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high-end audio in 10 years from now?


tresaino

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Apologies for not being able to participate here more actively, truth is between work and family there's simply too little time left to be more active on internet in the evenings or weekends. But the holiday season allows me to sit back for a moment and share a thought - here it is: where do you think high-end audio will be in ten years from now?

 

The internet and hifi magazines are currently all jumping on the high-rez computer audio train, and we know we'll see more of this in 2011. However do you/we foresee computer audio to be the standard in future, let us say in ten years from now? Or won't we have any standard any more at that point in time?

 

Chris recently stated that "nobody will be using the same application for playback in ten years". If he's right, what impact will that have on related audio software such as Amarra or PV? I know 10 years is a long time, but 5 years isn't - or at least wasn't in the past, when we bought a high-end turntable, phono preamp or cd player, all were expected to last at least that long.

 

Personally am still doubtful that the music industry won't strike back eventually, or at least try to do so. I simply cannot believe that the few high-rez recordings available through download sites such as hdtracks and a few others will do the trick in ten years from now. This is still a niche market. Music companies such as ECM or Deutsche Grammophon are still handing out albums to high-rez download sites with the dropcounter.

 

Me? I am having some fun with computer audio, however I would not put my hand on fire on any of this. At the same time happy to admit that I don't have the foggiest idea where all of this is going. Looking ahead only two years is already difficult, ten years nearly impossible.

 

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Really hard to say apart from it's the masses that lead the market. The reason there aren't many high quality download sites with substantial libraries is because the infrastructure isn't there to handle mass downloads. That is the future for the next while though, once the average consumer demands higher quality recordings...

 

Further down the line though during the next decade it's hard to say but my personal opinion is that we will see substantial changes in interface structure and information options (to replace the ever important artwork and sleeves) and the ability to listen to any song ever made, instantly from the comfort of your padded chair.

 

An avid turntable fan myself, it will go the same way Kodachrome has gone recently. Let's hope it's not too soon.

 

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* CDs will be only found in second hand shops and market stalls

* this will finally lead the music industry to accept that this format is DEAD

* So high def downloads will become one of the ways they can add margin. One day (let's hope it's not too far away) they'll wake up and realize this

* I personally think 24/96 will become the standard for portable and mulitroom players that are not dependent on computer playback and:

* sites like this and all the guru's on it would have moved on to even higher resolutions via direct computer connections....

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

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Consumers have always sought out the cheapest route to their audio needs. Witness 45s, and LPs that are not digital masters, and of course, limewire and highly compressed music downloads. I am afraid high definition will remain the domain of a few audiophiles and never become mainstream. How many photographers now shoot RAW files?

 

 

 

It's music to my ears.

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My fear is that MP3 becomes the standard rather than CD quality lossless or better.

 

And how many people think than iPod quality sound is plenty good enough? Marketing and style has done better than sound quality on that front. Just try a Cowon player and you will find out what I mean.

 

Source: Diskless fanless PC Win Server19, fed from a linear supply and 19v pico

All SSDs on JCat battery supplies - JPlay femto - JCat femto USB - JCAT reference USB - Chord DAVE

Plus CEC TL 5 Cd transport - Blackcat Tron BNC - Chord DAVE

Amps: Merill Audio Veritas

Speakers: Trenner and Friedel RA

Cables : Kubula-Sosna Elation I/C and speaker

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Look at what's happened to the market for digital cameras over the last 10 years. The most expensive professional digital camera from a few years back underperforms todays consumer point and shoot. Its easy to see how a decade of improvements in commodity high production, high function integrated circuits incorporated into low margin electronics will make high end a thing of the past, with perhaps the exception of speakers. Mechanical transducers will take more time.

 

Oh, compression, mp3 or othewise. Remember the reason for compression was limited bandwith and limited storage space. Today's ipod classic is 160 GB, in 10 year terabytes. Compression won't matter. USB 2.0 is about 500 kbs, 3.0 closer to 5 gbs, in 10 years, who knows, 50 gbs, 100 gbs.

