The world as we know it is on track to be short-lived. Matt Suddain explains why.

In 10 years you'll be an unemployed vegetarian drug addict who takes things from stores without paying.

But first, the good news.

You'll be alive. Statistically speaking. Every day we get better at curing and preventing the things that kill us. Cancer. Dementia. Heart disease. New, infectious diseases. Your habit of driving home drunk. The world in 10 years will be safer - and better medicated. Not only will you still be here (statistically speaking), you could feel younger than you do at this moment. The drugs alone will be worth staying alive for. Every morning you'll take a vitamin and pharma-complex tuned precisely to your lifestyle and DNA. This super-complex will treat mind, body and "soul" (whatever you imagine that to be), and it'll be so effective that you'll feel like you couldn't possibly live without it. ... And perhaps, that if you had to live without it, you'd rather die.

I've spent the past few years doing research for a book set in the near future, and I can tell you that customised drugs are just the start. Drug-delivering tattoos. 3D bio-printed organs. Artificial wombs. Bionic ears made from real cartilage interlaced with silver nano-particles so they can pick up radio frequencies. A "sex wearable" which keeps track of your performance, measuring thrust velocity, calories burned - even detecting erotically transmitted pathogens.


Would it surprise you to know I made up only one of those inventions? See if you can guess which one.

Okay, now would it surprise you to know that actually I made none of them up, and that they're all based on prototypes currently in development? The future is a strange and
bewildering country.

Maybe you suffer from a persistent allergy to the words "nanny state". The future has a cure for that. Just wait until the first time the nannysphere saves your life. Wait until your smartwatch (or similar wearable) detects an abnormal heartbeat, or pre-cancerous cells in your blood. Wait until it alerts you to a subtle shift in your hormone levels - then books you an appointment for a guilt-free termination before your unwanted baby is more than a few cells old.

Or wait until the first time your car chats to a satellite floating miles above, and the satellite says, "There's some idiot overtaking on the bend ahead,' and your car takes command of the breaks and steering, saves your family's lives, then says to you, in the voice of Tom Hardy, 'Hazard averted, mate. And I've sent that idiot's rego to the cops.'"

And if that doesn't convince you that the future has your best interests at heart, imagine a world without traffic jams. Smart vehicles make smart decisions. "Intelligent routing" algorithms will improve traffic flows so much we'll be able to have twice as many cars on the road, and still get home twice as fast.

If you're a woman, you'll be much happier, and not just because of the drugs. If you work, your ability to create emotionally engaging ideas will be highly valued in our sterile, tech-centric world.

If you're a woman, you'll be much happier, and not just because of the drugs. If you decide to have a baby, you probably won't even grow it in your own body. Why bother with that mess?


If you decide to have a baby, you probably won't even grow it in your own body. Why bother with that mess? It'll become safer, and less painful, to grow your little darling outside your body. Artificial wombs could even let you extend gestation beyond the usual nine months, beyond the range of nappy-changes and all-night scream-a-thons. (Though sadly not beyond their teenage years.)

Farmers could even use these artificial wombs as a more efficient way to grow calves and lambs. Although whether we'll still be eating lamb by then is up for debate.

Our grandchildren will be horrified that we kill animals and eat them; much less that we do it at such a massive environmental price. The impact of meat production on the environment is unsustainable, and will become even more so. In 10 years, if you still stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the environmental impact of human industry generally, and agriculture particularly, you'll be put in an energy-efficient rocket and fired into space. I hope.

In 10 years we'll be growing most of our meat in industrial labs, and we'll use the newly available land to grow more crops. Fewer animals will be harmed in the making of our barbecues. We might not even need to eat meat. By then, science will have given us perfectly authentic "meat" made from vegetable protein. Even the most ardent carnivore won't be able to tell it from the real thing. We'll be able to have our steak and eat it too. Our heart, our waistline, and the animal kingdom, will thank us.

Question. Do you love your phone? Do you sometimes quietly whisper, "I love you, phone," when no one's around? Well, in 10 years you won't even have a phone. True story. By this time, the Information Superhighway will have become a Data Sea. To swim in this sea you won't need any special skills, or ninja-thumbs. You'll hardly use your thumbs in 10 years. You might have a tiny, wireless bud behind your ear. This bud can understand what you're saying. It can translate foreign speech. It can use your skull as an acoustic shell to speak to you, or stream high-quality music to your brain. You might wear augmented-reality glasses, or contact lenses. One of the buttons on your shirt might be engineered to project images on to any surface - a table top; a whiteboard; your spouse's back during "soft play". The specifics of how you'll interact with the digisphere (and your spouse) are up for grabs, so to speak, but the reality is certain: digital information will be so seamlessly integrated with the real world that you'll not be able to tell the difference.

It's likely that at some point we'll develop direct machine/brain interfaces. I'm sorry to have to break that to you. The medium could be a tiny chip embedded under your skin. It could be a neural lace (that's a nanotech netting that clings to your puny human brain and upgrades it so it can compete with powerful machine brains).

Tesla founder Elon Musk is especially keen on the neural lace; though that's mostly because he's paranoid about becoming a slave to Artificial Intelligence. "I don't love the idea of being a house cat," he said recently. He'd rather be a bionic lion. But honestly, who has a the better life: a lion who has to constantly worry about finding food, and not finding poachers? Or my cat, Robert, who gets to lie around all day and never has to worry about where his next meal is coming from?

The idea that machines are coming to take our jobs away has been with us for a while now. In 10 years you might not have a job (statistically speaking). This year a Chinese factory increased production by 250 per cent, and dropped its defect rate by 80 per cent, simply by replacing 90 per cent of its workforce with machines. One Oxford University study has estimated that 47 per cent of American jobs could be lost to automation in the next decade. And it won't just be low-skilled jobs. Computers already make better hedge-fund managers than we do. In a few short years they'll make better lawyers, better doctors, better air traffic controllers. In fact, you'd be astonished how few jobs will be safe from automation.

The good news is, this includes politicians. They were fine for the steam age, and the gasoline age. Any fairly smart politician can wrap their brain around the ins and outs of building a highway system. But have you ever heard a politician talk about cyber-security and thought, "This guy knows what he's talking about"? No, me neither. Politicians will become increasingly redundant in the modern age, while algorithms will become increasingly amazing at deciding the fairest and most efficient way of distributing resources - and responding to problems.

Of course there's always the possibility that the AIs will become so smart they'll decide to enslave us. Which would be rough. Although when I look at how some people interact with their phones today, it's hard not to wonder if they're slaves already.

And frankly, if the choice is between being in bondage to a giant digital brain, or having to endure another world leader like Trump, I'll choose slavery in a heartbeat