What the Future Visions experts taught me about the next 20 years

Natalie Campbell, host of our Future Visions podcast series, shares with us what she's learnt from delving into the visions of our resident futurologists, along with her hopes and fears for the next 20 years... 

What a wonderful gift a crystal ball would be - in the same way I value hindsight, seeing into the future would be the perfect antidote to the seemly chaotic and shape-shifting world we live in today.

From developments in artificial intelligence and the rise of hyper reality, to global leadership and inequality, there are so many things that are moving forward at pace while others slide backwards into decline. But the future provides visions and glimmers of hope. Or at least I hope so.

As an entrepreneur, the curious and creative side of me wants to know what the next big thing is - but not the next big money maker. I’m interested in the next big community maker, the thing that finally drives personal agency and wellbeing for everyone.

This is a theme of the podcasts you’ll hear over the next twelve weeks, from Cindy Gallop to James Bellini, the brightest minds in their fields cover the ways in which technology and disruptive thinking challenge the norm and explode the boundaries of the status quo. A disclaimer early on, I passionately believe technology is good. And should only be used for good.

It is ridiculous to me that women are still not considered equal citizens, I am dumbfounded by the fact that social mobility and global inequality is getting worse and I am perplexed at the rise in racist rhetoric given we are all human beings. No more, no less. This is where technology can be a real game changer.

Listening to the futurologists, scientists and experts talking about their Future Visions, my gut tells me the evolution will now be digitised - and televised, and streamed, and lived in augmented reality. It gave me hope hearing the ways in which Dr Mehran Anvari is using technology to make heart surgery in remote parts of the world possible. Araceli Camargo and Cindy Gallop go on to predict that the rise in artificial intelligence will change the workforce for the better. This change doesn’t just affect the few either, no matter the 'colour of your collar', jobs and the way we work will be disrupted. Technology is colour blind and companies that refuse to engage with diversity of thought through the recruitment of diverse talent will be left behind.

My vision of the future - Dr James Bellini

In the vain of knowledge is no longer power - sharing it is - all of the contributors opened my mind to possibilities. But it’s not just rose tinted optimism, they uncover the potential dark sides. Take for example pre-emotive crime prediction. I watched Minority Report (a few times) and you can say what you want about the movie; the concept of locking people up based on what they might do scares me. Tracey Follows guides us through what predicting behaviours might change in the future.

A theme that comes through - and returning to my hope for a minute - is that the future is fundamentally more human, connected and kind. Or at least it should be. Ben Hammersley explores human nature and our interaction with digital life, an advocate of getting the right balance of people to tech in an increasingly networked world I share his sentiment. Technology is an enabler, a tool to create level playing fields which means we need to ensure the gulf of digital 'haves' and digital 'have-nots' does not increase in the next decade. Being able to use a phone (or plant a chip in our hands) does not equate to digital literacy because that is just consumption. I watched a video by Keiichi Matsuda about the possibility of living in hyper real worlds - it scared me. I can’t watch Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror for the same reason. The dark side of the world when we lose our humanity is too much for my gentle soul.

The conversation in the Future Visions series reminded me (with a slap in the face) that we need to make sure everyone, young people in particular, understand the languages and creation behind the technology. This is the key to equality, ownership and personal agency.

But I’ll let the listeners decide, are the futures presented ones you believe in? Do you think we’ll live to 'live' in a world that is 100 per cent virtual? How do we ensure that technology maintains it’s 'goodness'?

Join me, as we go on a tour of the future exploring the little gift that is a vision into what comes next.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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