Every year I write an article to predict technology changes in the coming year. The article is one of the most read pages of this blog.
Thanks to Jonathan who came up with an idea to write an updated version due to the Coronavirus situation.
When thinking about and writing these types of articles, there are two easy traps:
- “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Well said Bill Gates.
- When thinking of the future, we base it on history. No one (except Bill Gates again) would have factored in Coronavirus when planning 2020. Richard Watson, a futurist author who I’ve mentioned several times on this site, calls these unthinkable unknowns “critical uncertainties”. In February 2020 we thought 2020 would be a great year, with a great economy and record UK employment. In April 2020 it’s easy to fall into the trap of 2020 & 21 being REALLY bad years.
So here goes…
Bob. In December 2021.
Bob’s alarm clock woke him up for work.
“Good morning Bob, it’s Friday 10th December 2021 and this is your morning briefing”.
This new, 5am alarm was still taking some getting used to.
“Here’s your appointments for today” his alarm continued.
“OK Google…” He said loudly, trying to not to wake up his wife. “…shut up.”
The lights on his device slowly dimmed themselves out.
Twenty minutes later, Bob switched on his kitchen lights. It was pitch black through the windows, which looked more like mirrors against the darkness.
There were boxes of food on all the worktops. Since the food shortage in the summer of 2020, everyone now keeps four weeks’ supply of tinned and dry foods at home. Every type of cooking appliance was on display – a bread maker, air fryer, blender, milk frother, pasta maker and food processor. Two years ago, Bob’s house only had a toaster in the corner of the worktop. Even Bob’s cupboard under the stairs now has a beer home brew kit doing its magic.
Bob opened his fridge. The second shelf was full of eggs. Since food supply is so unreliable now – sometimes you can’t get milk, or eggs, or flour for a few weeks – families buy larger quantities when they can. Last year there had been talk of rationing, but the press objected to the government so harshly that it never happened.
Bob took out the six-pint milk bottle from the fridge and shut the door. He walked to the other side of the kitchen and opened the chest freezer.
The freezer was almost full. There were new brands of foods that had only started appearing in the last few months. And there were lots of vegetables in the freezer. Back in April the government issued seeds to all households, so like many families with a garden, Bob’s garden became his allotment and food patch. It was just as well that he had a garden – local council allotments had been broken into last autumn, with all fresh food stolen.
Bob was up early because his children’s school started at 6:30am. Since last September, school opening times were staggered around the local area, to smooth out the rush hour and reduce the number of people on public transport.
One of Bob’s daughters, Adina, has to stay at home for Internet-school because she has always had severe asthma. She is only allowed out of the house for exercise and other important trips. Adina quite likes Internet-school because she’s in a class with children from all over the country.
For people like Adina who have underlying health issues, and elderly people, the World seems to have taken a step back in discrimination. It’s rare to see disabled or the elderly anymore because they have so many restrictions.
Bob grabbed some frozen pancakes from the freezer, separated them and put them in the toaster for when the kids came downstairs for their breakfast.
While he was waiting for the toaster to finish, he switched on his mobile phone and opened the Google Maps app. Google Maps used to be used for navigation, but now it’s mainly used to book appointments in retail shops. Bob and his wife are planning to buy a new sofa this weekend, so he looked through local furniture shops for available slots. Although some people trade these appointments online, life is already slow enough and he wants to sort out his living room before the grand finale of “Family Fortunes”, the new ITV app, over Christmas.
ITV had been a TV station until earlier this year, but like all TV channels, they’ve moved into family-based, interactive (and addictive) TV apps with some great prizes. Bob’s family gets together every Thursday evening to play Family Fortunes – it’s one of the highlights of the week.
Reality TV has changed its format – several shows are now recorded in viewer’s homes. One of Bob’s neighbours recently hosted Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Delivery, which caused excitement in the road. Even radio shows are now recorded in viewer’s homes, and it’s an honour to have the likes of BBC Radio 4’s Today show made locally.
