I thought that with today’s post we could get back to basics and I would present you with a set of futurist predictions for us to all mull over and discuss. So, without further ado, here are seven predictions for the future brought to you by the futurist blog Future Conscience (wow, that’s a lot of future for one sentence!).
1) Intolerance around the globe will increase dramatically
Let’s get some of the negative ones out of the way first. If it wasn’t clear already, the recent events of the past few months have highlighted an exponential return to intolerant thinking and sentiment around the globe.
Clear examples in the Western world have come from the USA in the form of staunch opposition to the building of a mosque near the former site of the World Trade Centre (not to mention Terry Jones and his threats of Koran burning, representing the Christian lunatic fringe); and also from France with their recent shockingly nationalistic deportation of the entire French Roma ethnic community. In addition to this, we are seeing growing intolerance from the more radicalised aspects of the global Islamic community – with a large and growing population clearly on the look-out for any excuse to rise up against Western regimes.
Of course, such intolerance is almost par for the course when it comes to humanity and the way we treat each other. However, the last five years in particular have seen a clear and growing sense of nationalistic/religious intolerance – with many groups and individuals looking for reasons to be upset and others looking to cause offense. The problem is compounded by the fact that it is these viewpoints that the media like to push over more tolerant and accepting ones – sensationalism sells.
Over the next decade, I strongly believe that such intolerance will increase until the point where we see a number of dramatic and almost cataclysmic events occur fuelled entirely by the fires of social intolerance of those different to us.
2) Afghanistan will return to an Islamist government
If the goal of invading Afghanistan was to instigate regime change and ensure that the Islamist Taliban were removed from power, then it looks increasingly likely that the war will be lost by the USA and their coalition. Many would argue that this was never entirely the point of the war, however one prediction I am confident in making is that within the next decade or two Afghanistan will return to having an Islamist government.
This is not necessarily a negative thing – and we must always be vigilant that we do not merely presume that Islamist equals “wrong” – however it will have made the entire process of invading in the first place a catastrophic irrelevancy. Guided by tribal elements within its own borders and the thoroughly dug-in Taliban, coupled with the ‘turn a blind eye to it’ hard-line influence from elements of the Pakistani government – Afghanistan is almost assured to return to an Islamist regime.
3) Leisure Society due to automation of manufacturing process
This prediction has a rather longer viewpoint than many of those I am making in this post, however I wanted to include it as I strongly believe it is something that will revolutionise the way many of us see the place of work and our role in society. It’s difficult to truly predict how long this one will take to come about, but it is linked closely to the exponentially increasing technological development in areas of manufacturing, construction and other forms of manual labour. We had this dream in the 1950s, where by now we should all be living Jetsons-type lifestyles – but it is now that I think we will begin to see such a change coming about.
We are on a process of complete automation for all production sectors, and with the advent of intelligent systems capable of making important decisions in abnormal situations the requirements for human interaction in many of these sectors will become redundant. This will lead to an explosive growth in the number of people existing on some form of welfare, and it will be necessary to reformulate our vision of society based upon this radical paradigm shift.
At the moment, the primary locus of value in the developed world is centred upon employment and work. In particular, for the majority of people work means taking part in the production or service industries. I have no doubt in my mind that the technology will rapidly become available to make human intervention in production redundant – and even within the service industry to a somewhat lesser, but still highly impacting degree.
Just how long this takes, and how governments and corporations will deal with employee resistance initially, is very difficult to ascertain. But look out for it, because before too long many of us are going to be desperate for things to fill our time with – quite a nice little outcome really, as long as social boredom and individual perceptions of worth are dealt with accordingly.
4) Gaming will become the central entertainment form
Over the last few years, the videogame industry has toppled Hollywood and the music business for complete dominance over our consumer spending. This trend isn’t going anywhere, and indeed I predict that the role of gaming within mainstream culture will increase further –to the point where it becomes our central paradigm for entertainment and creative expression.
Beyond merely a capitalist perspective, there is reasoning behind this opinion, and it revolves predominately around two things: structure and agency (a little pun there for the anthropologists!).
Agency, in this context, refers directly to the central component that makes gaming what it is. Our ability to control this medium, with an ever increasing degree of autonomy and options, is one of the very basic prerequisites for something to be considered a videogame. We cannot control a movie at the cinema – it is an inherently passive experience. Likewise with music, apart from a very few experiments in providing remix technology, what you purchase is a passive experience. Videogames are on the verge of an absolute revolution in agency, providing more choice for the player than ever before, and this is one of the primary reasons why they will supplant music and film as our central form of entertainment in the future.
The second reason is structure; the content-medium that you are provided when you purchase a videogame is more flexible than anything else we have currently available. The fact is: a videogame can contain film, music, fashion, art, social interaction, sport and basically any other form of entertainment experience you can consider. Gaming is, at its very core, an all-inclusive medium that is only currently limited by technology and the subsequent creative roadblocks. For many, the ultimate expression of videogaming will be the creation of a life simulator which is identical and indistinguishable from reality (apart from, importantly, many of the permanent consequences of existing within space and time). Consider the implications of that goal for a moment, along with the fact that this end-point is lacking in the fantasy available through our imaginations – and then try and tell me that videogames won’t become the central component of our leisure time in the future. We’ll need a new name for them at any rate, any suggestions?
