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December 31, 2019, will mark the end of one whirlwind decade, and perhaps the beginning of the most important decade in recent memory with such existential threats like climate change, automation, and AI hovering over humanities head.
As we get ready to welcome the new decade, here are some questions we have for the 2020s.
Will James Dean Be the Biggest Movie Star of the Next Decade?
Earlier this month, producers announced that James Dean will star in a new movie about the Vietnam War, set to hit theaters on Veteran’s Day 2020. The catch, of course, is that Dean died in a car crash 64 years ago at age 24.
No matter: Thanks to the wonders of CGI, the long-dead heartthrob will live again on the big screen, setting a creepy precedent for reanimating old movie stars because we can’t find new ones anymore. Stay tuned for Charlie Chaplin’s eight-episode Netflix sitcom.
Are We Headed for a UFO Revolution?
Will Big Tech Finally Get a Bit Smaller?
Google. Facebook. Amazon. These are some of the most powerful firms in the world and, arguably, the Microsofts of the 2010s, given their outsize market power.
There’s a burgeoning antitrust movement against these so-called Big Tech firms—with four state attorneys general probing into Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren promising to break up Big Tech if elected—but this decade has trended in the direction of bigger and bigger behemoths.
Just this July, for instance, the Justice Department approved a $26 billion merger between two telecommunications companies, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Will We Ever Get a TV show Like Game of Thrones Again?
When Game of Thrones said goodbye last spring after eight years, it wrapped up its historic run as arguably the biggest TV series ever—and certainly the last show the world will collectively watch together. Replicating the success of a juggernaut like Thrones is impossible for any number of reasons, but mostly because it debuted and became a phenomenon well before the advent of the streaming age.
We now have over 100 on-demand entertainment services to satisfy our fractured tastes; the notion of ever reaching a consensus on a sci-fi or fantasy series again seems insane.
But that won’t stop the networks and streamers from trying to capture the zeitgeist: HBO says Thrones spinoffs are coming, and Amazon has a billion-dollar Lord of the Rings prequel series in the pipeline. Could they possibly break through?
Will Augmented Reality Finally Go Mainstream?
Remember Pokémon Go? It’s hard to believe the augmented reality app debuted over three years ago in summer 2016, but when it did—it did in a big way. It got the people outside and exercising, meeting new friends, and exploring their neighborhoods.
And the augmented reality (AR) game has generated some handsome revenue from this relatively small business unit: to the tune of $470 million in revenue after only 80 days on the app store.
Except, most augmented reality apps are fun for about five days and the we forget about them and they clutter up our phone and hog up precious memory storage. Will it be any different in 2020 as Apple promises to enter the game?
Will We Finally Regulate Self-Driving Car Tests?
While 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was walking her bike across a poorly lit street outside of a Tempe, Arizona crosswalk in March 2018, a self-driving Uber struck and killed her. That sparked a whole new debate about the safety of autonomous vehicles testing and just how much leeway regulators should give to private firms like Uber, Waymo, and Argo AI.
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the Uber safety driver behind the wheel was guilty of hitting and killing Herzberg, not the company. Just six months after the accident, which marked the first time a pedestrian had ever been killed by an automated vehicle, the U.S. Department of Transportation put out some pretty weak guidelines that firms may choose to ignore.
However, there is still freedom for states to impose their own rules, but in most cases these are simply guidelines, not requirements—and the difference between those two terms could be life or death for others like Herzberg.
So, will we see hard lines on what is and is not allowed when it comes to testing in the 2020s? It’s hard to say, but in any case, it looks like we’re still a longshot away from fully robotic vehicles.
What Will We Clone Next?
We’ve already cloned cows, sheep, cats, dogs, deer, and horses and in 2002, Clonaid, a cloning company—founded by the followers of Raelianism, who believe that humans are clones of extraterrestrials—made a huge claim: they had successfully cloned a baby girl named Eve.
However, there’s been no evidence to prove the existence of Eve or the subsequent clones the company claims to have created. There’s controversy surrounding the ethics of human cloning, so we’re curious to see where the scientific community will take this issue over the course of the next 10 years.
What Will Next-Gen Biometrics Look Like?
Biometrics have become incredibly prevalent thanks, in large part, to phones being able to recognize our faces and fingerprints. There are also retinal scans and Apple’s Siri can be trained to recognize and respond to the voice of the device’s owner and no one else.
We’re wondering what kinds of security threats enhanced biometrics could pose and how far this kind of tech will go before it’s too far and becomes an invasion of privacy (which for some, began at fingerprints).
Will the World Finally Get Serious About the Climate Crisis?
Are we going to sink or swim? The climate crisis has spawned a generation of people gravely concerned with what the future will look like if we don’t take action now to create sustainable living conditions using things like renewable resources.
It’s surprising how debated global warming has become considering the fact that it’s backed by hard scientific evidence. We’re hoping the 2020’s will be the decade of innovating and creating a better, more sustainable future.
Will Hollywood Overcome its Marvel Addiction?
It’s hard to ignore the outsized importance of Marvel movies in Hollywood in the 2010s. Avengers from 2011 and Endgame in 2019 are perfect bookends for a decade of cinema that lost itself in the tight spandex and wide profit margins of superheroes.
