“And here’s where we’ll put the infinity pool” [inhauscreative/E+ via GettyImages]
The new year is here, and so is the future: 2022 is only three days old, but we’re looking ahead to trends that could shape the next decade.
From robotic labor to the Internet of Things and blockchain, there’s plenty of future to discuss (by Elon’s predictions, we’ll be landing on Mars within five years). But we've whipped up seven themes that could define the future of the consumer economy.
The digi asset boom… You just splurged $100 on Nikes and concert tickets — and you’ll never see any of those IRL. In 2022, digital asset shopping could become as mainstream as Etsy orders. Digital asset sales have boomed this year, from NFT art to virtual apparel and real estate. NFT sales hit $23B in 2021, surging 7X from 2020. Art auction sales alone hit a record $6.5B, largely thanks to NFTs. E-pparel is booming, so Nike filed trademarks for virtual shoes and merch. As people prepare for an immersive internet future, more treasures could live on the blockchain.
The “free work” revolution… First you’re in the office two days a week, then you’re Zooming in from an Airbnb boathouse in Guam. The pandemic changed priorities, while showing us that remote work works. US job openings soared to records as workers eyed better options. A key factor = flexibility. Nearly 75% of employees want to continue hybrid or remote work, and 1 in 4 say they’d quit if they had to return full-time. There’s still plenty of uncertainty with Omicron cases surging. Since less than 40% of employers plan to require full-time presence post-pandemic, “free work” could be here to stay.
Space becomes a destination… Instead of a European getaway, you could be hopping on a space shuttle to eat at a restaurant on the International Space Station (try the spaghetti Apollo-gnese). NASA is leaning on private sector companies to help it commercialize space. In 2021, high-profile suborbital flights from Elon’s SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Branson’s Virgin Galactic created unprecedented momentum for space tourism. Virgin aims to start flying tourists for $250K/seat in early 2022. By the 2030s, the price of a space ticket could fall to the cost of a business class ticket to Europe today.
AR eats the world… AR went mainstream thanks to Snap filters and Pokémon Go. But in five years, you could be navigating cities and calculating tips all through augmented reality glasses. Every effort at smart glasses from Google Glass to Snap Spectacles has flopped, but AR shades could gain traction as they become more useful and #stylish: Facebook plans to infuse AR into its new smart Ray-Bans, and Apple could launch AR headsets by late 2022. Nio just debuted an EV sedan with an AR glasses-powered dash. AR glasses sales could reach 22.8M this year. And some companies are working on AR contacts.
The Avatar-aissance… Instead of going online with a million different logins, you could be living inside the internet with an avatar that moves seamlessly from virtual hangouts to digital malls. Meta (fka: Facebook), Roblox, and Microsoft are racing to build the metaverse, a vision for an immersive internet. Think: avatar-filled VR games, concerts, and offices. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopes the metaverse will reach 1B people by 2030. The market could hit $800B by 2024.
DNA-personalized healthcare… Imagine getting a customized health plan from your doc based on your genes. Think: which drugs are best suited to you, and how to prevent diseases you’re predisposed to. 70% of providers think genetic tests will improve clinical outcomes. DNA-testing company 23andMe is buying Lemonaid Health to help doctors tailor treatments to genetic data. Rivals like Color and Helix are positioning genetics as the future. Gene modification could also play a role in curbing diseases.
Clean energy rules… Countries must hit net-zero emissions by 2050 to prevent irreversible climate damage. Many government and corporate 2030 climate targets are coming up. Those could be reached through green innovations in nuclear reactors, batteries, solar grids, and geothermal energy (think: volcanoes). In the next few decades, renewables will likely be the fastest-growing energy source and could beat fossil fuels (gas, coal) on cost. By 2050, alternative energy could power up to 80% of the US, from 30% today.
e-Dollar: China has already processed more than $5B in e-renminbi transactions, while the US has fallen behind in plans to develop its own central bank digital currency (CBDC). Fed Chair Powell could have updates in the coming months.
You-topia: Developers are building smart cities from Nevada to Dubai that will run on the blockchain and use solar domes to convert saltwater into freshwater — but critics worry they may worsen inequality and human rights issues.
Snip: As CRISPR gene-editing tech improves, scientists are working on ways to grow spicy tomato-chili pepper hybrids, breed faster racehorses, make hypoallergenic food, and bring woolly mammoths back from extinction.
Our 3 business predictions for 2022: The top show of next year won’t be in English, Twitter will become America’s first "super app," and a major restaurant chain will launch a humanless restaurant.
Why? Listen in to our big bold prediction pod for 2022.
Authors of this Snacks own: Bitcoin, and shares of Apple, Amazon, Google, Tesla, Snap, and Microsoft