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Minds of Tomorrow

We asked some of our favorite people for their 2020 visions.


Emily Anthes on pets:
GloFish, America’s first transgenic pets, are already on sale at Petco, PetSmart, and Walmart. Under a black light, the fish—which contain genes borrowed from jellyfish and sea coral—turn radiant, shining neon red, orange, and green. Meanwhile, two Korean companies are churning out canine clones for any dog owner who can afford the six-figure price tag. And one day, genetic engineering could give us truly hypoallergenic cats, cancer-free dogs, or, as one scholar muses, a pet that “loves only you.”
Emily wrote Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts.

Colby Keller on porn:
Large porn aggregators already have swallowed once-dominant gay porn studios, and more industry consolidation appears likely.  Look for more cookie-cutter, formulaic porn. But the internet will open the market to more porn pioneers. An exhibitionist with an iPhone and a reasonable Twitter following will be able turn herself into a star. Maybe we’ll finally break free from San Fernando’s stale scenarios and steroided bodies. And a porn-themed musical will certainly hit Broadway. Phantom of the Orgasm, anyone?
Colby, a 10-year veteran of the business, loves big cocks and beta waves.

Sam Graham-Felsen on politicians:
The presidential candidate of tomorrow is a policy mastermind and a master poet. The candidate of tomorrow has already composed the Great American Novel, the Great American Memoir, and the Great American Tweet. The candidate of tomorrow sold her startup before the crash (twice). The candidate of tomorrow can land a kick-flip, a dropkick, and a plane. The candidate of tomorrow has done standup comedy in front of a tough New York crowd—in Spanish. The candidate of tomorrow is a vegan who has never alienated her allies. The candidate of tomorrow has the best data.
Sam was the chief blogger for Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Dana Goldstein on education:
In 2020 there will undoubtedly be more online courses, computer programs assessing students’ work, and interactive apps instead of textbooks. But the essential element will remain the connection between an engaged teacher and a curious student.
Dana is a journalist in Brooklyn.

Sharon Ann Lee on trend forecasting:
For the past 20 years, corporations have been bullish and savvy about turning emerging cultural ideas into desirable objects. The conversation about trends has been dominated by the stuff we buy and want to buy next. In certain industries, like fashion, the word “trend” is now synonymous with tactical executions of color and material, birthing catchy phrases like “is the new black.” But we now face such profound cultural, technological, demographic, and global changes that the conversation about trends has to “zoom out” to encompass ideas, social norms, and behavior, too. This is not the future TV promised me, and that’s OK. The next 20 years will be filled with more radical possibilities than a robot in every home.
Sharon is a cultural trend analyst and Tomorrow’s temporary landlord.

Hua Hsu on sports fandom:
The sports fan of tomorrow will not remember that Seattle used to have a basketball team, will think of Moneyball as a Brad Pitt sci-fi flick, and will have difficulty recalling a time when stadiums weren’t publicly funded. If this fan is a child, she will learn how to tell a stadium’s age based on the quality of its brickwork and the vintage of the HD screen hovering above the field. If this fan is an adult, she will wonder how it is that sports are the only things we desperately, superstitiously pledge allegiance to in which lying, cheating, and disloyalty remain frowned upon.
Hua is finishing his first book, A Floating Chinaman.

Gabby Martinez on fashion:
In 2020, fashion will look exactly like it did 12 years ago. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I quite like that I can still wear my old Doc Martens.
Gabby Martinez is Ugly Betty meets Stevie Nicks circa 1990.

Chris Stanton on energy:
Cheap natural gas will put coal power plants out of business, but it will also bankrupt much of a clean-energy industry that became too used to fat profits driven by subsidies and state-level mandates. The few solar companies that figure out how to deliver power at prices 30 to 40 percent lower than today’s will be the only ones left standing. And expect solar plants in the Southwest to compete head-to-head with fossil fuel in daily electricity markets.
Chris works at PowerFin Partners, a solar-focused asset management firm.

Chris Moukarbel on celebrity:
“Internet celebrity” will soon be a redundancy. Technology can democratize storytelling, and the short history of social media has revealed a new type of hierarchy. The micro-celebrity is a friend—someone whose cultural power is based on a currency of likes and hits, rather than support from a major movie studio.
Chris is the director of Me @ the Zoo; a documentary about Chris “Leave Britney Alone” Crocker.