Only the BBC remains as a traditional TV channel broadcaster in the UK. The 2020 “advertising-bubble” just couldn’t support traditional TV channels any longer.
The biggest media star of 2021 is a computer-generated avatar called Maya Massen who looks like Max Headroom’s granddaughter. Maya started out as a YouTube presenter, but she now appears on everything. Rumours are that she was created by Facebook, but since Facebook is back as a private company now, no one will confirm the rumours.
Father James has become the most famous religious figure in the UK, with his upbeat and usually humorous weekly sermons. Whole families watch him on YouTube for his weekly Sunday 3pm sermon. More people in the UK watch Father James each week than used to go church, a mosque or synagogue, combined. Even other religious leaders refer to him a lot, so they must watch him too.
Bob took the pancakes from the toaster and put them on to the kids’ plates. Adina was the first to arrive in the kitchen, alongside Molly, the family’s small white dog.
Since last year there have been many more stray dogs and cats appearing around the country. Apparently so many people were driving away from their homes to release their pets that you’re not allowed to travel with a pet anymore. At first there was a strain on animal charities, which were already under financial pressure. Then a few celebrities stepped in and saved them.
Many charities in other sectors, for a specific disease or part of society, have simply merged together.
Once the kids had finished breakfast, Bob yawned and sat at his computer. He switched it on and waited for it to start up. He looked across at the large router on the wall. Like many people who now work from home full-time, he has two Internet connections running simultaneously – a 4G mobile hotspot and a broadband cable connection – and when one drops, which they do throughout the day, the other one is good enough to continue working.
Bob’s boss, Mandy, has flown to France for a customer meeting later this month. Air travel is permitted, but most countries have a 16-day quarantine. Since the third outbreak in Italy, quarantined visitors in most countries have an ankle tag with a GPS tracker, and are confined to a hotel room.
Bob is thankful that he looks after the domestic market, and except for ban on travelling with pets, people can drive anywhere. But people are still nervous so it’s rare to hear of anyone going on holiday in the UK for anything other than camping.
Bob’s brother commutes to work in central London. He needs to use the Tube every day and has a supply of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) including a mask, gloves and shoe covers at home and at work. People are nervous about using public transport, so they avoid it by cycling or driving. This makes the lack of a rush hour much more tolerable.
Bob’s sister-in-law is a TV producer for a sports channel. Fortunately, she specialises in motorsport production, which is up and running again, without any live crowds. It used to be on television but now it’s on YouTube. All sport is now streamed live online.
Other sports, such as football and tennis, have restarted, also without crowds. Some sports still haven’t restarted – like road cycling, which has meant those sports don’t have professional athletes anymore.
Bob logged into his computer and looked at the news website. There have been several hopes of vaccines, but they’re not even reported any more. Vaccine companies are banned from discussing their progress because it encouraged such stock market speculation. We only hope that soon we’ll start having some vaccines.
New Zealand and Australia are the only countries that have been free from Coronavirus for over three months, and simply don’t let any visitors or transport into the country. Other countries try to replicate their model but it’s just too difficult economically to stop all international business flights.
Bob works for a company that makes children’s clothes and sells them online. He’s fortunate because this is the only part of the fashion industry still profitable.
In January 2021 there was a baby boom which helped Bob’s company to grow. Like many companies, they moved their manufacturing from Asia to Wales, after all the car manufacturers closed their UK factories. The car companies were having some challenges before 2020, and the hardest hit company has been Ford, who now only make commercial vehicles like vans and trucks. Very few families buy a new car because they prefer to pool together as neighbours and share a single car.
Wales has doubled its GDP in the last year by attracting so much PPE and clothing manufacturers.
2021 has been the only time in history that there’s been both a baby boom, and a 350% spike in divorce cases. Until 2021, the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years, but that’s now almost doubled to 15 years.
Due to the higher divorce rate and the number of elderly people that died at home in 2020, the housing market remains buoyant.
And more good news is that there’s a new UK bank holiday in February for NHS workers!
Back to 2020: stay at home my friends, and stay safe.