Entrepreneurs

Cash is dead, smart refrigerators manage grocery budgets and drones replace delivery guys: This is the future according to top tech CEO

Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi

One day in the not-so-distant future, going to the grocery store to buy food will be as novel as going to the record store to buy vinyl albums.

Your refrigerator will monitor what food you have in the house and, based on a budget you give the computer, it will put together a shopping list for Amazon. Then drones will deliver your groceries. All in under an hour.

According to Blockchain co-founder and CEO Peter Smith, major changes in the way we live and work with technology could happen in the next 20 years.

And Smith has sold his vision to some pretty legendary folks. His bitcoin wallet start-up, Blockchain, which allows users to store and transact with digital currencies, has heavy hitting investors including billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and Google's investment arm, GV.

Branson invited Smith to be part of his Future Visions series, where he asks notable technologists and visionaries to predict what the future will look like.

"While we'll still eat food, go to work and travel on vacations, the ways in which we do these things will be drastically altered thanks to generation-defining changes in technology," says Smith in his piece on Virgin's website.

"In fact, I predict that by 2037 a complete global computer fabric will make interacting with goods, services and people easier than ever. Citizens of the world will be more closely connected through technology, communication and networks."

Recently, the digital currency Bitcoin has been surging in price and titans like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have been talking a lot about the future of artificial intelligence, but both Bitcoin and AI still remain remain largely the purview of the tech elite.

That will change, says Smith, who has a vested interest in the technological revolution.

But perhaps more interesting is the way Smith describes the transition to a world fully integrated with AI and digital currency.

"The thing about real transformation is that it happens little by little and then all at once." -Peter Smith, co-founder and CEO of Blockchain

According to him, blockchain (the technology that enables cryptocurrencies, after which his company is named) and AI "are gaining traction and broader acceptance by consumers globally. That said, the thing about real transformation is that it happens little by little and then all at once," Smith says. "We're still in the little by little phase but I anticipate progress will compound in the coming decades and we'll see ubiquity of these technologies in 20 years' time."

The onus is on both individuals and businesses to stay abreast of the technology.

"The rate of change is going to get increasingly faster and catching up will only get harder, so it's key for individuals and businesses to stay (or become) nimble and able to adapt to an ever changing environment," Smith says.

"It's vital that everyone becomes fluent in digital technologies. Your business may not be a technology company in the traditional sense, but it will need to use technology to compete in a global marketplace. Having a foundational understanding will be an integral part of your success."

So what will all that change look like for consumers? Though Smith admits that it's impossible to know "with any confidence what the future has in store," he does offer a handful of predictions that are pretty wild to consider:

Appliances, like your refrigerator, will learn what you like

"Our businesses and homes will become highly automated and most of our appliances will be connected to the internet," says Smith, as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). "There will be limitless customization fueled by AI and massive data platforms that will be able to anticipate customer needs and deliver goods and services instantly. Customers will be able to get what they want, when they want."

If you go to a store, you won't leave with the product, it will be shipped to you

"Today, the majority of consumers prefer to purchase online or digitally, driving rapid growth in e-commerce and online shopping," writes Smith. "This change is going to cause retail stores to be replaced by showroom type experiences where consumers can still have a tactile experience but inventory management and delivery will happen in the background."

Most stores will no longer exist in real life

"It is not unlikely that stores will be replaced by [virtual reality] experiences," says Smith.

There will be no more gas pump attendants, sales clerks or employees checking in a consumer to a location or activity

"Everything will be automated," he says.

There will be no more cash

"Mass adoption of digital currencies that are affordable and flexible will make cash extinct, with the rare exception of a few remaining analogue cultural pockets."

See also:

Elon Musk: Robots will take your jobs, government will have to pay your wage

Elon Musk: 'Robots will be able to do everything better than us'

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates think it's 'crazy' to view job-stealing robots as bad