I was fortunate enough to recently read Stories from 2045 a great book of short stories from the futurist think tank The Economic Singularity Club which was founded by author & futurist Calum Chace and others to promote more thoughtful discussions about the future of jobs. The purpose of the book was to try and add to the narratives of the future (and get beyond the narrow terminator type narratives given to us by Hollywood).
The book was excellent, I got a lot more out of it than many of the consultancy style reports from the likes of McKinsey, Deloitte and the World Economic Forum and so forth which tend to end predictably with “soft” conclusions that the future of work is about re-training to new skills. They may be correct but there tends to be a real lack of diversity of thought in these kind of reports, they basically all say the same thing when surely the future is far less certain than that would make you believe.
Stories from 2045 is different. The stories format gives the authors a licence to roam pretty freely and bring out radical ideas. It also means they don’t have to fit everything into an over-arching consistent theory, and can choose to focus on particular areas. When you put them all together the result is a truly thought provoking ride through a variety of diverse possible futures (the book contains two thirds positive stories and one third negative).
Some of the main themes explores include: the need for income and purpose in a word where most people don’t work, the role of community projects, the importance of co-ordinated action to change the system, the role of automation and renewable energy in delivering an economy of abundance and drastically reducing the cost of a decent quality of life. On the other hand, the negative stories focus on the consequences of some or all of these things not happening: huge inequality created, freedoms lost to constant monitoring and supervision.
The financial and economic side is what really interested me. Most of the positive stories revolves around having been able to create a worldwide system for individuals to derive sufficient income to sustain a decent lifestyle, with most people not working. This often sat alongside a vision of a society of “radical abundance” where the cost of basics had been pushed much lower by the use of automation and cheaper energy. At the core of this was some kind of global “New Deal” which managed the transition to an essentially jobless economy.
This got me thinking about the surprising parallels with some of the history of Defined Benefit Pensions.
Stories from 2045 is thoroughly recommended for some really insightful and thought provoking takes on the future.