 

One more thing, sampling beyond current cd, maybe, but the advocates will have to prove that the claimed improvements can be heard, so far the research says that its an imagined improvement

 

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"Look at what's happened to the market for digital cameras over the last 10 years. The most expensive professional digital camera from a few years back underperforms todays consumer point and shoot. Its easy to see how a decade of improvements in commodity high production, high function integrated circuits incorporated into low margin electronics will make high end a thing of the past, with perhaps the exception of speakers. Mechanical transducers will take more time."

 

 

Hi gkoones - I agree with you but only if we are talking about mass market low to mid Fi audio. High end is about pushing boundaries and seeking the best. Very similar to Hasselblad. Its new H4D-60 camera is $42,000. This level of performance is not available from any mass market product. Thus high end products still exist in photography. I see no reason why audio will be any different.

 

 

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/671879-REG/Hasselblad_70480533_H4D_60_Digital_SLR_Camera.html

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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I started young, and I am ancient. I am seldom astounded any more at technology, but my wife recently got an Ipod Nano and loaded it with a.i.f.f. files from our main server, not going to the trouble to compress them. It would hold 24 hours worth of music in that format (and she had more music on her Iphone and more on an 80gb classic). Listening to her Nano with Westone 3 IEMs, I was blown away with the quality of the sound, as I was blown a way as a teenager, tuning in exotic African music on a shortwave receiver I built.

 

Not that the Nano sounds any better than an IPhone, but the nano and Westones together weigh what? 4 ounces? And cost something over $500. It is very high quality sound coming out of almost nothing. You can do some serious listening to music with that set up. It won't do what the system in our listening room will do, but it weighs over 300 pounds and cost perhaps $25,000.

 

The comparison to digital photography breaks down. Digital audio hardware will keep being able to produce higher rez at lower cost. The input to a camera, however, is highest possible resolution source: the real high-rez world itself. To make use of high rez audio hardware, it has to be profitable for someone to make and distribute really high-quality recordings of all music. That seems to me unlikely. Audiophile recordings will continue for people to show off equipment. I hope it doesn't all become MP3, but I would guess it will be a long time before the entire catalog is available in anything better than something compressed CD quality. Unless you buy CDs at garage sales and rip them. (I know a lot of people think uncompressed CDs are not better, but I at least imagine I can hear a difference.)

 

The other problem is that transducers--unlike digital hardware--do not get cheaper. The Nano was $150; the Westone IEMs were $400. Eventually, there may be a whole new way of converting electrical impulses to sound--I hope there is--but not many people are ever going to be able to afford speakers or even phones that will take advantage of really hi rez recordings.

 

Don

 

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I would point out that what you describe as low to mid fi will exceed the performance of what are currently the most expensive high end systems in the known universe.

 

The digital hasselblad is a good example. This is from someone owns several film Hasselblads, purchased many years ago. When purchased them, because of their format and optics, they took visibly better pictures than any other camera on the market. Even if you have the finest color printer, the pictures you take with that 40K digital hasselblad be indistingushable from cameras costing a small fraction of its price. Where it shines is in its ability produce images for later processing and manipulation.

 

The same will go for audio equipment. In 10 years, maybe sooner, maybe later, the technology will advance so that no amount of engineering will be able to produce audio equipment that outperforms mass market equipment. It all signal process and chips.

 

 

 

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Very little has changed during the past 10 years:

 

- Ripping CDs with EAC since 2000

- Encoding to FLAC since 2001

- Using foobar2000 player since 2003

- DVD-Audio ripable since 2005

- BD-Audio ripable since 2007

 

There is no need for changes regarding ripping, storage and basic playback. So we may switch player or lossless codec for cosmetic or personal reasons. Will not improve audio quality.

 

Huge changes may come from a new approach to playback and equipment:

- Digital Room Correction

- Active Speakers

- Using computer for crossover

- New speaker designs, e.g. open baffle

 

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There are two threads in the responses so far that I'd like to pick up and run with. They are what mid fi will look like in 10 years and what the high end will look like in 10 years.

