Practical analysis for investment professionals
20 April 2018

Weekend Reads: Life in 2030 and a Meal in Patagonia

Have you ever stopped to think about what life will be like in 2030?

I have. And it is both electrifying and terrifying.

This week I participated in a workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion and the future of work where participants were charged not only with imagining life in 2030, but actively stepping into it.

Futurist Margaret Regan, president and CEO of The FutureWork Institute, gave us an inkling of what we might experience just 12 years from now:

  • Some people will live a good part of their lives in virtual reality and prefer it to their day-to-day reality.
  • With Enhanced Singular Individuals, or ESIs, at work, we may create new forms of discrimination between the enhanced individuals and the so-called “Norms”.
  • Humans will be better than artificial intelligence (AI) at creativity, curiosity, passion, humor, and empathy
  • The same technology that will make AIs more intelligent will also give humans a boost.
  • 4D will include nanobots with the ability to self-replicate, transform, and self-assemble on their own into a pre-determined form.
  • With IoT (Internet of Things), the smart home and smart car will be part of our lives.
  • Humans will live in a world in which decisions are being made by an active set of cooperating devices.
  • Virtual reality will enable us to live many lives at once and have multiple personalities.
  • There will be increasing concern about the invasion of privacy as information is gathered from everywhere, for example, sensors and tracking devices.

Imagine, for a moment (as Regan had us do), that you are standing in the future and eavesdropping on a conversation taking place in 2030. Here’s what you might overhear:

“How are your kids, Margaret?”

“Our son, Jim, is an ESI and doing extremely well as an avatar developer. Our daughter, Adrienne, has refused to get any kind of enhancement and is actively engaged in the anti-singularity movement. She just came back from an anti-cloning rally demonstrating against the creation of ‘soulless humans.’”

If you’ve watched any episodes of Black Mirror, the “anthology series exploring a twisted, high-tech world where humanity’s greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide,” you’ll know that what once seemed farfetched is no longer that hard to imagine.

Take the episode that opened the third season, “Nosedive,” where everyone rates one another on a five-star scale after every interaction and the overall score determines a person’s social status and access.

The plot may have seemed like sci-fi when it aired, but China is already developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. It didn’t take long for news media to connect the dots: “A ‘Black Mirror’ Episode Is Coming to China: People will be prevented from traveling on trains and planes based on their social credit scores,” read the headline in Esquire.

A friend recently quipped that Walmart executives had been watching too much Black Mirror after he read, “Walmart May Be Building Drone Army of Robot Bees to Pollinate Crops.” Why? Because it invoked the episode “Hated in the Nation” about a swarm of killer drone bees.

My point is simply that 2030 isn’t that far away and a lot of the technology we think of as way off in the future is already here.

All the talk this week about the future got me thinking more about AI, ESIs, the workforce of the future, and what else we might expect in 2030. With that in mind, here are a few articles you might find interesting:

  • One of the reports we were asked to read ahead of the workshop was PwC’s “Workforce of the Future: The Competing Forces Shaping 2030.” The foreword notes: “We are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Automation and ‘thinking machines’ are replacing human tasks and jobs, and changing the skills organizations are looking for in their people. These momentous changes raise huge organizational, talent, and HR challenges — at a time when business leaders are already wrestling with unprecedented risks, disruption, and political and societal upheaval.” The report identifies five megatrends that are reshaping society and the world of work: technological breakthroughs; demographic shifts; rapid urbanization; shifts in global economic power; and resource scarcity and climate change. These megatrends inform the report’s “four worlds of work in 2030:” The “yellow world” where humans come first; the “red world” where innovation rules; the “green world” where companies care; and the “blue world” where corporate is king.
  • If you aren’t yet familiar with “The Internet of Things” or its acronym, IoT, take a look at Jeremy Rifkin’s 2014 article, “The Rise of Anti-Capitalism.” (The New York Times)
  • In November 2016, the World Economic Forum asked experts from its Global Future Councils for their take on the world in 2030. The predictions ranged from the death of shopping to the resurgence of the nation state.
  • Ida Auken, a member of the Danish parliament, wrote a piece about life in 2030 — a life where she doesn’t own anything: not a car, a house, any appliances, or clothes. “Everything you considered a product, has now become a service,” she writes. “We have access to transportation, accommodation, food and all the things we need in our daily lives. One by one all these things became free, so it ended up not making sense for us to own much.” Auken notes at the end that some people considered her scenario utopian. She disagreed. “It is a scenario showing where we could be heading — for better and for worse,” she says. “I wrote this piece to start a discussion about some of the pros and cons of the current technological development. When we are dealing with the future, it is not enough to work with reports. We should start discussions in many new ways. This is the intention with this piece.”
  • Before this week, I had never heard of ESIs. If you missed the explanation above, it stands for “Enhanced Singular Individuals.” And if the futurists are to be believed (and I have no reason not to), it won’t be long before our workplaces transition to mixed offices of “Norms” and ESIs. Contemplating a workforce where some will be “enhanced” and others will not raises a host of questions, including how to address unconscious bias in AI and coding:

  • Something to think about: “Ethical Principles for Algorithms” (CIO)
  • News media this week reported that an autonomous robot assembled an IKEA chair from scratch in under 21 minutes. “And just like that,” writes Matt Simon, “humanity draws one step closer to the singularity, the moment when the machines grow so advanced that humans become obsolete: A robot has learned to autonomously assemble an Ikea chair without throwing anything or cursing the family dog.” (Wired)
  • In “The Business of Artificial Intelligence,” the authors note that “the most important general-purpose technology of our era is artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning (ML) — that is, the machine’s ability to keep improving its performance without humans having to explain exactly how to accomplish all the tasks it’s given” but that like so many other new technologies, AI has generated a lot of unrealistic expectations. (Harvard Business Review)
  • And now for something completely different — travel writing at its best: a beautifully written piece of food AND travel writing (what’s not to love about that combination?): “Is Francis Mallman the Most Interesting Chef in the World?” Mallman has nine restaurants around the world. But that’s not why he’s famous. “Francis Mallmann is famous for being Francis Mallmann, an elusive, complex, honest man who does his own thing — in the kitchen and in life. And nowhere does his primal style of hospitality burn brighter than on his private island in the heart of Patagonia.” (Esquire)

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: ©Getty Images/domin_domin

About the Author(s)
Lauren Foster

Lauren Foster was a content director on the professional learning team at CFA Institute and host of the Take 15 Podcast. She is the former managing editor of Enterprising Investor and co-lead of CFA Institute’s Women in Investment Management initiative. Lauren spent nearly a decade on staff at the Financial Times as a reporter and editor based in the New York bureau, followed by freelance writing for Barron’s and the FT. Lauren holds a BA in political science from the University of Cape Town, and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

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