We can’t know
A poll on Twitter has got me mulling our arrogance about the future.
Entrepreneur Marshall Kirkpatrick tweeted
: “Do you agree with people who say that empathy, problem solving, communication skills etc will be the key workplace skills in a more automated future?”
I instinctively selected the answer ‘Yes, that sounds right.’ Because it does, doesn’t it? If robots and software are the ones 'doing’ things, humans will have to earn money 'feeling’ things.
But I quickly thought how arrogant that made me, when a much more rational option was on offer: 'We can’t know.’
Now, it wouldn’t be much fun or very useful to say 'we can’t know’ whenever asks you to predict the future. But at the same time, I think we can often get too caught up in specific visions of how the future will look that we forget that nothing is certain.
In the early 1970s, many assumed that our trips to the Moon would quickly be followed by humans colonising Mars. Nearly 50 years on, that dream is not even close, even if it’s currently enjoying a renaissance.
Just a few short years ago, many were utterly convinced that the rise of social media would make the world fairer and more open. Instead, we’ve seen the rise of populism and authoritarianism around the world, and even democratic governments are learning they can get away with keeping more secrets in a world of shortened attention spans.
A widespread view today is that human drivers will be a thing of the past within 20 years, but self-driving car technology’s continued progress is far from assured.
So maybe we’ll outsource our emotions to computers, too. Or maybe workplace automation will prove unsatisfactory to many employers, and its widely assumed march to ubiquity will be stopped in its tracks.
It’s fun to make predictions, and entrepreneurs don’t build the future without strong convictions about the way the world will develop. But it’s always worth remembering that when it comes to the future, the truth is we can’t know.