IT’S been a lousy decade, but at least there have been advances in technology that will exert a benign effect long after austerity and Brexit have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

A typical one is the iPad. It is sobering to reflect that at the turn of the year a decade ago it did not yet exist, or at least had not yet been revealed to the world. The announcement came only on January 27, 2010, when Apple held a press conference in San Francisco. Steve Jobs, chairman, chief executive officer and co-founder of the corporation, made an announcement that on the face of it might have looked to be of interest only to technology geeks. The truth was something else.

The National: Steve Jobs

Jobs was already suffering from cancer, and soon died of it. But on his big day he remained full of beans. Himself a son of San Francisco, he was the prototype of a cool Californian executive, dressed in polo shirt, jeans and sneakers. He leapt about the stage as he went through an unscripted display.

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He had come to show off something “way better than a laptop, way better than a phone. It’s the best web experience you’ve ever had.” This was the iPad.

Today we can say it has transformed our everyday lives, and seems likely to do the same for future generations as well.

The difference it has made came home to me recently when, because of an obscure glitch, my internet went down.

My whole existence was suddenly thrown out of kilter. With laptop useless, it became much more complicated and time-consuming for me to earn money, to feed myself (no more deliveries to my door), to keep in contact with people whose phone numbers I happened not to have. I soldiered on with the help of colleagues on The National and kind friends. But it was the iPad that saved me, while I learned the hard way to use apps I had always ignored.

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As an oldie I have tried to keep digital technology simple for myself. But to the younger members of my family the iPad is a kind of extra limb. They carry it about with them day and night and, if they are idle or bored, they at once resort to it to chat or text.

The effects go far beyond everyday trivia. My nephew Andrew is an electronic composer, holder of a Bafta award and a prize-winner at the Berlin Film Festival, who 10 years ago was still a student. In an earlier age he might have settled for becoming a piano teacher. Certainly, without digital technology, his present occupation would simply not exist. Now he can look forward to fulfilling himself in ways never available before.

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The iPad represents merely one of the most tangible aspects of a new industrial revolution. We often dwell on the human problems it will bring, but we should also remember that to many, of us it will open liberating creative opportunities.

It is also speeding up rather than slowing down. So what I’m going to do here is look forward another 10 years and see where we might be at the end of the decade that starts tonight.

Up to now, digital technology has consisted of interaction between humans and computers. We order them to do this or that and they, having no will of their own, do what we say.

In the next decade we will see them acting more independently of us, even directing our own activity through communication among themselves. It has already started. It has a name: the Internet of Things.

Its beginning has been defined as the “point in time when more things or objects were connected to the internet than people”. On one estimate we passed that point in 2008 or 2009, but from now on, its effects will become ever more visible.

By 2030 homes will be automated. Computers will control lighting, heating and air conditioning (perhaps necessary even in Scotland if global warming continues). We will save money because they will also switch things off – no more bulbs left to burn in an empty house.

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Everybody will feel more secure. We will be able to inspect and interrogate all who ring our front-door bells. Computers will deter burglars by detecting unusual activity on the outside and sounding the alarm. We will no longer need to worry about the disabled or elderly. They will enjoy a more independent existence because able to summon help in case of falls or seizures. Devices will help the lame and the blind to navigate their own homes.

In the cities of the outside world, shoddy construction will have come to an end. Computers will control the mechanical, electric and electronic systems in every private or public building, and with a special view to making them energy-efficient.

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We will all benefit from remote health monitoring and warning about emergencies.

We will know our own blood pressure and heart rate. There will be no delays in medical appointments because doctors’ surgeries will have ceased to exist. Computers will notify our symptoms and summon medications to our doors – or else an ambulance from the hospital.

Driving will have been taken out of the hands of the private motorist. Electric cars will be the norm, travelling only within the speed limits and directed by computer along the most convenient routes, automatically adjusted to take account of the traffic density. The parking problem will vanish, because the computer will know of every vacant space.

The National: An electric car charging

In their working lives, most people will not need to leave their own homes. Or else to suit themselves they might choose a pleasant location, though remote from colleagues, with whom they can all the same remain in constant contact.

The just-in-time manufacturing methods already used by the most progressive companies will have become universal. That means improved products to meet fresh demand can become instantly available all over the world.

The Internet of Things sounds wonderful, but it will bring human problems too.

While profits burgeon and jobs will be created, jobs will also be lost, especially among those lacking in education or skills. Whether there will be a net gain in employment is impossible to say.

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With greater certainty we can forecast we will be producing much more with the resources we deploy. This should solve the problem of reviving our growth rate and will allow us to pay ourselves higher wages in real terms. With that, the aim of raising effective demand in the economy will be solved and growth may become self-perpetuating.

My worry is that clumsy, ignorant interventions by dogmatic governments will disrupt and wreck this virtuous cycle. Regular readers will know a particular government I have in mind.