What will be the biggest stories of 2019? | Part One | The Economist

, , Leave a comment

What will be the biggest stories of the year ahead? In 2019, the driverless
revolution finally hits the road. So, this is science fiction that’s gonna become science fact. New tech pays tribute to the old masters. You’ll have an explosion
of Leonardo mania in 2019. Flights will be cheaper than ever. And, 50 years after the
riots that kick-started the modern gay-rights movement,
the fight goes global. In 2019, power dressing will
take on a whole new meaning, when this strange looking
clothing hits the market. Not so much high fashion as high tech, it’s a suit with built in power, that will literally get people moving. The suit that we’re introducing in 2019 is actually an assist suit,
so you have to be moving. Think of it kind of like
an electric bicycle, you’re pedaling, and getting extra power. Part of the wearable robotics revolution, the suit is made up of
battery powered muscle packs, which contract just like a human muscle to boost the wearer’s strength. Those robotic muscles that we’re providing actually turn on and
provide strength to the body in a coordinated way, when you
need it, while you’re moving. With the global population of over 60’s expected to more than double by 2050, and retirement age increasing, there’s no shortage of potential markets. In Japan, the average age of
a construction worker is 48, so there’s lots of demand
for the labor workforce. But, don’t expect the suits to ease the burden on aching limbs and overstretched health
services any time soon. As these suits don’t come cheap. According to the manufacturer, they’ll retail for around the cost of a bespoke tailored suit. The challenge globally is how do we get such technologies to everybody? It doesn’t happen in the way that, say for example, formula one technology eventually trickles down
into the average car. 2019 will be the year low cost, long haul travel takes off. You’ll be able to buy a 10,000 mile flight from London to Sydney for around $350. And, this is why. The world will boast
two new state of the art megahub airports, and
competition between them will drive down the cost of flying. Daxing Airport, outside
Beijing, is due to open in 2019. And, will feed growing demand
for air travel in China. Over the next 20 years, the number of Chinese air passengers
is set to triple. Beijing already has one of the world’s biggest airports. And, for China, this new Megahub will send an important
message to the world. The opening of Daxing Airport is a symbol that the center
of the world’s economy has shifted east to China. Rivaling Daxing, as a national symbol of global prestige, will be a new Megahub airport in Istanbul. Opened in 2018, it covers a
staggering 26 square miles, an area larger than the
island of Manhattan. And, in 2019, consumers will again be the beneficiaries of a
state sponsored economic push. The Turkish government has actually been giving fuel subsidies to its airlines to try and help bring the
tourism industry back. But, the low fares offered by competition between these hubs could be short-lived. In a few years, many airlines will begin offsetting their carbon, with the costs potentially passed down to passengers. You could describe 2019, perhaps, as being the year to
fly, because who knows what’s gonna happen to airfares when the airlines actually have to start paying to offset their emissions. We discovered that Americans
consider homosexuality more harmful to society than adultery, abortion, or prostitution. In 2019, LGBT communities will mark the anniversary
of a seminal event. It will be 50 years since
patrons at New York gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, resisted
police attempts to arrest them. The resulting Stonewall Riots, kick-started the modern
gay-rights movement. I think anniversaries
like the Stonewall Riots are important because they remind us just how far we’ve come. But also, how much change is still needed because those sorts of
repressions and violence is still happening in much of the world. In many countries, the laws that continue to allow
intolerance and inequality have their roots in religion. These laws originate
from two main sources, Sharia law, and the British colonial exportation of Christian principles. But, one former British colony has given hope to the
global movement for change. In 2018, India
decriminalized homosexuality, and guy-rights campaigners
hope 2019 will be the year other former
British colonies follow suit. In February, Kenya’s high court will rule on whether to decriminalize
same-sex intimacy, which is currently punishable
with up to 14 years in prison. Decriminalization would
mean, for the first time, LGBT Kenyans would start to participate within the Kenyan democracy as equals. We’re going to be just a step closer to figuring out how an
equal Kenya looks like. Campaigners hope that decriminalization could start a domino effect across Africa. I think it will be a
tipping point for Africa. It will be the beginning of
the unraveling of these laws. The Stonewall rioters fought for the right to be free. And, fundamental human
rights will remain at the top of the agenda for sexual
and gender freedom in 2019. In 2019, people are
actually gonna be paying to take robo-taxis in some
cities in America, at least. So, this is sort of science fiction that’s gonna become science fact. With GM launching it’s
driverless taxi service, and Waymo expanding its
robo-taxis to new cities, 2019 will be the year the driverless car
revolution hits the road. So, 2019 is a race to the starting line. I think what gets interesting is when this technology starts to scale up, reach more cities, and ultimately, more people have access to
this really great technology. Knight Rider. It was hit 1980’s TV show Knight Rider that
popularized self-driving cars controlled by artificial intelligence. Since then, billions of
dollars of investment have fueled the drive to
turn the idea into reality. Dubai has committed to
a quarter of all trips being driverless by 2030. And, the driverless car industry will be worth a predicted
$550 billion by 2026. We’re talking very, very large numbers, and that number reflects
the optimism that this is going to be a very significant
technology in the future. But, the advance of driverless cars could be held up by a red flag. As in March of 2018, the first person was killed
by a self-driving car. At the moment, about 40,000 people are killed on the roads, in
America alone, each year. So, imagine if you improved safety by 99%, so you then are talking
about 400 road deaths a year. I think that would still
be quite a hard sell. That’s somebody being killed
by a robo-taxi every day. But, manufacturers are confident that the inevitable progress of technology will win over the skeptics. There is no cap on what
a computer could do in terms of safety,
they’ll just get better and better every year. I think you could pretty
quickly see a flip from, I don’t wanna share the road
with these killer machines, to, I don’t wanna share the road with these killer humans anymore. May 2019 will mark 500 years since the death of the greatest polymath in global history, Leonardo da Vinci. I think you’ll have an explosion of Leonardo mania in 2019. Leonardo painted the world’s most expensive picture,
The Salvator Mundi, which was auctioned for $450 million. But, he was also a brilliant
scientist and engineer. In 2019, his art and notebooks will be taking center stage
at blockbuster exhibitions. If I could have an afternoon
with Leonardo da Vinci, I’d show him the internet
because he would be so thrilled at the way we can now have ways to be curious about
anything we wanna know. Leonardo sketched out designs for inventions that
followed centuries later, such as scuba equipment, and the tank. And, in 2019, another of his designs will be getting a new lease of life, as a flying car becomes
commercially available. The car flies thanks to
folding helicopter blades, which are derived from
Leonardo’s invention, the aerial screw. Leonardo would’ve loved the
concept of a flying car. When you look at that aerial screw, that was designed as a prop for a plane to bring angels down from the rafters. But then, Leonardo blurs
the fantasy into reality, and spends the rest of
life trying to build a real flying machine. Leonardo was the original outsider. He’s illegitimate, he’s left handed, he’s a vegetarian, he’s gay,
he wears short purple tunics. But, they love him in
Florence, they embrace him. And, that’s the cool thing
about the Renaissance was, it embraced people who were
sometimes matchlessly weird. Five centuries after his death, there are still simple
lessons he can teach today’s divided world. Leonardo was very tolerant, he realized that we should bring people together, not separate into tribes. These are the type of
things that we’re still trying to learn in 2019,
500 years after he died.


Leave a Reply