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Q & A

Hyperloops and space hotels: a futurist's perspective on travel in 2060

A ‘longevity spa.’

Think-tank founder James Canton partnered with Hotels.com to envision the future of vacationing

Self-morphing hotels with flying-car transfers and life-lengthening spa treatments are just around the corner. At night, you'll tuck into a voice-and-gesture-controlled bed and tap into a neurodreaming network to program your dream (no more hamburgers eating you) and, for some reason, you'll be able to wake up playing a sort of virtual sport through virtual reality or – better! – augmented reality. Also, your hotel will be in space or underwater, and the robot butler is there for your every need.

Such is the vision Hotels.com has released to celebrate its 25th year in business. Hotels.com partnered with futurist Dr. James Canton, the founder of the U.S.-based think tank the Institute of Global Futures and the "world's leading authority on the extreme future." Canton identifies 20 hotel trends for 2060, and chatted with me about his forecasts.

A robo-butler could be part of the travel experience years in the future.

Before that, a note: Canton, who was also a founding board member of Google/NASA's Singularity University, is a future-trend predictor in the mould of Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil. They believe in a concept called the "Singularity," the idea that our current, exponential technological growth will trigger an explosion of new technologies as humans come closer to mastering artificial intelligence. The concepts Canton speaks about for the future of hotels relies on a middle future in which supermachines help humans unlock new technologies. To futurists and singularicists (not a real word), the middle steps that haven't been invented yet are certainties, inventions and progressions that someone else will take care of with a computer sidekick. These not-yet-invented things inform the unwavering, breathy descriptions of a world of servant robots and dream programming that follow.

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Let's walk through this chronologically, then. Step me through from now to 2060.

An airport-hotel transfer.

With the end game of 2060, the advancements in our world would be such that it would give us a different kind of reality. So you'll start out booking a hotel: You'd have an avatar that would help you through that process – your own concierge avatar that would help you actually do the booking.

Then, of course, what you'd do, is you'd have the ability when you get into the airport or the Hyperloop station – there would certainly be an advanced supersonic aircraft that would get you some place or you'd be picked up in an individual flying car. Or you might be on the Hyperloop, a new kind of transportation that would get you there in a short period of time.

Just to be clear on the Hyperloop, is this a piece of infrastructure that circles the globe that people can hop on to transport them around in a …

‘Pop-up’ hotels.

Right! The Hyperloop is a form of transportation of superfast tubes, faster than even bullet trains, that was envisioned by Elon Musk that I have been doing research on and see the practicality of using it.

So from your booking online to the Hyperloop to a flying car to get from your airport to your hotel.

Now you're checking into your hotel and using your DNA as a transaction and authentication mechanism so you can get authenticated so you can claim your reservation.

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Okay, so you talk about DNA payments in the study. You're saying that DNA will be used as an authenticator, but can you elaborate on what a DNA payment would look like?

DNA payments.

The only real verification platform that, in the future, is something you can't hack, is your DNA. You can't hack your DNA. Your ability to come into the hotel and press your finger on a holographic screen that captures a little bit of your DNA from just that pressure on there and pings it to a cloud authentication platform that says, "Okay, this is Dr. James Canton. He lives in San Francisco, and here is his digital currency and his identity. We've now identified that this is the real Dr. Canton that is now checking into this hotel." All of this is done automatically and it's done in seconds.

That's the way, in the future, that we'll be making transactions. This whole idea of individual verification is going to be the way that we move around the world.

So, back to hotels …

An augmented hotel.

Yes, the hotel of the future is also an advanced green building. It's generating electricity and it has aquaforms built into it. And it has a theme. It could be a Wild West theme, or a Venice theme, it could be Great Wall of China-themed: It's a pop-up hotel that was crowdsourced and only exists for a weekend or 90 days. It's a pop-up and pop-down hotel, because we have the ability to do very fast 3-D printing of buildings in 2060.

Then you get into the hotel room, and it's an experience that is based on the pop-up aspects, and every surface in the room is an interactive screen – the floors, the walls and the ceiling – and you can choose and customize what part of the universe, or what part of time or history, or what kind of experience (even from the future) that you want to have. There may be things that you've forgotten that your 3-D printer, which will be in the hotel room, can produce for that masquerade party that you're going to.

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Envisioning the ‘smart hotel room’ of the future.

Or you'd like to have a neurodream? Neurodreaming is like virtual-reality memories that are broadcast to you, where you go on a journey in your sleep – actually choose your own dream before you sleep. Advanced neuroscience to help you with sleeping and also give you experiences as we pierce the veil of the subconscious and take you into the future of your dreams.

Is that just virtual reality, or any kind of experience that can be delivered to you in your sleep?

A neurodreaming module.

It's any kind of virtual-reality experience that can be broadcast to you. But you can customize it. So let's say you have a great memory that you wanted to expand on: It can actually be expanded on and storyboarded and turned into a neurodream for you. This is the advanced neuroscience of the future.

If that's possible and you have this ability to tap into either memories or generate new experiences, wouldn't that negate, to a certain extent, the value of travelling anyway? If you could just imagine a place, why would you go?

No! Again, this would be a proprietary capability that the hotel of the future would give you an opportunity to expand. Having a memory is different than having a neurodream. A neurodream is a luminescent, vivid experience in your dream state. It's hard to talk about, but we describe it as choosing a virtual-reality experience that you will then be dreaming. It will shape your dreams.

Oh, so this is a proprietary technology that belongs to the hotel? It's not broadly available. Is that right?

Morphing hotels.

That's correct. So, in the future, as a futurist, I would say, you're going to have – just like today, we have many different kinds of automobiles and hotels – branded experiences that are part of the hotel's identity.

Think about it: Hotels today are places where people have certain experiences but for the most part it's a room with a bed and certain amenities. There will be things that occur in a physical reality: You walk into the hotel, you sit down in your room, you go and eat, or you go to a spa. And there are things that will happen in an immersive or virtual reality.

But how do we get there? That's a few steps ahead of where we are now. Are self-morphing buildings really 45 years away?

Genomic food.

By the time you get to 2060, you're going to have advanced, intelligent technologies that will help us create an entirely new world. In many instances, for the better. It's hard to understand unless you understand the technology of advanced robotics, virtual reality, the Internet of things and what's next for computers. And thinking, smart machines that will help us craft. It's hard to conceptualize those things, but as a futurist that's what I do at the Institute for Global Futures.

Of all of the predictions that you've made, there's one thing we haven't touched on. By 2060, with all of the technology you say will be available, will people still need to travel?

Yes. I think people want to travel. They want to see other cultures and experience them. Not everything will be given to you. I'm not an absolutist or even a singularian in a sense. I believe that people will want to travel to experience the authenticity of places. They'll either do that for pleasure, entertainment, or for business. We are a mobile species. We are eventually going to leave the planet; we'll go off-world. But long before we go off-world, we like to experience different kinds of cultures and places.

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