Episode 371: Back to the Futurists

In This Episode

4 Futurists Offer Surprising Predictions About The Future of Work and Money

This episode of Breaking Banks is out of this world! Brett King and Miss Metaverse, Katie King, sit down with Futurists Brian Roemmele, Robert Scoble, Ross Dawson, and Mike Walsh to explore the events of the last twelve months and discuss predictions for the future what work and life will look like in the next 50 to 100 years. And why your bank balance might not matter.

After a chaotic 2020, it’s time for humankind to start looking forward. What can we expect for the rest of 2021? Or skipping way ahead, what about 2071?

There’s no denying there’s going to be a lot of change.

“I think 50 years from now, we’ll look back and say, ‘Hey, 2020 — that was when everything changed,’” says Ross Dawson, a futurist and strategy advisor.

We can certainly expect to see a drastic shift in the way we work and, ultimately, the way our economy is structured.

On an episode of Breaking Banks, we connected with four futurists: Brian Roemmele, Robert Scoble, Ross Dawson and Mike Walsh. They share their predictions on the future of work and the economy.

But first, let’s reflect… 

2020 Will Be the Year Everything Changed

There’s no denying 2020 was an unprecedented year, but the futurists believe it’ll be the year we all look back on and think: “Wow, that’s when everything changed.”

For Mike — CEO of the consultancy Tomorrow, which focuses on designing companies for the 21st century — the fast pace of medical technology evolution stands out.

“I think, for the first time in 2020, because of this huge moonshot effort [to develop a vaccine], you’re seeing the beginnings of precision medicine and pharmacogenomics that we’ve been talking about for the last decade,” he says.

There was an expedited evolution of mRNA technology to produce a vaccine. Here’s how Mike thinks about it: This technology is essentially uploading code into your body, and, in the future, “new releases of the software” will be released and updated.

On the other hand, Robert, the well-known technology blogger and author, is focused on the experiential service economy. With everyone sequestered inside, tech companies are working hard to tap into this opportunity, creating ways for people to attend a concert or show while sitting in their living rooms with a device on their heads.

“In this new virtual world that we’re heading into, we can deliver any experience to you,” he says.

And then, of course, there’s a big shift that occurred in 2020: the restructuring of work.

The Future of Work: What We Can Look Forward To

One hundred years from now, face-to-face business meetings will seem quaint, your great-grandkids will think your work commute is the equivalent of walking to school uphill both ways, and job training will occur through VR.

“I think this is going to be that point where we look back in 100 years where everybody says, ‘People drove to offices? We get into a box and go into another box and then drive back and waste at least an hour?’ That’s going to be seen as somewhat ridiculous,” says Brian, a voice AI expert.

What else is around the corner when it comes to the physical workspace and the role work will play in our lives? Here are a few predictions. 

The Physical Workspace: Goodbye Open Floor Plans With Bean Bags

The pandemic poured fuel on the work-from-home fire, and the futurists expect that trend to continue. However, Mike warns: “I actually think remote work is a bit of a red herring.”

Right now, remote work is something we can all relate to, so of course everyone is talking about it and feels as though it’s been completely disruptive. But Mike predicts offices aren’t completely going away anytime soon.

“The ability to interact with other people in more creative collaborative spaces, I think, is going to be the way we rethink those hybrid environments,” he says, referring to a trend toward distributed work.

Organizations, he says, should really focus on establishing systems, organizing teams, and using algorithms and automation to create an operating system designed for distributed work, where some employees are in an office and others work off-site.

“The organizations that have been thinking beyond just provisioning Zoom to actually rethinking how they delegate authority and how they structure and accelerate innovation — that’s going to be the stuff that’s really going to separate organizations in the next couple of years,” he says.

Brian agrees we’ll see more companies leverage a hybrid model. But there’s one additional change he predicts: Physical workspaces will shift from open office layouts to department pods, with engineers in one part and creatives in another.

The open floor plans, complete with bean bags and exposed brick, have really just created a “headphone culture,” Brian explains, where everyone hides in phone booths and slips in a pair of earbuds — the real-life version of Do Not Disturb mode.

Instead, pods will foster the collaboration and collective creativity we’ve all craved while working from home.

The Role of Work: Will It Become More… Enjoyable?

When we discuss the logistics of work, we also have to discuss the role work will ultimately play in our lives.

“There are multiple possible futures of work, and some of them are pretty bleak, and some of them are incredibly positive,” Ross says.

One potential positive? Thanks to AI and automation taking over some of the more repetitive and mundane work tasks, we may be able to eliminate the unpleasant parts of work.

“Now, we have not only systems that can do the things we don’t want to do and leave us to do the things which we are best at, but also more and more ways to be able to correlate with other people to find things and to create work that we most desire to do and what we are best at,” Ross explains.

The expansion of automation enables the economy to reward our unique contributions — a shift from people forcing themselves to fit into specific jobs.

Zooming Out: What Larger Societal Changes Will We See?

Taking a step back, what other trends are expected to emerge? It depends largely on the currency — or what Brian called “life energy.” 

“Money is a magnifier of an individual’s ability to work,” he explains. 

Brian uses the example of a Sumerian coin, which is around 8,000 years old. “Somebody died for this piece of brass,” he says, holding it in his hand. “Today, we look at it in the street, and we would walk by and say that’s nothing.”

He predicts, in 100 years the same will be true for the balances in our bank accounts. “It’s all an abstraction,” he explains.

So what will be of value? “Even when we have a fully digital world, we’re still going to be looking for scarcity,” Mike says, affirming Robert’s prediction that we’ll find value through virtual and augmented reality.

“We are wired to learn things we cannot have,” he continues. “Even if everyone has all the material things they need to survive, to be happy and healthy, you’d still want something else that is different.”

Scarcity, of course, leads us down a different rabbit hole. Space mining, Brian says, will be here before you know it, causing us to wonder what’s the actual value of gold? Diamonds? What if we can harvest food in space?

But, before we get too ahead of ourselves, Robert, the tech evangelist, gives us something we can look forward to within the next year: Apple will be releasing the biggest product of its history, “that’s going to radically change what you think of TV or entertainment,” he says.

This article is based on an episode of the Breaking Banks podcast, the No. 1 fintech podcast. Each episode explores the personalities, startups, innovators and industry players driving disruption in financial services. To learn more about these futurists’ predictions, check out Episode 371: Back to the Futurists. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast to catch future conversations.

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