Academics imagine our world 100 years from now

Underwater cities, holograms, and moon bases await us

Our current technology might seem like sci-fi to people living 100 years ago. They were celebrating the first transcontinental phone call. There was no such thing as NASA. A lot can happen in a century. How will our world change over the next 100 years? How will we live, work, and play? What advanced technologies will become commonplace? Academics have just published a report detailing their predictions for the century ahead.

The SmartThings Future Living Report was commissioned by SmartThings, a system by Samsung that lets users control their home lights, thermostats and locks remotely using a smartphone app. The report was authored by academics including space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pockock; futurist architects Arthur Manou-Mani and Toby Burgess; and urbanists Linda Aitken and Els Lelerq.

A common theme in the report’s predictions is that our changing environmental conditions will drive how we use technology and how we build our future cities. With a predicted global human population that could reach 16 billion by 2116, city developers will need to plan for decreasing space and resources. The authors predict that we’ll dwarf our current skyscrapers with huge buildings using carbon and diamond nanotechnology for support. These super skyscrapers will also be mirrored, with more buildings burrowing deep into the Earth to save previous space above.

The stuff of sci-fi for generations, the authors also predict that we’ll finally see underwater cities. The appeal goes beyond the fact that there’s plenty of space in the oceans for the several billion more heads we need to find room for. Future technology will allow us to easily use seawater to create hydrogen fuel and provide enough oxygen so that residents can actually breathe.

An underwater city. Image © Taylor Herring

Most of the predictions concerned future technology sound like something from The Jetsons. One of the weirdest ideas is that personal drones will replace cars. Not only will they carry us to our next meeting, but large drones may carry your entire home on holiday. I’m sure drones will become a common sight but personally I’m pretty sure we won’t see houses flying to the Bahamas when we look out the window.

The authors also predicted that we would see several staple sci-fi technologies finally become reality. One is the ever-changing digital wall that displays an exotic view, making you feel like your room in in a jungle or by a relaxing beach. In the future these walls will change automatically to match our moods. Medical pods will diagnose illnesses and be controlled by remotely by surgeons if necessary. We should have Star Wars-style holograms by 2116 too, so we can attend office meetings from the comfort of our own home.

We'll attend meetings remotely using holograms.

3D printing will become more and more important, which is a trend we’re already seeing. By 2116, the authors predict that we’ll use 3D printing for our entire homes and furniture. Even food will be printed as we download recipes from famous chefs and become the laziest contestants ever on Come Dine With Me. 3D printing will be useful in space travel so we don’t need to bring us many items with us. By 2116 we’ll already be settling down on other worlds with the first bases being built on the Moon and then Mars.

A city on the Moon. Image © Taylor Herring

The authors of the report surveyed 2,000 British adults to ask which of the predictions they felt was most likely to come true. Hologram meetings and commercial space flights topped the list, with participants far less convinced that we’ll be tunnelling underground and building downwards to save space.

As exciting as the predictions are, I would love reports like these to start thinking more about the developing world and people living in poverty. I can guarantee that the future will not involve drones and medipods for most of the human population. I’d like to see a realistic vision of our future that isn’t just about what technologies the rich and privileged will be flaunting.

For more sci-fi technology that’s closer than you might realise, check out our list of future tech that’s currently being developed including invisibility cloaks, travelling in tubes, and laser weapons.


Main image © Taylor Herring