5) Privacy will be all but abolished – and we’ll love it
We’re at a turning point in social media, the crossroads in which we need to choose as consumers whether we want our data to remain private and owned by us; or whether we want to hand over many aspects of our private lives in order to receive back greater functionality and utility.
The way it’s going at the moment – whether through choice, indifference or ignorance – is that our online data will increasingly become publicly accessible and available to those who wish to use it. For many of us concerned with the implications of this retreat from privacy, this seems like a dystopian future. However, for the vast majority of people it’s not of a concern – and the payoff far outweighs the instances in which such data will be used maliciously or cause distress.
Location services are the next big step towards an open approach to personal privacy, along with the sharing of your entertainment and lifestyle interests and choices through platforms such as Apple’s forthcoming Ping and the increasingly ubiquitous Facebook Like. People within your peer group already know more about these quantifiable aspects of your life than at any other point in human history – and soon, I predict, so will the rest of society as we become increasingly open to the idea of a non-private social existence. The long-term implications of such a shift are staggering…
6) Food alternatives will be pushed – and will fail
This one’s a bit more out of left-field, but within the next two decades there will be a big push for alternatives to the very food that we eat. Whether it be because of time, convenience, health or any other reason these technologies are already being developed and have also been depicted in many a science-fiction tale of old.
The two major forms will be dietary bars and inhaled flavour. The first is a concept we’re all quite familiar with and quite similar in concept to vitamin supplements, but at some stage it will also be pushed as a way to redefine the role that eating has in your life (just consider all the hours saved, the obesity figures plummeting with perfect portion control, the health implications of perfected nutrition).
In a similar fashion, inhalers are currently being developed that hope to provide you with all the satisfaction of taste without the caloric intake of eating. Focused at the moment primarily on substances such as chocolate and coffee, these inhalers are just around the corner and proponents expect them to be a hit particularly amongst women watching their waistlines.
Whilst the concept of the inhaler will certainly be commercially viable (after all, many people I know already find great enjoyment from even a non-edible cupcake/chocolate flavoured lip gloss), I don’t think it will bring about the revolution that many think it will. I certainly don’t think that a complete dietary substitute would be able to overcome many thousands upon thousands of years of deep-seated social development revolving around the consumption of food. What would a family dinner consist of if merely a pill? How about that first date? Or the business lunch? There are far too many social conventions revolving around food and the pleasure we gain from its texture, scent, flavour to easily topple this central part of our lives.
It’s not going to stop people trying, but I think the best they might do is find a substitute for chocolate cravings…
For the final prediction let’s head into a slightly more controversial area, and one that many people in mainstream society may not see coming. It is my belief, and it is increasingly backed up by policy, that government legislation in North America and Europe surrounding illicit substances will continue to soften and trend towards decriminalisation and even possibly legalisation (with a few notable exceptions – of course – such as the United Kingdom).
Many parts of Europe are increasingly heading towards decriminalisation for users, a particular example being the Czech Republic which at the beginning of 2010 decriminalised the personal use of all illicit substances. Whilst there is some discussion of tightening regulation in well-known areas such as Holland, this doesn’t seem to be amounting to much real reversal of policy. In particular we will see a wide-spread acceptance of cannabis as a decriminalised substance, and even in the hard-lined ‘War on Drugs’ bastion that is the USA it is becoming quite clear that movement towards commercially available marijuana is gaining momentum. The referendum in California in a few months will give quite a yardstick to go by (and with a 50/50 split in the polls it’s going to be a close one), but even without it many people don’t realise that a decriminalisation bill has already been passed and is just waiting for the Terminator’s approval.
What will be the reasoning behind this shift? Well, I think primarily it will come from a recognition that the ‘War on Drugs’ hasn’t been terribly successful in curbing drug-use at all. In fact, all it has really resulted in is a rapidly increasing prison population and incredibly high profits for the criminal underworld. Not to mention the financial cost.
Politically, I think one of the major factors will be the need to free up legal resources and budgets; not to mention the taxation gold-mine that awaits upon legalisation of any kind. Scientifically, we are already seeing a push from experts against the common misconceptions of the dangers of many illegal drugs when compared to legally available ones. The scientific hypocrisy of the situation cannot be ignored, and science is no longer available as a partner in hard-line approaches as was made clear with the recent ACMD debacle in the United Kingdom. Socially, people are already doing these drugs in large numbers. If we are talking about the so-called ‘soft’ illicit substances such as cannabis the rates of usage are sky-high and cross all sections of society.
It will require a great deal of investment in education and addiction treatment facilities, but the signs are pointing towards an end to the hard-line ‘War on Drugs’ in many parts around the globe, and in the USA and Europe in particular – for better or for worse. It will be interesting to see the resulting change in society and I think it is impossible to gauge whether this will be a more positive or negative path to take until it is explored.
There are so many possible predictions that one can make when it comes to looking forwards into the future of humanity. The fascinating thing about existing in today’s global society is that it is actually quite difficult to truly imagine the vast array of possibilities that are just beyond the horizon. With technological, political, social and environmental changes happening at an ever increasing rate the future really is there to be made.
This is exactly why Future Conscience was created in the first place, and why I feel it is vitally important that everybody – at all levels of society – engage in discussion on the direction/s we are heading in. Without large-scale, grassroots input the future is going to be owned solely by the governments and corporations that are already looking ten, twenty, fifty years into the future. We must set our sights on this distant horizon, even if not for our own personal benefit but for those who will follow us in the years to come.
What do you think of these predictions? Do you have any others you would like to share?