Another musing whilst on holiday is that it is difficult to get into the head of a twenty- or thirty- something millennial when you’re a Gen X or Baby Boomer. In my head, I still think I’m 20 but, when I look in the mirror, I know I’m not. This thought struck me as I clearly remember travelling to Australia when Whitney Houston’s I wanna dance with somebody was riding high in the charts. I was in my 20’s but, for someone in their 20’s today, that song is history. It’s 30-years old. Back when I was dancing in the disco to Whitney would have been like me hearing Frank Sinatra, and thinking it’s nice but it’s seriously old.
My dad’s generation had a war, jive, waltzing, Sinatra, Ella and more. All of that for me is history. Yet, today, I’m pretty sure that most millennials hear the Rolling Stones, Bowie, U2 or even Coldplay as dad’s music. It’s seriously old.
The reason for making this musing is that often those in the older generation hear the ideas of the younger generation and dismiss them, yet that has turned around during my lifetime. With technology being such a pervasive part of modern life, we couldn’t live without thinking of having our mobile and apps around us, and yet that mobile and those apps are just ten years old. It often needs someone who has matured in the last ten years to therefore envision what to do with it. The young are the visionary; the old are less so.
I mean, when I went to Australia and embarrassed myself dancing with somebody, there wasn’t even an internet. It was pre-internet. Can anyone today imagine the pre-internet age?
It would be damned difficult, and so that’s where life has really changed. Thirty years ago, the old were in control and the young were dismissed; today, the young are far more in control through digital platforms, and the older generation struggle to keep up. A good example is cryptocurrencies. All the people who have dismissed them seem to be over 40, whilst all of those embracing them are under 40. Think I’m stereotyping or generalising? According to a recent survey conducted by Blockchain Capital, 30% of those in the 18-to-34-age range would rather invest $1,000 in Bitcoin than $1,000 in government bonds or stocks. The same study also indicates that 42% of millennials have heard about Bitcoin, compared with 15% awareness among those aged 65 and up.
What about thirty years from now? All you Bastille, Linkin Park, Arcade Fire dudes will be the older generation, and your music will be history. The world will be run by machines, and the Singularity* will have been achieved.
We will be space tourists, colonising other planets, living lives of greater leisure and greater satisfaction. Our focus will be on self-actualization and our music will be created by algorithms … maybe. To be honest, we cannot predict the future. The future is driven by too many forces of change and, although technology change is fairly predictable, the political and economic changes are unknowns.
Will there be a World War III in the next thirty years, and how would it play out? War games may turn into exactly that … games, where the machines play out the scenarios and we accept the outcomes without ever actually destroying anything physically.
Will technology drive greater goodness or will Cyberdyne Corporation takeover and the Terminator’s rule the world? Who knows, but it would be unlikely that we would let the world just be given over to the machines. Surely, someone, somewhere will have a button on their desk to switch them off (just don’t let Donald Trump near it).
Will the planet’s population still be exploding – there were 6 billion people in the year 2000, today there are over 7.6 billion – or will reproductive cells in humans degenerate to the point that we cannot have children anymore? According to the World Economic Forum most men in Europe and America will be infertile by 2060. What would that do to our future world? Maybe we would just be creating children in laboratories, as artificial wombs become a reality and we could just grow embryo’s from beakers.
Will America still be the superpower or China or another country? Will a European Union still exist? Could there be an Asian Union or an African Union that surpasses all? And what about India? I cannot answer of those questions. As demonstrated yesterday, thirty years ago who would have imagined that Dubai and Singapore would be the massive financial hubs they are today? Who will build the hubs of the next thirty years?
There are many other political, economic, social and technological changes that will take place over the next thirty years, some of which are predictable – biometrics, artificial intelligence, deep learning and more will be pervasive and ubiquitous – whilst many are not – the consequences of Brexit and Trump’s presidency, for example. Whatever happens in the next thirty years, there’s only one thing I will put my money on is that when you hear Ed Sheeran’s Perfect or Luis Fonsi’s Despacito, you’ll think it was just yesterday when, in fact, it’s just history.
The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization. According to this hypothesis, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) would enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would, qualitatively, far surpass all human intelligence.