Here’s What The Real Future Probably Looks Like
It’s not all starships and robots.
Most of us have been talking about the future in a vague sense, like it’s some far off reality. We’ve been treating the present like a nightmare that we’ll wake up from soon. But there’s bad news.
This isn’t a nightmare.
The future isn’t going to be an apocalypse. It’s not going to be full of starships and robots, either. It’s going to feel a little dystopian. If we have even the slightest chance as a species, the future needs to be agrarian, even rustic, compared to how we’re living now.
It might feel like we’re traveling backward in time.
Things won’t get better if we just sit here and wait for someone to fix everything. We can’t do that, at least not figuratively. We need to start looking at the future in a realistic way, as a continuation of the present. That’s what it is, and always has been.
Here’s some broad strokes about what the future’s probably going to look like. We’re talking within the next ten or fifteen years. It’s not pretty, but we need to start preparing for it.
You’ll probably move closer to old friends and family.
Recent generations have moved further and further from home to pursue careers in big cities. We’ve embraced metropolitan and cosmopolitan lifestyles, looking down at people who stay near their hometowns. We’ve judged them as unambitious and provincial.
Boy, we’re sure rethinking that now.
The future isn’t going to be a world where you want to fend for yourself. The economy isn’t going to experience a V-shaped recovery.
Living without a support structure is already pushing millions of families past their breaking point. More young people have moved back in with their parents than since the Great Depression. Far fewer people are going to be running off to some metropolis to chase their dreams.
Even couples in their 30s and 40s are going to start moving closer to their relatives. They’ll be able to pool resources, and save money on things like childcare and senior care.
The coasts will empty out.
Climate change is coming in hot, ahead of schedule. People are still talking like it’s some distant challenge their kids will deal with.
Nope, it’s here.
Climatologists have warned us for decades. Now they’re being brutally honest. It’s too late to reverse. We’re going to be living with the consequences of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions for the next several decades. If we’re smart, we can start making radical changes now to mitigate the fallout. That’s the best case scenario.
There’s already an exodus underway from cities in New York and California, places hard hit by natural disasters on top of a pandemic. Smoke from wildfires is literally choking people.
The economy will go into shell shock.
This strikes me as a no-brainer. I’m no economist, but I know how to read. World governments can’t afford to keep propping up industries like airlines and hotels like they’ve been doing. Airlines already plan to lay off thousands of workers when their economic relief runs out. Landlords won’t tolerate eviction moratoriums much longer.
This is what we’re looking at: One industry will implode, sending ripples across others. It’ll be years before we even start to comprehend all of the implications. By then, we won’t be able to deny the truth. We’re at the beginning of a very deep depression.
It’ll transform the way we live for the next 100 years. No more flying for the average person. No more family vacations. No more binge buying on Amazon. Life is going to be austere.
This won’t be a terrible thing, at least for the planet.
The healthcare industry will probably collapse.
Without universal healthcare, hospitals and medical practices will start to fall apart. People with terminal illnesses will simply opt out of treatment. They won’t be able to afford it. They’ll choose to suffer rather than leave their families riddled with debt. Fewer people in general will seek medical care, except when it’s an emergency. Even then, they might try less effective DIY options, despite the dangers.
Young people will start providing their own care for their aging parents that nursing homes and retirement communities once did. They won’t do it as well, but they won’t have a choice.
Nobody will be able to afford medications anymore.
That’s the only way we’ll start to see any meaningful dialogue. I hope that doesn’t happen, but it might.
You’ll probably buy a smaller home.
A lot of us grew up on the idea that one day we’d own a mansion, or some island villa. Good riddance to that toxic dream. The thirst for giant millionaire estates is part of what got us in this mess.
Big houses consume a lot of energy, which is going to get expensive. Smaller houses are more affordable in every way.
They’re also easier to sell.
In ten years, the last place a person will want to live is a giant house with power bills and property taxes they can’t afford.
You’ll probably be driving an electric car.
Most countries have committed to phasing out gas-powered cars completely by 2030. That’s not fast enough to save the planet. You should start driving less, right now. The pandemic has made that easier. The next time you buy a car, get an electric one — or at least a hybrid.
You might be sharing a car with extended family and friends.
A lot of Americans still drive big ass trucks they don’t need. It’s an expensive, planet-killing testosterone booster. If the American government is going to get serious about addressing climate change, they need to incentivize smarter cars. They should even consider stricter regulations on vehicles. It’ll be a tough sell. We can’t even regulate guns.
You’ll probably put solar panels on your house.
Solar power is becoming more affordable and more popular every year. You can finance it now. In the long run, this will save you money on energy. It’ll also help you get through the upticks in severe weather that most of us are going to see, thanks to climate change. Power companies will struggle to keep up with storm outages. If you have energy storage, then you’ll be able to use appliances even if the grid is down.
You’ll probably start homesteading.
Climate change is definitely going to impact agriculture. We’re already starting to see that this year. Over the next ten years, you might find it a little harder to keep your avocado basket full. Items like coffee and chocolate could become increasingly rare.
Some people are already growing a little cautious of relying completely on commercial farms and grocery chains for their food. They’re trying to become more self-sufficient.
This is called homesteading. You might want to look into this, and make it part of your future plans. Just think if you moved closer to friends and family, and you all started to homestead.
You could create quite a little community.
You’ll probably start bartering.
The economy will undergo tectonic shifts. People are going to get creative about how they meet their needs. “Buy Nothing” groups have already spread across the country. People are exchanging goods and services directly. This will continue as homesteading goes mainstream.
Money probably won’t lose all of its value. But you’re going to save it for the things you can’t get from your local community.
Amazon and friends probably won’t like this. But they’ll either figure out a way to profit, or stop it.
You’ll probably homeschool your kids.
The average public school system is in bad shape. The pandemic highlighted problems we’ve known about for decades. Schools already assign too much homework. They test too much, and they don’t support the arts. We’re looking at a national teacher shortage, especially as underappreciated instructors leave for better work in other fields, or become private tutors for pods and cohorts of rich families.
Homeschooling isn’t for the faint of heart. But lots of parents (myself included) are so disillusioned with public education, we don’t see much of a choice but to do it ourselves.
You’ll probably prefer to work from home.
Working from home isn’t always pleasant for most of us. It comes with downsides we’re all well aware of by now.
But here’s the thing. It’s safe.
We know this probably won’t be the last crisis that sends us into our homes for long stretches. Those of us who stayed employed found new degrees of flexibility and autonomy. Even parents like me, who got stuck with a toddler 24 hours a day, have to admit that we like saving money on daycare. We’re not automatically going to give all that up.
You probably won’t send your kids to college.
The average university is reeling from the pandemic. Again, the last year has just expedited a trend we’ve already seen. Higher education can’t afford to keep raising tuition as the value of college degrees plummets. Institutions are going to find it harder and harder to compete with for-profit colleges, online education conglomerates, and certificate programs offered by tech giants. There’s no reason to spend $100K on a Harvard education in 2030, when you could use that same money to start a farm.
You’re going to become more self-sufficient.
I’m not exactly reading tea leaves here.
All of these trends come from articles and books I’ve been reading over the past two or three years. They point to the same basic idea. We’re going to shift away from a consumer economy. We won’t like it. We might even hate it at first. But we won’t have a choice. We’ll have to adjust.
Our survival depends on it.