Foresight: a look at the Global Future of Work Technology in 2050

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11 April, 2016 –  I had the opportunity to contribute to the development of the ‘Global Future of Work/Technology 2050’ scenarios. This is an exercise that is run remotely by the Millennium Projects through the different Nodes worldwide. The Millennium Project connects futurists around the world to improve global foresight. I have been a part of this network for a while now with Foresight For Development which is part of the South African Node and Society for International Development which is part of the East African Node.

What will the world of work and technology look like in 2050? After a lot of input from all over the world – the final report was put together and released recently. It has  3 guiding scenarios each with many different aspects. I  take a look at what stands out for me in each of the scenarios.

Scenario 1

Its Complicated at Mixed bag

The different aspects ranged from: STEM Education Was Important but Less Useful for Employment after 2035 to Basic Income Experiments in the 2020s Were More Successful after 2035 and New Synthetic Biology Industries in Medicine, Agriculture, Energy, and Manufacturing. However, what stood out for me was:  The Technologies Developed in the 2020s Laid the Foundation for Today because this for me speaks volumes in regards to where Africa is and where she is going. Creating and innovating has become one of those things that we seem to do very well. When you see teenagers manufacturing a pee-powered generator, or being able to access a doctor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via WhatsApp – it is very easy to wonder what the legitimacy of these ‘innovations’ is. For the creators, they are struggling with sustainability plans and business models as they have to become relevant to societal needs. And after reading this scenario – I realize that it is okay for us not to have all the answers as we need them now. Let us look out for the BIGGER picture. What is important is that the journey has started. And it is good to know that the Futurists agree: this is only the beginning and we need to build the systems that encourage and support these young innovators and creators because 10 – 15 years down the road the progress we will be able to make will be the kind whose foundation was laid at such a time as this. Nothing gives me so much joy and HOPE for the days to come than this.

Scenario 2

Political/Economic Turmoil – Future Despair

‘During the early 21st century, political leaders were so mired in short-term political conflicts, and me-first, selfish economic thinking that they did not anticipate how fast artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D/4D printing, synthetic biology, and other technologies would make business after business obsolete beginning dramatically in the late 2020s and early 2030s.’. Reads the introduction. We see the genesis of this happening already, don’t we? The me-first politics, political conflicts are the things that we are already grappling with. And it is not about to stop.

This scenario also looks at social strife and geo-political turmoil – things again I must say that we are looking at – being birthed.  The social strife is as a result of secret societies and crime families throughout the world in response to ineffective governance.  [Insert emoji here] The geo-political turmoil aspect is reported as such: The periodic and ad hoc mergers of organized crime and terrorist separatists’ sabotage have made the Internet of Things [IoT] a nightmare. When devices on the IoT malfunctioned or the occasional system collapses, people did not know if it was just a new software bug or sabotage and by whom or for what reason. We see here that terrorism and cyber-crime will continue to grow.

Scenario 3

If Humans Were Free – The Self-Actualizing Economy

 The transition to the Self-Actualizing Economy has begun. Although this transition is not complete, we have come a long way. For the first time in history, humanity is engaged in a great conversation about what kind of civilization it wants and what we, as individuals and as a species, want to become. Movies, global cyber games, UN Summits, VR News, flash mob cyber teach-ins, and thought leaders probe the meaning of life and the possible future as never before.  Reads the introduction.  Isn’t this what we would all love to see? Humanity engaged in a great conversation. What we have now is so many disconnected conversations almost about the same things.  We all want to be seen doing something so the UN and IMF will conduct conversations on the same stuff but one will want to share notes or reconcile with the other. The African Union is grappling with same stuff that the European Union went through. But we are so proud as to borrow notes or even share notes and experiences. Whose loss? Your guess is as good as mine.

“By 2050 the world had finally achieved a global economy that appears to be environmentally sustainable while providing nearly all people with the basic necessities of life and the majority with a comfortable living.” That is how the report concludes.

 I think that very important to note is that while this will have been achieved -, there is a process to get there. And that is what we are living now. Bigger question is: How are we then contributing to the World We Want?  I don’t know if I will be alive by the year 2050 – but this is definitely the kind of universe that I intend to betroth to my loved ones.  Being able to view the future will allow us to be more intentional in what we do because it definitely has an impact on the future.

Full Report here

2 thoughts on “Foresight: a look at the Global Future of Work Technology in 2050

  1. Strong Foresight. And for a moment it’s scary to remember that there’s been too much power in the hands of small elite group for decades, and now some of those who have suffered the resulting marginalization: political and commercial extortion as examples of how, have their hands on some of this extremely sophisticated power. We’re looking at open terrorist entities (e.g ISIS/ISIL) gaining easy access to conventional weaponry, and well organised to influence political activities regionally as well as overseas.

    1. Yeap. I think that if we paid more attention to some of these trends we would be able to prepare the future better.

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