We’re just a week into 2013, and the year seems filled with possibility. The turn of the New Year is generally an occasion to look back and reflect on the year that’s passed — the victories and defeats, the lives lost and the experiences found. But after we look back, we inevitably turn forward. We make resolutions and predictions for the year to come, taking educated guesses as we gaze into the abyss of the unknown. Here,10 TED Talks that offer visions for the future.
Ian Goldin: Navigating our global future
“This could be our best century ever, or it could be our worst,” says Ian Goldin. In this absorbing talk from TEDGlobal 2009, Goldin argues that the accelerating impact of globalization has the potential for miraculous human achievements, but also presents immense challenges — specifically in inequality. We may see incredible advances in technology, science and the quality of life, but will only the rich have access? Offering predictions for life in 2030, Goldin reminds us that “the rest of our lives will be in the future, so we need to prepare for it now.”
Kevin Kelly: The next 5,000 days of the web
At EG 2007, Keven Kelly noted that we had 5,000 days of the World Wide Web behind us. In this talk, he looks at what’s to come next. He foresees a smarter, more personalized and more ubiquitous web in the next 10 years, with the digital cloud forming the underpinnings of our physical environment. As the web doubles in power every two years, he shares why it’s expected to exceed human power by 2040.
Kirk Citron: And now, the real news
Projecting a “Long News” perspective onto the present, Kirk Citron analyzes the headlines at TED2010, trying to predict what will still be relevant in 10, 100 and 10,000 years. It’s not Michael Jackson’s death or the miraculous landing of a US Airways plane on the Hudson River that will matter, he says, but innovations in science. Why? Because research in 2010 paved the way for genetically modified food to feed the planet, for people to drink water on the moon, and for nanobees to enter the brain and zap tumors with bee venom. In the long run, Citron points out that some news stories are just more important than others.
Rob Hopkins: Transition to a world without oil
Rob Hopkins wants to tell a different story about the future. Not one of apocalypse or salvation but of transition — specifically, transition from our dependence on oil. As the founder of the Transition movement, he advocates for petroleum-free communities stripped of modern-day luxuries, but also free from the trappings of oil. Sustainability isn’t the solution, Hopkins says at TEDGlobal 2009, because we can’t simply invent our way out of oil dependence.
Martin Rees asks: Is this our final century?
Zooming in on the “tiny sliver of earth’s history” that has involved humans, and zooming out again to the full past, present and future of the universe, astronomer Sir Martin Rees explores the future of our planet. Highlighting the immense changes that will occur, he reminds the audience at TEDGlobal 2005 that when the sun extinguishes in 6 billion years, the creatures living on this earth will be as different from us as we are from bacteria.
This pair of talks from the TED archives highlights the challenges and successes of predicting the future. Nicholas Negroponte’s talk from TED1984 offers five eerily on-point predictions, ranging from touchscreen phones to the future of CD-ROMS. Ten years later, Danny Hills offers a timeless theory of technological evolution that mirrors our own biological trajectory.
Larry Burns on the future of cars
Computer-enhanced cars — that run on clean hydrogen and contribute to the energy grid — are just around the corner, says Larry Burns. You’ll even refuel your hydrogen-fueled car at home, he shares. At TED2005, GM vice president for research and design Larry Burns details his exciting task of reinventing the automobile.
Aubrey de Grey: A roadmap to end aging
You could live to see the next millennium, suggests researcher Aubrey de Grey. Arguing that we could live to be 1,000 years old, de Grey explains that if we simply extend our lives by 30 years right now, we can reach the “longevity escape velocity,” with the rate of life-extending discoveries outpacing our 30-year life extension. And, he says at TEDGlobal 2005, the tools to start this process exist right now.
Stewart Brand on the Long Now
“It would be helpful if humanity got into the habit of thinking of the now not just as next week or next quarter but the next 10,000 years,” notes Stewart Brand in this talk from TED2004. Disrupting our conception of time and space, Brand describes his current project to build a 10,000 year clock that would be able to withstand the wear and tear of deep time.