What Will the iPhone XX Be Like?
What will smartphones look like in 2027, the 20th anniversary of the iPhone? We asked two expert futurists, Dr. James Canton and Glen Hiemstra, to reveal what the smartphone of the future will look like.
Imagine coming down with the flu, but instead of visiting the doctor you use your phone to diagnose your condition – and then alter your genetic makeup to launch an attack on the virus, eradicating the disease in hours.
Or how about mastering Mandarin Chinese on the flight to Beijing, while your phone simultaneously books your hotel, rents a car, and makes dinner reservations?
Perhaps you could use your phone to understand quantum physics in a matter of minutes, with total recall of every relevant publication ever created; or tap into your phone’s processing power to solve planetary problems like climate change or world hunger in a matter of hours.
This is the iPhone of the future, and we’re not talking about 2050 and beyond. Some believe it’s what Apple has in store for us in 2027 – the 20th anniversary of the original iPhone.
The rise of artificial intelligence and cybernetics
“In 2027, the iPhone will be completely digital. Much of it will live in the cloud. Much of it will be wearable. Much of it will even be embedded,” says futurist and author Dr. James Canton, CEO and Chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, a think tank that advises businesses and governments on future trends. “The device we hold in our hands that we call the iPhone today will be a fully-wearable or embedded device.”
Canton, a former Apple executive who performed the first analysis of artificial intelligence as a capability during Macintosh development in the early 1980’s, says the iPhone of 2027 will still offer search, voice, data, video, and collaboration tools; but it will also feature advanced capabilities such as artificial intelligence and cybernetic enhancement – a new era of technology that transcends the device.
The iPhone XX will be a gateway to:
Business meetings, world exploration, entertainment events, and sporting events will be attended in a cloud-based virtual reality environment – in essence, teleportation.
“The convergence of virtual sense-making capabilities will propel you into what I call a blended reality,” says Canton. “You’ll have the ability to interact with the people you’re meeting with. Some people will be physically interacting in the space, some will virtually be there. There will be holograms in a particular location. I’d like to meet on top of Everest, so we’ll meet in an Everest meeting room.”
Artificially intelligent digital representatives will allow you to be in two – or three, or four – places at once. Your AI representatives will know what you know, think like you think, and behave like you behave. They will complete transactions, set up meetings, and represent you as a digital persona in those meetings.
And, everything they learn and experience will be downloaded into your memory bank.
“Your AI could represent you while you’re vacationing in Maui,” says Canton. “In ten years you’ll be living in multiple dimensions. It’s not that spooky. Instead of being present in one place, you’ll have these fully-empowered AI representations of you that function in certain domains: design, engineering, food, sports, and entertainment.”
Total recall and long-term productivity
The iPhone of the future will serve as a memory bank that makes it possible to recall everything you’ve ever experienced or learned. In a world in which one out of three men will be at risk for age-related disease, the iPhone will help you store memories so you can recall loved ones and information.
“When you’re starting to lose your memory, what would you pay to get it back? Memory as an asset class will become immensely important to a civilization that is living longer but ravaged by the effects of age-related diseases,” says Canton. “The iPhone will enhance us so we can provide good things for the planet and live productive lives well beyond 100.”
Your iPhone memory bank will interact directly with your physical brain, enhancing your cognitive abilities and utilizing your full brain capacity. Entire knowledge banks can be downloaded, granting robust educations and new skillsets instantly. College will become an institution of the past.
“Maybe we just transformed education by creating these quantum leaps and harnessing these technologies to give us instant learning,” says Canton. “We just finished hacking our brain. People won’t go to universities. Apple University will become a platform for learning.”
Your iPhone will constantly monitor your health, offer proactive warnings to help you thwart illness, and even make changes to your genetic makeup to cure disease. It will become your digital doctor. As a gateway to longevity, the iPhone will usher in a new era of health-related products and services.
“You could market certain kinds of digital DNA people can download and use for hacking their own genes, enhance cognition with hyperlearning capabilities, and monetize that by turning it into ways to give back to society, help others, and create communities of innovation,” says Canton. “That’s what these tools are really about: civilization and planetary tools of transformation.”
Canton adds that the iPhone could connect research labs, inventors, and entire supply chains to quickly and efficiently create new drugs and cure disease.
“It costs a billion dollars to produce a new drug today,” he says. “What would it look like if the iPhone harnessed a supply chain for drug development that doesn’t exist today? The notion of predictive medicine that will be tied to your iPhone to prevent illness or disease, or even genetically hack your own genome, could be a really different kind of reality.”
Solving world problems
Future iPhone technologies such as rapid learning, total recall, enhanced cognition, biometrics, and connectivity could lead to innovations that solve world problems.
“We can’t adequately feed two billion of the people in the world today. The iPhone could bring together collaborates to design entirely new digital supply chains,” Canton says. “Still at the core of the iPhone is the Mac, the iOS. So, at the end of the day you’re talking about the evolution of not just the phone, but a platform that will enable support, help people with everything from business, creativity, health, productivity, and as entrepreneurs and innovators to help us solve great challenges: hunger, climate change, privacy.”
