The event "Digital World in 2030: Toward the Age of Individual Empowerment?" took place on Tuesday 27 November 2012 at the European Parliament premises in Brussels. It was organised by the European Internet Foundation (EIF) and facilitated by the Digital Futures project of European Commission, DG CONNECT.
The workshop was hosted by James Elles MEP and EIF Co-founder, and Robert Madelin, Director-General of DG CONNECT, European Commission. There were about a hundred participants who worked together for three hours to co-create long term visions to be adopted as teasers for future debates on ICT-related policies.
The approach used to harness the collective creativity of the participants is known as "The Art of Participatory Leadership", a well-known set of brainstorming techniques that is part of the internal training formats within the European Commission. Most of the participants who acted as facilitators and content harvester were officials trained with the AOPL.
After the welcome and scene-setting by MEP James Elles, Robert Madelin introduced the Digital Futures project, its policy making 3.0 model and its online lab: the Futurium.
The participants then broke out into several tables to brainstorm on the futures they envisage for 2050, the related challenges and opportunities, as well as the underpinning drivers and trends. Tables were grouped around three main themes, each of which addressing a number of key topics:
1. Economic transformation through individual empowerment. Focus includes: the future of employment, the organisation of industrial output & wealth-creation, consumer behaviour, sustainability (e.g. climate change; energy consumption, resource efficiency), stability vs. dynamism: how much disruption can our economies manage?
2. Social and political transformation through individual empowerment. Focus includes: the sustainability of the western welfare-state, the future of education, personal identity, can democracy survive the democratisation of technology?, the future anatomy of political power and leadership.
3. Technology: will digital technologies reinforce individual empowerment in the decades to come? Focus includes: human interfaces (including corporal embedding), man-machine interaction, mobility / remote access & control (cloud), data cumulation & data mining, personal security vs. personal freedom.
• The overall impression is a positive view of the future, albeit with certain anxieties and concerns.
• The resilience and robustness of human beings shines through. Underpinning the discussions is a focus on values.
• We care about the planet, about energy and about sustainability.
• There is a trend towards connectedness and interconnectivity in which it is possible that "we are all going to be connected, whatever": perhaps ultimately a blurring of human beings and machines ...
• Nevertheless, there is a sense of capability and capacity, responsibility and collective ownership in which we can make choices. Perhaps we need a form of charter to help us with that?
*Download of the mindmap is available at the bottom of the page
The day after the event a group of 15 knowledge harvesters took the mindmaps and notes harvested on-site and elaborated twelve futures, visions or trends, reflecting the amazing ideas emerged from the group. They are available on the Futurium site and listed below for your convenience.
If you want to contribute to the further development of those futures as well as engage more thinkers and multipliers in the Futurium journey, you can do so at http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/futurium.
The world of 2050 will hold empowered people, doing whatever they wish at whatever stage in their life. People will handle their working experience by enhancing their capabilities and not necessarily their knowledge, as any piece of knowledge will be shared in the open virtual space.
In 2050, individuals will be at the centre. They will be served by invisible technology and will organise around communities.
In 2030, networked individuals organise to make redundant the representative middle-men currently running politics, information, education and welfare systems.
In 2050 society is fully knowledge-based.
More powerful future technologies will make the trade-off between individual and collective empowerment even more dramatic.
The future of the world's economy will be steered by the Superbly Informed and Active Consumer.
Jane Doe wakes up in the morning and decides herself that she is going to make some income today, instead of learning new skills, what she did for the past three days, or having leisure time, what she did for the whole of last week. This implies that Jane is completely fluent in digital technologies and she's broadband connected to the Internet, otherwise she'd be part of one of the lowest classes of the economy and would have to do what she was ordered, basically in exchange for food.
It was Jean's day to be a politician. Slipping from the shower into his cyber-grid suit, he saw the day's tasks fly around the walls of his cybarium. Agreeable tasks were butterflies of many hues or birds of paradise; less agreeable ones had fewer colours. After a brief flight, the avatars grouped themselves into different parts of the room.
In 2050 all will be "digitally included". The Internet of Things will evolve into the Internet of Humans.
Some technology trends may be unstoppable because of Moore's law, the singularity, and the apparently exponential acceleration of technological growth.
Even an elderly woman in her mid-90s will be able to use technology, appreciate technology, still work using technology, and communicate using technology. She could have a conversation and be in close communication with a young researcher, yet they would not necessarily know each others' ages or backgrounds.
In 2050 our economy will be based on a more optimized and customized consumption whereas individuals are informed and empowered.