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What Will the Future Look Like?

What Will the Future Look Like?

Mental Bridge

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This article comes from an edited transcript of remarks delivered by James Canton on April 21, 2015. View the video here.

One way to think about the future in terms of modeling, and the way we do modeling, is to ask a really fundamental question. Wherever you look you find what you're looking for. So what are you looking for in the future? It could be the time horizon of three minutes to 30 years. But what are you looking for? Because that in a kind of weird quantum way shapes the outcome of what you find. So if you're looking to figure out what's next for the mind, how to cure something or fix something or enhance cognitive capabilities, you're going to likely catalyze reality to find some of those things.

So that's kind of the thought process that goes into this. I ask that question, what kind of future do you want?  What does that look like to you? What does it look like for you whether it's three years from today or 30 minutes from today or a hundred years from today? Because that will be the shapeshifting process that you go through in trying to achieve something or solve something or figure out that problem. 

What's it going to look like in 2115?

Let me just throw a couple of things out. Likely everything that we think about technology will go away. So you think about mobile devices – big deal now. It's the decade of the mind. We think about what's next for our neuro future. We think about struggles we have with healthcare. Most of the time we're in the dark. We don't know when we're gonna be sick until we get a lump or we get a problem. All of what we know about the impact of lifestyle and society based on technology will go away well before the next hundred years. What will be the big significant trend?

The big significant trend is today is that we actually have to do something. We have to search for something on the internet. We have to press a button. We have to take an action on a device. We have to actually even drive our car. We have to go look for something. Imagine a world where there is this embedded intelligences that are a combination of human and nonhuman that live in this innovation ecosystem which helps interpret, it helps guide, it helps us fix. And it tries to figure out, because it's part of us, what are the challenges for the next hundred years that we need to address?

This is going to sound like technological optimism to some people but at the end of the day I think there is not a mistake that the major revolutions in nanobio, neuro, IT and quantum technologies are evolving dramatically fast to be able to give us toolsets to solve major challenges of lifestyle survival and figure out things such as new energy sources, new ways to predict and prevent illness.

"Imagine a world where there is this embedded intelligences that are a combination of human and nonhuman that live in this innovation ecosystem.”

I think we are actually in a moment. I call it a game changing moment where these innovation ecosystems will transform our world. And the question is – and this is almost the existential destiny of our civilization –  is what kind of future do we want to create? What do these mountaintops look like? How do we want to shape it?  Because we're going to have the tools, we're going to have the powers, we're going to have the capabilities to it but what will that future look like?

James Canton is a futurist and author and the CEO of The Institute for Global Futures.