How will we live in the future? What will our lives be like in twenty, thirty or fifty years? Thinking intensively about this question can be both fascinating and worrying in equal measure.
For the majority of us who grew up in a very analogue world, the present already sometimes feels a bit like the future – even when we are well equipped and completely familiar with the latest smartphones, pads and all the rest.
Technology is continuing to develop at a rapid, ever increasing rate and is becoming an inherent part of our everyday lives. Although 30 years ago we still had no idea what the Internet was, today we can barely imagine what it would be like if we could not just quickly google something.
So what will we regard as perfectly normal in the year 2050 that we can still barely imagine today? Let us take an bold look into the crystal ball to see how we will be living in the future.
We were inspired to do this by the renowned Majorcan construction company Alibaz Construcción, whose 20th anniversary celebrations in October 2019 were themed “Living in the Future”. The family-run business invited three generations of architects to present their visions for life in the future. We were honoured to be there with Paloma and Jaime from OHLAB, who presented our Casa Xaloc project as an example of a passive or zero or even plus energy house.
Curiosity then led us to search the Internet for additional perspectives, visions and predictions, based on academic studies, to find out more about how life will be for humanity in the future – about our homes, lives, work and transport modes.
Just to make sure that we are really awake, we will begin with a worst case scenario, published this year by the Australian think tank Breakthrough. If we assume that the recommendations of the Paris Climate Agreement are completely ignored, then 2030 will mark the beginning of the end for humanity.
Twenty years later, in 2050, sea levels will have risen accordingly by half a metre. Fifty five percent of world’s population will be affected by deadly heat on at least 20 days per year. Extreme weather situations will be a daily occurrence, important ecosystems such as coral reefs and the Amazon rain forest will collapse. Drinking water and food will become scarce and parts of the earth will be uninhabitable due to extreme heat.
The Australian think tank is not alone with its predictions of dire consequences. A current EU study on global trends for 2030 also makes it clear that if temperatures continue to rise beyond 2030, humanity is in danger of extinction – not to mention many animal and plant species as well.
The impact of climate change – however severe it turns out to be – is therefore a very critical factor that will determine how life on earth will be in the future. Another important factor will be advancements in technological developments.
One exciting scenario for how the year 2050 could be, based on real conditions and developments, was created by Anna Simpson, who is a futurist and innovation coach – worth reading!
Let’s now look at the trends that show us how and where we will live in the future.
Today, there is already a recognisable trend towards urbanisation. More than half the world’s population already lives in cities, and by 2050 this will increase to 60 percent, according to a report by the Frauhofer Institute. On top of this, the world’s population is continuing to grow. In the year 2050, there will between 9.4 and 10.1 billion people living on earth.
This means that more and more people will be living in less and less space. Not only will this have an impact on the design of residential space in the future. The current trend among city dwellers towards a more personalised way of living will also play a role here - above all, the number of single households is expected to continue to increase.
Tiny or micro housing is one approach to deal with this situation going forward. This will see residential living space becoming smaller, while at the same time more rooms and spaces will become communal or used for multiple functions. This will, in turn, tie in with the growing trend towards a culture of sharing and community.
Cities of the future will accordingly be characterised by high-rise buildings and accommodation that combines private living space with communally used rooms. One example of this could be kitchens and dining areas – food sharing is already becoming hip – and spaces for making and repairing things, as well as for co-working, and even communal spaces and places for looking after children and the elderly.
In order to also have the production of food close to where people will be living in the future, urban farming will be an important issue. Whether in greenhouses on high-rise roofs, in disused warehouses or in specially constructed ‘farmscrapers’ – agricultural practice in the future will no longer be spread out over an area, rather it will be vertical and require neither soil nor sunlight.
Not only vegetables, salad greens, herbs and fruit will be grown like this. The cultivation of nutritious algae will also play an important role in our diet. Meat will no longer come from living animals but will be grown in the laboratory. Today, companies such as Beyond Meat are already experimenting with steaks cultivated in the test tube.
In the same way that technological developments will determine the production of food products, they will also influence the way we will eat and keep ourselves heathly.
Smart toilets, mirrors and toothbrushes will monitor the state of our health and provide recommendations on how we can compensate for nutrient deficiencies. As part of a smart home network, as soon as our bathrooms detect a deficiency they will communicate with our fridge and kitchen appliances to select a suitable type of food that will correct the problem.
But not only will our homes be characterised by hi-tech. Our places of work will also be networked and smart.
It is already apparent today that the line separating our private lives and work will continue to become ever more blurred. Co-working spaces, where people work together but for different organisations, are located either in the same building they live in or in the immediate vicinity.
Office design will become more flexible and more personalised. There will be a suitable work environment for every requirement. With the help of ongoing technological developments, offices will be networked and smart – ranging from intelligent windows that regulate the heating and the lighting or even serve as interactive display screens, to smartphone apps that locate an available desk space and adapt it according to the respective needs, and to virtual meetings with real time translations in every language.
Artificial intelligence will significantly influence and alter almost every area of work. Machines will take over tasks that are still being carried out today by people. Robots such as those that are already being developed today by Boston Dynamics will help in lifting and carrying heavy objects. Standardised tasks such as book keeping or writing a journalistic report will in future be carried out by software.
Automation resulting from artificial intelligence will completely turn the way we work upside down. “It’s not that automation will change work. It’s that work will change so drastically that we’ll need to give what we do an entirely different name”, said global security futurist Amy Zalman in the Guardian.
With an ever increasing number of people in cities, the transport situation will of course have to change. The hype surrounding electric vehicles already gives us a foretaste of how dominant electro mobility will be in the future. A car-sharing culture will also shape and change the future of mobility, just as autonomous driving will – whether it is a driverless goods vehicle or a networked, on-demand transport system that brings private individuals from A to B.
For city dwellers, the fact that the places where they live and work are in close proximity to each other means that micro-mobility will play an important role in the future. That could be the electric scooters that are today already conquering many cities, but also cargo bikes, which - with or without electric motors - will become an important everyday transport vehicle.
That was a brief look into our crystal ball.
For us at Soy, the future is above all something that we can participate in and add our creative input to. But even though we count ourselves among life’s unabashed optimists, and also believe that our contribution can make the world a little better, we are very conscious of the fact that climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, as much today as in the future.
We will have to drastically change our way of life if we want to continue to live on this planet. Personally, we very clearly see this as an opportunity and look forward with curiosity, ready to make a creative contribution to the future. Are you on board?
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