Is life getting better or worse? Reading between the lines in my local bookstore there certainly seems to be a new sense of doom and gloom in the air. Bitterness is the new black as they say. But is it really so? Reading magazines like Fast Company and Wired makes me feel like anything is possible — or rather that nothing can’t happen. So here are four things to cheer us all up.
If you can dream about it you will increasingly be able to do it in the future. Think of self-driving cars, space hotels, 500GB memory sticks, child-care robots, sleep surrogates, memory pills, artificial eyes, self-building buildings and full immersion virtual reality suits. What’s more many of these innovations will be widely available and super-cheap.
Thanks to the Internet everything will be connected to everything else in the future. This won’t just be people — they are already connected- it means things. Thanks to precise locational information we’ll know precisely where everyone and everything is all of the time. Low cost travel will also mean that we’ll be able to go anywhere in person too. This should bring the world closer together in terms of understanding and create a new ethically based, transparent culture where secrets are harder to keep. Benefits should include customer empowerment and better corporate governance.
Distances and boundaries will both be dead. In the future you will be able to have whatever you want whenever you want it. You already can in many places. This means a global melting pot of cultures, experiences and ideas. You will be able to live or work in whatever country you want or sell your own wares from your own home-based mini-multinational thanks to the Internet’s ability to find and connect like-minded individuals and groups. Shopping will be globalized too with easy access to whatever you want anywhere on the planet too thanks to digital delivery and low-cost transportation. A Free Agent and small business owners dream come true.
What do you want for your hundredth birthday? How about a party with your parents? In the future you will live for longer and look and feel younger for longer too. And imagine what an extra thirty years practice could do for your golf handicap? If this doesn’t float your particular boat then how about living forever inside a machine? From a business opportunity point of view older people not only have time on their hands, they will, increasingly, have money too thanks to booming real estate values and soaring stock markets around the world.
On the other hand:here are four things to really worry about in the future.
Technologically speaking privacy is dead. In the future governments and corporations will know who you are, where you are and what you are doing all of the time. They may even know what you are thinking. Getting lost or not knowing where you are going (sometimes a good thing) will be almost impossible as will anonymity due to digital payments and various embedded tracking technologies. Faster technology will also force life to accelerate making slowness and reflection almost impossible. This will have knock on effects in terms of attention spans, relationships, proper understanding and accidents.
Because it will be so easy to instantly find out what everyone thinks in the future a collectivist online majority mind will trample on the thoughts and needs of the minority. Anonymous Internet aggregation will ensure that might is always right and big will always be equated with best. This is dangerous because it’s difficult to bring an anonymous idea or source to account. Connectedness plus speed will also mean that localised stupidities will impact globally and a type of groupthink will develop at the expense of rigorous individual thought and eccentricity.
The opportunities are global but so too are the risks. Failure will be networked so local disasters will cascade globally. This means that pandemics will travel almost instantaneously and local economic difficulties will cause ripple effects internationally. If China collapses it will take the US with it and vice versa. The future will also be a less colourful place in the sense that we will all be wearing the same clothes, listening to the same music, seeing the same movies and eating the same food which cannot be good for originality, creativity and disruptive thinking. However, due to impending resource scarcity and nationalism there is every possibility that globalisation will come to an abrupt end leaving people yearning for low interest rates, long-haul foreign holidays and cheap goods from China.
Living until you are one hundred is all very well but how are you going to pay for it? Equally, retirement has meaning when it follows a long period of work. Its fleeting nature makes it feel special. But what if retirement went on for forty or fifty years? What would you do all day? What if older politicians and business leaders simply refused to go away blocking younger people with newer and better ideas? What if the Rolling Stones never give up touring or you lived with your parents forever?
So what’s the takeaway here? To my mind the key point to remember is that there isn’t just one future. There will be many conflicting and contrasting futures depending on who you are and how you think. Crucially, whichever future you believe will probably come true. So don’t worry, be happy â˜º