Significantly, it appears that about 90% of the predictions
Kurzweil made before the turn of the century completely failed to pass. Virtually ALL of his 1990 predictions have lapsed, and the few things he got wrong with his second round picks were either delayed or only half-realized (he accurately predicted e-Readers, but wrongly predicted that they would replace books by the end of the decade).
His 2005 predictions aren't looking much better, but I'm sensing a pattern here and I think it's safe to say Kurzweil is still extrapolating technological possibilities while totally ignoring consumer/government/industrial forces that shape their development.
Maybe he needs a cynicism modifier? Accordingly, in the 2020s
- The decade in which Genetic research begins to experiment with advanced human gene therapy. By the 2030's, the FDA will begin to approve first round trials of gene therapy techniques meant to treat congenital birth defects such as spina bifida and Down Syndrome. Other techniques to treat acquired conditions -- allergies and asthsma, for example -- also begin to be researched as scientists search for ways to activate or deactivate genes involved in those conditions. The first clinical trials will begin to return meaningful results by 2035 or later, with "activation/deactivation" therapies showing results somewhat later.
- Computers continue to become smaller and increasingly available in everyday life. Various products begin to emerge with "high tech makeovers" as everything from lawnmowers to coffee mugs begin to appear for sale enhanced with programmable/digital/whatever computers that add new (sometimes unwanted) features to what used to be a perfectly useable device. Much to the ire of old people everywhere, it becomes slightly more difficult to find a vacuum cleaner that can still be operated with a simple on-off switch (newer models begin to have bag capacity sensors, dirt sensors, room-mapping software that can tell you if you missed a spot, etc). OTOH, conventional "touch and go" appliances continue to be available as a low-end market whose prices begin to fall precipitously.
- More and more appliances, toys and devices will be equipped with wifi and/or bluetooth interfaces with small apps designed to interface with services over the internet (for example: GI-Joe action figures with a Wi-Fi chip that can be used in tandem with some kind of minigame on the iPad). While many of these services will be innovative and groundbreaking, most of them will be kind of annoying and consumers will forget they exist once the novelty wears off. Which brings us to...
- High-quality broadband Internet access will become necessary almost everywhere, for almost everything, which will really piss off everyone who doesn't have access to it (the 40-something factory worker in Normal Illinois quietly grinds his teeth as his coffee mug informs him for the 47th time that it is unable to connect with the Nestle ChugSmart(TM) web service; having finally had enough, he takes his mug and blissfully zaps it in the microwave). Also, the increased importance of broadband internet and increased reliance in web based services for even the most mundane facets of life emboldens an already dickish telecom monpoly to introduce "Hyperband 5G connectivity!" which on closer inspection is just a re-branded 4G network at three times the price. Their only serious competitor counters with "The SubWave Quantum Network" which is actually just a re-branded 3G network at two and a half times the price.
- Eyeglasses that produce 3D images for the wearer will be sold with 3D TVs, which everyone thinks is a really great idea. The relative lack of movies worth watching in 3D -- partly owed to the fact that highly expensive and visually spectacular scifi/fantasy blockbusters only comprise about 3% of all available DVD titles -- causes the bottom to fall out of the market once the novelty wears off.
- The built-in computers in the 3D glasses become slightly more powerful as TV manufacturers try to save 3D by adding new features. While it won't save 3D-TV, some engineers eventually find a way to parlay this into wearable interface systems which, ten to fifteen years down the road, become popular in high-priced sunglasses and some prescription eyeglasses; the interfaces will be able connect with smartphones, computers, MP3 players and even cars. The startups that first come up with this idea will mostly go bankrupt or will get absorbed into larger companies; one of those acquisitions will launch a bastardized version as a national brand which will eventually gain more widespread use.
- Virtual assistants like Siri become more and more versatile as progressive upgrades increase their speech recognition even in noisy conditions and they become better able to predict the nature of user requests. Foreign language versions of those assistants also become more feasible.
- Smarter virtual assistants allow users to become more comfortable using voice interface to compose and receive text messages. Simulated/custom voices (assigned to specific people, often meant to be humorous or mean-spirited) may also be employed so that Siri (or Siri-like apps) can read back text messages in funny voices (sort of like those weird teddy bear/superhero argument videos). This, too, becomes a complete and utter nuisance to old people everywhere as they begin to receive cryptic and incomprehensible messages from their teenaged children in bizzare computer-generated voices. The backlash becomes so strong that it inspires at least one major motion picture.
- Ultra-thin transparent LCD screens become available as window treatments and aggressively marketed by an unholy alliance of advertisers and realtors, both as a safety feature and as a convenient timesaver as a person can look out their bedroom window and have that window display the daily weather report, news articles, fark headlines or rss feeds. The initial expense of the smart windows -- and the fact that very few people actually NEED to replace their old windows except once every couple of decades -- means this feature appears most often in newer buildings, offices and hotels. IOW, exactly the kinds of places where advertisers are unlikely to be sued for violation of privacy. Within five years, the advertisers begin a gradual escalation of targeted advertising that becomes increasingly invasive and tasteless to the point that some people impotently complain that their "windows" are so cluttered with popups that they can't even tell what time of day it is.