Sara Brady is a veteran writer at ESPN The Magazine. This month, she explored what our lives will be like in 2030 for The Red Bulletin. “My favorite part of working on this story was talking with architect Greg Lynn about the future of smart homes and Daniel Schoonover and Andrew Smiley from iWinks about lucid dreams,” says Sara. “Then I spent a couple of nights trying to control my dreams, but every time I woke up I didn’t speak French.”
Sunday, August 11, 2030
6 a.m.: Good Morning
When you wake up in the future, it’s not with a startled jerk and a frantic grope to silence the shrieking alarm coming from your smartphone. No—future you eases gently out of a lucid dream and into your day, thanks to the 10th-generation Aurora headband you put on before drifting off last night. The headband, a brainchild of iWinks engineers Daniel Schoonover and Andrew Smiley, uses audiovisual cues to induce lucid dreaming, “the ability to be aware of a dream while it is happening,” Smiley explains. This means that while you grabbed your eight hours of shut-eye last night, you were able to decide where you wanted to go in your dreams—so you traced the course of the sprint triathlon you’ll start in a few hours. “One great feature and benefit of lucid dreaming is the ability to practice a real-life task and improve your performance of that task in waking life,” Schoonover says. “By visualizing your performance of a task in dreams, you strengthen the neuralnetwork pathways that derive from that task.”
Smiley and Schoonover hope to ship the first Aurora headbands this month. The technology, Schoonover explains, works because “the headband monitors your sleep stages accurately and it knows when you’re in REM sleep, the stage where dreams are most likely to occur. While the user is dreaming, they are sensitive to external suggestion.”
So even though it’s the crack of dawn, you’re now psyched and ready to go, because the dream you woke from ended with you winning the triathlon and being lifted, victorious, onto your friends’ shoulders (There may even have been enthusiastic congratulations from a supermodel—hell, it’s your dream.) “The average person is likely to experience a lucid dream right before they wake up,” Smiley says. “They’re going to wake up feeling exhilarated; they’re not going to feel tired. It’s going to be great.”
10 a.m.: Race Ready
You’ve just finished the swim and are trading your wet suit for climbing shoes. (Triathlons of the future include climbing a mountain to get to your bike—didn’t you know that?) This is the part you were most nervous about, being a novice climber, but in your lucid dream just before waking you saw every hand- and foothold, so you set out up the 150-foot cliff with a speed and precision you’d never have been able to achieve without the REM-state practice.
Halfway up the wall, your mind clicks into a flow state. Flow—first documented by Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—is “an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel our best and perform our best,” according to Steven Kotler, author of The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance. “Flow has been at the heart of ultimate human performance as long as we’ve been looking at ultimate human performance,” Kotler says. “Until recently it’s been a lightning strike. People have been waiting for lightning to strike again—they didn’t know where it came from, they didn’t know how it came, and when it happened it was a miracle. For the first time in history, over the next five to 10 years, we’re going to figure out how to bottle lightning.”
By the time you’re climbing this wall in 2030, you’ll know what your flow triggers are; since you’re dangling a few dozen feet off the ground, intensely focused attention and major consequences—like breaking your neck—are the ones that sent you into the flow state just now. You scale the cliff almost without thinking, and when you reach the top, your brain is awash in the five neurochemicals that make up flow: dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, and anandamide. (It’s a heady mix, Kotler says. “Dopamine is cocaine, serotonin is ecstasy, norepinephrine is speed, endorphins are morphine and heroin— and the most common endorphin in the body is a hundred times more potent than medical morphine—and anandamide is THC. Five of the most addictive drugs on the planet cocktailed in flow. These are fundamentally addictive neurochemicals, so you need to know what you’re doing.”) At the top of the mountain, you’ve triumphed. You’re limitless. “Flow is so spectacular,” Kotler says. “The fact that we can do this means we’re all hardwired for ultimate human performance.”
12 p.m.: Farm-Fresh Lunch
After crossing the finish line, you sit down to a postrace lunch of chicken-and-veggie stir-fry, with almost all the ingredients coming from the mini farm in your backyard. In just a few dozen square feet you have tomatoes, squash, string beans, and leafy greens, with the more sunlightaverse crops sheltered under an avocado tree. And you don’t have to spend all your free time out there tilling, weeding, and harvesting—your AgroCircle robot takes care of all that drudgery, while you reap the benefit of fresh, cheap, healthy food. Marcin Jakubowski, executive director of Open Source Ecology, dreams of “integrated, regenerative food systems. Greater access to tools and equipment will allow individuals to be more capable of producing their own food.” To that end, he and the team at Open Source Ecology’s Factor e Farm in Missouri have been working on smallscale agricultural machinery, such as “a small-scale microcombine that allows you to harvest multiple crops on an acre. The average combine is so huge you have to have dozens of acres of a single crop before it makes economic sense, but more highly integrated systems allow you to get the kind of synergies that make all the parts better. If you pack more diversity into the same area, the whole system benefits.”
