Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

What will our lives be like in 50 years?

Posted by Will Connolly on October 15, 2008

Will we be increasingly isolated and remove all human-to-human interaction? Or will there be a change back to localisation?

October 13 2008 was the day that Natalie Domanski, Amanda Purdie and I attended a reading circle to discuss Richard Watson’s ‘Future Files: The 5 Trends That Will Shape The Next 50 Years‘ .  In the book, published this year, Watson names the 5 trends to be: ageing, global connectivity, the environment, a power shift eastwards and GRIN technologies (Genetics, robotics, internet and nanotechnology).

Watson comments on his method of locating the trends: “To do it one must first observe what is already happening and then make educated guesses as to where some of what is happening may lead.”  Watson uses timelines to show his predictions for the future.   Some predictions seem attainable such as a 150GB memory stick, while others like the space ladder, seem literally ‘far-out’! 

In our reading circle we were joined by Nico Macdonald – chairing the discussion and a range of people from Kusiri, DWB, and Seymour Powell.   

Nico Macdonald summarised the content of the book and his knowledge of the author, and then we all discussed the points that were at the fore of our minds after reading this interesting piece of future insight.  Most reviews of the book felt that it should be used as introduction to futurology, and replicated a collection of Blogs from the past five years.  Watson’s creativity and authority of statements were doubted by most, as the book seems to convey ideas previously envisaged by others.  In the last chapter, Watson comments on ‘5 things that won’t change over the next 50 years’; I felt that these are a disappointing collection of generic summaries: (1) an interest in the future and a yearning for the past, (2) a desire for recognition and respect, (3) the need for physical objects, actual encounters and live experiences, (4) anxiety and fear and (5) a search for meaning.  The connections on Watson’s trend map seem disjointed – how does power shifting eastwards lead to declining fertility and then anxiety?

In our discussion some felt that in today’s society we are failing to generate new styles and ideas, (e.g. music and fashion).  I feel that our own current trends may be harder to notice than the trends in the past, as they do not seem different to us all yet and they are currently in motion.  I also that feel our current trend in fashion and music involves merging ideas together, combing styles and eras in fashion and mixing genres in music, creating new ways of expression.

I felt the book was implicitly highlighting that the future trends were unpopular to the author, who wishes to alert the reader about a certain negative future.  The closing sentence mentions how ‘we’ can change the future: “If you think enough about the future you can change it.”  Watson may be writing this book so that we can all take action to change this picture of the future.

Watson does not include developing nations into his forecasting and his stance is Western-centric, this void makes me think how we can forge a future for everyone and not just some. Overall however, after reading the book, I felt excited and thought about the future I would want to see and be part of. 

 

 

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