Technology today is advancing and changing society more rapidly and radically than ever before in human history. These quick transformations and progressions are connected, becoming the building blocks of even more innovations in what author, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil calls the Law of Accelerating Returns.
Today, there are over 2 billion people connected to the Internet, but with current trends, we predict that in 10 years there will be 5.5 billion people connected. The number of connected devices is another matter altogether; there are currently about 6.8 billion devices connected to the Internet, but this amount will climb to more than 100 billion connected devices by 2026 as they find a place in our work and personal lives. The pace of technology change is increasing at a rate never before experienced, so can you imagine what will life be like only 10 years from now? Here is a realistic perspective on just some of the things we may experience…
The Congressional hearings of the 2010s about introducing autonomous, self-driving cars to the market have shifted in 2026 to discussions about a mandate to move toward all autonomous cars to further address traffic congestion, safety and travel speeds. Based on the volume of autonomous cars now on the roads, we are beginning to see increases in traffic flow and speed limits, reduced accidents, and increased ride-sharing. Roadways still present a heavily mixed environment of manually driven and autonomous vehicles, which is preventing optimization of traffic flow. Incentives are being discussed to get people to switch to autonomous cars, as the Autonomous Car Lane (ACL) is only so effective.
The first adopters of nearly 100 percent autonomous fleets are freight and shipping companies (who have also brought this technology to railways and cargo ships) and ride-sharing services. The Uber and Lyft fleets are almost completely autonomous. The cost model is starting to shift such that it will be much cheaper to use these services for daily travel needs than owning a car. While Detroit is heavily involved with ride-sharing and autonomous car partnerships, they still need to adapt to a rapidly changing market with auto sales projected to decline as the shift to more ride-sharing services, especially in major urban areas, will continue.
Of course, with lithium-air batteries now finally in full production, almost all new cars in 2026 are electric, and with improvements in battery technology, electric cars are experiencing ranges of 1,500 miles or more on a single charge. The energy industry is experiencing massive and rapid change and “gas” stations are scrambling to add charging stations with rapid-charge capabilities. Detroit is a major high-tech player in the transportation industry, with strong partnerships in Silicon Valley. They are helping to lead the way with wireless battery charging, as well as car-charging roadways, further disrupting the energy sector.
Hyperloop travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco has broken the 30-minute mark, now covering 383 miles in 27 minutes at roughly 750 mph. In 2016, this was at least a 5.5-hour drive! An L.A. to Las Vegas Hyperloop is expected to open soon, and other major routes are in the planning phases. This includes L.A. to Chicago, Boston to NYC, NYC to Washington DC, and Chicago to NYC.
The Workplace Transformed
In the workplace, where and how people connect and work together is very different with mobile, remote, flexible groups from around the globe forming dynamic teams. PCs/tablets and smart screens are so pervasive that they can be used to get work done from anywhere. These devices are shared by many people, and can be accessed from any location, with preferences, security (biometric security with heartbeat rhythm, facial recognition, voice, and more), and data access set specifically for each individual.
Commercial real estate is continuing to adapt to the new corporate climate of the mobile workforce, with use of shared workspaces growing as most organizations adopt “shared” offices throughout their region. Large companies are offering an average of 3–4 workplaces in the region that employees can use. Employees can choose to work in a shared space based on whom they actually like to work with and what needs to be accomplished rather than at strictly mandated and assigned work locations. These locations really address the human social need, as technology has closed the gap on the ability to effectively work together remotely. With access from any device at any time to video/audio and other data, there is very minimal effect on collaboration. The growing popularity of autonomous vehicles has also impacted work, allowing work and collaboration with others to be completed during travel.
The Hyperloop transports commuters hundreds of miles in a matter of minutes, expanding the geographic location of where people choose to live. Those frustrated with the challenges of getting around Los Angeles are considering a move to Las Vegas with the ability to commute to L.A. in less than 30 minutes as needed.
The mobile contractor economy has also continued to flourish, and companies are relying more on flexible freelance workforces from around the globe for a variety of projects and expertise they can easily add to supplement their core teams.
AI and machine learning has changed the landscape of jobs, and has had an especially dramatic effect on the health care and financial industries. Software systems are able to analyze massive amounts of data and provide instant recommendations; the human value in the workforce is based on judgment, experience and oversight of the AI platform. The human workforce is adapting to providing high-value functions, while low-value functions are all automated. With such advanced tools and significant automation everywhere, the 40-hour workweek is a reality, and the days of 50–60 hours per week are over.
While this article focused on just two aspects of life 10 years from now, the amount of change is staggering — and there is surely more that we can’t yet imagine from our place in history. Autonomy and mobility seem to be the names of the game, but what effect will these trends have on other aspects of everyday life in 2026? Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series for more perspectives on what life will be like in 10 years!