Canton said the iPhone of 2027 will be an accelerator for creativity and innovation. Mobile technology will not be based solely on convenience or social interaction, but on empowering people to do more and have greater impact.
“Apple is about creating simple, elegant, empowering technology that enables people’s future capabilities. That was the idea behind the Mac: doing epic things,” he says. “The iPhone of the future will be a visionary device that will be transformational, and will empower the individual to do transformational things.”
What will the iPhone of the future look like?
The iPhone of 2027 will not resemble the iPhone of today. In fact, it might not even be a handheld device.
“The idea of a phone that does digital stuff, that searches the Internet, that you use for calls, emails, and social media, it will be transformed into a much more dynamic platform,” says Canton. “The phone will go away.”
Glen Hiemstra, founder and CEO of Futurist.com, is an international expert who advises professional, business, and government organizations on long-range trends and creating the preferred future. He believes handheld devices will still be dominant in 2027.
“Smartphones will diverge into two form factors: one continuing to be a handheld screen, the other a wearable or transplantable device,” he says. “The screen has many advantages. It’s easy to see, it can be adapted to augmented reality applications, it’s great for reading and very good for viewing photos and video. Holding it to your ear still provides some illusion of privacy, when we have those rare actual telephone conversations.”
Hiemstra says wearables will become more common if – and only if – a headset that enables viewing, such as glasses or a virtual retinal display, becomes very small, very attractive, and fully wireless with long battery life.
“Google Glass was the best attempt so far, and it fell way short of being attractive to consumers,” he says. “An implantable device would probably consist of a contact lens that can act as a screen and for AR, with some means of picking up sound, either spoken sound or sub-vocalizations. Obviously, we will need ear buds of some kind. The bottom line is the handheld will likely continue to be preferred for some time.”
Hiemstra believes the smartphone of 2027 will feature technologies like augmented reality, simultaneous projection of two large screens, and infinite battery life via WiFi or motion charging.
“If a true, flexible, nanotech screen can be developed that refreshes as well as the screens today, stores energy, has onboard memory, and can project sound, then one can imagine a roll-up or foldable screen, thick as a piece of paper, in your pocket to replace the phone of today,” he says. “But this may always be a science fiction dream, while reality looks like the tablets and phones of today.”
Canton envisions the future version of iOS interacting with us via biological integration: neurowire, a convergence of nano, bio, neuro, quantum, and information technologies. He says the first stage of cybernetic enhancement for individuals was the iPhone; the second, Apple Watch. In 2027, it will be new types of wearables and embeddables.
“The display from your phone, you will see it from your mind’s eye. Or, it will be sputtered to your iris. You can throw it to a wall and present it, or hologram it,” he says. “We’ll have wearables embedded like tattoos. You can have an attractive, fashionable tattoo that adheres to your skin, that you can take off, that has the functions of your phone. For those who want a retro experience, the phone will be patterned on your palm or your arm.”
A nanoreceptable will serve as memory storage, but instead of being on your computer or the phone as we know it, you’ll wear it and be able to access the information as if it were stored in your brain.
Embedded technology won’t be invasive; Canton imagines an embeddable tip architecture smaller than a human hair and capable of downloading a hundred zenobytes of data. He says we won’t even notice them.
Transferring information remotely shouldn’t be a problem, either, as the wireless networks of the future will be blazing fast.
“5G, according to what we have heard, will be available widely after 2025 or so, and will enable such speed that WiFi and even fiber to individuals may become obsolete as a 5G infrastructure is built out,” says Hiemstra.
Will “peopleware” be embraced?
Will people be comfortable enough with such technology to adopt it just one decade from now? Dr. Canton thinks so.
“We will adopt these radical technologies because they will enhance human importance. That is important to understand,” he says.
The future of technology is not just the hardware, says Canton, but peopleware: the interaction of consciousness, body, and brain with embedded technology that does much more than what the iPhone can do today.
“We have people who are walking around with embeddables now. Small hearing aids. Pacemaker technology is getting smaller and smaller. We’re already cybernetically enhancing ourselves,” he says. “Every six to eight months, technology is doubling at half the price. Ten years will be like 150 years. Putting technology inside us and going wireless will be fairly trivial.”
Whether we see that technology in 2027 or 2050 is up for debate.
“A small sub-set of the population will adopt biological integration, but many advances are required, and the number will be small for some time,” says Hiemstra, who referenced Elon Musk’s Neuralink project. “There has been successful work done to enable direct mind-to-computer communication to do things like move a cursor. By 2050, I expect we will have developed robust brain-machine interfaces so that thought can be sent to machines and thus through them to others. The question here is control: we would need pretty solid on/off switches so that one’s thoughts are only shared when desired.”
Dr. Canton cautioned that there could be a dark side to such technology: some nations might seek to use it to control the population, so measures must be introduced to prevent such nefarious designs – something he says Apple will be careful to implement as part of its values.
“The iPhone of the future, like the iPhone of today, will be designed to empower entrepreneurs, empower innovators, to empower people that want to make the world a better place,” he says. “I think they’ll do that for themselves and their societies, because the iPhone will represent a completely different era of responsibility to make the world better. That, to me, is the most exciting thing.”
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