Predictions are dangerous — and long-term predictions more so. Changes, though evolutionary for most periods of time, can suddenly become disruptive and make the prediction go wildly off the mark. Therefore, if a forecast has to remain germane until it manifests into reality, it should portray likely scenarios or possibilities and not outline just a singular certainty. And prediction is an incomplete exercise if it does not include the factors that drive the mechanics of the prediction. When we look at the future work, there are two fundamental forces at play: 1) the force of technological progress, and 2) the forces of inner harmony/discord.
The Forces of Technological Progress
The forces of technological progress are forever pushing the boundaries of productivity. In the last century the average increase in productivity per year hovered around 2-3 percent. If this rate were to continue, the world will triple its productivity in 30 years and increase it by a factor of 25 by the end of the 21st century. If technological progress were to be the only force, we can predict that with time, more routine jobs will be automated. Humans will be enjoying a more creative phase. The productivity increase will allow everybody to have a minimum income (Universal Basic Income is being piloted in many countries already). People will not have to work to survive; they could follow their passions. Work time would be flexible; individuals will have the freedom to work from any location. Global supply chains and global trade will make countries more interdependent; travel across the world will become the norm. Law of comparative advantage will rule the roost. As humans interact more with others, prejudices will break down, familiarity will facilitate understanding and cross cultural, and diverse teams will enhance tolerance and empathy.
The Forces of Inner Harmony/Discord
The utopian scenario portrayed, although possible, is by no means an absolute certainty. Far from being so, the force of inner harmony/discord can enhance or completely destroy the gains made by technological progress. Technology has improved over time, but human beings have possibly degraded over time. Our gadgets are superior to the ones that existed 100 years before, but our sense of inner harmony, calm, and maturity has remained the same (if not decreased) over the same period of time. Technology has made life simple, but we have made ourselves more complex.
The force of harmony is a result of the inner state of being that determines how we interact with ourselves, with the people around us, and with the world. Do we look at ourselves as an island? Are we fearful of change? Do we fiercely hold on to our positions, career, and knowledge in a company? Are we driven by fear, greed? Are we fiercely competitive? Do we believe that if we don’t grab what is out there, others will? Do we feel the compulsive need to acquire more material things in the world irrespective of our need? Do we perceive the world as a zero-sum game? Are we constantly considering our narrow welfare to the exclusion of other countrymen or citizens of other countries?
Answers to these questions reveal our state of our inner being and tells us how harmonious we are with ourselves. The state of harmony is paramount in fashioning our response to the world. In fact, it can determine the future of our work and how we relate to our professional aspects and even how the world becomes. For example, it is possible that as we consume more than we need, we stretch the sustainable resources of the planet (which is already happening) and this can halt the productivity gain. It is also possible that our inner insecurities can create a violent backlash against any change (similar to what happened during the industrial era). We may be fearful of losing our jobs and hence may become protective of our knowledge, lose our sense of curiosity at work and resist any change. We may become more political and create an organizational environment that is highly toxic and human unfriendly. Our insecurities may disrupt global supply chains (already happening now) and create islands of isolation. Our biases against our neighbors may result in paranoia, engendering jingoistic feelings and may result in war or famine. Obsessive desires for overconsumption may further stretch the already endangered resources. (One-third of the cities in the world are likely to go without water in the next 5-10 years). The force of inner harmony can even shape the environment around us. As we continue our exploitation of natural resources beyond its sustainability, there would come a tip-over point, when the environment unleashes a disruptive catastrophe that is irreversible (Speculation that the initial human created amazon rainforest fire may lead to a vicious natural cycle of complete destruction).
In short, the interplay between these two forces will determine how the future plays out. Maybe we will realize the power of within and make changes before it is too late. Or maybe our inexorable obsession with technology and singular focus on the world outside us will drive the world to doom.
The answer to our future lies with us in our present. Right steps towards oneself can unveil a glorious future that can unfold the full potential of the human race. A single individual with clarity, conviction, and courage can change a family around them which as a cascading effect has the possibility of creating a global transformation.