I previously looked at a technological outline for the next 30 years. I will focus on what could be possible by the latter half of the middle decade.
Robin Hanson had a vision of accelerated economic activity based upon Whole Brain Emulation in mini robots. My projection will be focus on ways to accelerate economic activity.
I have bolded the technologies of the mundane singularity with the most economic impact.
More efficient factory mass produced sky scrapers are already being built. If there were a 100 by 100 grid of 200 story skyscrapers that would provide housing and offices for 1 billion people in a 10 mile by 10 mile grid.
Larger and more integrated cities, a new wave of robotic automation, robotic driving, terabit broadband and new energy could boost GDP by over three times what they would otherwise be over a twenty year period. Global GDP growth could get into the 12-18% per year range from 2020 onwards.
1. Pro-growth Policies (variable and uncertain by region)
2. Energy Efficiency – superconductors, thermoelectrics, improved grid
3. Energy Revolution – Mass produced fission, fusion, and maybe cold fusion
4. Additive manufacturing
5. Not so mundane – neuromorphic chips, quantum computers, photonics
6. Automated transportation (leading to robotic cars and planes)
7. Urbanization MegaCities
8. Urbanization Broad Group skyscrapers, Tata flat packed buildings
12. Improve medicine and public health
14. Synthetic biology and recombineering
15. Sensors everywhere
16. Education transformed and accelerated innovation
17. Supersmartphones, exoskeletons and wearable systems
18. Memristors and other significant computing and electronic improvements.
Buildings use 50% of the raw materials used each year in the world and 40% of the energy. Radical reductions in material usage and rapid increases in building energy efficiency will have a hugely beneficial impact on energy and the environment.
Broad group of China has built 15, 30 and 50 story factory mass produced skyscrapers already. They are targeting capturing 30% of the global construction market by 2020. If that target were reached then in the 2020’s the urbanization of the developing world would be accelerated.
From 2020-2030, one hundred thousand Sky City 200 story skyscrapers could theoretically be built to provide homes and offices for 5 billion people.
Sky City would be a 200 story building that could hold about 100,000 people and would cost about $1.25 billion.
The Skyscraper could hold 100,000 people and 1 million to 10 million robotic servants of different shapes and sizes.
Improvements in the factory mass production methods and processes (and the lowering of costs for the Nth copy) could lower the costs of the factory mass produced skyscraper by 2 to 3 times.
$500 million for each of 100,000 sky cities would be enough space for 5 billion people at a total cost of $50 trillion. $100 trillion will be spent on construction in the world in this decade. In the next decade world construction spending will likely increase to $150 trillion.
If the 10,000 Sky Cities were built in 100 by 100 grid, they would cover an area of 15 kilometers by 15 kilometers. A supercity with 1 billion people.
Notice that these buildings are 5 times more energy efficient, would reduce CO2 production, use 6 times less material (less cement and smarter use of steel) and would reduce particulates with 99% less construction dust.
During the construction of new buildings and cities lighter and more reflective material should be used to offset more carbon dioxide.
New wave of Robotic automation
DARPA is working on robotic avatars now and has a grand challenge for humanoid robots.
Foxconn is building 1 million industrial robots over the next three years.
There could be one billion iRobot Avabot like robots with computer tablets for their heads by 2020-2022.
By 2027-2032, the tablets could have tens of teraflops of performance and could have neuromorphic chip and quantum computer chip co-processors.
By 2027 to 2032, the new robots could out-number people by 2 to 10 times and enable higher productivity and more world economic growth.
China’s megacities will be implemented, where they integrate many cities into a unified economic entity.
Robin Hanson has indicated that Robotic driving could double the capacity of existing roads. The EU has the SARTRE program for creating road trains of cars that follow a lead car. This could begin implementation by 2020.
Doubling the population of any city requires only about an 85% increase in infrastructure, whether that be total road surface, length of electrical cables, water pipes or number of petrol stations. This systematic 15% savings happens because, in general, creating and operating the same infrastructure at higher densities is more efficient, more economically viable, and often leads to higher-quality services and solutions that are impossible in smaller places. Interestingly, there are similar savings in carbon footprints — most large, developed cities are ‘greener’ than their national average in terms of per capita carbon emission
China’s high speed rail linking cities like Shanghai and Beijing is providing about a 20% GDP boost over 10-20 years. China already has plans to create the infrastructure to link areas for four large megacities.
Additive manufacturing will have broadened its impact to vastly speed up construction.
DARPA and Airbus are separately developing large scale additive manufacturing systems to enable the printing of airplanes and to increase manufacturing speed and efficiency and to lower costs.
I am expecting several possible technology for an energy revolution to be proven over the next 5 years.
Candidates energy technologies are advanced modular fission reactors, new hot nuclear fusion technology, or breakthrough low energy nuclear reactors.
Annular fuel (hollow cylinders with pebbles for more surface area) enables existing nuclear reactors to generate 20-50% more power. South Korea is working on developing the MIT research for commercial installation in about 2020. The company Lightbridge is developing the fuel and could have wide deployment by the early 2020s.
For a big economic impact the costs of energy should go down and the supply of energy should have a major increase.
1. China is developing a modular pebble bed reactor.
Initial costs would be $2000USD/kWe.
The design burn-up of the fuel is expected to reach at least 100GWd/t or even more; this will reduce the fuel cycle costs
2. modular fast neutron reactors with lead cooling (Russia is developing the SVBR-100
The SVBR would cogenerate heat and provide desalinated water.
Overnight capital cost $4000-4500 /kW(e)
Generating costs** $40-50 /MWh
3. Molten salt thorium modular nuclear reactors (China is researching and developing, there are other nations and startups working towards this)
A new report, conducted jointly by Ericsson, Arthur D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology in 33 OECD countries, quantifies the isolated impact of broadband speed, showing that doubling the broadband speed for an economy increases GDP by 0.3%.
A 0.3 percent GDP growth in the OECD region is equivalent to USD 126 billion. This corresponds to more than one seventh of the average annual OECD growth rate in the last decade.
The study also shows that additional doublings of speed can yield growth in excess of 0.3 percent (e.g. quadrupling of speed equals 0.6 percent GDP growth stimulus)
Both broadband availability and speed are strong drivers in an economy. Last year Ericsson and Arthur D. Little concluded that for every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration GDP increases by 1 percent.
So a 32 times increase in broadband speed should mean a 1.5% boost in GDP.
A 1000 times increase in broadband speed should mean a 3.0% boost in GDP.
A 1,000,000 times increase in broadband speed should mean a 6.0% boost in GDP.
A 1,000,000,000 times increase in broadband speed should mean a 9.0% boost in GDP.
Terabit per second internet would be about 100,000 times faster than current 10 megabit per second internet and should mean a 5.1% boost in GDP.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.