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21st century»2030-2039»




Full immersion virtual reality

Computers are now sufficiently advanced and miniaturised that billions of them can be implanted within the brain. Advances in neuroscience, in parallel with these and other developments, have led to a new form of simulation known as full immersion virtual reality. By the end of this decade, it has been successfully demonstrated in a human volunteer.*

Though still in its early stages, and yet to become fully mainstream, this technology provides astounding realism and detail. Users now have the option of actually "being" in a game environment and experiencing its graphics, audio and other effects (e.g. tactile feedback) in a manner that is largely indistinguishable from the real world.

This breakthrough has been achieved through exponential trends in computing over the previous decades – including a billionfold improvement in processing power and price performance, combined with a 100,000-fold shrinkage of components and circuitry.*

For the first time, human brains are actually being merged with computer intelligence. Rather than viewing games on a screen, users can now experience the program from within their own nervous systems, as though it were an extension of their mind. A simple, minimally invasive procedure inserts nanobots (blood cell-sized devices) into their bodies. These microscopic machines are self-guided towards the neurons in their brain responsible for visual, auditory and other senses. Here, they remain in a dormant state, but in close proximity to the brain cells.

When the user wishes to experience a simulated reality, the nanobots immediately move into place, suppressing all of the inputs coming from the real senses and replacing them with signals corresponding to the virtual environment. If the user decides to move their limbs and muscles as they normally would, the nanobots again intercept these neurochemical signals – suppressing the "real world" limbs from moving, and instead causing their "virtual" limbs to move within the game. This means a user can be sitting in a fixed position, while experiencing a high degree of activity and movement.


full immersion virtual reality vr 2030 2030s future timeline


Although most people are wary of microscopic nanobots, they have been around in some form since the 2020s (eg. for medical purposes) with few, if any issues. Many years of testing and safety measures have gone into this latest generation. Detailed regulations are being formulated to cover any possible eventuality. For example, power cuts mean the nanobots will simply detach from neurons – automatically returning a user to the real world – while checks are constantly performed to ensure there is no danger of being "trapped" in a virtual environment.

Furthermore, the machines are not permanent and can be removed at any time if desired. In any case, it is practically impossible for them to damage nerve cells or cause any lasting damage, due to their small size and limited functionality. In the coming decades, many people come to accept them as a natural part of their bodies – just as bacteria and other small objects are part of their stomach, digestion and other internal processes.

Full immersion VR isn't just limited to games. With such huge creative scope, it can be used for a whole range of applications: from business to education, training, healthcare, engineering, design, media and entertainment.

Tourism is revolutionised, since people no longer have to travel great distances or spend large amounts of money to explore the sights and sounds of another location – they can simply go online. For this reason, a number of travel firms go bust in the 2040s, or else drastically alter their business models to account for this new medium.


full immersion virtual reality vr 2030 2030s


Of course, that’s not to say these online holidays are intrinsically better than the real thing. Although on a different scale of technical wizardry compared to graphics of earlier decades, they are still somewhat limited in their accuracy of towns and cities. At this stage, many of them lack sufficient AI, are often sparsely populated, and miss out vital details or subtle characteristics of foreign culture... things which make real-life travel such an enriching, worthwhile experience. Decades of refinement will be needed before VR is entirely convincing.

Nevertheless, this new phenomenon is so profound in its depth of interactivity – as well as sheer convenience, accessibility and ease of use – that it presents a serious threat to old-line travel agencies.

One way that the industry adapts to this is by offering more detailed, advanced and sophisticated holiday environments, for a fee. However, this becomes only a temporary solution, as certain users find a way to pirate these programs, which are then duplicated and shared online. The problem is exacerbated by groups collaborating to form their own free/open source programs, which combine the best elements from these and others, and are easy to customise by the casual user. In some cases, "hybrid" versions of holiday destinations are created which offer wholly new, surreal and dreamlike experiences. One such example might be a recreation of Manhattan with a tropical coastline, populated by characters from Star Wars.

