The question in week two was asking you to imagine future scenarios. What will our future world look like, especially for children and young people? What will have been invented that didn’t exist before that might affect their lives and creativity?
10 of you responded to this question, aged between 33 and 71. There may have been fewer responses as it’s quite a challenge to imagine multiple future scenarios, and to summarise these very briefly in writing. One of you said: Trying to pick out individual inventions or trends in the face of such an enormously significant moment in the story of humanity and planet has rather a needle-in-haystack feel about it I’m afraid.
Most of your responses did not focus in closely on how children and young people’s lives will be affected, maybe because the issues that concern you are so uncertain and yet potentially impactful.
Some of you provided some Utopian or positive visions:
They will be freed from top-down supply-led, test-driven “fact learning” and into curiosity-driven, demand-led investigative learning.
Schools will become totally holistic and focused on wellbeing and helping children to become healthy, happy, members of society. Exams will no longer be necessary.
Increased use of robots and AI will have reduced need for people to do routine work, so they will spend more time being creative and working collaboratively on things that enhance “Humanness” and enable people and planet to thrive.
In the future there will be no wires. Technology will be embedded into our bodies and minds, any devices/vehicles that require charging will do so wirelessly. Our energy will be harnessed from the sun, wind and water so we won’t need messy fossil fuels or risky nuclear power stations.
The boundary between work and free time will cease to exist as we spend our time doing what makes us happy and helping others, trading our skills, time and goods freely.
About living, society and economy in general
We will stop eating meat and no one will go hungry anymore. We will stop mistreating and murdering animals and damaging the environment because there will be a collective enlightenment that will lead to the realisation that we are part of a complex interdependent system. As we realise the earth belongs to everyone and no one, we will abolish state boundaries and passports, visas and money will no longer be necessary. Medicine will be totally holistic, as we will realise the division between mind and body is an illusion. All healers will treat the whole person, body, mind and soul. You will be able to get an instant and precise diagnosis from a computer, using a single drop of your blood, in 30 seconds and your healer will use this to prescribe you a course of therapy. Monogamy will cease to be the norm as we stop trying to possess and just enjoy each other and gender and sexuality will be fluid and non-binary. Prisons will no longer be used to punish those that transgress, they will become therapy centres to treat mental, physical and emotional health problems and help the individuals learn new skills.
This response is mostly positive with some notes of caution or uncertainty…
1. Seamless augmented reality 2. Mass driverless, electric cars 3. A way of fighting infections without antibiotics (new polymers) 4. Mass automation will either mean massive loss of lives or a brave new world to sustain our population through dissemination of money and resources. 5. Automated governance and leadership of organisations. 6. A new power hierarchy based on knowledge (knowledge markets) 7. The resistance of legacy power hierarchies (religious, corporate, sovereign) with greater and more entangled conflicts.
Most of your responses were imagining more dystopian scenarios
Employment in traditional institutions like companies will be tougher, with fewer rights for those lower down the hierarchy. Some people though will find ways of working in new organisational set-ups: cooperatively owned businesses, peer-to-peer networks, etc. Eventually I’d guess that traditional finance and business ownership systems will fail, changing the faces of work and investments, potentially to bring more fun for the lucky ones, if less security for some.
About living, society and economy in general…
Lifestyles will be dominated by “efficiency maximisation” systems, which reduce their individuality and humanity. Meanwhile inequality, climate change and social unrest will be causing chaos and immense suffering, leading to increasing state surveillance and control.
Synergy between all technical media platforms, bio-security, complete commodification of air, drought in former temperate climates, increased mass migration, advanced level of glacial melt, raising of sea levels, increased poverty….
A greater reliance on technology (disempowering). Greater social stratification. Therefore a danger that society becomes more polarised.
I’d predict that surveillance technologies and militarised crowd control will likely make everyday life for ordinary urban dwellers more limited, oppressive, stressful and dangerous, especially for those who don’t fit with the culture, race or religion du jour.
These responses make clear that growing inequality will mean dystopian scenarios for the have-nots and more utopian scenarios for the ‘haves’:
Resource availability will become an increasing problem with an accelerating split between the haves and the have nots. The few who can afford will continue to have the pick of a mind-bending array of experiences and opportunities. In the developed world for the majority of have-nots ‘work’ will become less and less available, living spaces will get smaller, opportunities to travel will disappear and access to things and experiences will become less tangible and more virtual through advances in neurological and biological technologies.
It depends how far into the future, and for whom. In the medium term, I’d say there will be worsening inequality, resulting in an ever widening spectrum of experiences. Many will be poor and struggling to get basics while others enjoy well-paid work in areas of new technological development (no idea what: possibly things I find unsavoury, like genetically modified organisms, robotics and weaponry; possibly things of benefit at least through a transitionary period, such as solar energy technology, electrified transportation systems, etc).
Some of you gave suggestions on how to forge positive scenarios:
We (the future) will have to navigate the world and international relationships with considerably less arrogance and more realism. I see younger people heading East, not West. But I also feel that the generally accepted economic model is bust – and far too exploiting of natural and human resources. Technology may help. I hope that we might create more energy efficient technology – the ‘cloud’ is a great idea until you calculate the cost of electricity, the people mining scarce metals to power the technology, the wasted lives, mental health issues arising from tech focus over people focus etc.
We can but hope that a big enough chunk of the population finds realistic ways of reorganising to build communities, work structures and practices that regenerate ecosystems, the land, and their communities, recognising that they cannot rely on the crazy techno-optimism of the ‘eco-modernists,’ and outlawing technologies and institutions that destroy life and soul. These, where they exist, would offer refuge to all life, and could be the seeds of a different future culture.
And, challenging the premise of the question:
Asking ‘What will have been invented?’ implies an object-driven or product-driven view of the future. But each product places a claim on the planet because, as I put it, technology is “order imposed on nature”. Whilst, initially, new tech will drive social change, the time is right for thinking about a post-Enlightenment future, if we want to share this planet with each other instead of exploiting it selfishly.