Quite a few people are not. They are concerned about a host of big, big issues such as
- climate change
- automation taking jobs
- political meltdown
- global instability
- artificial intelligence diminishing human freedom
I could go on, but you get the point. A lot of folks see big issues and conclude that mankind may be facing one or more massive crises in the 21st century.
So what about you? If you place yourself in the year 2217, was the 21st century great or miserable? Or both?
As with any question about the future, there is no right answer. We cannot know yet. But our attitudes about the future will shape it. If we are insecure, for example, we will do things that we believe make us more secure.
So what attitude do you have?
Fred Wilson is a big optimist. He thinks that human ingenuity will continue to make life better and will do so in ways that we cannot yet predict. His partner, Al Wenger, writes this
(Consider) the transition from the Agrarian Age to the Knowledge Age. In many countries we went from having 50 – 75% of the workforce in agriculture to 5% or even less. Now fast forward say 80-100 years into the Knowledge Age. I believe we will see the same trend for all workforce activity. Humans will be just as busy as before but much of that will be in the realm of voluntary, purpose driven activity. Conversely the workforce activity, as in selling labor for money, can become a small fraction (sub 20%) of all human activity.
At least some folks who were educated in the 18th century thought the 19th century was horrendous. They felt that the trend towards industry and away patrician-dominated agrarian society was a huge mistake. Henry Adams was in the group. You might also include Thomas Jefferson. Right or wrong, society went a different direction than they might have wanted.
Is Al Wenger right? Will we see a parallel trend from wage-based labour markets to knowledge based freelance markets? If so, are Fred and Al right that we have much to gain from that trend?
I think so. And that confidence enables me to think further about what types of things can we do now that will further enhance the prospects that our kids and their kids have for the future.
If you read Al’s piece, you see that he is interested in helping kids build better focus on how to get meaning from life – find a calling. And he thinks we do that through better education. That is not a bad starting point. But we know by now that one does not find meaning in a vacuum (the way B.F. Skinner thought that we could). Social context (or call it culture) is critical. We learn how to find meaning when we make connections valuable. And that is the great shortfall of capitalism — consumer based society does not optimize our social interactions. I think that correcting this without diminishing our individual autonomy to make choices for ourselves is the great challenge of this century.
What do you think?