Just as the Internet caused a shakeup in the music industry, the same phenomenon occurs in the travel industry. From the 2040s onwards there is a marked decline in air travel and overseas holiday bookings. The effects of climate change are also playing a part here. Growing numbers of people are choosing to stay at home, with most communication and interaction done online. The same is true of businesses in general – especially with regard to meetings and conferences, which are increasingly being held in virtual settings.



The world's first trillionaire

The gap between the richest and poorest has now reached astronomical proportions. By the late 2030s, a well-known American business magnate has achieved a net worth exceeding $1 trillion.* This is 12 times as much as the highest figure reported at the turn of the century and is equivalent to the entire GDP of Mexico in 2015. A major growth area in terms of innovation and wealth creation is now the exploitation of space resources* – such as the metals, minerals and volatiles found in asteroids, which are driving a boom in space commercialisation. By the 2070s, there are more than ten trillionaires in the world.*


worlds first trillionaire 2039



Manufacturing jobs have largely disappeared in the West

In the United States and most other developed nations, manufacturing has gone the same way as agriculture – vitally important, yet employing very few people. Robots, automation and 3D printing, now sufficiently perfected after decades of development, have taken over a wide range of roles once performed by humans.*** As China and other emerging nations make the transition to service-based economies, they too will experience this trend in the not-too-distant future.


future manufacturing jobs 2030 2040 trend graph



Australia's national symbol, the koala, faces extinction

By this date, the koala population in Australia has dwindled to almost nothing, due to the combined impacts of drought, disease, climate change and and loss of natural habitat.* Only those in captivity now remain.


koala extinction climate change



Five-year survival rates for leukaemia are approaching 100%

Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow, characterised by an abnormal increase in the number of immature white blood cells, called "blasts". In 2008, there were 350,000 new cases worldwide, and 257,000 deaths from the disease, placing it within the top 10 most common type of cancer deaths.

However, treatments improved greatly over the decades, with survival rates showing a consistent upward trend. Gene therapy was among the most successful new approaches. One such method turned a patient's own T-cells into cancer-targeting attackers. In one study, conducted between 2010 and 2011, two of three patients remained cancer-free after a year.* By 2039, five-year survival rates in many countries are reaching 100%.**


leukemia five year survival rate future trend graph future treatments



Extreme heatwaves are commonplace in the U.S.

The previous five decades were all the hottest on record – each surpassing the last. Extreme heatwaves are now having a serious impact on agricultural yields and human health. This is a particular problem in the American West. From 2030 to 2039, most areas of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico have at least seven summers equal to the hottest season ever recorded between 1951 and 1999. The hottest daily temperatures of the year from 1980 to 1999 have become twice as frequent. There are persistent, drier conditions around the country, with substantial reductions in soil moisture and an accompanying rise in forest fires.*


future timeline global warming climate change drought temperature
Credit: dl91m




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1 Foreword to Virtual Humans, Kurzweilai.net:
Accessed 3rd January 2018.

2 Virtuality and reality 'to merge', BBC.co.uk:
Accessed 20th May 2009.

3 World could see first trillionaire in 25 years, The Telegraph:
Accessed 12th August 2015.

4 Neil deGrasse Tyson reveals how the world's first trillionaires will make their fortunes, Salon:
Accessed 12th August 2015.

5 See 2073.

6 Table 6.4A-D. Full-Time and Part-Time Employees by Industry (A), National Income and Product Accounts Tables, US Bureau of Economic Analysis:
Accessed 13th June 2013.

7 Rethink Robotics aims to revolutionise manufacturing with humanoid robot, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 13th June 2013.

8 How Technology Is Destroying Jobs, MIT Technology Review:
Accessed 11th June 2020.

9 Koalas 'extinct within 30 years' after chlamydia outbreak, The Telegraph:
Accessed 12th November 2009.

10 New leukemia therapy destroys cancer by turning blood cells into "assassins", CBS:
Accessed 7th October 2012.

11 Browse the SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2009 (Vintage 2009 Populations), National Cancer Institute:
Accessed 7th October 2012.

12 Leukaemia survival statistics, Cancer Research UK:
Accessed 7th October 2012.

13 Heat waves and extremely high temperatures could be commonplace in the U.S. by 2039, Stanford study finds, Stanford News Service:
Accessed 19th August 2010.


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