Energy in 2099
As controversial as that view may be today, Tan’s prediction for the future of energy is likely to be as hotly debated.
“By 2099, energy is free. There is so much energy falling on earth from the sun: in one second, the energy falling from the sun is more than has ever been produced on earth. In this glass of water, there is more than enough energy to send you to Mars and back.
“We will move from chemical energy to fission, fusion, solar, wind and a lot of others. We will use the energy falling on the earth to produce energy. Every building will have solar panels. In 2099, the cost to produce energy is so low you cannot charge for it.”
Transport in 2099
The transport of the future is already being developed today. Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, intended to move passengers at airline speeds but at a fraction of the cost, will be an everyday reality. Vacuum tube trains, says Tan, will run at 5000 kilometers per hour.
“With transcontinental vacuum trains, you will go from Singapore to New York in four hours. Vacuum trains require very low energy because there is no resistance. The technology to drill holes in the ground is going to come down. To build a tube on top of the ground is very easy. The train just needs to fit, it doesn’t need to be a tunnel.
“We already have the technology. The problem is not the technology. The problem is getting there from here. Maybe it won’t go 5000kph, maybe only 700, but we can get to 5000 if we want it.”
Personal transport will also undergo a revolution, and it’s not only about self-driving vehicles. It’s about rethinking the very shape of the vehicle.
“How much horsepower is your most powerful car? Maybe 600hp? How much does a human need to travel? Only one, because we used to have one horse. You can’t sit on two horses. Why do we have 600hp when we only need one? Because it’s sexy and it’s safe, because we need a cage to protect us. That 600hp is to carry that cage, not the people.
The personal vehicle of 2099, Tan believes, will be unlike anything we have today.
“You will have something like a bicycle on four wheels, but that will be like sitting in a lounge. They will be light because the materials are light, and they won’t bang into each other because they can detect each other. Your vehicle knows where you are going, it takes you there, and when you step out it disappears. As you walk out you don’t have to look for your car, it will fetch you.
“If you are with a partner, it will have two seats. If with two kids, it will have four seats. It will change from one seat to five seats to 20 seats because it is made of flexible material.”
Tan leaves the journalists with a message that is both a promise and a warning: “You want to know what’s the future of cities? You will decide. Whatever you wish for in 2099, will come true.”