Are you ready for the future
I am a science fiction freak and I love books about future trends. Some of my favourites are “Future crimes“, “Future vision”, “The future of the mind“, “Leading from the emerging future” and “The second machine age“. I am an optimist. What are you? Have you considered the future? For you, your children, your job, your business?
Before you think about the future, go back to 2003. In 2003 there was no Facebook, no iPad, no Youtube, no Twitter, no Kindle and only the beginning of smartphones. Imagine. That was 13 years ago.
Now project to 2025, bearing in mind the exponential curve. By 2025 technology could deliver enough nutrition, clean energy, education, and healthcare to decisively raise living standards everywhere. Technology could also create Skynet and cause Armageddon.
If you follow technology and future trends none of these trends will come as a surprise:
- Synthetic biology
- Quantum computing
- Rejuvenation technology (Every year our life expectancy goes up by 6-12 months, imagine when that goes exponential. You will live to be 150 years old.)
- Cognitive computing
- Cryonic suspension
- Virtual companionship
- Solar (grown within 10 years from zero to 100 Billion. Provides now 1% of energy needs, which is just 7 doublings away from 100%)
- Bio-hacking (look up BioCurous, DIYBio)
- Quantified self
- Personalised tissue
- G-nome self-editing
- Transhumanism (ICTs and other key enabling scientific advances improving the human condition, extending lifespans and greatly enhancing human intellectual, physical and psychological capacities)
- Community ventures (people, planet, profit and purpose)
- Weak AI, non-personal AI, AI. All of this will lead inevitably to ASI (artificial super-intelligence). Hopefully, it will be FAI (friendly AI)
- Micro-expertise and micro-teaching through social media
- Psychonauts, the astronauts of the human mind, boldly going……
- AE (artificial emotion). People love (virtual) pets as much as humans, robots are to follow. Expect very different future mixed marriages…….
- Brain-building and neuro-social networks
It is not about technology, it is about culture
The key lesson is that the issue is not technical engineering, it is cultural engineering. Adoption and acceptance. Culture lag. Marketing and politics. A few years I was on a study trip with Boston College and we had the pleasure to visit Harvard. Never forgot it. That was the point they made. It is not technology that is the issue, it is society catching up. Ignore social and “soft” science at your peril. Philosophy is just as important as a subject as physics.
Revolution in education
From technology, revolution follows institutional change. Hopefully starting with education. A group of children with a computer in any language will reach a higher standard as our education system. Time for unmanned self-organised learning environments. You can see how our teacher unions will love that idea.
Revolution in democracy
In Porte Alegre, they apply a participatory budget process. Every year a host of neighbourhoods, regions, and citywide assemblies gather for residents to identify and vote on spending priorities. Around 50,000 take part, deciding how $200 million dollars should be spent. What will decentralisation, quantified self, AI, ICT, data mining, IoT, mass participation and co-evolution do to our political system? There is also the madness of the crowds, social media and noise to consider.
Revolution in healthcare
Is it healthcare or sickcare? At the moment there is no profit in prevention. Ask yourself who stands to lose from the advancing technology? Smartphones will be the healthcare delivery platform of the future. Combine that with AI, personalised medicine, 3D printing, virtuality, quantum physics, biotech, surgical nano-robotics and suddenly you will have a lot of unemployment amongst doctors.
Revolution in finance
The impact of these trends on our financial lives. You will need money a lot longer and you need to re-script retirement. Pensions will get whacked. Many investments will get whacked. Best investment will be in continuous learning and education. Extend productive longevity or perish.
Other things to think about
The book gives lots of other interesting things to consider (this is random):
- If the coal power industry was required to pay for the damage it was doing to the environment would be 70 billion for the USA alone.
- The development of a Napster model or iTunes type platform for the pharma industry.
- Unilever’s intent to double revenue and halving its environmental impact by 2020.
- Africa as the future continent. No legacy systems. Africa has 60% of the world’s agricultural land.
Climate change and innovating innovation?
Ecology and technology. Rather than focussing on low-innovation such as Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook, we might consider focussing on high-end innovation. Maybe we need to innovate innovation?
It is clear that climate change will be a major determinant of the direction of technological change – in the widest sense, including the design of buildings and transport systems (and hence the design of towns and cities), and the development of methods of energy and food production. If you want to play in this sector consider participating in #climatelaunchpad.
What happens when the entire world has access to nearly all the world’s knowledge and instantaneous access to artificial brains able to solve problems and create new conditions like geniuses while blurring previous distinctions between virtual realities and physical reality?
Utopia or Skynet?
To finish with the opening paragraph. By 2025 technology could deliver enough nutrition, clean energy, education, and healthcare to decisively raise living standards everywhere. It/we could also create Skynet and cause Armageddon.
As I said, I am an optimist. What do you think? Utopia or Skynet?