New edition of The Future of Almost Everything book - Life in 2100? How can we begin to visualise very long term trends?

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My job is to live in the future and to see tomorrow as history.

I'm working on a new edition of The Future of Almost Everything book - which will contain a chapter on life in 2100.  Forecasting 80 years ahead might seem an impossible thing to do.

So what happens if you live for a while in 2100 and return to tell the story, to make comparisons?  In what ways are you most "culture shocked" and why?

It is easy to assume that life will continue to change at frenetic pace, and that many things will be almost unrecognisable by 2100, but will that really turn out to be true?

Winston Churchill once said that if you want to understand the future, look at history.

80 years ago, in 1938 was in many ways a very different world - with the Second World War about to begin Yet more things have endured than we might think....

For example:

- Basic human nature and drives remain unchanged - indeed that is the case for the last 3000 years, just read narratives, poems, current affairs writings from 2000 or more years ago.

- People still grow up, go through relationships, settle down, mostly getting married (across the world as a whole), and having children of their own, and associate in their own communities, defined by local languages and customs

- Education has hardly changed since the 1940s - in methods and structure: we still have a handwriting-based exam system, based on annual tests which are very important in the last couple of years of High School, after which University often follows.  And at University, teaching methods also remain very familiar: lecture, plus notes on wall or now projected.  

- Communications are cheaper of course, but were already happening globally by phone, at almost the speed of light once connections were made, even if the process was clunky 

- People are continuing to migrate to cities, leaving rural areas as farming continues to be mechanised

- Industrialisation and globalisation continues to increase scale and reduce jobs in manufacturing

- Retirement age has increased but not dramatically - a year or two in the UK for example, over the last 80 years

- Emerging market economies are continuing to flourish, growing much faster than Europe, North America and so on

- Tribalism and national culture / identity continue to be hugely powerful forces

- Men's fashion is remarkably similar globally especially what people where in the office - suit, a plain shirt and a tie, with black shoes.

- Our world continues to be organised around car ownership, and trains also continue to be very important as means of travel in many nations

- In many nations, Parliaments, legal system, democratic process and so on are largely what they were

- Cinemas, theatres and live music performances of all kinds continue to bet hugely popular

- Big sport events continue to dominate national attention - now watched on screens rather than listened to, but also pulling huge crowds to stadiums

- Homes continue to be very similar - indeed tens of millions of people in the UK live in homes built over 80 years ago, and room layouts remain largely the same

I could give many other examples.  Now of course, we could argue that change is increasing exponentially, and so the past 80 years is a very poor sign post to what lies ahead.

But while that is true, in my experience of trend-casting for the last 30 years, working with many of the world's largest corporations and their senior leaders, I have proven that many things tend to change far more slowly or more predictably than most people tend to imagine, when you look at the actual evidence.

Even in the area of digital innovation or mobile.  Take for example mobile payments: the truth is that despite frenetic growth of smartphones and mobile payment systems, and despite all the hype about the so-called cashless society, there are more physical Euros in circulation as bank notes than in all of history.  And more pages were printed out by computer users in offices last year than in any year previously.

We need a realty check about the present, before embarking on a journey into 2100.

So - let's take a look at 2100....

To be continued....


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