If you thought Trump, Brexit, climate change and the increasingly absurd global political situation (not to mention orange skies) were all pointing at some sort of impending apocalypse, you’re not the only one.
Add in house prices, economic unrest, rising cost of living, seemingly endless natural disasters and terrorist attacks and the result is millions of young people feeling fearful, disenfranchised and robbed of the sort of security, financial and geographical freedom their parents enjoyed.
However, a group of the world’s leading futurologists has come together to help sketch a picture of a future that is not actually all doom and gloom.
If they are to be believed, the future will not see us living in a sort of dystopian Albion, eating chlorinated chicken and singing the National Anthem in Wetherspoons while the polar bears float off on the last remaining shreds of ice cap.
Advances in technology, science and society – some technological leaps we cannot yet imagine becoming reality – will have a beneficial effect on housing, transport, work, shopping and our diet, among other areas and mean we can actually look forward to our future instead of fearing it, they say.
The findings were put together as part of a study on behalf of Vodafone, working with YouGov to ask nearly 13,000 adults in 14 countries about their perception of the future.
The Vodafone survey results revealed that people of all ages think that technological innovation will have the most positive influence on the future over the next 20 years – above developments in medical science, climate change initiatives and domestic or international politics.
And, overwhelmingly, it is the young who feel the most positive, with 62% of people aged 18-24 surveyed saying they are positive about the future, compared with the over 55s, where only 44% felt positive.
Across all age groups a majority of people believe that general living standards will have improved 20 years from now.
As part of the study, the participants of the survey were presented with the 10 future innovations identified by the futurologists from five countries.
Based on these developments, the majority said they felt positive about the future.
Here is the list in full:
Most popular future concepts, identified by futurologists from five countries and put to 13,000 adults in Vodafone’s global survey:
1. 100 Terawatt World – in 20 years humanity can have access to 100 terawatts of energy, five times the amount produced today (17.5 terawatts). This will be made possible through better capture, storage and deployment of renewable energy (e.g. solar will go beyond rooftops to be built invisibly into windows, walls and even some highways.)
2. Personalised medicine and healthcare – tailored medical advice and new treatments such as 3D printed organs (available by the early 2020s) will take account of our lifestyles, physiology and genes, leading to lower costs, reduce waiting times and may even end the need for donor lists.
3. Mega Water Project – large-scale water capture projects, ranging from innovative precipitation harvesting techniques through to groundwater replenishment and improved desalination, could enable every person to access plentiful clean water including the 1.2 billion people already impacted by water scarcity
4. Travel Shift – by 2021, super-fast mass automated transport, such as hyperloops and intercity trains, will make mobility a pleasure and create more choices of places to live, work and play
5. Future cities – cities will be cleaner, healthier places to live and will include new technology like 3D printed buildings and even 4D furniture that can reconfigure itself to fit the changing needs of your home.
6. Purposeful work and priority shift – the ethical and environmental values of the young will increase pressure on businesses to seek purpose beyond profit. As automation fulfils the ‘dangerous, dirty and dull’ roles there will be a premium on human creativity. The trends of purpose and creativity will drive a second-wave sharing economy, with more direct transactions between individuals to share ownership (e.g. car ownership could reduce by up to 80% in developed markets like the US by 2030).
7. Intelligent assistance – technologies such as Artificial Intelligence will become the ultimate PA, anticipating our needs and allowing us to spend less time doing menial tasks. They will even protect our time, monitor our health and keep us safe.
8. Everything online – more everyday objects will incorporate sensor technology connected to the internet, allowing companies, homes and everything in between to operate smartly. For example, by 2050 the agricultural internet of things could help us to feed 9.6 billion people by potentially increasing food production by 70%.
9. Immersive living – education and entertainment will become more immersive using virtual, augmented and mixed-reality technologies.
This hyper-realistic experience will let you not only seem but also smell and touch your way through events, exotic destinations and even to learn about history by stepping into a simulation based in the past.
10. Protein shift – we will enjoy a range of healthy and delicious sources of meat-free protein and realistic meat alternatives that don’t come from animals. This will help bring both global carbon emissions and heart disease down to an all-time low.
They are not pipe dreams either, but innovations in development that could revolutionise our lifestyles, helping to tackle socioecomomic issues, facilitating better healthcare and improving logistics.
Just this week, for instance, Richard Branson announced plans to invest in Hyperloop, the world’s most revolutionary train service.
The train, which is propelled along through a low-pressure tube, can travel at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
At its quickest, it could reduce a journey from London to Edinburgh to 50 minutes, revolutionising the way we live in and use our country. It would help address over-crowding and housing issues in urban areas and open up the countryside to commuters that was previously considered too remote.
A future saved by tech is a concept outlined in the Ted talk by logistics expert Julio Gil, entitled ‘Future tech will give you the benefits of city life anywhere’.
He suggests that urbanisation and city living as we know it has a shelf-life and is actually reaching the end of its cycle. We will then see a return to rural areas, he says, thanks to technological advances in things like augmented reality and workplace technology, autonomous or drone delivery and off-the-grid energy.
At only 11 minutes long, Gil’s talk necessarily simplifies the theory, lending it a certain Utopian optimism. But, tying in as it does with the futurologists’ findings, it is certainly a fascinating and alluring prospect – and one that allows a ray of light to penetrate the gloom – and that orange sky.