How optimistic are you are you about the future? Here, Alexandra Whittington – Foresight Director and Rohit Talwar – CEO, Fast Future look at a dark scenario “Dear Mum” contains fears, challenges, warnings and regrets—four horsemen of the global governance apocalypse that a futurist perspective is meant to prepare us for and inoculate against. Here, Alexandra Whittington – Foresight Director and Rohit Talwar – CEO, Fast Future, take a pessimistic.
It’s been ten years since you passed, and as you asked, here are my thoughts on what has happened in that long decade.
I think the massive loss of human life has caused the most pain across the planet – and was perhaps the biggest and most avoidable legacy of those who’ve run the world for the last 100 years – there was so much that could have been done…
Why didn’t anyone listen? For decades experts across every domain from climate science and artificial intelligence, to biodiversity and disease control had been warning us of the growing exponential risks. They warned of the unseen and potentially irreversible threats arising from our pursuit of profits through unregulated, unchecked and largely uncontrolled exponential advances in science and technology.
Extreme weather and rising sea levels proved highly disruptive in agriculture, transportation, travel, and communications. Rising temperatures accelerated mass migration and caused violent, chaotic scenes at many borders. Rumours and video “evidence” abound of government militias exterminating entire cohorts of refugees and sinking overcrowded boats.
Climate chaos led to networks collapsing and servers failing under the heat. Education, work and public services became unstable and unreliable, supply chains broke down, raw material costs rose, the price of everything skyrocketed. Financial markets went into meltdown, banks collapsed and millions saw their savings disappear. Companies slashed their workforces, wages fell and welfare was scrapped. Recession around the world led to extreme social chaos and major economic losses.
Despairing, people grew mistrustful and survival focused. Communities disintegrated. Governments caved to the demands of the super-rich in return for guarantees that they would stay, pay at least some taxes and spend money in the economy. Rather than seek to bridge a growing gap, the world’s decision makers chose to protect the few and sacrifice the many.
Ecological degradation led to widespread shortages of food and clean water. The vulnerability of natural systems rapidly accelerated. Various species displayed random, aberrant patterns, such as bee die-offs, loss of entire sub-species and varieties, amphibian mutations and plant flowerings that defied seasons. These environmental shifts had a sudden impact on the food supply, a scenario many scientists had seen coming. Hunger became a global norm again and we paid the price of years of lax environmental policies. Water and sanitation suffered, and clean sources became few and far between. Water in 2030 is rationed, unpredictable and conflict-ridden.
When you were still alive, we knew these problems were coming , but we believed technology and human ingenuity would save us: renewable energy would replace the dirty fracking and fossil fuel mining which had contaminated so much land and water; 3D printed food, laboratory grown meat, and genetically modified organisms would help feed everyone safely and cheaply; and personal technology and a world powered by artificial intelligence would offer a pathway to more equal, transparent and politically empowered societies.
We’re now learning that it takes very different mindsets, serious attitudinal reframing, behavioural shifts, and cultural change to get us out of our self-inflicted mess. We thought that by 2025 AI, blockchain, 3D printing, and an internet of smart things would enable our deliverance from tenuous living conditions. However, in 2022 a slowdown started. It has not yet picked back up. Most expect it never will.
Moore’s Law no longer applies and we’re seeing almost no improvements in computing power. We’ve been in a dark-age in terms of progress in science and technology. Schools have merged or closed, many classroom sizes have tripled. Research programs have been de-funded, and those schools and degree programmes that survive rely on sponsorship from rich local benefactors. They in turn are guaranteed a percentage of the lifetime income of every student they support – collected via the tax system. I never finished my degree, Mum.
I know you were a victim, too. Cancer has always been common, but there is now clear proof that the pesticides used to treat the crops were also slowly killing us. We learned too late that large-scale agriculture put far too much pressure on natural systems and poisoned the water supply. The resulting food crisis has taught us to respect the systems that give us life, and use them in a more healthy way. Unfortunately it is too late for victims like you, innocent martyrs to global mismanagement. But in a way, I’m glad you’re not here to see it yourself. I think you’d be saddened by all the ways in which humanity has sold itself short.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Alexandra Whittington has been published in publications including The Future of Business, Futures and the Journal of Futures Studies. She has written several scenarios with Rohit Talwar and other members of the FFP writing team on topics ranging from future law firms to the future of AI. www.fastfuturepublishing.com
Rohit Talwar is a global futurist who brings a highly practical and no nonsense approach to helping major global businesses get out of their own way and give themselves permission to open and consume the gifts they are being given by a rapidly changing and increasingly digital world. From law firms to auto manufacturers, he helps leaders create the