Back to the future: life vision beyond 2050

13 November 2013 Author: EIFonline

On 12 November James Elles, MEP and EIF co-founder, invited members and a friends to follow-up on the European Commission Digital Futures project. Franco Accordino, Team Leader of Task force Digital Futures at DG CONNECT, European Commission, addressed EIF members to present the outcomes of the project as at today. 

Digital Futures is a foresight project launched last year by DG CONNECT to prepare for reflections on ICT policies beyond 2020. The project taps into the collective wisdom and aspirations of stakeholders to co-create long term visions (on a time horizon 2040-50) and fresh ideas for policies that can inspire the future strategic choices of DG CONNECT and the European Commission. Digital Futures draws inspiration from the long term advances at the intersection between ICT and society, economy, environment, politics, humanities and other key enabling technologies and sciences. The project is supported by Futurium, an online platform combining the informal character of social networks with the methodological approach of foresights to engage stakeholders in the co-creation of the futures that they want.

Franco Accordino presented 11 themes, that will likely shape policy making in the coming few decades. They emerged from the Futurium co-creation process which has engaged more than 3000 participants in 100+ conversations.

Listen to Franco Accordino’s speech: 

 

A TRANS-HUMANISTIC ERA:

By 2050, a new form of human (a trans-human) will emerge, where ICTs and bio-medicine will fundamentally improve the human condition and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. The augmentation of human beings' cognitive and intellectual abilities through technological implants, such as memory and energy storage, will be possible.

Super-centenarian societies:

In 2050 people will live longer and healthier lives than ever. Thanks to the improved living standards, the world’s current population of about 7 billion people will grow by more than a third and reach 10 billion in 2050. Contrary to today's forecasts, the average life expectancy at birth will reach 90 years, and most of the population will live longer than one century.

Cradle-to-grave, work and play:

In 20-30 years, people will be able to work throughout their life and change jobs according to varying personal needs and aspirations. Only a minority of the population will still experience linear/sequential life cycles (i.e. study => job => family => retirement). Citizens instead will do what they like, irrespective of their age.

Learning:

The education landscape in 2050 will be characterized by a “blurring of boundaries” between the different levels and directions of education, between higher education and industry. It will provide greater flexibility in designing educational pathways tailored to individual needs, and combining several education modalities into a life-long and stimulating learning experience.

Hyper-connected human:

The Internet will continue its expansion as global connector, pushed by the advances in underlying technology foundations (e.g. photonic networks, quantum, organic computing, etc.) and by the need to support more and more sophisticated application scenarios bridging the physical and virtual worlds instantaneously. Its complexity and significance will dramatically increase as we move to the new era of nano sensors and devices, and of virtual spaces and 3D social networks exchanging zillions of bytes of data every month.

New actors and polarities:

In the coming 20-30 years, people will be more empowered than ever to share knowledge, become aware of their environment, and take informed and responsible decisions. They will become active players in the global scene. 

Re-inventing media:

Social media will replace traditional editorial media as the dominant media arena over the next 20-30 years. Editorial media will continue to exist, but only insofar as they become part of the conversation in the social media arena. 

Arts, sciences and humanities:

The virtualisation of the scientific process and the advent of social networks will allow every scientist to join forces with others in the open global virtual laboratory. Human performance enhancement and embeddable sensors will enable scientists to perceive and observe processes in the real world in new ways. New ICT tools will allow better understanding of the social processes underlying all societal actions. Art practice will gain a whole new status and role in future societies. Creativity will be key to harness the new possibilities offered by science and technology, and by the hyper-connected environments that will surround us, in useful directions.

Cities, villages and communities:

Cities will grow into megacities, which will be highly vascularized by eco-friendly and energy-sustainable transportation means, and filled with new dwellings and buildings made from innovative construction materials. All elements of the city will be connected to a higher supra-network, the future Internet, on which a whole new service-economy will thrive. Villages will be only seemingly detached from this, as they link themselves into the same web of connectivity, and develop their own specific offerings for work, living, socialising or leisure. 

New economic models:

In 20-30 years the world's economy may change significantly, driven by the advent of new technological and societal innovations. Advanced robotics, automation, and manufacturing will bring most of today’s production back to a local sustainable dimension. 3D printers will make possible the self-production of many consumer items like clothes or furniture.

Pursuing global peace:

In the coming 30-40 years, societies will be characterised by continuous tension between individual and collective interests, leading to a continuous tension between two opposing models: 1) a society where only a few decide for all, either as elected representatives, or because new forms of oligarchic power emerged to exert societal manipulation; 2) a society with neither classes nor hierarchies, characterised by participatory leadership and new forms of "chaordic" organisation, where all have the possibility to co-decide on most if not all issues that matter to them. 

Now everyone can provide feedback and vote the relevance and timing of each theme. 

You can have your say here: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/futurium/en/content/themes.


A year ago EIF hosted a brainstorming session in collaboration with the European Commission (DG CONNECT) in view of the upcoming EIF report “The Digital World in 2030”.
The format of the discussion was based on the ‘Digital Futures' foresight model, which allows all participants to engage in creative dialogue and to share their knowledge, experience and expectations in order to discover new insights and ideas for future policies. The key messages and futures that arose from this brainstorming session are available here.

 
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