Will Doig on transportation:
The conveyance of the future is bus rapid transit. BRT is a way of making buses behave more like trains, with pre-board fare payments, appealing stations, and physically separated lanes. In Mexico City, the BRT’s popularity has led to overcrowding, but rubbing shoulders with your fellow passenger is part of the fun. You can’t do that in a flying car.
Will writes the Dream City column for Salon.

Julieanne Smolinski on tv:
Will picture quality become so clear as to be indistinguishable from reality? Will we have smell-o-vision? Will we one day realize our national dream of deep-kissing a holographic Matthew Perry? I hope Lena Dunham is our James L. Brooks, that Ryan Murphy keeps making shows with a blonde lady who says “oh no she di’in’t,” and that eventually we will, in fact, be able to fax a pizza through our DVD player.
Julieanne is an internet type.

Rich Terrile on artificial intelligence:
My bet is that we are within a decade of awakening our machines. We will soon engineer a machine with the exquisitely complex neural architecture housed in three pounds of meat and blood that makes humans conscious and self-aware. There are two paths to this achievement. One is to reverse-engineer the brain and copy it in a machine, though I doubt we will get there anytime soon. But we’ve made enormous advances toward the second method: evolving a brain. Trial and error via mutation and selection, repeated many times over a large population, have given us the human mind. A simulated evolution process in our supercomputers will discover the right architecture for artificial intelligence.
Rich works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He discovered several moons of Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune.

Mallory Ortberg on news:
Can Muslims Breastfeed? Do Lesbians Autism or Is It Choice? Is Facebook Making Us Feel More Non-Monogamy? The New Face of the Old Part That’s the Same (And Why That’s a Good Thing). Do Vaccines Prevent Female Children in Private Schools From ‘Having It All’? CAN THINGS BE DO NOUNS ... WORRY FACE IS GOOD BAD?? WHY I HURT [stock photo anger moms].
Mallory is a writer/editor in the Bay Area.

And finally, a panel of wide-ranging opinions on the future internet...

Mat Honan is our pessimist:
The open web is a quaint notion that will soon be bludgeoned to death, mercilessly fragmented into private channels. Walled off and controlled by ever-fewer businesses whose primary interest isn’t in facilitating communications but in making a fucking dollar. The Internet of Things and cross-device tracking mean you’ll never have to tweet “Poopin’ ” again because ubiquitous ambient awareness will know when you visit the toilet and for how long, measuring your output by grams and pH level. (An ad will appear in your bathroom mirror reminding you to buy tampons.) Pockets of resistance, like, will offer open options to a privileged few. But most will live in someone else’s world; we’ll be nothing more than data-generation mechanisms creating bits to be analyzed, packaged, and sold like goldfish in bags, swimming about in our own shit while we slowly run out of oxygen.
Mat is a senior writer at Wired and co-founder of Longshot magazine.

Aminatou Sow is our cautious optimist:
I heard someone ask the other day if the internet was running out of ideas. Rude. Here’s my 2020 ideal: the internet won’t be a place you go but instead the layer behind everything you do. It won’t be focused around a computer; it’ll be on every device on every human, accessible at every location. No mouse, no keyboard. We’ll interact with natural user surfaces. That’s right, tap the bling on your wrist and a screen appears in front of you. Actions and commands will come from your mind. Minority Report meets chip-in-the-brain technology. Voice communication will be considered antiquated and our emotions will be shareable via the web. Probably just wishful thinking, though. I’ll just settle for more emoji characters (pizza slice!) and pray Facebook doesn’t completely ruin Instagram.
Aminatou is a digital strategist in D.C., and she can’t wait for the future.

Jenna Wortham is a sparkly rainbow gif:
In the future, people won’t talk on phones—phones will talk to each other. Your device will be autonomous, a small, smooth pebble that lives in your pocket or is worn on a thin gold chain. An advanced model will be embedded in a fingertip, an earlobe, a pupil. This machine can understand, translate, illustrate, and animate in any language. It’ll work in tandem with your body, monitoring routines and biometrics to suggest a route change when an ex or best friend is nearby. Driving toward a supermarket, it buys the items on your list for that night’s date—salmon, wine, condoms, pancake mix and orange juice—and has them delivered to a drive-through window. When your heart speeds up, it’ll trigger “record,” capturing audio/video/photos of your exciting moments for later perusal. To stay competitive, hardware makers will find ways to infuse the machines with empathy, make us care for them like a Tamagotchi. We’ll still love our machines, but in the future, they’ll love us back.
Jenna is a New York Times tech reporter and in an open relationship with the internet.