Welcome to the Hull of the future

Monday 2 October 2017

Welcome to the Hull of the future

Fancy a quick trip to the Moon or Mars?

Or how about a wander around Hull’s Old Town with a selection of dwarves, elves and other magical creatures?

All these things and more will be possible in Hull in the next few decades according a leading futurologist.

A report by Dr Ian Pearson, an author, inventor and fellow of the World Innovation Foundation, has taken a peek into what awaits Hull in the year 2050 AD as technology evolves to bring us ever closer to the world of science fiction.

And many mind-blowing changes to how we live, work and play could be on the way – with the Hull of 2050 almost unrecognisable from the City of Culture we know and love today.

Major developments that could take place in the city include a space port replacing Paragon train station and cruise terminal as the Hull holidaymaker’s departure lounge of choice, and a brand new illuminated Humber Bridge to carry a network of driverless transport pods.

The report, called The Future of Hull, has been commissioned by KCOM to help inspire and predict the way smart technology, connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) will increasingly shape our daily lives.

Dr Pearson, who was BT’s futurologist from 1991 to 2007, is predicting a Hull where augmented reality will allow people to see their homes exactly as they want them through high-tech contact lenses; where Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots and self-cleaning technology will make housework a thing of the past; and where our homes will be so clean and air filtered that humans will need a pinch of customised “clean dirt” sprinkled on their food once a week to keep their immune systems ship shape.

“Technology will be there, it just won’t be visible,” says Dr Pearson.

“Everything will be smart, connected, controllable, but most of that control will be delegated to your AI. You’ll just tell it what you want and it will sort it.

“You’ll totally forget about things such as the Internet of Things or wireless LANs, because you won’t ever have to deal with them personally. Your home will be like Star Trek, where you just talk and the computers hear you.”

Augmented reality will also emerge from the home to make wandering Hull’s streets an intriguingly different and highly individual experience.

“With augmented reality making everything look different for everyone, people will each see personalised streets and architecture, with personalised mixes of pedestrians too, some seeing elves and dwarves, other their favourite celebs,” says Dr Pearson. “The Old Town might have people from old times too, doing old time things, bringing history to life.”

Although some of Dr Pearson’s predictions sound outlandish he added that he had picked the year 2050 deliberately as anything beyond is venturing into the realms of guess work and science fiction.

With drones and AI carrying out everyday tasks, such as collecting litter and looking after the “flowers or painting the benches in Pearson Park” humans will have far more time to dedicate to leisure pursuits.

Travelling around will be done in a system of pods which will navigate you around the smart transport system, allowing for 15 times more traffic capacity than today’s roads allow – surely something to look forward to for anyone regularly caught up in 2017’s Castle Street congestion.

Dr Pearson also suggests these pods will be ideally suited to travelling across the Humber using new a technology of building structures out of a “honeycomb” graphene, which is stronger than steel. The graphene bridge will be “spun” by robots in the same way spider build a web. This new Humber Bridge could be a new architectural wonder, which is both see through and implanted with LED lights so it glows at night.

Although the A63 may have been “the final frontier” for many commuters in past decades, by 2050 the space industry will be big business. Asteroid mining, space tourism and early colonisation of Mars and the Moon will all be within reach for many people, says Dr Pearson.

“Although most space launches will still happen from equatorial regions, there may be some space trips from more northerly locations, and the UK is likely to be a key player in the space industry, so Hull might well have a small spaceport.”

With so much to boggle the mind, it’s easy to think that many of the huge advances Dr Pearson is predicting may never come to pass. But there is a rationale and hard science behind his insights. After all, who could have predicted iPhones, tablets, Facebook, contactless payments and selfies just 15 years ago?

 “There’s a good reason we looked at 2050 in this piece,” adds Dr Pearson.

“The 2050s is the time period where humans will make the change from how we are today to effectively a new species, or a group of new species. We’ll be connecting our brains directly to super-smart IT, giving superhuman ability. We’ll essentially be starting to build the Matrix, as the same time as accelerating our outreach into space.

“With extra digits appearing on our IQs, trying to guess what future humans might do with such capability leads us quickly into science fiction.

“2050 is far enough away and exciting enough, but is also the horizon as far as realistic futurology goes.

“As Arthur C Clarke once said, sufficiently advanced technology appears as magic. Future Hull will be ultra-smart, ultra-advanced, but its residents won’t need to know how it work and won’t care.”


* KCOM commissioned The Future of Hull report to give an insight into what Future Hull may look like as it teams up with Hull 2017 to present 2097: We Made Ourselves Over by the internationally renowned artist group Blast Theory. This year-long project culminates in a month-long series of events beginning on 1 October when the phone boxes across Hull will ring at the same time. Some lucky callers will get the chance to be whisked away and come face-to-face with a character from the future who will ask their hopes for the year 2097, when the city will be balanced on the cusp of a new century.

KCOM is a principal partner of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. It is also the official presenting partner of Blast Theory’s 2097: We Made Ourselves Over. Visit http://wemadeourselvesover.com or more details.