Brave New World

Brave New World

Foreword: I was planning my return from the recent blogging hiatus for a while. I outlined a couple of posts just did not finish them. It seems I am pretty bad at planning and careful implementation. There is too much to write about and time is too scarce. The last six months were a roller coaster in almost all areas of my life. I will report about these shortly but I fear that if I don’t get back to writing somehow I risk procrastinating it forever. To get back to my “write down what’s in your mind and hit publish” strategy I was not able to resist the call of SavingNinja’s latest thought experiment (check out the details and other responses on the link). So, let’s get back to the business.

“I recently read a statistic that 85% of the jobs there will be in 2030 have not yet been created. What do you think these jobs are, and which ones will no longer exist? What does this mean for education? What will the offices look like in 11 years? Will people continue to commute to a physical office or will remote work and digital nomadism take over? Finally, how do you think this will affect the overall global economic balance?”

I have to start with the interesting coincidence that I listened to a podcast episode with a Hungarian university professor who is a future researcher while this thought experiment post landed in my inbox. One of his initial statements hit me in the stomach which stated that there is a chance that maybe humanity won’t be part of the long term future. Putting this disturbing thought away let’s get back to our eleven-year timeframe and consider the possibilities.

In my opinion, by 2030 the most interesting changes will happen in our day-to-day life, not on the global economic level so forgive me if my focus will wandering away from the future of jobs and offices. What can I say, I am a dreamer in heart. I think that there will be significant improvements but nothing earthshaking. I am a true believer of the “what could be automated it should be” principle. The first areas will be the ones where success could be achieved fast. Industrial automation is an ongoing process for more than a century now. We will soon reach the point when ALL hard physical work will be done by machines. As we are still pretty far from producing the super-AI, supervision will be a must-have so there will be a group of physical workers who will be upgraded from actuators to supervisors. Their numbers will be smaller but the ones who have the wits and determination will definitely be able to make this leap forward.

The other field where we will reach top progression is bureaucracy and paperwork. While (most) governments are huge outdated inefficient systems in general, they stepped already on the path to digitalize as much of our data as possible. We already know that the current paper-based and bread fueled system is not sustainable in the long term. In the near future, all of our data will be fed to complex decision-making systems making slothy paper tossing processes redundant. I haven’t seen a statistic for how much resources could be saved by that (maybe they do not dare to research the field at all?). I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that running a government with all of its bureaucracy efficiently would require 30% of the currently consumed resources at most. Just imagine, no more waiting in rows, no more file applications, the system would already know if you need something and by the time your need arises your inbox would be blinking with the outcome of the decision made already. Now, that’s what I call futuristic 😀

Our homes will be interwoven with technology. Considering the current IoT hype I guess all of our home appliances will be connected to the cloud sending and receiving thousands of megabytes of data every day. Not sure if the toilet which analyses your urine and gives a general health status report first thing in the morning before your brain even wakes up will be a thing by then but I would not mind it. Then you will get every help from your kitchen assistant preparing your healthy breakfast recommended by your nutritionist algorithm. Your mind, freed from thinking about meal-planning and shopping duties (all handled by your smart appliances), can focus on consuming the up to date, relevant information and passing on to your Belief Bouncer while you are slowly sipping your perfect, machine-made coffee.

Turning the hardware and software of these systems will require a significant amount of participants from the job market, more than there will be available IMO. Also, these folks will not only be techies, coders, and engineers but logical and systematic-thinking professionals from the fields the former have to automate. Their knowledge base and advice will be highly required. I know from my own experience that you can produce valuable applications even without knowing the ins and outs of the industry you producing for. But only with the help of experienced professionals of the targeted field.

Bad news but what is totally sure that we still will have to do some work. Not as much as we used to do back in the times but still, one needs to work to put food on the table, a roof above one’s head and fire into the hearth. Or do we? Or that general basic income thing will be widely used by then? Anyways, we will probably head to the home office and check our emails. Or voicemails. Or videomails. Not sure. Heading to a physical office will still be a thing but it will be occasional and employees will do it in rounds to be able to use the given space more efficiently and economically. Remote working will be the supported and preferred way of employment, not a suspicious act that employers see as potential slacking time (like many of the does these days).

Optimally we would be looking forward to spending 3-6 hours with focused work. Of course interrupted by virtual meetings (holomeetings?) with colleagues from all over the world. At least real-time translation will be a common thing by then so we do not have to learn all of the dozen languages used by them. Narrow task AI systems will handle the most of our past tasks but you remember, these will still need someone to supervise, fix, deploy and develop them. I was lucky enough to see Garry Kasparov on stage earlier this year and I deeply agree with him.

“We aren’t being replaced. We’re being promoted!”

