What will travel look like in 30 years?
People driving will be rare - instead
you’ll order a wheel-less, pedal-less horizontal pod taxi driven by a computer.
For longer distances, you might even just
hop onto a sleeper car where you’ll arrive at your destination feeling
You might even order an autonomous,
electric air taxi for longer distances for wine weekend away.
However, aviation will probably still look
“I think it will be similar in some ways and very different in others.”
This is how Ramez Naam sees our future.
Former Microsoft executive, entrepreneur and sci-fi writer, he sees a world becoming ever-more connected,
overcoming barriers of understanding and distance through technology.
READ: #FutureProofAfrica: Putting humanity back into exponential technology
Smartphone still a game-changer
And the technology
that will still be driving our future for the next decade is the mobile
smartphone. Paired with the internet, cloud services and artificial
intelligence, it’s a superpower in our pocket, and Africa will be the last
continent to tackle this bastion of growth.
“Most Africans have a
feature phone, not a smartphone – five years ago feature phones outside of
South Africa and parts of the middle east dominated, but now you have countries
where a quarter of the phone subscribers have smartphones.”
And while Africa is
the least connected continent in the world at the moment, Naam believes this headroom
creates the potential for new connections to form, including perhaps
leapfrogging in some important ways.
“I think that it’s
instructive to look at China in some ways – China went straight from cash-only
to a multi-trillion-dollar mobile payments-via-your-phone infrastructure before
there was ever mobile payment happening in the US or Europe.’
In travel, besides
being our trusty guide while adventuring in unknown locations, our phone also
becomes our most important tool to super connect with others across language
Skype, for example, launched technology that instantly translates language in a call into the
person’s own voice instead of using an out-of-place narrator or robot voice – just another step to create seamless translation in our Babel-world.
“Everyone is reachable
everywhere, everyone has access to educational tools, everyone has access to
market prices, everyone has access to digital health solutions.”
READ: This app turns your phone camera into an all-knowing exploration device
The gap in tech adoption
But as with any
amazing new advancements, there’s always a big gap between developed and
developing nations in terms of tech adoption – and us Africans always feel like
we’re ten years behind everyone else.
Naam however believes
that gap is becoming ever shorter in the digital sphere. By 2025, there will be
500 million mobile internet users in Africa, but when it comes to larger, more
physical infrastructure we still have a long way to go.
“Put it this way –
almost every African household will have a high-bandwidth smart device before
every African household has a toilet.”
And it doesn’t mean
the digital can’t also help fill in the gaps in physical infrastructure –
farmers could have an app that lets them ‘Uber’ a tractor when they can’t
afford to buy one.
ALSO SEE: Sawubona! Soon you'll be able to use the instant photo function on Google Translate for Zulu, Xhosa and Sesotho
But is South Africa
ready for the future to come?
“I’m not sure any
place is ready. People have to be introduced to something, get used to the idea
and it has to go slowly.”
“And I do think
there’s a problem with people in tech, that we assume ‘oh we’ll give people
something and they’ll just love it’ - we don’t think of the backlash or the
Recently electric car
charging stations were launched at hotels across SA to bolster the idea of
e-mobility in a country dominated by distances, but when you hear the price tag
of some of these stations and vehicles, you just wonder if we’ll ever see this
coveted electric future.
Yet as we face off
another round of Eskom load shedding and doomsday predictions of the state of
our planet, change is more likely to come about forcefully, whether we’re ready
Find Your Escape by signing up for the Traveller24 Weekly Newsletter – Subscribe here. Or download the News24 App here, to receive expertly curated travel ideas and deals directly to your mobile.