The Transformation

Between 2020 and 2050 the world will undergo the most profound transformation in history.  It is a classic 'good news, bad news' scenario

A True Golden Age Will Emerge Around 2025
  • With the implementation of advanced robotics and expert systems, household incomes will explode with the median exceeding 600,000 2015USD. The concept of organic demand constraints will come to dominate Economics.
  • Exploding incomes will push whole populations up Maslow's Hierarchy, causing the emergence of numerous Cultures of Affluence that will emphasize issues of self-esteem, self-actualization, personal development, aesthetics, spirituality and social justice.  Cultural, political and social discourse will evolve away from a preoccupation with satisfying the basic needs of life to a pursuit of a finely crafted life.
  • The implementation of advanced robotic systems will result in an Age of Boutique Everything.  From homes to automobiles to furniture to clothes to housewares and more, everything will be custom designed and custom fabricated to uniquely express the personality of the owner.  This will result in almost all production to be done via 3D printing and other flexible fabrication technologies.  Haute and bespoke will enter the mainstream lexicon.  'Designer' will become one of the largest, if not the largest, career categories.
  • The Death of Capitalism, through the emergence of Enterprise Networks and the ascendance of non-financial valuation, will allow new enterprises, whether engaged in commerce, philanthropy, education, the arts or community development, to find access to the financial, intellectual and human resources they need for complete expression.  Owner-Operators will rise to dominance as the remote and passive investor class, characterized by the large and active secondary equity markets, fades in significance.
  • Armed with high incomes and live anywhere options, much, if not most, of the population will move out of the aging and antiquated Industrial Age cities to design, build and occupy shining new Microstates that are specifically designed to accommodate the values and lifestyle preferences of one of the Cultures of Affluence.  These villages will aggregate in concept space to form global intertwined cultures and geographically will create multicultural networks that will function as urban agglomerations.
  • The emergence of exciting new energy technologies, primarily enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), Liquid Floride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), will usher in an age of essentially limitless energy, not "almost free", but at a reasonable price.  The world will slowly transition, in a 'soft landing' that will take place between 2020 to 2050, from an oil based economy to an electricity economy.  Concerns over anthropogenic climate change will subside.
  • Accelerating understanding of genetics, human physiology and the biochemical basis of aging will lead to an acceleration in lifespans toward a likely asymtote at about 100 years with a standard deviation of about 10 years.  While extreme life extension is possible in the 21st century, it is more likely a 22nd century phenomenon.
  • New technologies in robotics, genetics and nanotechnologies will result in the Defarming of The Planet as we move to robotic manufacturing of foodstuffs.  Food will become plentiful, reliable and humanely produced.  With food primarily grown in artificial environments, few agricultural products will be remotely grown.  The planet will revert to natural preserves and human designed, robotically tended, biodiverse parks.
  • At last, Humankind will, near the end of the Transformation, begin a Solar Diaspora, with colonies on planets, the moon, in the asteroids and at Lagrange points.  This is relevant because, in combination with the inverse relationship between fertility and GDP per capita, concerns about the carrying capacity of the planet will begin to subside.
But First, The Industrial Age Apocalypse
History may very well consider these events, as here the term is coined, The Four Horsemen of the Industrial Age Apocalypse.   Together they will destroy the social, cultural, economic and political infrastructure of the Industrial Age civilization.
  • Driven by advanced robotics and expert systems, technology will eliminate jobs faster than economic growth can add them, leading to technological unemployment rates that could exceed 20% by the early 2020's.  Nearly every job category will either disappear or be transformed beyond recognition.  Many people who apparently don't think it will apply to them are just plain wrong.  Drivers, clerks, doctors, accountants, programmers, lawyers, teachers.. everywhere you turn, many job categories will simply disappear, while most of those that remain will experience greatly falling demand as a percent of the workforce.
  • America is headed for a divorce and Europe is not far behind.  The technologies and forces of the Information Age will continue to push cultural identity and isolation to a tipping point, past which reconciliation is no  longer possible.  Simultaneously, the globalization of internet based groups and multinational career tracks will greatly weaken the sense of national identity.  As unemployment skyrockets and a growing Knowledge Class continues to enjoy significant increases in income, the current angry protests over income and wealth disparity could lead to riots which could, if not resolved, lead to insurrection. 
  • The growing Knowledge Class, possessing exploding incomes and a Live Anywhere, will move out of the Industrial Age urban centers for more commodious locales.  The large Northern metropolitan areas whose populations have already stabilized will begin to lose population, falling to 50% or less of their 2015 levels by 2050.  In other words, for these cities, the housing bust is permanent and many of their residents are more or less permanently 'under water.'  In the end, the Industrial Age cities, no longer facilitative of Information Age lifestyles, will simply die.
  • The large, hierarchical, publicly traded, multinational corporation is an artifact of the High Industrial Age.  It is too inflexible and  so fundamentally at odds with the notions of The Cultures of Affluence and The Age of Boutique Everything that it cannot survive. It provides neither the distributed internal decision making mechanisms to react quickly and correctly to rapidly changing market conditions nor the investment instruments that will reflect the preference for early round financing that will be required in the Information Age.  It will also result in the death of capitalism and central monetary structures.
It is against this grand sweep of events that entrepreneurs, technologists, intellectuals, creatives, visionaries and investors must develop and execute effective educational, career and lifestyle strategies.  It will be far from easy.  However, the rewards, upon success, will be unprecedented. 

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  1. Fascinating Indeed. The last part is disturbing. Human nature being what it is, this could lead to demagogic leaders ascending into positions of governance even in developed nations. The mischief from this happening could push humanity into even more tragic civil and international wars. This would waste both human and material resources and lead to accelerated rates of poverty.

    1. I will not disagree with your concern, though I think the risk is small. I more fear that popular movements, such as the minimum income guarantee, will create permanent solutions to short term problems.

      I cannot overstate the importance of how the Cultures of Affluence will change the number, scale and diversity of sovereign communities. The Information Age will definitely be searching for one size fits all solutions.

  2. Beautiful dream. I see the potential, but it sure looks dark now.

    1. Yes, the Four Horsemen of the Industrial Age Apocalypse are bearing down upon us. People need to do stuff and, sadly, they don't.

  3. You sure know how to cheer a guy up. ;o}

    Honestly, I think we'll do better next time. Whether we'll ever beat the rabbit cycle? I doubt it. I recommend this book. I'd love to know what you think.