Garry Kasparov

Wrapping up our workday we will log out, pick up our training bag, and say goodbye to our home. High tech supplements and customized guidance from healthcare algorithms will make the task of remaining healthy easy but our body still needs some old fashioned movement. A self-driving electric taxi will already be summoned to the doorstep. On our way to the training grounds, where we can swim, play team games, or carry out a traditional work-out while socializing with others in real life, we can enjoy the view of the clean and green environment. Passing by the education center the thought will often cross our minds that how lucky today kids are.

The burdensome days of standardized formal education will be gone. Every student is different so will be their study programs based on their individual skillsets and interests. All of them will have access to a huge, highly structured and organized multimedia knowledge base including lectures and books from the top thinkers/scientists/performers of the world. Alongside with any kind of gadgets, instruments, and materials, they need to study. Last but not least a diverse group of dedicated and well-educated mentors will be there to help them with any questions or problems arise on the path. If everything is provided education is happening by itself after all.

Money also will be a different kind of animal. I would not say that everyone will be happily spending their Bitcoins but the future monetary system will definitely be built as a hybrid of present financial principles and cutting edge technology. Bookkeeping, taxation, loans, mortgages, insurance, and investments will be all automated and we will have a handful truly powerful advisor algorithms at hand which educate us and guide us through the process if sometimes we will actually have to choose between two similar/identical options. Maybe alongside with accountants, tax officers, insurance salesman, and brokers money bloggers will be also outdated by then 🙂

Technology pervades every aspect of life, whether we like it or not. In the future, this process will be just accelerated. Some of the above-mentioned things may not be happening in the next eleven years. I am pretty positive about the massive advancement of IoT, gadgets, decision supporter and advisor algorithmic systems everywhere. The transition to electric cars and widespread self-driving vehicles is also inevitable. Governments evolve slowly but reducing costs and working more efficiently will be a must-have in the future so they will be forced to follow the outlined roadmap. The revolution of education is also inevitable if we want to keep up with the changing world at all.

You may argue that I left out my fears from the description but these are kind of more complex than the future of jobs. Pollution, wars, social problems, poverty caused by the mentioned processes. Shortage of resources like water and land. Global warming and extinctions. These are serious problems which we have to solve. While I think that some kind of government and politics will always be in charge I don’t think that they will solve these problems. As a wise man said, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. But I believe that civil organizations and forward-thinking companies will provide all the necessary background to make these changes happen. The only question is how much damage will be made in the process and what will be the price we should pay to advance to that next level.

Other responses:

6 thoughts on “Brave New World

  1. “All of them will have access to a huge, highly structured and organized multimedia knowledge base including lectures and books from the top thinkers/scientists/performers of the world.”
    Ironically, we have this today, but choose to watch videos of kittens, of people playing video games etc.
    I’d love if this had changed by the time my (not yet existing) kid would go to school, but I’m not that optimistic about human nature.
    I love your other predictions though, and am really glad, that you are back!

    1. Ironically, you are right. I just realized that I did not point this out. What I meant that I envision having all these quality content in a huge “library”, linked together in a sorted and structured way accessible from a single education interface which will serve as the foundation of that future school. I honestly believe that the revolution of education is a must-have and it is around the corner.

      On the other hand, when I take into account my current struggles… my older daughter will start the elementary school next year and investigating the current options I have to tell that I am not totally impressed. I try to pick the one option which will provide the maximum in the happiness/knowledge ratio but all options seem still pretty outdated. Maybe it will be our task to create a next-gen school for them? Time will tell!

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. It feels good being back in the game and comments like yours help to keep the momentum 😉

  2. You paint an appealing vision of the future HCF! Though I must confess your optimism that governmental bureaucracy will ever sort itself out and become efficient is possibly a leap too far.

    I wonder whether the end of that journey lies with us being like the humans in the movie Wall-E? Computers making all the decisions, and robots doing all the work, while we lounge around in blissful ignorance watching cat videos and sharing the latest internet meme.

    1. I have to admit that I was thinking about changing the “efficient government” idea to the “working fusion reactor” but my latest real-life experiences made me wishing for the former even more than the latter 😀

      I cannot count how many times I have seen Wall-E but I still cannot get enough of it. However, I don’t think that our future will look like that. Advanced decision-making systems will do their thing. Robots will handle everything they can. Still, with all my skepticism/pessimism about the human race is taken into account, I can not imagine that all of the remainings of mankind would voluntarily immerse into such a sedentary, contentless and meaningless existence. There will always be self-motivated people who will ask for more.

      Just like most of the lucky ones who were able the FIRE themselves don’t just sit back, watch television all day and wait for the reaper to come for them. Many of them use their newfound freedom to do some good with his/her fellow human beings, put a positive mark on this world and make it a better place. Or am I just lucky enough to know at least a couple of them?

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