200 Futures for 2020

A list compiled in September 1994 by BT futurology unit.

Twenty-five years ago there were no personal computers, laptop machines, liquid crystal displays, digital wrist watches or pocket calculators. Most households didn't have a telephone or a color television set and tape recorders still used open reels. Washing machines, cars and other domestic appliances contained no intelligence and there were no camcorders or VHS players. However, man had been to the moon and the space race, plus the cold war, had promoted the creation of integrated circuit technology. Since that time, our electronic based industries and society have seen a doubling in capability every one or two years across a broad range of technologies.

The listing that follows therefore represents the combined wisdom and guesses of a multitude of organizations and people. We have also taken the insights and projections of our own team to temper and shape the listing of two hundred technologies we predict to be key features of our society and individual lives by the year 2020.

Our purpose in compiling this list was to create a concise and, hopefully, visionary document that condenses a wide range of views from a large number of organizations.


1. Effective management of the organic environment

We will know the genomes of most plant and animal groups, so will be able to manage gene pools effectively, and also control their populations.

2. New engineered organisms used to produce chemicals

Organisms will be designed for production of commodities, medicines and complex chemicals, and for waste disposal, agricultural processing and environmental management.

3. Widespread genetic intervention programs for animals and plants

Many genetic enhancement techniques will be applied to wild and domestic organisms, including pets.

4. Many new forms of plants and animals from genetic engineering

5. Custom foods for particular medical conditions will exist.

6. Genetic links of all diseases identified

The important biochemical mechanisms and interactions with the environment will also be known for most diseases.

7. Genetic screening widely used

8. Genetic programs to enhance human well-being

Beyond curing disease, we will see the enhancement of physical and mental abilities.

9. Genetic, chemical and physiological bases of human behavior understood

This will allow control of mental disorders. Brain and mind manipulation will allow control of emotions, learning, senses, memory and other psychological phenomena.

10. Full personal medical records stored on smart card

Records will be highly comprehensive, with videos of operations, audio-visual interview records - complete life history on a smart card size device.