 

First, the mainstream. Honestly, even in 10 years time I don't see high bitrate (24/96 and up) going mainstream. Music labels don't need to strike back at anything. Boutique sources of high res music will continue to release mostly classical and world music with the occasional high profile recording (mostly through the impassioned dedication of some recording engineers). On the other hand I'm not so pessimistic to think that everything will stop at lossy mp3.

 

My guess is that most people will get their music from the cloud, streaming lossless, but 16/44 quality files to both mobile devices and home gear. The biggest shift in audio over the next 10 years is that people will by and large stop buying music in the traditional sense of ownership. Whether this means subscription or ad based revenue streams for music labels I don't know, but they better figure it out fast.

 

On the hardware side, integrated units will continue to get better. A combination of class d amplification, cheap high quality dacs, and improved digital volume control will mean that small integrated stereos will pack quite a punch.

 

As to the high end, software will continue to shift. As itunes improves and audiophiles get more comfortable with computers, programs like amarra will earn their keep with serious room correction and crossover capabilities. Maybe sony will even join the party and allow for high end straight DSD releases.

 

The digital hardware revolution will continue for the high end as well, just with more custom ic's. Expect to see more active digital and wireless speakers in the high end realm, packing all the electronics right in with the speakers.

 

All in all the future looks good unless you are a music label. Or were hoping for your favorite Britney Spears album in 24/192.

 

PS Audio Quintet > Powerbook (iphone with apple remote app) > HRT Streamer II > Kingrex Pre-amp > Kingrex QS-01 > Devore Fidelity Gibbon 7.1\'s

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I don't think the camera analogy holds too well - people review their photos versus reality.

 

But that is harder to do with sound. What did the engineers concoct in the studio? Are you hearing it as they produced it?

 

While talking engineering : I was disappointed by the latest Buddy Guy album as the relationship between the vocal track, lead guitar track and the rest didn't work, but on Amazon the aficionados are raving about it. I went back to some simply recorded country blues and revelled in the mix and sound.

 

I really am hoping that lossless becomes the minimum medium (better than CD quality would be excellent) but I'm not holding my breath. There are plenty of folks out there who think low bit-rate mp3 on apple's decidedly non-audiophile players is just fine.

 

Source: Diskless fanless PC Win Server19, fed from a linear supply and 19v pico

All SSDs on JCat battery supplies - JPlay femto - JCat femto USB - JCAT reference USB - Chord DAVE

Plus CEC TL 5 Cd transport - Blackcat Tron BNC - Chord DAVE

Amps: Merill Audio Veritas

Speakers: Trenner and Friedel RA

Cables : Kubula-Sosna Elation I/C and speaker

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First, a nano-sized bio for me to give it context. I'm an electronics engineer who used to be very into what is considered "mid-fi" around here. Never spent tens of thousands on gear, but definitely wasn't satisfied with "ordinary" stereo equip. I've just recently re-kindled this interest and I'm studying the current state of the art before spending some money. I've been "away" for roughly 12 years.

 

Like some others, I'm struck somewhat by the things that haven't changed more than what has changed. For instance:


    vinyl and tubes are still around as a "fringe" or "extreme" form of audiophile -- and seemingly about the same percentage of the total populace
    still approximately equal measures of science and pseudo-science in both advertising and end-user discussions about audio
    defending the equipment one has already bought is still a really big part of the discussions - human nature and very understandable
    there are still very large areas of this endeavor that are not well understood by the science -- still many competing and contradictory theories about the finer points which have not been scientifically put to rest. Not sure there has been any advance AT ALL in this aspect of audiophilia. Still more religion than science.
    despite the very big changes in convenience of listening to consumer grade audio, inconvenience and frustration appear to be the rule still in audiophile land.

      Lack of good source material
      need for converting file formats
      high level of knowledge of tricks and techniques just to get decent sound (not even to get to the limits of quality)
      drop dead ugly and huge equipment that requires odd placement and a special dedicated listening room.

