The data confirm it: Cities are the way of the future.
As the years go by, more and more people are choosing to leave behind their suburban and rural lives in search of greater urban opportunities.
To get a sense of what city life might look in the future, Business Insider called on futurists, urban planners, and designers to weigh in on trends related to transportation, housing, automation, the Internet, the environment, and jobs.
Together, their predictions paint the world’s future cities as crowded hubs that run on renewable energy and harness the Internet in every facet of daily life. Vehicles are electric, self-driving, and shared by residents.
Welcome to our urban future.
Cities will be always ready to dispense enormous amounts of data that help people and governments live and work better.
Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Google's transportation offshoot, Footpath Labs, has announced interest in building so-called 'smart cities' -- places where the Internet is baked into all aspects of the city.
In such a city, the government could ensure all citizens have access to free high-speed Internet, and it can collect huge batches of data about transportation habits and infrastructure. It will be a real-life version of Singapore's virtual twin city, which is just like Singapore, only completely datafied.
People could know in real-time how busy the trains are and which restaurants are the least crowded. Self-driving cars will know at all times which routes are the fastest based on data from other vehicles on the road, similar to how Waze users alert one another.
With so many sensors collecting data and communicating with one another, cities of the future will start to think for themselves, says David Pescovitz, research director at the Institute for the Future (IFTF).
That means all forms of public and private transportation coordinate with one another simultaneously to keep the roads safe and efficient. Pescovitz also believes on-demand services will start using predictive models based on people's spending habits to deliver items to your door before you realise you need them -- like an enhanced version of Amazon's Dash button.
100 years from now, 'You start to see the city almost become sentient,' he says.
Transportation will become a centrally-controlled system in which cars run autonomously and can talk to other vehicles on the road.
Every expert Business Insider consulted believes cities of the future will experience a revolution in transportation. In the next decade, cars will increasingly be self-driving, electric, and used primarily as shared vehicles to get around. Further down the line, few city-dwellers will own their own cars that they keep at home.
Cities will be so smart in how they dispatch automated cars, says Pescovitz, that 'you'll start to see various forms of transportation almost as packets in the Internet getting switched around and routed to various places as they're needed.'
Paul McConnell, design director at Intersection, the company bringing free Wifi to New York through the LinkNYC, speculates people will use cars as mini-offices since they won't need to focus on driving. They will be able to stay heads down while their car whisks them to work.
With so many people to consider but far fewer cars on the road, cities will get to repurpose much of the current space dedicated to streets and instead use it for housing complexes -- many of them made up of micro-apartments.
McConnell says multi-generational living situations may also be a necessity for families.
'Our future urban landscapes may in some ways resemble the cities of our past,' he tells Business Insider. 'Multi-generational households could offset the growing cost of living in cities, while transforming community bonds in neighbourhoods.'
According to Rod Falcon, head of IFTF's Technology Horizon team, public spaces will serve an even more vital function in future cities.
When people are living in tighter quarters and have less room to entertain guests, cities could respond to the greater demand for public space by turning unused roads into bike and walking paths and transforming parking lots into parks.
'Public spaces are going to need to be much more adaptable,' Falcon tells Business Insider.
As robots continue to replace human labour, people will have an increasingly difficult time finding work in the coming decades. Falcon says the nature of many jobs will need to change, moving from full-time careers to individual gigs.
'Jobs are getting unbundled into very specific tasks,' he says. Data already show robotics and AI will displace much of the workforce, so companies of the future, if they ever need human labour, might just call on people for one-off creative projects.
Falcon points to other matchmaking services -- Tinder for dating, Uber for rides -- that have already seen great success in bringing people together based on their needs and wants. He says the kinds of services that currently exist for on-the-go freelancers, such as Fiverr and Gigwalk, will only get smarter with time.
The most sophisticated technology in Google Photos is the app's ability to recognise who or what is in a photo. Cities of the future could incorporate facial and object recognition technology in a wide range of applications, from airport security to home protection, says Brooks Rainwater, director of the City Solutions and Applied Research Center at the National League of Cities.
Instead of having everyone enter a building at the front, facial recognition could allow for multiple entrances on all sides, Rainwater speculates.
In other words, a building could be the security guard that checks your ID.
Renewable energy will be a visible part of daily life as cities increasingly run on wind and solar power.
Entire cities -- most notably Burlington, Vermont and Aspen, Colorado -- already rely 100% on renewable energy.
If they want to avoid contributing even further to climate change while still supporting their infrastructure, cities of the future will need to rely on wind and solar power.
One heartening sign: GE has already started building America's first offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. In the future, cities could see huge wind farms and solar arrays located in designated spaces -- in addition to highly efficient rooftop solar arrays and solar-painted buildings -- quietly powering the luxuries future societies have come to expect of their cities.