Imagining the World in 2120 — a Vision for the Future
Exploring how our grandchildren will live, love, work, play, learn and shop.
Books and films alike are rife in popular culture with the idea that humanity is facing the post-apocalyptic brink of destruction from which there is no return.
Jared Diamond recently expressed in an interview he believes there’s a 49% chance the world will end as we know it by 2050 — I’m not sure whether this is positive or negative. OK, so we have a better than 50:50 chance the world won’t end by 2050. But what about 2051? Or 2052?…
Humanity needs to get self-interested here. Economic production needs to find a way to thrive whilst contributing back to a living sustainable Earth. For some ideas how to do that, read my article:
Assuming some semblance of our modern technological advances persist into the future, I have some predictions, based on my experiences as a woman in tech leader, cultural commentator and student of anthropology, that I see transforming the ways we grow food, live, love, do business, work, commute, and participate in democratic society between now and the next 100 years.
1. Food Production
The trend towards broad-scale Industrial Agriculture will reverse. Technology allowing for organic vertical production in small areas will produce food with less environmental damage (e.g. reduced fertiliser run off and salination) with lower pesticide and herbicide use.
As food can be produced in cities using rooftops and vertical growing, there will be low food miles, and shipping demands for food will decrease, resulting in greater diversity of edible species cultivation leading to a revival of heritage species that don’t survive long distance transport or storage.
2. Flying Cars
The first flying taxis are being released in Melbourne 2020. Flying cars allow efficient birds-eye transportation, whilst requiring low expenditure on road maintenance.
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As populations grow, requiring greater road upkeep by authorities to keep them connected, governments will tend towards mobility infrastructure that keeps their costs low. I expect flying cars and the use of drones for deliveries to really “take off.”
3. Carless Cities
Electric vehicles are finally gaining some traction, however they don’t solve a major pain point for consumers — the costs of maintenance, outright purchase, and parking — as well the greater societal cost of bumper to bumper traffic.
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Cities around the world will follow the emerging European trend of carless cities that facilitate bike and rail transport, as well as emerging shared mobility technology such as e-scooters. Businesses that manufacture cars (Auto OEMs) and businesses that service cars will be disrupted and truly driven to the fringes.
4. Remote Work
The future of work is remote. Companies will realise having a remote team saves costs and increases productivity.
The reduced need to commute will drive greater decentralisation of our cities — reversing the trend since the industrial revolution for people to move from the land into urban environments. This will even out housing costs between urban and regional areas, and the value of inner-city dwellings will no longer rise as steeply.
5. Land Custodianship
Populations that grow their food close to home, and no longer need to travel into town to work have greater opportunities to build a relationship with the land.
Sheer swaths of agricultural land that have been cleared in the last century for inefficient food production will be returned to forest gardens and as environmental reserves to increase the biodiversity populations greatly reduced in the last 30 years.
This may happen as a government incentive in enlightened countries but is more likely to happen as collectives of people with similar values move away from urban centers, work remotely, and invest their additional resources into restoring the ecology.
The world will become a values-driven society, rather than a profit-driven society.
As automation and AI take over, people will have more pressure to consider their place in the world, who they are and what they want to do, like Plato’s “philosopher kings”. And they will demand that their political and economic systems reflect this.
This is already being reflected in mass marketing trends:
“Last year, we predicted [purpose driving brands] would become mainstream, and we were right. Now, it’s exerting even more pull. ‘Meaningful Brands’ by the Havas Group, reported that over the last ten years the most meaningful brands outperformed the stock market by 206%. Of the 300,000 people interviewed, 75% expected brands to make more of a contribution to their wellbeing and quality of life. Brand purpose doesn’t have to be linked to broader social missions. But it must be something people believe in, understand and find relevant.” — Prophet.com
The trend to use public education as a cheap form of childcare will cease.
Public education has an inherent obstacle to being agile — it is designed to instill the status quo and ensure our compliance as taxpayers and soldiers in forthcoming generations.
Parents and their children will resist this pressure and demand education that is a product fit to their needs in an AI, automation, and purpose-driven society.
The jobs our generation had will no longer exist, and the next generations will need to define their own values and what they consider valuable. As they define their own value sets, educational institutions, in order to attract customers (called students) will need to align with the values and purposes of their cohort.
To the extent they fail, students will defect to online education sources that are free, and already cutting edge and adapted to a changing world. To the extent that schools continue, it will be as in-person “tutors” who assist in a deeper experience and understanding of educational programs that are mostly conducted online
8. World Currency
As cryptocurrencies gain ubiquitous status with the next generation, the idea that governments manage currency values will become obsolete and the separation between government and currency will be completed.
If will be commonplace and matter of fact for people to use a cryptocurrency that allows them to send money to anyone anywhere in the world, immediately, and with 0 intermediaries except the decentralized protocol of the currency itself.