It is almost as if the hobby is about besting these difficulties rather than LISTENING.

 

So here are my (wishful thinking) prognostications:


    audiophile will be all about the music and listening instead of the gear
    the questions will all be answered and the answers will be built into the (inexpensive) gear for all to enjoy
    getting great-sounding enjoyable source material will be as easy as (but probably still separate from) the iTunes store.

This might sound like a strange list from a software engineer with a EE degree, but I guess I'm that...but also somebody who just loves great music. I get plenty of high-tech and frustration at work. After work it's time for Merlot and Mozart (or beer and Brubeck).

 

cheers,

Jeff

 

New guy here - old guy elsewhere...Mac Mini - BitPerfect - USB - Schiit Bifrost DAC - shit cable - Musical Fidelity A3.5 - home-brew speakers designed to prioritize phase and time response (Accuton ceramic dome drivers and first-order crossovers) and a very cheaply but well corrected room...old head, old ears, conventionally connected to an old brain with outdated software.

 

"It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled." -- Mark Twain

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Enough of worrying about lossless high def source material, some predictions :

 

- computer based music playing will be routinely network based

 

- cheap wireless distribution of music within the house will be sorted, dac buffering/caching will make it sound as good as any other means of distribution

 

- computer based playing will routinely be as good as that from good CD players (can't say that at the moment of my laptop based sources, but my purpose built PC is very good)

 

Source: Diskless fanless PC Win Server19, fed from a linear supply and 19v pico

All SSDs on JCat battery supplies - JPlay femto - JCat femto USB - JCAT reference USB - Chord DAVE

Plus CEC TL 5 Cd transport - Blackcat Tron BNC - Chord DAVE

Amps: Merill Audio Veritas

Speakers: Trenner and Friedel RA

Cables : Kubula-Sosna Elation I/C and speaker

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Good post, Jeff. Your observations are all too true.

 

If you have a good understanding of PC operating system and application s/w, you are miles ahead of most audiophiles. That knowledge is a good base for learning about alternatives for computer audio.

 

The more you know, the easier it is to get good results without grief.

 

-- my own predictions for high-end audio 10 years from now

 

Audiophiles will be talking about many of the same things they are talking about today. More of the conversations will be in a language other than English.

 

The US and Europe will be less important as markets for high-end audio products. Design and marketing of those products will follow manufacturing to Asia.

 

In the US, audiophile hearing aids will be a growth market as baby boomers lose their hearing.

 

I'm hoping that companies like Rotel and PSB that produce sound products at affordable prices flourish.

 

Bill

 

 

 

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+1 Jeff and Bill

 

I loved your posts :)

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

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The masses will dictate it all so it's not worth speculating IMHO. What I do know is that "it" will be cheap and readily available because people like convenience. I personally do not believe it will be much longer before the masses no longer owns any media. Everything will be stream only. The companies will make a fortune off of not pressing discs, etc. While the consumer will benefit thru convenience. Why goto walmart to buy a blu ray when there is netflix and why buy an mp3 when there is rhapsody? Why not stream video games and put gamestop out of business? My guess is that it won't be a decade before this type of business is the norm.

 

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As stated in my above post I totally agree that the mass market will go streaming for most media, however I think this will actually be a pretty rough time for related industries. There is a reason music and movie studios have been fighting this transition tooth and nail. Far from making a fortune off of not pressing discs, margins on streaming services are incredibly low. Media companies have traditionally made a lot of money through selling their wares multiple times (more true for movies) and packaging discs isn't as expensive as you might think.

 

Meanwhile, consumers have gotten used to the idea that streaming services should be free or extremely low cost (pandora, spotify). Thus it will be even harder to recoup lost money from sales as more and more people get their media from such services. Not to mention the impact all this will have on brick and mortar retailers. Bottom line: buckle up. The death rattles of Blockbuster and EMI are just the beginning. Who knows what impact this will all have on the promotion of quality music. We might be stuck with Justin Beiber for the next two decades.

