faster pace as COVID-19 began to have a larger impact on the active population. Twenty percent of COVID biomes cause long COVID, whether you were vaxxed or not, Rice said, and there’s also a 28-40% increase in probability of getting Type 2 Diabetes.

Coupled with a rise in an older population is a rise in multigenerational homes.

In fact, one in five households in the U.S. are already multigenerational. Colleges and universities are also encouraging multigenerational living as many are sponsoring retirement communities on their grounds, hoping that the young and old can enrich each other’s lives and inspire lifelong learning. Purchase College in New York and Arizona State have already drawn up plans for these interactions.

Rice broke his predictions down into four trends: technological, economic, environmental and political.

Technological trends

Artificial Intelligence continues to make lasting impacts within our society. In art, Rice gave an example of AI that allows you to type in “I want a frog wearing a top hat” and then have a digital photo of a frog wearing a top hat.

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Flavors of food are also being created within AI, Rice said, that will soon be regular menu items at restaurants you frequent today.

Even Whiskey has a future with AI, Rice said. Before you know it, the next generation of Woodford Reserve will have been created through the AI simulation.

So what does this mean, and who do we educate with the continuous rise of AI, Rice posed to the audience. Poets, educators and prompt engineers are the creatives that spell out good ways to tell AI what it wants and how to make it happen. It requires thinking deeply about the aesthetics that are being produced, he said.

Another technological trend is fewer people and more deliveries. Next time you see an Amazon delivery truck, keep an eye out for a drone dropping off your package at the doorstep, Rice said.

Colleges around the U.S. have already begun a similar operation with food delivery. Grubhub has robots that drive around campuses, delivering food to individuals who ordered and paid through the app. Upon arrival, the robot opens up and you grab your food.

Grocery store pickup is also transitioning to this operation. When you order your groceries online, robots will select everything and have it ready for pickup.

And self driving trucks, believe it or not, are already on the roads as you read this sentence. Einride has operators that operate 12 trucks out on the road at one time from a small pod.

And lastly, but certainly not least, Rice said, is air travel.

The Volocopter Velocity Air Taxi will fly whisper quiet, and emission free, he predicted. It will connect passengers to key transportation hubs like train stations and airports.

The ES-30 will electrify regional air travel, Rice said. Running 125 miles on battery, the ES-30 can fit 30 passengers and charge in 30 minutes. It has zero emissions at airports, on routes up to 200 kilometers and on routes beyond 200 kilometers as the battery evolves.

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Manufacturers are gearing up for Hybrid Air vehicles as soon as 2025.

Economic Trends

Our economy is slowly but surely becoming more electrified, Rice said. The use of electric cars and printers help us do more with less.

While Kentucky only makes up for .28% of electric vehicles in the U.S., the numbers still continue to rise, making the need for good, fast and cheap batteries urgent.

Kentucky happens to sit in the middle of a battery belt, where the batteries for the electric cars are being built. The demand for lithium, a requirement in these batteries, will increase by 90% to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Rice said.

In that year, humanity could devour an estimated 140 billion tons of mineral ores and fuels, he said, so optimizing for a circular economy by investing in these infrastructure moves, developing markets for recyclable materials and making things differently is critical.

Nike recently came out with their sneature, a compostable shoe made from 3D knitted dog hair.

Printers are printing concrete to build some houses in Austin, Texas. The U.S. Army is currently building the world’s largest 3D housing printer.

Agriculture innovations are also being made with things like fresh meat being grown from plants or in a lab, Rice said. Think of Impossible Beef.

Environmental Trends

By the end of the century, we are looking at roughly a 3% temperature increase and a 1.5% temperature increase within the next five years, Rice said.

In 2021, extreme heat killed more Americans than any other disaster.

On Sept. 8, Rice said that more than 1,000 heat records were set. No September on record in the west has seen a heat wave like this.

“Don’t think of the summer of 2022 as the hottest summer of your life,” Rice said. “Think of it as the coolest summer for the rest of your life.”

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This past summer, the Yangtze River in Hubei ran dry, along with the Loire in France. In Monterrey Mexico, taps no longer had flowing water.

The U.S. is tending to grow where water isn’t and the heat is following, Rice said.

Louisville is starting to feel the temperatures Little Rock, Arkansas has been feeling on the daily.

A lot of this emotional distress stemming from environmental impacts that create a feeling of sadness directly connected to individuals’ home environments has been dubbed “Solastalgia.” As your home environment changes, it begins to create this form of nostalgia for a place that no longer exists.

How in the future can we prevent these sort of environmental impacts? Places like Climeworks Orca Plant and Climeworks Mammoth Plant, Rice said, have begun capturing and storing air and making carbon-dioxide removal.

“Kentucky could be a great place to store one of these plants safely and permanently,” said Rice. “A lot of these plants can be seen in the new Inflation Reduction Act that was just passed.”

Political Trends

The world is becoming less globalized than how it was in the 90s, Rice said. He elaborated to say that the internet that connects the world is beginning to fall apart.

Rice sited the the European Union, which recently passed a number of regulations impacting privacy rights in 2018.

Russia, he said, shut down all access to Instagram back in March of this year.

Fact-checking is also becoming less reliable, Rice said. In the Ukraine conflict, he used as an example, fake fact checks are being used to spread disinformation.

In the U.S., Rice said there are 879,000 cybersecurity professionals in the workforce, and there’s an unfilled need for another 359,000.

Political divisions continue domestically, Rice said. Polarizing language, violence in the streets and rallies have turned into rampages and many more things.

“It gets late out there early, folks,” Rice said. “You can make a difference early in these trends.”

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