Everything you’re growing is organic and pesticide-free, of course, and a home garden decreases your carbon footprint because you aren’t buying bananas flown in from Ecuador in January—you have a pop-up greenhouse so you can grow your own. “A zero-energy greenhouse with a solar roof and double-walled membrane—two layers of glass filled with soap bubbles—gives you a high level of thermal insulation for the winter at very minimal cost,” Jakubowski says, “so individuals can grow things like tropical fruits.” The chicken thighs you’re eating also came from close to home. Jakubowski says, “Full automation will be possible in just about any agriculture activity,” which means you can have a backyard co-op producing fresh eggs and meat for the occasional coq au vin, without the hassle of getting your hands pecked.
1 p.m.: Work Prep
You need to prepare for a big work meeting tomorrow, so after lunch you step into your home office, which has creativity. Vibrant Data co-founder Eric Berlow says the future will be highly personalized, including the analysis of how different types of people do their best work. “We often think of creativity as this innate thing, that either you’re Einstein or you’re not, but actually there’s a lot of room for all of us to get better at innovating,” Berlow says. “A lot of what we understand about creativity is common sense—you see lists of the top 10 habits of highly creative people, like: take more naps, be open to new ideas, travel. We’re looking at personalized ideas, where we try to understand different types of creative thinkers and then tailor the kind of creativity training to people who are like you. Maybe you’re not a napper—that doesn’t mean you’re not creative, but that you’re the kind of person who would benefit from some other technique.”
Berlow hopes the research he’s working on now, which will include a survey of “a thousand recognizable names of known highly creative people,” will lead to identifying different types of creative thinkers. “There is this idea of personalized training, but everybody isn’t a snowflake—we’re not all 100 percent unique. We all fall into types of people who can learn from each other and benefit from the same kinds of regimens,” he says.
So based on which type of thinker you are—a muser—your home office doesn’t have a couch for napping; instead, one whole wall is glass, so you can look out on your garden and brainstorm. When you identified your creative type, Berlow says, you did so by answering a set of questions: “When you have your best ideas, where are you, usually? At your desk? Outside? Some people say the bathtub; for me it’s when I’m out on a run.”
5 p.m.: Social Hour
You’re hosting a dinner for a group of friends who also finished the triathlon, so it’s time to make a dining room. Architect Greg Lynn says the house of the future will be like the self-driving car: able to know what’s going on in a space and predict what you want based on past instructions. “Right now there’s some initiative going on that looks at integrating robotics into the built environment and making the environment not only more intelligent but letting that intelligence control things like furniture,” Lynn says. “You’re already seeing it with thermostats and window controls for daylight. By 2030 you’re going to see a lot of that kind of intelligence from the transportation industry applied to interior walls and furniture, platforms, and floors.”
To prepare for your 12-guest dinner party, you tell your home’s main multipurpose room—which only yesterday you were using as a workshop to put new tires on your race bike—to bring in extra chairs, put new segments into the dining table, and swap out the bright task lighting for a softer chandelier effect. “Instead of having a house with 10 rooms, you might be able to do a house with fewer rooms or larger, more reconfigurable rooms,” Lynn says. “The explosion in size of homes in North America, and all over the world, is ridiculous. That seems not only wasteful but also not a very interesting way to live.”
7 p.m.: TV Time
After dinner, you step out back to show your friends how the garden is thriving under the robot’s careful stewardship while your dining room reconfigures into a media room so you all can watch highlights of the morning’s race.
“It’s so easy to put step promoters and small controllers on desks and chairs and televisions and have them be able to move around,” Lynn says. “If you can reconfigure the space effortlessly, it gives you a better quality of life and you can do more with it. You don’t have to build as much so it’s going to cost less, and you also don’t have to heat and cool space you’re not using.”
10 p.m.: Game On
Pleasantly drained after a physically and socially full day, you relax with an hour of an immersive video game that has a subtle side effect of taking you through a stretching program to avoid next-day soreness. Game designer Kellee Santiago imagines a future in which games will be designed with a therapeutic purpose in mind—“making these experiences desirable as opposed to a chore,” she says. “One of the challenges in behavior modification is that as humans we’re programmed to be driven toward things that are immediate. It’s hard for our minds to grasp the long-term reward. You could absolutely apply game design to making the good habit more immediate.”
When Santiago’s game Flower was released in 2009, the U.K. review program The Gadget Show compared a Flower player’s heart rate with one who was playing the first-person shooter Killzone 2. “After Killzone the heart rate was elevated and after Flower it decreased,” Santiago recalls. For other games in the future, she says, “I can see an advantage when you want to step outside of the environment you’re in to get a shot of relaxation or happiness or bliss that you might be able to carry back into the world around you.”
11 p.m.: Good Night
Finished with the game, you hop into bed with your Aurora headband and drift off to a lucid dream of flying cars — because even in 2030, they still only exist in dreams.