 

PS Audio Quintet > Powerbook (iphone with apple remote app) > HRT Streamer II > Kingrex Pre-amp > Kingrex QS-01 > Devore Fidelity Gibbon 7.1\'s

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Nursery school children are entertained by the ridiculous notion that all bit-perfect music players sound the same. The only people left in the world still baffled by this idea are the Sonic Studio programmers, who are still unable to explain why Amarra v666.1 sounds so good... or why it still crashes on 9 out of 10 launches...

 

Chris "Monster" Connaker bravely resisted the temptations of unlimited wealth for a full five minutes before changing his name, and now leads the comfortable but depraved life of a typical audio reviewer: Sniffing up industrial quantities of cocaine from the naked hides of nubile young goats whilst auditioning the latest in high-end using his now famous "double deaf" reviewing technique.

 

Gordon Rankin and Steve Nugent have long since given up the thankless task of building audio components and have formed a band together. Their music is actually pretty good, but the real reason most people attend their gigs is for the passionate and hugely entertaining inter-band fights that break out mid-song over which one of them keeps better time.

 

 

(hopefully nobody mentioned is excessively offended by the above)

 

If you want a serious answer though...

 

I'd say there were three different time-scales at work: Computers go through a yearly cycle of upgrades, but hifi audio is built with the intention of not even being switched off over the course of a year, and bringing up the rear is the music industry - kicking, screaming and dragging it's heels. If I'm still around, I won't be using the same computer that I do now, I might have the same speakers and amp, I will certainly still be listening to Tom Waits. I kind of like the idea of audiophile hearing aids.

 

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I did not expect consensus on this subject.. however most would probably agree that any 10 year prognosis is simply too difficult. I realise this is not much in terms of an original summary. I'm convinced however that music and hardware industry have reflected, and are still reflecting, on their mistakes over the last decade, and that they still have a few bullets left. We should expect to see some of this unfolding soon, perhaps already in 2011 or 2012?

 

Just a couple of additional comments on what some of you said so far:

 

- agree with octopo that in ten years from now we'll probably be able to listen to almost everything ever produced instantly, however resolution and quality remain to be seen. By the way, I'm also big time into vinyl and relaxed about its medium term survival, despite the greetings from kodachrome vinyl will probably stay with us as one of the hardware mediums over the next 10 years, and perhaps for considerably longer, until we bite the grass. Probably good enough.

 

- agree with those who believe that 24/96 will probably become the standard for portable and multiroom systems. Think about the huge profits that would still be in the pipeline for industry, if all older mobile players, iPods and car systems are finally replaced by 24/96 capable players. Big profits ahead if industry starts presenting this as the new audio nirvana, even if it isn't.

 

- in this scenario however high-rez downloads will probably NOT be the audiophile's future. Here's where I respectfully disagree with those of you who believe immaterial streaming to be "the" future. I don't know you, but I would be more than happy to spend a few dollars/euros more than what we are currently paying for a high-rez download, and for this extra money get a physical medium with a sleeve, pictures, artwork and text. How many of you are not only music lovers and audiophiles but also collectors? Ever been to a second-hand record fair? People still love collecting material stuff, not wav or aiff files on a harddisk.

 

- music industry will have to learn from the SACD-DVD-A episode and promote a single standard next time. If they don't life will go on of course and high-rez downloads will continue. I may be wrong but I believe there is potential for considerably higher margins with a physical high-rez medium - something that one can not only hear but also feel, touch, and see.

 

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  • 10 years from now, the latest generation of the iPhone will be the size of a ring or maybe an earring. It will have zero storage and all services and content will be delivered from "The Cloud" via ubiquitous wireless broadband connectivity to those able and willing to pay for it.
     
  • Audio playback on the move will be performed via bone conduction. This will do also for handling phone calls.
     
