Summary: Invest in people, their health, education and in re-skilling them to address technological, employment-related, military and natural threats. Be smart and we will survive and thrive. Dumb us down and die
Original author and publication date: Andrew Sheng – October 13 – 2020
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: As Sheng well says in his column, “the future is being compressed into the present at frightening speed”. Yet, we still don’t recognize it.
From the article:
Everything is happening so fast that we feel as if the future is being compressed into the present at frightening speed. Conservatives hark back to the golden age of stability and gradual change. Liberals hate the current inequalities but cannot agree on how to change things.
But if technology is moving at Moore’s Law of exponential growth, then knowledge and complexity are expanding too fast for most of us to comprehend and decide how to cope with an unknown future.
Sociologist Mauro Guillen at the Wharton School has given his projections in the book 2030: How today’s Biggest Trends will collide and Reshape the Future of Everything. All the big trends, macro and micro, will shape the future. The biggest trends are demographic—how rich countries are aging and poor ones are growing—but these numbers will push migration that creates border wars.
At the same time, women will grow richer and the Asian middle class will edge out the European and American middle class. Climate change will threaten cities through rising sea levels, and water and food shortages. Technology will be the new tool to solve problems, but job disruption is a major political threat. We may no longer need to own anything, but subscribe to or rent cars, houses and smart gadgets, simply to keep up with the technology. Money will shift to digital currencies and finance will be very different with zero interest rates.
These trends are well known. In 2017, the US National Intelligence Council publication “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress (to 2035)” and the EU study titled “Global Trends to 2035”, conducted thoughtful reviews of the future seen from their perspectives.
Macro-trends that converge at unprecedented pace will make governing and cooperation harder, fundamentally altering the global landscape. Both studies recognise that conflict risks will grow, because the world is increasingly fractured between ageing and shrinking rich, and growing young, poor and unemployed, packed into over-crowded cities that are ready to explode.
The US study surmises that the 2035 world will splinter into national “islands”, regional “orbits”, and sub-state and trans-national “communities” that will interact to make global and national governance harder. Interestingly, it predicted that “the global pandemic of 2023 dramatically reduced global travel in an effort to contain the spread of the disease, contributing to the slowing of global trade and decreased productivity.” They foresaw the pandemic, except it happened three years earlier, and they bungled its management.
In contrast, the EU study focused on four possible scenarios: (1) Sick men of Europe: unstable Europe in stable world; (2) Cold War: stable Europe in stable world; (3) Hollow foundations: unstable Europe in unstable world; and (4) Europe as Global Power: stable Europe in unstable world. Europe knows it has to get its act together.
But what has the Covid-19 pandemic taught us so far?
First, the pandemic was mismanaged globally, with “UBRIC” epicentres, namely, US, Brazil, Russia, India and Colombia, having the highest infections and mortality rates. Europe and Africa are still adjusting and East Asia, being the first to be hit, was the first to control and economically recover. The coronavirus has its own timetable and if its spread is not properly controlled, the economy will suffer for longer.
Second, the global system is now more complex and harder to govern. If a 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube game has 43 quintillion (10 to the power of 19) possible permutations, we realise that seven or more key players interacting with each other at “island”, national and regional “orbits”, and transnational “communities” levels means that everything is possible, which is exactly why we are in the current mess.
We have sick men running sick economies in a pandemic that is out of control. Both leaders and economies are surviving on steroids. No one can think long-term. All are reacting short-term rather than dealing with the important long-term consequences.