Last week, MONTAG published Part 1 of our 2019 predictions, tackling the tough questions like "Is the apocalypse finally, really, actually going to come this year? And what are we going to do about the climate if it doesn't?" We guessed at what corporate overlords like Amazon and Facebook will be up against in the coming year, and how your home, workplace, and commuting vehicle to travel betwixt them will all be embedded with tech.
This week, we're zooming in on tech that you, personally, can look forward to buying, renting, or being bombarded with augmented reality advertisements for in the next year. What health tech innovations are going to medically assist the quest for eternal life? How are smartphones and computers going to advance leaps and bounds ahead of the devices at our fingertips now? And, most importantly, what are the trendiest beverages going to be?
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Peer once again into our crystal ball's swirling mists, and arm yourself with knowledge of the year ahead in tech.
May you live to be 100 years old: Health Tech
Ray Kurzweil, who we rely heavily on as a predictor of the future based on his 1990 book The Age of Intelligent Machines, and 1999 publication, The Age of Spiritual Machines, made three specific predictions for the coming year. The first is that by 2019, average life expectancy will be 100 years. Kurzweil's second prediction was that wearable technology will be used for continuous diagnosis and preventative medicine, as well as providing treatment recommendations. And in a 2006 op-ed, Kurzweil stated, "By 2019, we will largely overcome the major diseases that kill 95 percent of us in the developed world, and we will be dramatically slowing and reversing the dozen or so processes that underlie aging."
Centenarian status for all seems far off: the Pew Research Center estimates that by 2050, 3.7 million people globally will celebrate their hundredth birthday, 23.6 out of every 10,000 adults ages 65 or older – far from average, and another 30 years or so away. His second prediction, however, that wearable technology will provide a constant stream of data about our health, is coming true more and more with each iOS update. The inclusion of electrocardiogram data on the latest Apple Watch prompted the CEO of health tech startup Doc.AI, Walter De Brouwer, to speculate that "now is the ideal time," for live blood pressure monitoring and other advances in health features thanks to improvements in sensor technology and health data algorithms.
The third prediction, that 95% of diseases will be eradicated, is unfortunately far too optimistic, with the United States recently suffering from their worst outbreaks in the 21st century of previously well-controlled diseases like measles, thanks to the anti-vaccination movement. However, both the director of the National Institutes of Health and Jennifer Doudna, a co-inventor of a gene editing technology using CRISPR, have pointed to advances in the understanding of genetic diseases leading to the eradication of sickle cell and disorders like muscular dystrophy, or at least some groundbreaking clinical trials, before 2020. So with preventable diseases returning, and new therapies developing for previously untreatable ones, 2019 hopefully maintains medical homeostasis.
5G, folding phones, and contradictory predictions: Smartphones & Computing
Two tech trends were predicted by the end of 2018 in the world of smartphones, and both were on display at CES 2019: foldable screens and 5G. Samsung leads the pack with their "Infinity Flex Display," first revealed at its 2018 developer conference, but if you really want to get a phone you can fold *now*, The Verge reviewed the "charmingly awful" Royole FlexPal, currently available in China for ¥8,999.
While many vendors will boast 5G compatibility in devices hitting the market in 2019 and 2020, Sascha Geese, Head Geek at SolarWinds, says that the rollout will take longer than anticipated: "...many companies are claiming 5G-readiness, but without the infrastructure to support it, we’ll be left with the same bandwidth speed as before." Paul Carter, CEO of Global Wireless Solutions, also predicts its adoption will be restricted by existing infrastructure: "The reality is that it’s not an instantaneous transition, we will have a blended network of 5G, 4G and even 3G, depending upon geography." Fortune says early adopters will be "punished with short battery life and iffy reception," and several sources predict the first 5G iPhone likely won't be available until 2020.
The future of computing is full of contradictions. At CES 2019, Nvidia's CEO declared that Moore's Law is no longer applicable, while IBM at the same event unveiled a quantum computer for commercial use. So while computers are advancing more slowly, they could be edging towards the precipice of the quantum revolution.
