LOS ANGELES — In 2024, the year the next president — if he sticks around for the maximum two terms — waves goodbye, technology is expected to have rocketed us into a future where we hop into driverless cars, plan trips to Mars, and chat with robots as if they're our best friends.
Which got us thinking: With such massive changes expected to come over the next eight years, how has tech altered the world since Barack Obama’s election eight years ago?
Mobile, mobile, mobile! When he was elected, most of us were still on desktop or laptop computers much of the workday. The iPhone was just one year old, and our new president fought long and hard with White House security to keep using his beloved BlackBerry. At the time, the "CrackBerry" was the favored communication device for the business and political world, and the iPhone was dismissed by PC leader Microsoft as a fad.
But that wasn't all.
Five top tech changes since 2008:
We live on smartphones all day long, with some 2.6 billion in daily use. It wasn't always that way. About 139 million smartphones were sold in 2008, compared with 1.4 billion in 2015, according to Gartner.
Having a personal computer in our pocket changed the way we communicate with schools and institutions, take photos, book and board flights, choose which restaurants we go to. And speaking of dining out, when’s the last time you went out to eat (especially at lunchtime) and didn't see the entire house looking down at their phones?
2) Social media
In 2008, Facebook had just 100 million users, and Twitter was just taking off. Now, presidential elections are launched on Twitter, we turn to the social networks to vent, promote, share and brag about everything we’re doing, and use them as a major news source, even when the information isn’t always legit. And Facebook now has 1.79 billion registered users. With live broadcasting on Facebook becoming a major way to diversify the news feed, and virtual reality touted as the next big thing for the social network, one can only wonder what the Facebook of 2024 will look like.
Snapchat, an app invented to send photos that disappeared within 10 seconds, was created in a Stanford University dorm room and first unleashed in 2011. Now the app has become the favorite of young folks for amusement — adding funny, augmented-reality images over faces and touting 150 million daily visitors. Will it hit 1 billion in eight years?
When’s the last time you reached for your Garmin or TomTom GPS? I'd venture to guess: eight years ago or longer. The apps Google Maps and Waze both changed our transport needs substantially, with turn-by-turn spoken directions on our mobile phones. I don’t know about you, but I can't imagine driving anywhere without getting advice from the apps first. I’ve gotten to know the backstreets in a way I never had before.
And speaking of transportation, in 2008, if we wanted a ride, we called ahead or stuck out our arm on urban streets. That changed in 2011, with the introduction of the Uber app, and then Lyft, which let us book rides within minutes. They seriously dented our use of cabs. We pay less for rides now, carpool more often (via the app) and who knows? Maybe we really will use an app to call a driverless car in a few years, as Uber is planning.
Classified ads, online forums — dating that way seems so a decade ago. Now we just swipe right if we like, left if we don’t. Tinder rewrote the rules on dating. Some 10 billion people have been matched on Tinder, says the company.
Remember when we used to reach for the TV Guide to see what was on TV? Now, due to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Sling and so many others, those days are as quaint as the neighborhood Blockbuster store.
Now we’re the programmer. We watch what we want, when we want, and customers respond by cutting the cord from expensive cable TV bundles. The next eight years just might see the end of the bundle, or perhaps even linear TV as we know it. Perhaps everything will be available on demand.
So onto the next eight years. Perhaps we'll all be bingeing on more shows than ever, but in an immersive virtual reality that we access through trendy lenses. It won't matter if we're not paying attention. The robot's driving the car.