by Ruth Aine - 01 July 2016
April brought with it great tidings. It gave birth to the futuristic Global Work/Technology 2050 scenarios. These scenarios are very much part of the work that we do in the foresight community. What was really interesting, is watching the current trends, because they resemble significantly to what we could expect in the next 34 years. Everything has a foundation that is being laid. This is why we cannot afford to disregard these scenarios. By paying attention, we can create the best for us and for our children. It is important that we learn, it is important that we prepare for the future.
It’s Complicated - A Mixed bag
The different topics ranged from: STEM Education was Important but Less Useful for Employment after 2035 to Basic Income Experiments in the 2020s were more Successful after 2035, and New Synthetic Biology Industries in Medicine, Agriculture, Energy, and Manufacturing. However, what stood out for me was Technologies Developed in the 2020s Laid the Foundation for Today, because this for me speaks volumes in regards to where Africa is and where she is going. Creating and innovating have become one of those things that we seem to do very well. When you see teenagers manufacturing a urine powered generator, or us being able to access a doctor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via WhatsApp, it is very easy to wonder what the legitimacy of these ‘innovations’ is. For the creators, they are struggling with sustainability plans and business models as they have to become relevant to societal needs. And after reading this scenario, I realize that it is okay for us not to have all the answers as we don’t need them now. Let us look out for the BIGGER picture. What is important is that the journey has started. And it is good to know that futurists agree: this is only the beginning and we need to build the systems that encourage and support these young innovators and creators, because 10 to 15 years down the road the progress we will be able to make that whose foundation was laid at such a time like this. Nothing gives me so much joy and HOPE for the days to come than this.
Political/Economic Turmoil – Future Despair
“During the early 21st century, political leaders were so mired in short-term political conflicts, and me-first, selfish economic thinking that they did not anticipate how fast artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D/4D printing, synthetic biology, and other technologies would make business after business obsolete, beginning dramatically in the late 2020s and early 2030s.” So read Jerome Glenn’s1 introduction. We see the genesis of this happening already, don’t we? The me-first politics and political conflicts are the things that we are already grappling with, and it is not about to stop.
This scenario also looks at social strife and geo-political turmoil – things, again I must say, which we are looking at – being birthed. The social strife is as a result of secret societies and crime families throughout the world in response to ineffective governance. The geo-political turmoil aspect is reported as such: “The periodic and ad hoc mergers of organized crime and terrorist separatists’ sabotage have made the Internet of Things [IoT] a nightmare. When devices on the IoT malfunctioned or the occasional system collapses, people did not know if it was just a new software bug or sabotage and by whom or for what reason”. We see here that terrorism and cyber-crime will continue to grow.
If Humans Were Free – The Self-Actualizing Economy
Glenn introduces this scenario as follows: “The transition to the Self-Actualizing Economy has begun. Although this transition is not complete, we have come a long way. For the first time in history, humanity is engaged in a great conversation about what kind of civilization it wants and what we, as individuals and as a species, want to become. Movies, global cyber games, UN Summits, VR News, flash mob cyber teach-ins, and thought leaders probe the meaning of life and the possible future as never before.” Isn’t this what we would all love to see? Humanity engaging in great conversation. What we have now are so many disconnected conversations, almost about the same things. We all want to be seen doing something so the UN and IMF will conduct conversations on the same issues, but one will want to share notes or reconcile with the other. The African Union is grappling with the same issues that the European Union went through. But us being so proud, not bothered to borrow notes or even share notes and experiences. Whose loss is it? Your guess is as good as mine.
“By 2050 the world had finally achieved a global economy that appears to be environmentally sustainable while providing nearly all people with the basic necessities of life and the majority with a comfortable living,” Glenn concludes.
I think what is very important to note, is while this will have been achieved, it will require a process to get there. Bigger question is: How are we then contributing to the World We Want? I don’t know if I will be alive by the year 2050 – but this is definitely the kind of universe that I intend to betroth to my loved ones. Being able to view the future will allow us to be more intentional in what we do because it definitely impacts on the future.