Despite its early influence, Bitcoin is unlikely to be a world currency. In a values-driven world, people will demand suffrage. They will resist the idea of creating yet another generation of families who hodl (hold) wealth close to themselves and indirectly control the world through their influence — which modern-day Bitcoin “Whales” would become, were Bitcoin to be the world currency and demand drive prices up further.
Rather, diversity in cryptocurrencies will increase, with each subset of values-based communities being attracted to a currency that reflects their values.
If there is a contender for a world cryptocurrency, it would be Project Libra being released by Facebook, or a possible contender being prepared by Google — their recent algorithms update did cause crypto publications that ensure freedom of information around cryptocurrencies to crash in visibility overnight.
It would be a question of whether Facebook or Google were early enough movers to short circuit the trend towards values-based world culture, to a world culture defined by the values of either Facebook and/or Google. The fact that there are two of them, fighting for dominance, is likely to negate this outcome by breaking the suspension of disbelief. Unless of course, they join forces, in which case we are all screwed.
The move towards cryptocurrency and digital identities will overcome the imbalance of there being 2 billion unbanked in the world — mostly comprised of women and third world populations.
People without documentation can’t get bank accounts — but they can get a phone, and with that send and receive crypto. A person who can be paid through conventional means is less likely to be subject to isolation, financial abuse — and the trickle on effects of domestic and physical abuse that happen to vulnerable individuals in desperate situations.
As more people have economic autonomy, the capacity for entire demographics of to be exploited in near slavery-like conditions by external occupying corporations will cease, and local populations will create empowered systems of benefit to their own communities.
10. Relationships & Gender Identity
As people live longer, the idea of marrying one person and marrying them for life will have broken down. People will have many relationships and children with many people. With gay marriage legalised, those marriages can be with people of any gender.
Short term effects of this are that we will see less differentiation in children’s clothes and hairstyles. Boys will wear pink again and have long hair as they did prior to mass consumer culture.
As adults, we are less likely to get married into an “ideal” of boy meets girl (or girl meets girl or boy meets boy) scenario. People will stop identifying as either woman or man, married or single, and just consider themselves a person. Languages will keep up with this. New definitions for self-identity independent of physical sex will emerge.
Polyamory, whether intentional or incidental, will become more common, as people explore love of themselves first, and then love with beings they share relationships with, rather than one other person they own. Marriage, property, and divorce tax laws will evolve to keep up.
It may well be that humanity does return to the concept that it takes a village to raise a child. Family courts will have to keep up. Children themselves will be considered as autonomous and have more rights to decide who they want to live with and what they want to do.
Rights of the child will advance such that they are seen as their own autonomous legal beings rather than chattels of the family, with a full suite of human rights; and as access to information increases, an acceleration of independent children entrepreneurs who are driven by creativity rather than necessity will continue.
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The online trend for shopping will continue, expanding into virtual reality malls. The bricks and mortar malls of the past are dead, and people instead shop in virtual reality towns that let them try on clothes digitally before buying anything.
Personal and household goods will see total customization to the user. The diverse product lines of shoes and accessories will cease — instead, every home or community will have extensive 3D printing capacity. Status will be shown by the power of the 3D printer you have access to, and not the brands you wear.
14. Health and Wellbeing
People will take their health back into their own hands now that medical information is easily distributed on the internet.
Fewer people will see pharmaceutical drugs as their only option and pharmaceutical drugs will lose their monopoly on modern medicine.
People, in addition to seeking out alternative medicines, will be empowered more to know what series of events actually caused the health condition they are suffering from, and take action to reverse those conditions.
A greater emphasis on prevention will have to take place amongst conventional medicine in order to keep up with public demand, rather than an approach of treating the symptoms but not the causes that served the pharmaceutical monopoly on health care.
As more doctors put emphasis on prevention, human awareness will mean that people are less likely to expose themselves to the situations that cause illnesses. Hospitals will become places dedicated to life extension, healing genetic diseases, and treating physical trauma.
All of these factors add up to a radical change in how people relate to government and how the government relates to us. The transition to small government will continue, as people develop systems to govern themselves locally using blockchain-backed cryptoeconomic incentives developed on mechanism design principles to reward socially beneficial behaviours and maintain community infrastructures — such as buildings, roads, and schools.
Society will transition out of a power-driven political system to a system that is technologically advanced and responsive to enlightened population demands.
People will get to choose what “nationhood” they want to belong to with e-citizenship. Rather than be born into a country, people will also get to decide what blockchain-based set of ideals they wish to identify with — and their identifications will transcend distance or genetics.
Location-specific, government-backed record systems will transition to collectively maintained blockchain distributed ledgers that can’t be corrupted by government officials — breaking the spell of the bureaucracy.
e-democracy will become the norm so that public opinion rooted in location is no longer diluted by elected representatives towing the party lines. Blockchain-based voting technology will enable secure, transparent and anonymous voting that gives feedback to political institutions in real-time and is as ubiquitous and familiar as music players are today.