For consumer devices, there are also two possible futurescapes that are appearing simultaneously: ubiquitous computing and virtual reality. Mark Weiser, who coined the term "ubiquitous computing" in 1988, put the two movements at odds: "Ubiquitous computing is roughly the opposite of virtual reality. Where virtual reality puts people inside a computer-generated world, ubiquitous computing forces the computer to live out here in the world with people." Kurzweil predicted a bit of both, with computers embedded everywhere in the environment, as well as heads-up displays that could overlay or completely block out the physical world with virtual artefacts.
With Facebook, Google, and Microsoft all working on more portable headsets and virtual reality displays, and Internet of Things devices on display at CES including bottle openers, mirrors, fishing rods, and litter boxes, even a "smart" plank of wood, these two diametrically opposed paradigms are set to collide in 2019, and we're sure to see much of both in the coming year.
Clickbait, e-sports, and... more clickbait: Consumer Trends & Entertainment
When compiling this list of 2019 predictions for the year, we found several Twitter accounts making bold claims of events sure to happen in the world of pop culture and entertainment: @Predict_2019 says cryptically that "A current boy band will break up," (very likely, but which one?!), @19predictions ominously states, "watch yourself, bieber," @2019_predicts intones "Another royal baby," @2k19predict takes a stab with "Lots of visual albums coming this year," and @2019thoughts blasphemes by claiming in 2019, "Betty White will die."
But if Betty White doesn't get live to 100, this future blows.
The much more reliable seers at Fortune and TechSpot have predicted that for 2019 in entertainment, it's all about e-sports. Over 100 million viewers are expected to tune in to the 2019 League of Legends world championship, and e-sports viewing as a whole will crush prime time cable television, which is already on its way out thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Other major televised events expected to draw a record-breaking crowd include the Women's World Cup, with 800 million viewers, and the Cricket World Cup, captivating 2 billion viewers across the globe.
TikTok, the short video sharing app created by China's ByteDance, potentially the largest valued startup in the world at $75 billion as of October 2018, shows no signs of slowing down with 500 million global users in 150 countries at the end of last year. If you are unfamiliar with what is set to be the most popular app in the world this year, educate yourself on the latest video meme formats and challenges on TikTok's Instagram.
Blockchain, beverages, & baby names
Despite the price graphs for Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies resembling the trajectory of a slinky on a set of stairs, some still believe that after most of the alt-coins and scams that popped up during the 2017-18 bubble have run their course, Bitcoin will rise again. TrendHunter reports that other applications of blockchain besides cryptocurrencies, including social applications and offshoots of cryptocurrency culture in sectors like the art world, will also flourish despite the currencies' weak prospects as stores of monetary value.
In the food and beverage markets, TrendHunter singles out watermelon seeds as the next trendy superfood, and edible 3D prints as the next gourmet fad. The first one is so random it just might work, if consumers can overcome the childhood fear of a watermelon growing inside of their stomachs, and the second is a sure thing. Although "extruded food" doesn't sound the most appetizing, one of the most exciting applications is to create new pasta shapes, combining elegant curvature with optimal saucing:
Pair 3-D printed pasta with a glass of wine, and if you really want to be ahead of the trends, pick an orange wine over a rosé.
Lastly, the trends that will haunt an entire generation, trendy baby names for 2019. We bring you the best of the worst, starting with food names: "Kiwi" and "Kale," no kidding, are up 40% and 35% in popularity according to BabyCenter, and while non-binary baby names are very cool, abstract concepts like "Justice," "Journey," and "Royal" seem like hard names to live up to. The last trend seems too weird to be true, that sneakerheads are taking inspiration from their kicks in naming their kids "Chuck," "Taylor," "Van," and "Jordan," but if there's anything we know for certain about the year to come, it's that nothing will surprise us.
Perhaps in 2037, as the Kiwis and Kales of this year cross the holographic platform at their virtual reality high schools to accept their diplomas, we will look back on these predictions and laugh. But for now, with the future still looking somewhat uncertain, this is the best we can advice we can give: don't name your baby after a shoe.