Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to the Future: A Sneak Peek at 2045

There is a big difference between following current trajectories into the future to imagine a dismal fate, and believing that the small efforts today can turn those trends around.  Maybe its the hopeful optimist in me, or maybe its my faith in humanity's ability to prevent foreseeable disasters, but I believe 30 years from today will be an awesome time to live.  There are three areas that I'm most anxious to fast-forward to: technology, health and the economy.

Self-driving cars will be practically mandated; it won't contravene hard law to drive oneself, but it will be rendered completely impractical and economically challenging because insurance rates will skyrocket for non-autonomous vehicles.  A new industry will arise around furnishing and "pimping" your self-driving car, free from the restrictions of forward-facing seats and the tethers of strict safety features.  Cars will morph into lounges of productivity, comfort and service, while zooming along safer roads than ever seen in the history of the car. 

Programming will be taught in schools instead of cursive.  Some will excel at it and become programmers, but most people will know basic computer languages. 

3D printing as a technology will mature into a mass production tool for specific applications, such as wearable technologies, on-the-go sound equipment and hot-off-the-printer food delivery services.  Most middle-class people will have some sort of 3D scanner at home, with many also having a 3D printer for specific housekeeping requirements. 

Speaking of housekeeping, robots will be employed in most homes to do the mundane work - washing and putting away dishes and clothes, taking out the garbage and recycling, vacuuming and cleaning surfaces. 

Wearables will be as pervasive as cellphones are today, and will become more invasive as we get accustomed to the Internet of Things.  These technologies will drive the turnaround of the obesity epidemic, bringing diabetes, asthma, IBS, heart disease, allergies and even cancer to their knees.  Your device will inform you that you are low on a specific nutrient and will select recommendations from your list of favorite foods as well as new dishes to try at local restaurants to satisfy your dietary requirements.  Restaurants will have no choice but to offer tasty, healthful options to win and retain customers.  Your device will also walk you through your grocery store identifying products that you may enjoy based on your tastes and dietary needs, avoiding those that you have a habit of over-indulging on.  Health and weight loss will no longer be a pressing matter, as it will be so effortless to stay healthy that obesity will seem like a frivolous concept, and all the diseases that are correlated with poor dieting will seem foreign. 

The economy will accelerate like never before, primarily because we will have long since done away with partisan politics and replaced the political system with an issues-based and performance-driven model. Flourishing in this economy is as simple as getting paid fairly for what you excel at, enjoy doing or what you are learning.  The increased transparency of skills, qualifications and talent compared to relative salaries in every field will make it nearly impossible to be under- or over-paid.  There will be more part-time and flex-time jobs and the development of hybrid jobs - where you spend part of your time in one function, and the rest of your time on another function - to best make use of the skills and value each person brings to an organization.  With job satisfaction and productivity up, and economic uncertainty diminished, the finance will be a no-brainer.  The work week will be shorter, providing us more time to exercise and participate in activities that keep us healthy. 

These are the things that I see as inevitable, if not a slightly optimistic or accelerated view of 30 years from today.  The future is ours to invent, and if we don't invent it, someone else will.  Deciding what aspect of the future to be a part of making is an ongoing challenge for me, but its the right way to think for any company or individual wanting to be around and see these things come to fruition in 30 years. 

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