What sort of future we are likely to enjoy, or have to put up with, has been a regular subject on the Internet for some time now. Being unsure of how much future I personally have left, I’m not totally consumed by the subject. But I saw a comprehensive list the other, and I thought it was worth reflecting on. The list was the work of Shelly Palmer, who has written a couple of interesting pieces on innovation. I have numbered the sections below for ease of comment, and done some minor editing as well.

One thing to note at the beginning: no dates are given. Some things may happen quickly, and others more slowly, and one or two may not happen in any reader’s future. So we need to keep a sense of proportion. Here they are

  1. The big will get bigger, the small will survive, and the middle will perish.
  2. Consumers of every economic stratum will demand “on demand.”
  3. Access is becoming as valuable as ownership – streaming media instead of buying a download, ride-sharing instead of buying a car, etc. You will pay for it with cash, data, or a combination of both.
  4. Anything you can talk to will understand and talk back – Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), NLU, and related technologies coupled with Augmented Reality and machine learning will have a radically disruptive impact on the way we live our lives.
  5. As a result of ride-sharing, the auto industry will contract by 20 per cent.
  6. Traffic will increase because ride-sharing service cars will always be in motion.
  7. AI will start taking white-collar jobs more quickly than experts predict. If just 20 per cent of white-collar jobs evaporate, the economic impact will be profound.
  8. New technology will not replace all of the jobs that new technology displaces.
  9. Commoditized products that are hard to pronounce or spell (or speak) or hard to search will quickly become unprofitable.
  10. The convergence of on demand, machine learning, and autonomy will change the world.
  11. Data is more powerful in the presence of other data.
  12. Anything that can be connected will be connected.
  13. Anything that can be hacked will be hacked.
  14. Distribution channel disruption is accelerating.
  15. Due to the increasing world population, we cannot train enough doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals.
  16. Fresh water is a scarce resource, and natural supplies will diminish quickly over the next 30 years.
  17. “Big Food” may go the way of “Big Tobacco” as health care costs rise.
  18. The tools used to access the free and open Internet have enabled users to filter out anything that makes them uncomfortable and have exacerbated the negative effects of confirmation bias.
  19. The entire education system is too expensive and is not producing qualified candidates for newly created jobs.
  20. Climate change will cause sea levels to rise over the next 50 years.

Let’s deal with #20 first. As regular readers here will know, whether sea levels are rising in any unprecedented way is not clear, but on the evidence does not seem a major worry. There are data to suggest that levels are falling in some parts of the ocean, and some evidence that they are rising in other parts. Sea levels seem to have been rising gently for thousands of years, and I see no reason why they will not continue to do so. Number #20, then, is not an encouraging item for me.

What did I see that I nodded at immediately? Well #2 seems to me to have been happening and will continue to happen. Consumers want things now (as do protest marchers), rather than to have to put their names down on a list and wait. More, they increasingly feel that they have some kind of right to expect instant gratification. Those merchants who can provide a product or a process on demand are doing well (other things being equal), so old practices and customs are giving way to new, with appropriate social and cultural change. Not all of it is pleasant.

Numbers #5 and #6 seemed to me probably right. I don’t see autonomous vehicles arriving in any number for twenty years or more, and indeed the motor vehicle as a commuting mechanism may have been largely displaced in urban settings by then anyway, as cities rise higher.

Number #7 seems to be happening already, and to have been happening for more than a generation. Bank tellers started to go in the 1980s. Typists and secretaries lost jobs and careers in the 1980s and 1990s. Civil servants, as clerks, have lost careers steadily over the last twenty years. Libraries have changed…

Number #8 has been true since the 18th century. Technology creates new jobs and new opportunities, but they are usually not available to those whose jobs have been displaced.