But with growing ire from creative giants and overall audience fatigue with similar franchises like Star Wars, could the superhero franchise finally reach its end? One can only hope.
Will We Start Trusting Science Again?
The 2010s displayed one major troubling trend in science—a growing distrust in the conclusions of overwhelming scientific research. One prominent example (and sadly not the only one) is the surprising rise of measles.
According to the CDC, “During January-September 2019, 1,249 U.S. measles cases were reported, the highest annual number since 1992. Eighty-nine percent of measles patients were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status, and 10 percent were hospitalized.”
Will the 2020s cure humanity of this reckless inability to accept scientific consensus?
Will the U.S. Finally Focus on Infrastructure?
It’s no secret that U.S. infrastructure is crumbling, and when you consider the growing threat of climate change, things start to look downright apocalyptic. Another administration has come—and will likely go—without addressing this hugely important issue.
The U.S. used to be the envy of the world in terms of infrastructure (in fact, it helped save U.S. democracy), can the country reclaim the crown in the 2020s?
Will We Finally Witness the End of the Combustion Engine?
How Many More Species Will Go Extinct?
In 2018, we lost three bird species alone and there are currently several species who will become extinct within the next few years—like the Northern White Rhinoceros. Will the next 10 years help or hurt the animals on the brink of extinction?
Google Achieved Quantum Supremacy, So What Comes Next?
After vying against the likes of IBM, Intel, and others, Google claimed to achieve an important quantum computing milestone before anyone else in the world. Their quantum computer performed a task in just over 3 minutes that no standard or supercomputer could complete in 10,000 years, according to a paper published Oct. 23 in Nature.
Companies and countries alike are leaning hard into the quantum craze. The Trump Administration is investing more than a billion dollars in quantum research through its National Quantum Initiative, and China has invested nearly half that amount and filed a slew of patents.
But what does all of this mean for us? Advances in quantum computing are sure to drive innovation in artificial intelligence, power the modeling and forecasting of complex systems—like the weather!—and change the way we encrypt, well, everything. Will this be the decade we finally harness its power?
Will We Set Up Shop on the Moon?
This year, NASA announced its new Artemis mission, in which it will send the next man and first woman to the moon by 2024. Next year, India aims to avenge the death of its Vikram lander by sending Chandrayan-3 to once again visit our natural satellite and attempt a landing. Russia has plans to visit in 2023, and China has vowed to open a permanent base on the Moon by 2030.
And then there’s private spaceflight—SpaceX’s Starship and Blue Origin’s Blue Moon are both vying for a chance to land on the lunar surface in 2023 and 2024, respectively. It’s going to be a big decade for the moon, and we’re eager to see how our exploration and colonization of the lunar surface unfolds.
It’s all missions go.
Will 5G Live Up to the Hype?
You hear the term “5G” everywhere, all the time, right? Industry experts, such as John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications in Dallas, Texas, believe that this fifth-generation mobile technology will create a virtually instantaneous real-time network.
That not only means streaming lags on your Disney+ account could dissolve into thin air, but also that self-driving cars could potentially become a reality. But is it all just a marketing ploy?
Only time will tell, but according to a report by McKinsey, “optimists tout the great benefits of low latency and high capacity that will eventually enable new value-added use cases, while pessimists focus on the lack of actual new use cases to emerge so far and what they see as a wobbly commercial rationale, not to mention the huge capital expense required.”
Will the 2020s Be a Decade of Cures?
Earlier this year, the FDA announced that the first approval of the first vaccine designed to mitigate the spread of dengue fever in endemic regions. In August, researchers announced two treatments—an experimental vaccine and a drug called Zmapp—have shown promise in combating against the spread of ebola.
Recently developed treatments for HIV have made the virus all but disappear, living virtually undetectable in the body. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pouring money into curing polio—there were less than 40 cases worldwide in 2016—and malaria, the world’s deadliest disease.
Researchers are slowly beginning to untangle the ins and outs of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The race to cure the world’s most prolific diseases has been a long, hard-fought battle, but, somehow, it feels like may be inching closer to curing them.
Will Nuclear Fusion Finally Arrive?
Nuclear fusion energy, a renewable, carbon-free source of energy, powers our sun and other stars. We’ve been trying to harness this power here on Earth for decades.
ITER, the largest of the nuclear fusion energy projects, says they’ll achieve their first plasma reaction—the first of many steps—in 2025. MIT researchers partnering with a private company claim they’ll achieve fusion within 15 years. It’s ambitious by any stretch of the imagination.
While we may not see fusion turned into viable energy in the next decade, we’ll likely see incredible progress—especially as the impacts of climate change worsen and pressure to find alternative solutions increases.
Will the Space Force Get Off the Ground?
President Trump’s dream of a sixth branch of the armed services, meant to manage off-planet defense, is in its nascent stage, with planners sketching out what it would look like when it’s formally established.
The only problem? We have no idea when that will be. Building an entire military branch is a big task, with concerns both budgetary (some estimates peg the price tag at nearly $5 billion) and logistical (can the Pentagon’s space weapons strategy catch up with the pace of growing threats?).
We’ll certainly see Steve Carrell’s Space Force long before we ever sniff the real thing.