11. Individual's genome part of their medical record

12. More people will live into their 80s in good health

13. Many synthetic body parts available

14. Home (health) diagnostic systems, daily/real time check-up via radio

15. Home AI based elderly and handicapped support devices

16. Devices roaming within blood vessels under own power

17. Sensors directly connected to human sensory nerves. Also artificial nerves

18. Artificial senses, sensors directly stimulating nerves

19. Direct pleasure production

20. Prevention of cancer

21. Artificial ears, eyes, legs, lungs, hearts, pancreas, liver, kidneys, blood

22. Fine particle beam gene engineering


23. Global electronic currency in use

24. Paper and coins largely replaced by electronic cash

25. Paper cash used mainly for black market

26. Virtual companies dominant

27. AI models used extensively in business management

28. Purely electronic companies exist - minimal human involvement

29. Universal monitoring of business transactions


30. Self recovering multiprocessor systems

31. Blue semiconductor lasers

32. 3D VLSI with at least 10 layers of devices

33. Optical inter-chip connection

34. Electronics with <10 nm line spacing

35. Optical ICs: optical devices & wave guides on SC substrate

36. Integrated logic devices with switching speed < 1ps

37. Digital optical binary logic using phase information

38. Three terminal super conductive devices

39. Quantum effect interferometer for flux measurement

40. High performance non linear optical 3rd order devices

41. Super lattice 2D or 3D controlled semiconductor devices

42. x-ray free electron lasers with few dozen angstroms wavelength

43. Self organizing adaptive integrated circuits

44. Continuous sheet production of LSI semiconductor substrate


45. Life long learning is the norm

46. Distance learning widespread - virtual universities

47. Expert systems surpass human learning and logic abilities

48. Real time language translation for print and voice

49. Broadband networked electronic libraries

50. Natural language home information retrieval and interaction

51. Very intelligent knowledge pursuit and consultation

52. Systems to understand text and drawings (eg patent information)

53. Subliminal learning

54. Machine use of human memorizing, recognizing, learning


55. Cost of energy will be higher

56. Cities and accommodation designed to be more efficient

57. Solar cells with efficiency > 30%

58. Multilayer solar cells with efficiency > 50%

59. Large area amorphous solar cells with efficiency > 20%

60. Conversion/storage of solar energy as biochemical energy

61. Common use of solar cells for residential power supply

62. Space solar power stations

63. Water decomposition by sunlight


64. Totally managed world environment

Extensive large scale environmental engineering, including oceans, forests etc. Industry will be a part of the managed environment.

65. More effective resource management

Recycling, re-engineering and resource recovery will be more effectively used

66. Extensive remote sensing use in environmental management

67. Effective intervention in natural disasters

Mitigation, control or prevention of floods, earthquakes and landslides

68. World wide NIMBY problem for refugees, waste etc

69. Widespread contamination (worse than Chernobyl) by a nuclear device

70. Carbon dioxide fixation technologies for environment protection

71. Deep underground cities

72. Artificial precipitation induction

73. Global environmental management corporations


74. High quality A3 flat displays

75. Color video display with > 2000 x 2000 pixels

76. Large, wall hung high definition color displays

77. Wide screen (>100 in) with contrast ratio of > 10:1

78. Video walls, including living area use of VR (scenes)

79. Electronic notebook, contrast = paper even after power off

80. Video playback over network at 10 x normal speed

81. Many people sharing a virtual space

82. Positioning sound at any point in space

83. 3D TV without need for special glasses

84. Personal audio-visual interfaces well developed

85. 3D video conferencing

86. Computer link to biological sensory organs

87. Use of cheap holograms to convey 3D images

88. Full integration of processing, audio and video equipment


89. Everyone in advanced nations computer literacy

90. IT literacy essential for any employment

91. Widespread VR use for recreation and training


92. Highly integrated bio-sensors

93. Speech dialing, with recognition in switch equipment

94. Single chip multispeaker-learning voice recognition

95. Odour and flavor sensors comparable to human

96. Tactile sensors comparable to human sensation

97. No-contact identification of individuals

98. Portable translation device for simple conversation

99. Machine recognition of body language and gestures

100. Hands in screen interface

101. Bio-sensors capable of processing information


102. Atomic customization of materials

103. Polymers with conductivity > copper at room temperature

104. Material, refractive index variable by 0.1 in electric or magnetic field

105. Intelligent materials with sensors, storage and effectors

106. Aerogels that are heat resistant to 3500 degrees Fahrenheit

107. Metals that memorize their original shape to return to if damaged

108. Use of polymer gels for muscles, bio-reactors, information processing

109. Membranes with active transport and receptors


110. 1 TB memory chip

111. Large capacity recording faster than 1Gb/s

112. Hard x-ray holography

113. Memory with access time of 1ns

114. 100GB non volatile erasable RAM in few cm square

115. Molecular memory with density of 1 TB/sq cm

116. Retrieval from 1TB database within 10 seconds

117. Optical storage media will be static, e.g. optical card

118. Single storage medium usable for all forms of data

119. Memory/storage density still a bottleneck for some applications

120. Photochemical hole burning memory at 100GB per sq cm


121. Very widespread embedded intelligence

Everything will use processors, sensors, and smart materials sensitive to heat, light, sound and electromagnetic fields where appropriate.

122. Computers with speed exceeding 10 TFLOPS

123. 3D OEICs for image processing > 500 x 500 pixels

124. Behavior alarms based on human mistake mechanisms

125. Extensive use of analog and neural processing

126. AI technology imitating thinking processes of the brain

127. Optical neuron-computers

128. Parallel computer with 1000 million processors

129. PCs with clock rate > 100 GHz

130. Computers will write much of their own software

131. Processing speed still a bottleneck for some applications


132. Robots will be commonplace, e.g. robotic teachers

In home, manufacturing, agriculture, building & construction, undersea, space, mining, hospitals and streets for repair, construction, maintenance, security, entertainment, companionship, care.