I’m not sure about #15. There is, at least at present, no ‘population bomb’. Birthrates everywhere are falling. Yes, we will probably get to a world of 9 billion somewhere in the second half of the century, and maybe 11 billion by the beginning of the 22nd century. All this has been set out clearly by Hans Rosling. But ‘peak child’ time has passed already, because family size is now small, and likely to stay small, as girls are educated properly. I see no reason linked to growing population as to why we cannot train the necessary numbers of health-care workers.

Number #16 seems both on the ball and not a particular worry. Yes, only Brazil, Canada and the US have bountiful fresh water, but the conversion of salt water to fresh seems, at least to me, the kind of technological issue that humanity will solve when it is necessary. We have major de-sal plants now. We will need lots of them in smaller scale, and cheap. I feel pretty sure we will get them.

I wondered about #18, too. Is there anything special about the Internet in the context of confirmation bias? The mainstream media display their own problems with confirmation bias. A variety of sources seems to me the way for those who want to know, to puzzle their way to some sort of truth. But that is not new.

Is the education system too expensive? Number #19 assumes it is. Compared to what/when/where? Is its purpose to train people for newly created jobs? I don’t think so, though preparing people for work generally is one of the purposes of all education systems. Since we don’t know all the jobs that our graduates will have to fill over their working lives, we are increasingly preparing them for a variety of jobs. And young people know this, and most are careful to keep learning.

As for the other predictions I have nothing useful to say. Some of them are vague, like #1, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13 and #14. I know too little about artificial intelligence now to know what Perry had in mind in #4. I’m not sure who or what he has in mind when he speaks of ‘Big Food’. Humans don’t need tobacco, and its habitual use is likely to ordain some serious medical issues later on. But we do need food, and some of it will continue to come from somewhere else than our immediate vicinity. That requires organisation, corporations, transport and scale.

And as a final thought, peace and prosperity (economic growth) seem a basic assumption in the whole set. There are many projections of greatly increased GDP per capita in the coming century, and few projections of global conflicts on the scale of the two world wars. It is interesting that Perry didn’t refer to these assumptions, and indeed that he didn’t talk more about ‘climate change’ in his set of twenty.

I would be interested to know what readers think about these projections, and whether they have any other suggestions. If I look back to my boyhood in the 1940s, the world we have now would have seemed more like science fiction then. Is it likely, given the faster pace of technological change, that we can be any more perceptive now about what life will be like in the next seventy years?

 

 

Join the discussion 32 Comments

  • spangled drongo says:

    2. Is what marg calls democratic socialism. Much nicer than entitlement mentality. But it now reigns supreme.

    4. And the logic in ASR will depend on the Neo Marxist algorithms used. How to re-educate the world.

    7. AI may be necessary when govts are bankrupt. Just think of the red and green tape they will produce unaided, with a nanny algorithm.

    8. What? Lifters will still be required?

    18. Windows won’t need to open for people to put their heads out of.

    20. That is if they don’t fall or stay the same.

    But it is interesting that they don’t mention this future culture change, how the British have passively succumbed to the Muslim invasion and we are doing likewise:

    When you leave the hen house gate open, don’t cry after the fox has taken the chickens….

    Mayor of London … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Birmingham … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Leeds … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Blackburn … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Sheffield … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Oxford … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Luton … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Oldham … MUSLIM

    Mayor of Rochdale … MUSLIM

    Over 3,000 Muslim Mosques

    Over 130 Muslim Sharia Courts

    Over 50 Muslim Sharia Councils

    Muslims-Only No-Go Areas Across The UK

    Muslim Women … 78% don’t work and are on FREE benefits/housing

    Muslim Men … 63% don’t work and are on FREE benefits/housing

    Muslim Families … 6-8 children planning to go on FREE benefits/housing

    … and now all UK schools are ONLY serving HALAL MEAT!

    All this achieved by just 4 million Muslims out of the 66 million population!

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Well, here’s my take:

    The big will get bigger, the small will survive, and the middle will perish.
    Stupid question. How can you have a top and bottom without a middle?

    Consumers of every economic stratum will demand “on demand.”
    They can demand all they like, as long as there is a supply.

