2030: A book review by Bob Morris

2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything
Mauro F. Guillén
St. Martin’s Press (August 2020)

“The future is not what it used to be.” Laura Riding and Robert Graves

Here is the context for Riding and Graves’s observation in an article they co-authored, published by a journal (Epilogue) in 1937:

“The human mind has reached the end of temporal progress: the future is not what it used to be, and people talk with less and less progenitive self-precipitation into the future, and behave with more and more fatally decisive immediacy. The future, that is, contains nothing but scientific development. It is an involuntary spending and manipulation of physical forces, empty of consciousness: it no longer matters.” From A Private Correspondence on Reality

In 2030, 83 years later, Mauro F. Guillén explains how and why “today’s biggest trends will collide and reshape the future of everything” and that “the world as we know it today will be gone by 2030.” He provides in the book an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that will “help readers grasp the meaning of so many moving parts, and it offers a message of optimism about the future while we are managing the anxieties of the present. It presents a tool to help navigate the epochal transformations ahead, suggesting what to do and what not to do under these new and unfamiliar circumstances.”

Guillén observes in Chapter 6, “”A key lesson from history is that each time a new technology replaced an old one, new jobs were created and destroyed… and new modes of consumption emerged…Refrigerators replaced ice as a coolant, the telephone proved superior to the telegraph, incandescent lamps replaced gas lamps, the transistor did away with the vacuum tube, the jet engine outdid the propeller, the CD turned vinyl into a collector’s item, the word processor rendered the typewriter obsolete, digital imaging supplanted chemical photography, and video games proved more entertaining than transitional toys. We use the tern ‘disruption’ to refer to such dramatic transformations, with the wristwatch being just one illustration of this pervasive pattern.” (Pages 155-156)

I agree with Guillén that several converging trends — “declining fertility, longer ife expectancy, doubts about the future viability of public pensions, expanded use  of smartphones, and apps, and a growing interest in sharing rather than owning.– will result in several comparable new technologies that replace older ones during the next ten years.  In that event, it will be even more important for workers to, in Alvin Toffler’s words “learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

In fact, I am certain that at least a few major disruptions will result from converging trends that include “declining fertility, longer life expectancy, doubts about the future viability of public pensions, expanded use  of smartphones and apps, and a growing interest in sharing rather than owning.”

Here are other passages among several dozen that also that caught my eye in Chapters 1-6, some of which may be of special interest to you:

o Introduction: The Clock Is Ticking (Pages 1-10)
o Can Government “Big Brothers” Influence Our Fertility Decisions?  (18-21)
o Anxiety and Anger over Immigration (29-33)
o Our Cognitive Biases Against Immigration (35-37)
o How to Think About Generations (43-45)

o Gray Priorities (48-51)
o The Gray Wallet (55-59)
o China’s Bewildering Generations (67-69)
o From Madame Bovary to The Simpsons (77-80)
o Is It Possible to Bounce Back? (90-92)

o “Women Try Their Luck; Men Risk Theirs” (100-103)
o “My Husband Brought Me Up” (107-111)
o A Glass Ceiling — Or a Thick Layer of Men? (117-119)
o Cities Are Hot in More Ways Than One (125-128)
o “When the Well Is Dry, We Learn the Worth of Water” (136-138)

o Hip Cities from Bilbao to Pittsburgh (142-146)
o Will Cities Be Livable in 2030? (148-149)
o It All Began with Dick Tracy and Superman (153-158)
o “Computers Are Useless — They can Only Give You Answers” (158-161)
o Which Technologies Are Worth Developing and Reinventing? (176-177)

In a brief Postscript, Mauro Guillén suggests that COVID-19 seems to be accelerating and exacerbating current emerging trends rather than diverting or diminishing them. There are so many unique challenges to face now.

However, when responding to them, he suggests, lessons learned will be invaluable in years to come. “It isn’t too late to prepare  for the transformation ahead. Success will require striking a delicate balance around each of the seven lateral tips and tricks [see Pages 225-228]. And remember: There’s no turning back. The world as we know it is about to change, and it won’t be returning anytime soon, if ever. The rules are changing — forever.”

Meanwhile, these comments by Charles Darwin in 1859 are even more true now than they were then: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”


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