As we come to the end of the decade (don't start me with 'but the decade begins in 2021' nonsense!) it's common to look both backwards at what happened in the past and what might happen in the future.
It reminds that in 2015 when I was working for Surat Basin News in southern Queensland I did an article called "2020 vision" when I gazed into my crystal ball and looked at five trends I though would be important by 2020 - with a focus on regional Queensland.
The trends were the rise of China, solar power, telehealth, the rise of robots and 3D printing. Looking forward I think all five will be critical to the next decade too.
China has become a world power in the last five years, matching and in many cases exceeding the US in the economic, political and military fields. Its Belt and Road project has seen its influence expand globally. In this part of the world Chinese investment is crucial in mine development while its demand for our minerals and food remains unabated. It is a trend I expect to continue though it is less democratic than ever. While I understand exactly why young people in Hong Kong are protesting, it is hard to see how this will end well with an ever more intransigent and belligerent China.
I said in 2015 that solar power would be entrenched in all aspects of our lives by 2020. Sadly thanks to political patronage of fossil fuel industries that has not happened as fast as I would have liked. But it is happening and with better battery storage it is only a matter of time it will replace coal and gas as our major energy source. This part of Queensland with its 2700 hours of sunshine a year should be in the vanguard.
Telehealth was a buzz word of 2015. For some reason the phrase has dropped off a little but the concept behind it is as crucial for regional areas. Telehealth is simply the remote provision of health services. As we get older, having a good health service becomes more critical and the liveability of the regions demands access to good services. This is where telehealth comes in. The ability to have a test done in Mount Isa or Boulia and have a specialist in the city read the info in real time is priceless. We need more of it, and better internet to access it.
As for robots, I reminded my readers that Blade Runner was set in 2019, then four years away, and now coming to an end. There's no replicants on the street but robots are here and will only become more important. I said in 2015 driverless cars would be ready in 2020 "though not the social licence to use them" and I'm not far wrong. As this article states, these will transform our lives in the coming years. The stunning breakthroughs in artificial intelligence will also have profound consequences for us.
The last trend was about 3D printing, probably my least successful prediction. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing uses data computer-aided-design software or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes. In 2015 I hoped it would revolutionise business in rural and regional communities by 2020. It's certainly happening but not yet at any scale. I don't know if it because it lacks practical uses to date or simply not well known. But the idea of using a computer to generate products instead of transporting them from faraway cities remains very alluring.