    Access is becoming as valuable as ownership – streaming media instead of buying a download, ride-sharing instead of buying a car, etc. You will pay for it with cash, data, or a combination of both.
    As long as you pay, who cares?

    Anything you can talk to will understand and talk back – Automatic Speech Recognition
    (ASR), NLU, and related technologies coupled with Augmented Reality and machine learning will have a radically disruptive impact on the way we live our lives.
    Mothers have been telling their children what to do for decades. It hasn’t worked so far.

    As a result of ride-sharing, the auto industry will contract by 20 per cent.
    See below

    Traffic will increase because ride-sharing service cars will always be in motion.
    … and taxis are always standing still?

    AI will start taking white-collar jobs more quickly than experts predict. If just 20 per cent of white-collar jobs evaporate, the economic impact will be profound.
    See below

    New technology will not replace all of the jobs that new technology displaces.
    I bought a robot vacuum cleaner. It takes more time to look after it (while it is cleaning) than it would to clean the house by hand.

    Commoditized products that are hard to pronounce or spell (or speak) or hard to search will quickly become unprofitable.
    Albanian supermarkets seem to do well (in Albania). They also sell products that are not advertised in Cyrillic.

    The convergence of on demand, machine learning, and autonomy will change the world.
    Remember Morse code?

    Data is more powerful in the presence of other data.
    See below

    Anything that can be connected will be connected.
    See below

    Anything that can be hacked will be hacked.
    See below

    Distribution channel disruption is accelerating.
    Kids will be kids

    Due to the increasing world population, we cannot train enough doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals.
    So we will employ more grave-diggers.

    Fresh water is a scarce resource, and natural supplies will diminish quickly over the next 30 years.
    See above

    “Big Food” may go the way of “Big Tobacco” as health care costs rise.
    So the obesity problem disappears.

    The tools used to access the free and open Internet have enabled users to filter out anything that makes them uncomfortable and have exacerbated the negative effects of confirmation bias.
    See below

    The entire education system is too expensive and is not producing qualified candidates for newly created jobs.
    The education system (in Australia at least, and probably in the Western world) has produced youth with meaningless degrees, who are unfit for intellectual activities, and unable (or unwilling) to do real work. Plumbers and electricians cost more than movie stars, and get more regular work.

    Climate change will cause sea levels to rise over the next 50 years.
    Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Maldives will still be there.

  • margaret says:

    #1

    “We study, as Americans, the extreme aspects of repression under the Stalinist era. We’re focused on them,” he says, carefully. “The vast majority of Russian citizens, it was a much softer type of being disconcerted. Do you know what I mean? Not everybody went to prison. Not everyone was executed. That was a minority. Everyone else, it was more like you didn’t always have what you wanted; you couldn’t do the job you wanted; you couldn’t say what you wanted; the country was going in a direction you didn’t like. Which certainly a portion of America* is going to feel in the coming years, one way or another.”

    Amor Towles
    *for America read Australia

  • Neville says:

    I think that Don has done a fair job of the 20 points. And SD has provided more interesting data as well.

    But I think I’ll just link to Dr Rosling AGAIN to show the last 200 years of human progress using fossil fuels. If some people are too stupid to understand this real history of our world I think they are beyond help and Rosling, Goklany, Lomborg and Ridley etc are wasting their time.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo&t=29s 200 countries since 1810.

    This video asks that people not be ignorant about our world. It’s a plea that some won’t grasp or understand but I suppose we can only try. It seems that real world evidence and data doesn’t seem to interest some of the fantasists.

