Ordinary Life Improvements 2030

Air Quality: Despite the continued progression of climate change, and proliferation of wildfires, air filtration is seamless for most indoor environments. A cheap air quality meter syncs with industrial purifiers, regulating PM2.5 intake below the cognitively harmful level. Though the improvement to quality of life is nearly imperceptible, the change adds an estimated $2Tn to US GDP annually.

Pandemics: Similarly, outdoor air quality is managed by cheap 3d-printed negative-pressure helmets which have the side-benefit of preventing essentially all airborne disease in public settings. Privately, we still have to rely on testing, but it’s only $5, relatively non-invasive, and easy to perform from the comfort of your home.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth just works. Not the way XKCD predicted, but actually better. Once opened, the AirPods Mini Pro S simply connect, immediately and painlessly, to your active Apple device.

Food: Improvements in flash freezing enable produce that’s always seasonal, delicious and ripened on the vine instead of in-transit. More general applications mean fully prepared meals, available at a moment’s notice, and designed for your taste. It’s the frozen TV dinner from the 50s, except, you know, actually good. Compact countertop combination air-fryer/microwave/steamers mean that food is always cooked through evenly (no more hot pocket magma). Again, all from the comfort of your home, no need to gear up to go outside, and no depressing Blade Runner 2049 vending machines.

Beauty: A lot of this is just virtual now. You can save your skin and wallet from layers of makeup, with way more freedom than ever before to transfigure your own face. In person, countless hours at the gym have been saved by safety improvements to Brazilian Butt Lift and other cosmetic surgeries, now fully mainstream and destigmatized.

Longevity: Selective androgen receptor modulators are safer than ever, and alongside TRT, mean that no one suffers from premature muscular dystrophy or loses their agency to hampered mobility.

Transportation: Trains remain cheap and safe, and are now ubiquitous as well. For longer international travel, supersonic aircraft have cut transit time by about 50%. Though again, the advent of remote work and improved VR mean that transit is just generally less necessary. For private transit, self-driving cars just work.

Okay, sorry, it’s probably obvious, but the joke is that none of this is the future. It’s now. It’s already happening. Aside from the supersonic planes (which really won’t happen until 2030), 100% of the technology discussed here is functional, just not widespread.

Except that even there I’m sandbagging a bit. The technology is available in China. Trains are good, cheap and ubiquitous. Cosmetic surgery is normalized. Air pollution is rapidly improving. Food delivery is really cheap and consistently delicious. There’s practically no Covid.

China isn’t the future, it’s the present. Whether this is cause for concern or cause for optimism depends on your background, concern about the ongoing human rights violations, and time horizon.

Meanwhile, in the US, commute times are actually going up, air quality is getting worse, fires are getting worse, Amtrak is getting worse.

So okay, one reasonable interpretation of this whole piece is that the US is in decline, but China is in ascension. Another interpretation is that actually, progress is rapid and things are improving. But it’s worth noting, also, how many of these “solutions” are to relatively new problems. So a third interpretation is that all progress happened before 1970, and we’re still paying back debt incurred from environmental problems and the unexpected harms of (sub)urbanization.

I really don’t know. I’m tired, and I just want the future to be decent.

Inspired by Gwern’s My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s.