When science fiction films depict the future, the best writers and directors are often less concerned with accurately predicting how specific technologies might reshape the world than they are with confronting the moral or philosophical quandaries of present day. It’s what makes those stories compelling—and relatable. When futurists attempt to tell us how (and when) technology leaps will occur, they’re not only speculating about what we’re capable of achieving in the coming decades but also imploring us to prepare—scientifically and psychologically—for those events.
Envisioning Technology, the firm behind the massive infographic explorations of the future of emerging technology and the future of education technology, is, as you might guess, run by a futurist: Michell Zappa. His most recent visualization maps the next three decades of health technology, charting how regeneration, augmentation, diagnostics, treatments, biogerontology, and telemedicine will change over time. According to ET, the stuff of science fiction—from cryogenics to all-out life extension, from robot health care to 3-D-printed synthetic organs—will be very real before too long.
"I’m a technology futurist because I care a great deal about where humanity is heading," says Zappa. "I have a firm belief in technology being inseparable from human evolution, but unlike biology, we actually have a degree of control in where technology is going. The sand is shifting underneath our feet, and the safest way to ensure that we end up in a desirable future is by creating it."
So, how does one go about predicting what the future holds?
Zappa acknowledges that the "actual forecast of when certain technologies are likely to reach maturity [or the] mainstream is very subjective." He explains that his firm derives its visions of the future from the following factors: reliance on and "general indicators of accelerating change"; relative dependencies ("the more preceding technologies are being worked on, the larger the likelihood an individual technology has to become mainstream"), which he likens to a qualitative version of Google’s PageRank; and from synthesizing and assessing what’s in cultural tech magazines, gadget blogs, scientific journals, and the writings of other futurists.
The health infographic, designed by Zappa and Patrick Schlafer, with help from Colin Popell of Prokalkeo, is built on the belief that "technology is the ultimate democratizing force of society" and highlights the trend of "previously siloed repositories of information and expensive diagnostic methods … rapidly finding a global reach and enabling both patients and practitioners to make better use of information."