  • margaret says:

    #19

    Horatio in Hamlet and Doyce in Little Dorritt.
    “Both carry around with them a characteristic obsession of their age – Horatio is obsessed with humanist philosophy; Doyce is obsessed with patenting his invention. There can be no character like Doyce in Shakespeare; he would, at best, get a bit part as a working-class comic figure. Yet, by the time Dickens described Doyce, most of his readers knew somebody like him. Just as Shakespeare could not have imagined Doyce, so we too cannot imagine the kind of human beings society will produce once economics is no longer central to life. But we can see their prefigurative forms in the lives of young people all over the world breaking down 20th-century barriers around sexuality, work, creativity and the self.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun

    • spangled drongo says:

      Wonderful article on the end of capitalism, marg.

      Especially at the end where the Guardian asks: if you would only pay for this service we would be able to recapitalise and survive.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Funny how the Marxists never understood that investment of effort requires reward.

      • tripitaka says:

        You’ve most likely heard of motivation. Motivation is what drives you to take action. It’s your inspiration for doing something. Without motivation, you would accomplish very little. There are two types of motivation.

        Extrinsic motivation refers to performing an action or behavior in order to receive an external reward or outcome. When you are extrinsically motivated to do something, you aren’t concerned with whether or not the action is enjoyable. You are most concerned with the outcomes associated with the action like being paid.

        When you do something to avoid punishment or a negative outcome, you are acting due to extrinsic motivation.

        Intrinsic motivation is defined as performing an action or behavior because you enjoy the activity itself Whereas acting on extrinsic motivation is done for the sake of some external outcome, the inspiration for acting on intrinsic motivation can be found in the action itself and the feeling that the accomplishment of the task provides.

        Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s the sort of motivation that you get when you’re doing something you enjoy; when the task itself is its own reward.

        To understand in what circumstances extrinsic motivation works you need to consider Maslow’s heirachy of needs. So if we are in a precarious situation as workers are in a Capitalistic system, the most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour and having to work for a boss, being a wage slave will motivate us to turn up each day.

        Google maslow’s heiracchy of needs for more on the needs that motivate people.

        There is a great deal of research that shows that intrinsic motivation works much better for humans in terms of having productive workers. This is an abstract from one of these publications.

        “A central tenet of economics is that individuals respond to incentives.

        “For psychologists and sociologists, in contrast, rewards and punishments are often counterproductive, because they undermine “intrinsic motivation”.

        We show how performance incentives offered by an informed principal (manager, teacher, parent) can adversely impact an agent’s (worker, child) perception of the task, or of his own abilities.

        Incentives are then only weak reinforcers in the short run, and negative reinforcers in the long run.”

        Google the sentences to read the full publication.

        Do you understand drongo? The human person is far far more complex and interesting that you can possibly imagine with your narrow shallow politically correct assumptions about us.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Please refrain from trying to teach me how to suck eggs, tripluv.

          I’ve started and run more businesses than you’ve probably had hot baths and many of them were simply because I’d designed something that the world wanted and it beat a path to my door that I often refused to open.

          What you are too obtuse to understand is that your Marxist ideology has historically failed to provide the rewards that people need until it moves a lot closer to the capitalist system.

          • tripitaka says:

            lol So many businesses? Doesn’t sound very clever to me. My family have ever only had one business from when my dad first began it when I was at primary school, and it’s still going now with my sister owning and managing it. If you have had to start and run so many means you must have been doing something wrong.

            You really are a doofus, you do realise that don’t you? As if I’d try and ‘teach’ you anything. You can’t learn; your brain is too ossified and blinkered; as they say, one can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

          • spangled drongo says:

            As usual, tripluv, the message is completely lost on you.

            Where did you manage to do such a thorough course in obtusity?

          • margaret says:

            Poor Spangled Drongo, the gold stars you crave as reward for your individualistic endeavours have been wrenched from authoritarian adults and given to the children for their fun and creativity. I hope they create some joyful mayhem with their antics and, if you’re very lucky you might join them in your pantaloon era because childcare and aged care may be integrated!

          • spangled drongo says:

            Marg and trip, you don’t understand much about capitalism.

            When you design and build something of international standard and copyright or patent it, two things happen: people want to buy it and people want to manufacture it.

