Big Smile, No Teeth: What will our lives be like in 20 years?

Imagine going through the Covid-19 pandemic 20 years ago ... then imagine what the future would be like 20 years from today. - Filepic

Sometimes I think: Thank Dios that the pandemic happened in 2020 and not in 2000.

Twenty years but what a difference. In 2000 we would have been stuck at home, no food delivery, the only shopping was out of catalogues and items would take months to arrive, and more importantly no Internet. Meaning no FaceTime. No streaming entertainment!

Nope. In 2000 a pandemic would have meant you had to fend for yourself with your DVD collection and Napster – from which you could download digital music at a rate of about four songs a day.

The world has changed a lot in 20 years. But it makes me wonder, how much is the world going to change in 20 more?

In looking for trends, I thought it made sense to look at some of the people who get paid to be forward looking. Ark Invest is an investment firm that has made a name for itself for making money on high-tech, high growth businesses. These are the people who bet big on the future they predict will come true. And what are they predicting?

AI. Of course artificial intelligence is on the list. But not artificial intelligence in the Stephen Hawking threat-to-humanity form of AI, more like the AI that just sort of makes our lives easier. Like the AI that runs in all our voice activated devices, that will just get better and better until, hopefully, you’ve got a psychotherapist in your pocket. Or the AI that runs algorithms for video suggestions like the one’s found in TikTok.

AI doesn’t have to mean human-like robots holding enormous weapons and eradicating the human race (but it could, I guess). More likely AI is going to be deep learning computers that help make our lives easier. The human death squad AI is more interesting but I’ll take the other type of AI all day, any day.

Another trend looking to blow up is augmented reality leading to full blown virtual reality. Already it’s estimated that video games are becoming the third biggest sink for our time between being home and being at work. Imagine just how much time people will start to spend there if their everyday lives are augmented.

Currently VR sets only capture about 10% of the human range of vision. Imagine as that increases and our virtual worlds become more life-like and more immersive. Suddenly scenarios like The Matrix, or the idea that we ourselves are living in a simulation, might be a little easier to envision.

Tech billionaire Elon Musk has echoed the idea that we are living in a simulation and the proof is simple maths. If we accept that life-like virtual worlds exist, and that these worlds are indistinguishable from ours, then there must be many more of these worlds than there are realities. And therefore it is more likely we are part of one of these thousands or millions of simulations rather than being part of the one true reality.

Right. Go enjoy your virtual reality now.

Ark also thinks that electric vehicles and autonomous ride hailing are going to become the norm. This really demonstrates how technology enables other technology. Autonomous vehicles wouldn’t be considered without the aforementioned AI to control it.

Some estimate that autonomous vehicles will be the majority of vehicles on the road by 2030 and that by 2040 it will be law. Meaning that driving your car yourself will no longer be allowed, which is a good thing since human error causes the majority of accidents, and therefore deaths, and since 100% of vehicles are operated by humans now, we’re not optimising our safety.

I definitely feel people will fight this one. They won’t want to turn over control to an AI as they take to the highway, and I can understand that. The first few times in an autonomous vehicle are going to be very sketchy. But once we get used to it and vehicles start to be designed for our leisure and not for actually piloting the vehicle, I have a feeling people will get over it pretty quick.

So is this where we’ll be in 20 years?

AI will be doing more and more work, making our daily lives easier as we zip around in selfdriving cars while spending inordinate amounts of time in virtual worlds?

It doesn’t sound so far fetched.

I can’t wait to lament to my grandchildren that at their age, I had to drive my own car to the shopping mall. That’ll blow their minds.

Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at and check out his stuff at The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.

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Covid-19 , future trends , predictions


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