133. Domestic robots will be small, specialized and attractive, e.g. cuddly

134. Robotized space vehicles and facilities

135. Totally automated factories commonplace

136. Autonomous robots with environmental awareness sensors

137. Intelligent robots for unmanned plants

138. Anthropomorphic robots used for factory jobs

139. Robots for almost any job in home or hospital

140. Housework robots for cleaning, washing etc

141. Artificial brains with ten thousand or more cells

142. Robots for guiding blind people

143. Self diagnostic self repairing robots


144. Universal ID cards

May include nationality, medical history, education, employment record, credit status, social security, affiliations, passport, life history etc.

145. Crime and terrorism will mainly be computer based

146. Viruses based on advanced AI will evolve and adapt

147. Replacement of card based ID by other methods

148. Almost all transmissions will be encrypted

149. Fire detection by odour or vibration

150. Fire fighting robots that can find and rescue people


151. Products of all kinds will be customized

152. Infrastructures will be self monitoring, using smart materials and sensors.

153. Factory manufactured housing will be the norm

154. English still the global language

155. Numerous world-wide virtual communities

156. World-wide popular culture, regardless of government intervention

157. Online voting

158. Electronic shopping for many products will be the norm

159. National decisions influenced by electronic referendum

160. World population > 7.5 billion

161. Average age in advanced nations will be 41

162. Migration regulated by international law

163. State pensions on a need only basis

164. More recreation and leisure time in middle classes

165. Still mass starvation in 3rd world

166. Rise of secular substitutes for religion, such as network based groups

167. Electronic newspaper to households

168. Various forms of electronic addiction will be a big problem

169. Replacement of people leads to anti-technology subculture

170. Power will be held more by corporations than by countries

171. Some cyber-nations will exist which have significant economic muscle

172. Many people will have nationality of both geonation and cybernation

173. 3rd world technology highly vulnerable to 1st world hackers


174. Orbiting space station well developed

175. Planning of manned missions to Mars

176. Start of preliminary Moon-base construction

177. Space planes in practical use

178. Planning of space factories for commercial production

179. Increasingly regular use of space-lines (eg. Virgin Galactic)


180. Electronic ATM switches largely obsolete & replaced by phonetic versions

181. Unified personal numbering for everything

182. All optic integrated logic, switching below 1 ps

183. Optical switches for 10,000 interactive video (3D/VR terminals)


184. Global broadband fiber based network

185. Audio transmission at 2.4kb/s, quality = analogue telephony

186. Multiple channels of >100Gbit/s/ on single fiber

187. Tb/s on optical fibers over long distance

188. Light detection sensitivity exceeding shot noise limit

189. Network will still be a significant bottleneck for some services

190. New mechanisms for communication discovered

191. Laser interferometer detection of gravitational waves


192. Interactive vehicle highway systems

193. Use of fiber gyros in car navigation

194. Various traffic information systems in use

These will help with navigation, traffic control, ETA, dynamic routing, monitoring, taxation and crime prevention/detection

195. Energy provided by hydrogen fuel cells and/or solar power

196. Nuclear propulsion systems for various transport types

197. Ships with super conductive electromagnetic thrust

198. Fully automatic ships able to navigate and dock automatically

199. Passenger planes with speed beyond Mach 4 and >300 capacity

200. Super conductive magnetic levitation railways at 500km/h


  1. 'Future technology in Japan toward the year 2020', by the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy/Science and Technology Agency, The Institute for Future Technology (NISTEP)
  2. 'The Highly Probable Future, 83 assumptions about the year 2025, Joseph Coates, extracting from Project 2025, Anticipating Developments in Science and Technology and Their Implications for the Corporation', sponsored by 18 large corporations, The Futurist, July/August 1994
  3. Fortune, September 5 1994