Welcome to 2020! Other than being a numerically auspicious date that stands at the gateway of a fresh new decade, the year 2020 will probably be like any other year: Full of confusing and depressing events that will make you wish Earth had some sort of eject button.
But, statistically speaking, there must be some good things, too. There may even be several good things! In fact, we’ve counted a few of the exciting upcoming scientific ventures, breakthroughs and plans coming in the first year of this new decade.
The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo
Everyone loves the Olympics! When else can you and your fellow citizens get genuinely, collectively excited about beach volleyball? The 2020 games will feature five new sports: Karate, baseball/softball, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing, as well as a mess of new events in already established categories. And in a tech-savvy, culturally rich city like Tokyo, the games are bound to be particularly festive.
After a late impeachment of current U.S. President Donald J. Trump, we look forward to the end of 2020 to see how the dust will settle on the presidency. Right, so not many well-adjusted people would call elections “fun.” But this isn’t a list of fun things, it’s a list of things to look forward to. And no matter how many ulcers the 2020 Presidential race will give you, it’s still an important time in US history and it will affect us all. So, do your part by getting more political or learning about voting history or just practicing a few deep, democratic breaths in preparation for November. Other than the main event, 11 states will be holding gubernatorial elections this year, so there’s a chance the fabric of our country could change significantly in a very short period.
The Mars 2020 Mission
In case the year really does go to hell and you want to launch yourself into space, maybe you can hitch a ride on the new rover headed for Mars in late July or early August. The Mars 2020 rover will join the Curiosity rover on the Red Planet, which hopefully means Curiosity will have a friend to sing Happy Birthday with instead of doing it all alone. Any time scientists get to be rock stars is a time worth celebrating, and the Mars 2020 rover is fully tricked out and ready to roll. It has 23 cameras and two microphones to capture the sounds of the rover landing as well as the haunting, desolate Martian winds that follow.
A Newly Opened Washington Monument
Under normal circumstances, tourists can go up to the top of the 555-foot obelisk at the heart of our nation’s capital and gaze out like kings at the tidy grid of humanity below. However, for almost three years, the Washington Monument has been closed to the public while it gets a new security screening area and elevator system. It seems like a long time, but when it comes to elevators, it’s always good to err on the side of caution. Everything should be back up and running for tourists in September.
The Opening of the Yahoo! Time Capsule
A Total Eclipse
Remember how fun the Great American Eclipse was in 2017? Well, there’s a Great South American Eclipse coming next year, and eclipse watchers are making plans to congregate in Argentina and stare up at the cosmic spectacle (while safely bespectacled, of course). The solar eclipse will shade the region in brief darkness on December 14, but there are other fun space things happening right around the same time. The Geminid meteor shower will spangle the sky the night before, and a special alignment of Jupiter and Saturn a week later will complete a rare space nerd trifecta.
The Next generation of Video Game Consoles (and New Games to Play on Them)
Video games will continue to take over the cultural mainstream, and they’ll get a huge boost when two new consoles, the PlayStation 5 and the XBox Series X, hit the market in 2020. New video game releases will accompany these next-gen consoles: Halo Infinite and Hellblade 2 for the XBox, and new Call of Duty and Final Fantasy titles for the PS5.
The Year of the Electric Truck
The world of brawny haul-ems with whisper-quiet, earth-friendly engines is about to explode. We’ve already met the Tesla Cybertruck, and honestly, it wasn’t the gentlest introduction to the world of electric trucks. Don’t worry, the rest are a bit friendlier. Two startup companies, Lordstown Motors and Rivian, will release models this year. For those with very expensive tastes, the Hummer-like Bollinger B2 will be rolling out with a $125,000 price tag. More popular automakers are giving their trucks an electric upgrade. GM is planning an all-electric truck release, and an electric version of the Ford F-150 — the bestselling car in America — is still on the drawing board but is expected to be a 2021 release.
The Rise of High-Speed Rail
It is no secret that high-speed rail is the future of land travel, but the concept has been slow to catch on in the US. That may change in 2020. Several high-speed rail systems are due to break ground, and other plans could move forward in big ways. Virgin Trains USA will begin construction in late 2020 on a new $4.8 billion, 170-mile high-speed train line from Victorville, California, to Las Vegas. (Another Virgin Trains line, between Miami and West Palm Beach, is already in operation, and will expand to Orlando in a few years.) A plan for a high-speed line between Houston and Dallas is chugging along, so to speak, and construction could start as early as summer 2020.
5G Data Networks
The 5th generation of mobile internet connectivity is going to give us super-fast download and upload speeds as well as more stable connections. While 5G mobile data networks became available for the first time in 2019, they were mostly still expensive and limited to functioning in confined areas or major cities. 2020 is likely to be the year when 5G really starts to fly, with more affordable data plans as well as greatly improved coverage, meaning that everyone can join in the fun.
Super-fast data networks will not only give us the ability to stream movies and music at higher quality when we’re on the move. The greatly increased speeds mean that mobile networks will become more usable even than the wired networks running into our homes and businesses. Companies must consider the business implications of having super-fast and stable internet access anywhere. The increased bandwidth will enable machines, robots, and autonomous vehicles to collect and transfer more data than ever, leading to advances in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart machinery.
While we still aren’t at the stage where we can expect to routinely travel in, or even see, autonomous vehicles in 2020, they will undoubtedly continue to generate a significant amount of excitement.
Tesla chief Elon Musk has said he expects his company to create a truly “complete” autonomous vehicle by this year, and the number of vehicles capable of operating with a lesser degree of autonomy – such as automated braking and lane-changing – will become an increasingly common sight. In addition to this, other in-car systems not directly connected to driving, such as security and entertainment functions – will become increasingly automated and reliant on data capture and analytics. Google’s sister-company Waymo has just completed a trial of autonomous taxis in California, where it transported more than 6200 people in the first month.
It won’t just be cars, of course – trucking and shipping are becoming more autonomous, and breakthroughs in this space are likely to continue to hit the headlines throughout 2020.
With the maturing of autonomous driving technology, we will also increasingly hear about the measures that will be taken by regulators, legislators, and authorities. Changes to laws, existing infrastructure, and social attitudes are all likely to be required before autonomous driving becomes a practical reality for most of us. During 2020, it’s likely we will start to see the debate around autonomous driving spread outside of the tech world, as more and more people come round to the idea that the question is not “if,” but “when,” it will become a reality.
Automation is aimed to augment people and propel the automation process. It combines packaged software, machine learning, and automation tools to deliver the results. In the next couple of years, automation of data science will empower scientists to churn out advanced analysis.
Automation has already had us welcome cashier-less AMAZON Go stores across the US, but according to CNBC, the number will be 3,000 of its cashier-less AMAZON GO stores by 2021. For example, businesses in retail will need such sophisticated automation to compete with cashier-less AMAZON GO stores.
According to a PWC report, automation will go through three waves of automation:
- Algorithmic displacing around 3% to 30% of jobs from the early 2020s to mid-2020s.
- Augmentation increasing these percentages higher as technology improves itself.
- Autonomy wave that is predicted to surface in the mid-2030s.