The following essay was submitted by Alden Arnold from Alabama State University as part of the Future of Technology Scholarship competition.

Winston Churchill said, “It’s always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than what you can see.” In 2040, I will be forty-four and a Healthcare Administrator. It’s quite easy to count years and declare your goal in life. It’s not as easy to see into the future. The ability to look further than one can see is the difference in dreams denied and dreams that allow people to change the world. In 2040, the world will fundamentally be changed. The driving force behind this change is rooted in the technology of today. The virtual world of 2040 will be driven by a digital phenomenon that will revolutionize our automobile industry, educational system, medical and banking industry.

The automobile industry in 2040 will be lead by driverless cars.1 This is in keeping with Googles’ X vehicle which has recorded over 500,000 miles without an accident.2 The impact of driverless cars will have a ripple effect on many industries leading to a technological explosion. Texting while driving is a thing of the past. We are now completing work tasks or interacting online as interior spacing in vehicles are turned into office space. Texting will be as antiquated in 2040 as the telegram is in 2014. In 2040, we are able to conduct mobile virtual video conferences in vehicles. Moreover, vehicles will provide self guided virtual video tours of our major cities and attractions adding a new component to the tourist industry. Meals on wheels will take on a new dining experience as we enjoy fine dining meals while traveling on the road. The ability to video conference while in your car is as easy as placing a mobile call today. As a result of technological changes, seats in vehicles will change to reflect a horizontal relationship between passengers instead of a vertical orientation to the road. The car will watch the road as passengers partake in fine-dining meal experiences, play family board games or rest from a long day. Gone are the days of brick and mortar coffee shops. Your 2040 car will have a coffee machine along with a self chilled wine dispenser.3 These are not luxuries anymore than a cigarette lighter is today. After all, DUI charges are a thing of the past. The driverless cars will render our roads accident free, as technology controls the vehicle. Humans are free from driving errors. Traffic fatalities have ceased. As a result, what is left of traffic court is conducted online with digitally generated judicial opinions related to technology glitches. Moreover, driverless cars will lead to a drastic reduction in demand on our health-care system and our first responders. Firemen will return to fighting fires and policemen will return to fighting crime. Traffic jams, due to accidents, are no longer occurring.

One of the most shocking cultural changes in society will be sweeping reformation in our educational system. The digital professor is here to stay. The tradition of going to college for a bachelor degree will be as foreign as the 5-speed manual transmission. A 2012 survey of over twenty eight hundred colleges and universities entitled, “Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,” showed that over six and a half million students enrolled in a course online during the fall of 2011 and over sixty-two percent of all colleges and universities offer full four-year bachelor degrees.4 Moreover, colleges and universities have instituted virtual pre-K-12 schools. Leading efforts with virtual high schools are Harvard, Stanford and UCLA. Kids, who have largely graduated from virtual high schools, will enroll in virtual colleges and universities for all bachelor degree courses. Classes will not merely be online, they will come into the home with 3-D interaction between students and faculty. The virtual class room will go wherever you are. If you are taking a driverless car trip four hours away, connect to your classes using your mobile educational portal. The landscape of Americas’ educational system is no longer lavish buildings, costly room and board and a la carte meal plans. Colleges and universities will be reserved for special professional and terminal degrees.

Another component of the 2040 world is a healthcare industry that is digitally sophisticated. I can clearly see beyond the wisdom of today’s electronic medical records to envision digital medical visits. Vital clinical data such as blood glucose levels, blood pressure, heart and cholesterol monitoring will be transmitted by a digital patient chip. Physicians will be reimbursed for routine clinical screenings on patients in their database. Medical appointments will be scheduled accordingly to reduce unnecessary visits and to address clinical parameters that exceed medical guidelines. Digital technology will allow robotic prosthetic limbs that are as common as knee braces today. Navigational freedom will be available to the blind and digital surgeries will be well established. The 2040 medical clinician will be digitally trained.

Finally, the banking industry will play a vital role in the transformation. Drive through banking is a thing of the past. It is virtually impossible to imagine there was once an ATM machine. As currency turns digital, banking comes into the car and the home. Currently there are over two-hundred digital currencies within six-hundred different markets. The total market capitalization is well over $6 billion dollars. Your digital banker displays on a virtual screen to discuss business decisions and transactions. You will use your home banking portal for daily deposits, withdrawals and transfers. Digital access codes and verification procedures will be used to access your banking portals. Community banking portals will be strategically placed with business merchants for onsite banking demands. Banking in 2040 will be virtual.

As the banking experience comes into the car and home, digital transactions will explode. The digital phenomena will bring virtual restaurant menus and store inventories into homes and vehicles. Your home or vehicle portal will say, “Place your order please.” Purchases will be made in route or from the comfort of home. In 2040, the digital information will connect the consumer to merchants just as the digital patient is connected to the digital doctor. You are virtually connected to the digital restaurant, bank and drugstore. Your digital car portal will accept your payments and transmit transactions to your merchant. Your order is ready on arrival because your meal delivery and preparation time will be synched with your driverless car location for accuracy. Merchants will know, in real time, how far you are away from pick up so that on-time delivery of fast food, groceries, and services can be provided.

In closing, in 2040, those over sixty five will likely comprise the largest segment of our society. They will reap great benefits from the technological advances of the future. Driverless cars, digitally controlled health visits, a self guided vehicular tourist industry, virtual banks and integrated digital restaurants and merchants will maximize their experience in the digital age. A reformed educational system will benefit society by curtailing the cost of education and restoring value to education allowing more Americans to fulfill their dreams. I see 2040 clearly. It may be difficult for many to believe what I see, but I do see it. 2040 is filled with technological advances that are well on their way in 2014.