Visions of living in the future mean different things to different people, but whether it’s autonomous flying cars, teleportation, or just holographic sharks (as seen in Back to the Future 2), the one thing that we can all agree on is that the future relies on tech.
The most futuristic places to live are those where technology has been seamlessly integrated into the daily lives of the residents, revolutionizing them for the better.
So where in the world is such a future already becoming a reality? To find out, we compared five futuristic data points for 19 countries worldwide to determine how future-proof their societies are. We took into account:
1) the number of community Wi-Fi hotspots per 100k people
2) the percentage of people in the country with a smartphone
3) how much each country spends on research and development
4) how ready the countries are to facilitate autonomous vehicles
5) how many robots there are per 10k people in manufacturing.
The winner? It might surprise some, but South Korea came out on top, thanks to its robotic workforce, strong communications network and impressive annual spend on research and development.
If you’re wondering how the USA rates, it comes in at a reasonable number four, and is certainly making substantial headway in key areas, namely self driving cars and research and development funding. The UK, much like its Prime Minister, resides at number 10, coming in just behind Japan, a country which has always been portrayed as the very height of modernity, thanks to it’s love of robotics and tech.
Brazil, Mexico and India all fared comparatively poorly in our research, tailing behind the rest of the pack when it comes to research, robotics and telecoms.
Free Wi-Fi for All
One everlasting symbol of futuristic progress is communication. From the crystal clear interplanetary voice calls of Star Trek’s communicators, to 2001: A Space Odyssey's uncannily accurate prediction of Skype, we’ve always imagined that the future involved staying in touch, even if it’s just so we can show off our latest hover car on Instagram.
If you want to experience one of the most connected places on the planet, then you’ll need to head to the Netherlands, who are world leaders when it comes to always being online.
With 36,471 free Wi-Fi hotspots for every 100,000 residents, you’re never too far away from the nearest place to get online, and you don’t have to worry about eating into your mobile data. With such plentiful Wi-Fi, you can catch up on Netflix from any cafe in Amsterdam and always get an Uber home in Utrecht.
Of course, having access to the internet at every turn doesn’t mean much if the residents don’t own a phone to get online with. If you want to video chat, ditch your cash and use your phone to pay with Apple/Google Pay, or Tweet or Facebook as many people as possible, then you’ll need to head to the country which has the highest proportion of smartphones per person, which would mean hopping on a plane to Singapore.
With 76% of the population owning a smartphone, Singapore clearly has a love for social media and streaming. The most popular apps for Singaporeans are WhatsApp and YouTube, meaning they can keep in touch and catch the latest trending videos on the go.
Coming in second is Sweden, where 72% of people have a smartphone. Interestingly, the Swedes give an almost equal share to Android and Apple devices, staying neutral in the smartphone wars.
There’s been a lot of buzz about self-driving cars in the last decade, with progress occuring at a lightning pace. Your Uber driver of tomorrow could be nothing more than a computer under the hood, if you pick your futuristic country correctly.
It’s the Netherlands that is taking pole position in the race for self-driving vehicles, thanks to its impressive transport infrastructure. With a road network that is impeccably maintained, the highest proliferation of electric car charging ports in the world and favourable legislation on autonomous cars, it’s the perfect place to not get behind the wheel.
Statistics from the Netherland’s government put car accident rates as being 99% human error, which could explain its faith in autonomous vehicles and desire to see virtual drivers rather than real ones.
Singapore and the USA follow close behind, with both countries also looking to revolutionise the motor industry and implement public and commercial autonomous vehicles.
Robots in the Workplace
If there’s one thing that shouts ‘future’, it’s living, and working, alongside robots. There’s a reason that any sci-fi writer worth their salt always includes a good robot buddy in every story. In terms of mechanical pals, there’s one country that’s way ahead of the others, and that’s South Korea.
With the highest rate of robots in manufacturing, at 631 per 100,000 people, South Korea is leagues ahead when it comes to a futuristic workforce.
While these robots may not quite be Hollywood fare yet (you’ll be waiting a long time for a witty one-liner), they are incredibly prevalent in the workspace, filling South Korea’s factories with automatons that can quickly and efficiently complete complex jobs.
With the highest rate of robots in manufacturing, at 631 per 100,000 people, South Korea is leagues ahead when it comes to a futuristic workforce. If you’d rather not work side by side with robot competition, then you might be interested to know that India and Russia have the lowest number of automatons in manufacturing, at just 3 per 10,000 people.
While South Korea has the definitive lead on robots, Singapore isn’t too far behind, with 488 per 100,000 people, and after that it’s Germany, with less than half of South Korea, with 309 per 100,000.
The Future of the Future
Of course, the future is anything but static, and any country that wants to keep ahead of the pack needs to keep developing new technology and systems to retain its place. That's why research and development is key to progress, and it’s no accident that the countries mentioned here continuously invest heavily in this area.
Singapore currently invests an incredible $1,831 per person into research and development, which explains their high ranking as a city of the future, and one that clearly won’t rest on its laurels in the pursuit of the next technological breakthrough. Compare that to the bottom ranked country, India, which spends just $37 per person.
Following Singapore are Sweden and South Korea, two countries pioneering the way for the ultimate tech revolution. The USA comes in at number four, spending a still-impressive $1,442 per person in this area.
South Korea – Tomorrow’s World
While the current “country of the future” may not have flying cars, teleportation or robot companions (at least, not yet), it's already sufficiently stuffed with technology. At the unstoppable pace that technology improves and innovates today, this will undoubtedly lead us into a sci-fi like future sooner than we think.
A place where driverless cars are a near reality rather than a distant theory, peerless internet systems enable you to always stay connected, and robots do most of the heavy lifting for us… South Korea is the place to be for future-lovers to live out their dreams of being a little way ahead of the rest of the world.