  • What will be cutting edge will be "augmented reality" that is an option for such gear. That is, there will be an option for video that will include the phone/control hardware built into a pair of stylish eyeglasses (the 3-D capable version available from the Apple Store will be branded "iSpex"), though there will be rumors of some interesting prototypes showing how the technology might translate to contact lenses.
     
  • Now the must-have tech, your 'spex will be your personally branded (and uniquely locked) entrance to not only your music and video files, but pundits also project that the platform wil replace the tablet, smartphone, and netbook markets as gateways to Internet content and media.
     
  • Location-aware applications will be the expected norm and will be the interface to your music. Playback will be mediated by some control device, like a preamp, that is loaded with the necessary APIs and capable of accepting Cloud-sourced streams from cloud-based storage.
     
  • Vinyl, interestingly, will have made continuous advances in the audiophile market share as us older alienated audiophiles look for some semblance of our youth.
     
  • CD sales will still be available, more commonly as a one-off, but subscription services like Apple's NetFlix service will the most common way that users will get access to media.
     
  • The first 4-D "Immersives" will be introduced to test markets and will be largely hailed as a terrific way for Hollywood to re-release it's back catalog and will be mocked and ridiculed by the pundits. It'll be 20 years more before this will become the standard method for releasing video.
     
  • Desktop computers will no longer be made.
     
  • Obesity Diabetes will become the Number 1 health issue (cost-wise) in 1st World nations. The Four Horsemen will be having a fine time in the rest of the world.
     
  • The U.S. economy will finally be showing promising signs of recovery. Unfortunately, the Middle East will not be. Yes, the War in Asia will be over, but the saber rattling still continues.
     
  • The manned mission to Mars will have been canceled as a flagrant waste of taxpayer money. NASA will be on the chopping block, along with the Department of Education and the IRS. Again.
     
  • Human cloning is not only shown to be possible, but it promises to be cost-effective with certain experimental techniques. The Catholic Church and the US Gov't will both issue bans. Simultaneously, the UK (Unified Korea) becomes a travel destination for the wealthy elite (who also happen to have fertility issues).
     
  • Nanomachines are finally shown to be science fiction. Micromachines, on the other hand, have definite therapeutic uses.
     
  • Interactive online pornography, including the so-called "multi-user experience", becomes the most profitable Cloud business model. Like online gambling, online sex is still illegal to host within the borders of the US (except in Nevada, which experiences exponential growth -- again -- and is now the most expensive US city to live in, outstripping LA, NY and SF).
     
  • Traffic control trials are underway in major US Cities, combining multi-agent semi-autonomous control with local, central advanced AI engines. The commute in DC, which only 10 years before took an average of 90 minutes, now can be completed in 15, using the new "autopilot" features.
     
  • Gasoline prices are $7/gallon in the US and the average car still only gets 30mpg. Battery technology advances have allowed EVs a range of 500 miles per charge. New battery-changer "gas stations" are being considered for Federal funding to allow for the quick-change of battery packs where "refueling" can happen in less than 5 minutes.
     
  • The world population remains 7B, after several catastrophes and two large-scale wars in Asia.
     
  • Despite dire predictions to the contrary, the past 3 years have NOT been the warmest three on record.
     
  • Orly Taitz travels to Africa and is deeply moved. Becomes spokesperson for UNICEF.
     
  • Following a disastrous 2012 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin joins the judges of American Idol until the show is finally canceled due to declining viewership in 2014. Her last appearance on TV is during the 2016 election cycle.
     
  • Johnny Depp becomes Governor of California in 2018.
     
  • Jon Stewart brings The Daily Show to NBC as a replacement for the Nightly News, becomes the most highly paid TV personality in history.
     
  • Flying cars still aren't available. Neither are jetpacks. Nor flights to the Moon nor even into space. Aliens do not appear and SETI still does not produce any interesting results.
     
  • Lasers do not replace projectile weapons on the battlefield though rail guns do start replacing missiles at least on battleships.
     
  • Every other year for the next ten there is a giant oil spill.
     
  • The levees in New Orleans fail again.

 

Other than that, I find it hard to make predictions.

 

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