            If you don’t wish to manufacture it yourself you sell the licence to manufacture to someone and collect a royalty.

            Sometimes you find someone who is more knowledgeable than yourself and set up a partnership with them.

            The more stuff like this you design the more businesses it is possible to “run”.

            I was very fortunate with my designs and retired at 33 from these and other sorts of businesses but then went back into business related to other designs simply for something to do.

            But in the capitalist free market world products are for ever changing, people use your ideas to leapfrog to other ideas just as I did and the market life of some products can be limited, so while a business may not last it can be fun, challenging and very rewarding.

            But capitalism has always been the force that brought out the best products.

            I’m sure you both know this but your ideology won’t let you admit it.

          • margaret says:

            Well kudos to you Spangled Drongo – why then do you have so much hubris and so little gratitude?

          • spangled drongo says:

            There’s a very apt phrase for it marg but I won’t hurt your feelings.

            BTW, Sir Humphrey, Nanny and the Marxists win again. Capitalism doesn’t stand a chance:

            https://arstechnica.com/business/2017/03/nuclear-giant-westinghouse-files-for-bankruptcy-after-costs-skyrocketed/

          • margaret says:

            Oh go for it Spangled Drongo … I’d love to hear the phrase guaranteed to hurt my feelings. Does it have something to do with those who can, do, those who can’t, teach?
            Are you the Australian equivalent of a Russian oligarch?

          • tripitaka says:

            All that winning drongo; sounds like you were another Bill Gates and look at you now; spending your time bragging about yourself to people who are so not impressed and not interested and not likely to change their minds about your lack of character and intelligence whatever you claim.

            But at least you have your mark on a rock to keep you company and remind you of what a winner you really are as you face your lonely old age. That rock must be a comfort.

          • spangled drongo says:

            I s’pose when you’re sodum that you can’t tell a rock from a wall, jetty or well, the culture that got you into the comfort you now enjoy is all a bit over your head, hey trippi?

            But just keep injecting yourself with that Marxist ideology and it’s bound to deaden your brain enough to get you through.

        • Thorfinn says:

          Poofy psychy stuff Trip. Reality dictates otherwise. Best to keep armed- and keep ’em close.

    • tripitaka says:

      So true Margaret, we can’t imagine what abilities or characteristics our grandchildren will need to cope with the unforeseeable future that they will face. But an ability to think rationally and compassionately and a willingness to fit in with their neighbours has to be something that will serve them well.

      It is grandmothers who see clearly and take comfort from the knowledge that life goes on after we die and that we do live on in the way we influence our descendants. Women have always known how important co-operation with others is for raising functional children who can cope with a rapidly changing environment and that is what is very likely to be the norm in the future.

      Sarah Blaffer Hrdy “in Mothers and Others, she situates this pivotal mother–infant pair not in an empty expanse of savanna, waiting for a man to arrive with his killed game, but where it actually belongs, in the dense social setting of a hunter-gatherer or, before that, an ape or monkey group.

      “Hrdy argues convincingly that social support was crucial to human success, that compared with other primates, humans are uniquely cooperative, and that it was precisely cooperation in child care that gave rise to this general bent…

      “Hrdy’s gracefully written, expert account of human behavior focuses on the positive, and its most important contribution is to give cooperation its rightful place in child care. Through a lifetime of pathbreaking work, she has repeatedly undermined our complacent, solipsistic, masculine notions of what women were meant ‘by nature’ to be.

      “Here as elsewhere she urges caution and compassion toward women whose maternal role must be constantly rethought and readjusted to meet the demands of a changing world. Women have done this successfully for millions of years, and their success will not stop now.

      “But neither Hrdy nor I nor anyone else can know whether the strong human tendency to help mothers care for children can produce the species-wide level of cooperation that we now need to survive.”—Melvin Konner, The New York Review of Books

      http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674060326&content=reviews

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    “But neither Hrdy nor I nor anyone else can know …

    LOL. In other words, read what you want into it.

Leave a Reply