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We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274) – Headlines and Show Notes
When you look around, do you feel like you’re living in a futuristic utopia? Or does it feel more like a dystopian future to you? In either case, it’s clear that we already live in the future. Whether you see a world filled with global access to instantaneous information, improved medical treatments, and declining poverty, or one filled with information overload, disparate access to healthcare, and growing income/wealth inequality, the fact remains that the future is here, now.
This week's Thinks Out Loud looks at the “state of the future” that we’re living in, positive and negative, and offers some thoughts on how you can make it more positive for you — and for the world around you.
Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:
Relevant Links – We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274)
- Smartphone Ownership Is Growing Rapidly Around the World, but Not Always Equally | Pew Research Center
- Digital is Like Gravity (Thinks Out Loud Episode 205)
- Did We Break the Internet? Or Did the Internet Break Us? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 242)
- Facts & Figures 2019: US Cancer Death Rate has Dropped 27% in 25 Years
- (2) Peter W. Singer on Twitter: ""Once, every village had an idiot. It took the internet to bring them all together." Great @RobertLBateman quote in #LikeWar book https://t.co/mYYBg3RDpK" / Twitter
- List of countries by life expectancy – Wikipedia
- WHO | Life expectancy
- A global tipping point: Half the world is now middle class or wealthier
- The End of Millennials (Thinks Out Loud Episode 224)
- Complex quantum teleportation achieved for the first time
- Quantum computing leaps ahead in 2019 with new power and speed – CNET
- The woman who paid $250,000 to go into space – BBC News
- A 'wild environment': Uncertain safety rules await space tourists – POLITICO
- Mike Tyson explains one of his most famous quotes – Sun Sentinel
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You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:
Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud
Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.
Running time: 20m 20s (I didn’t plan this one. But, c’mon. The episode “We Live in the Future,” released in 2020, is 20:20. That’s awesome!)
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Transcript – We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274)
Well, hello again everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, this is episode 274 of the big show, and thank you so much for tuning in. I really think we've got a cool show for you today. This is something that I'm passionate about, just unbelievably passionate about, and that is this idea, you know, anyone who follows me on Twitter has probably seen me say recently that we live in the future. We are in a remarkable time.
The Good News: We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274)
You know, obviously I talk a lot about mobile and how it shapes the future. Believe me, I'm going to go way wider than mobile here. But just to point out a couple of recent statistics, you know, there's new data from Pew Research that shows that mobile phone ownership has reached 94% in advanced economies and 83% in emerging economies. Smartphone ownership is 76% and 45% among advanced and emerging economies respectively. So almost half the world has a smartphone. And internet use among people in advanced and emerging economies has reached 90% and 60% respectively.
Now, as you might imagine, those numbers are even more dramatic among millennials, or as I like to call them, adults under 40. So that's amazing, right?
Well, there's even more amazing stuff, none of which has anything to do with business in the just spot-on view. But if you broaden your lens a little bit, you're going to say, Oh, that's got some amazing implications.
You know, for one thing, we have a longer life expectancy according to the World Health Organization. This is a quote, "global average life expectancy increased five and a half years between 2000 and 2016, the fastest increased since the 1960s. Those gains reverse declines during the 1990s when life expectancy fell in Africa because of the AIDS epidemic and in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union."
Think about it. It's not that people don't die of AIDS any longer. It's not that people don't die because of economically depressed conditions, and I'll speak a little bit more on that in a moment. But overall, people are living longer. They're healthier. Cancer rates are down. The American Cancer Society said "the death rate from cancer in the U S has declined steadily over the past 25 years. As of 2016 with a cancer death rate for men and women combined had fallen 27% from its peak in 1991. This decline translates to about one and a half percent per year, and more than 2.6 million deaths avoided between 1991 and 2016." Again, that's amazing. So people are, you know, living longer. People are healthier, they're more connected.
And that all leads to the fact that we have a growing middle class according to the Brookings Institution. "As of [September, 2018] just over 50% of the world's population or some 3.8 billion people live in households with enough discretionary expenditure to be considered middle-class or rich." That's amazing. And it's a reality that would have been tough to predict not that long ago. But that's the world we live in.
You know, it's, think about Star Trek and the fact that they talk about, you know, "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Yes, I'm a nerd. I've been watching "Star Trek: Picard." I love it. It's amazing. You should check it out.
But this idea that, you know, in the future we will have fewer concerns because some of our more basic needs — you know, if we think Maslow's hierarchy — are being taken care of. We no longer worry as much about lodging and food and shelter and basic health. And I want to be really clear, obviously, there's a lot more than can be done.
I promise you I'm going to come to that, but we live in amazing times. You know, just as a, for instance, think about the things that exist now that would have sounded like science fiction even 10 to 15 years ago, but no longer do. We have space tourism launching this year. Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin will begin flights this year. According to the BBC, "Swiss bank UBS released a report," this was in 2019, "that estimated space tourism could become a $3 billion industry in the next 10 years." There was an interesting article in late December on Politico that published an article about concerns about the lack of regulation in space tourism. And this isn't a science fiction piece. This is like a legitimate serious conversation they're having. You know?
Also not science fiction, quantum computing made huge breakthroughs in 2019, with Google claiming they had achieved quantum superiority. Now, there's probably a little bit of PR in that. But that's extraordinary. We have things like quantum teleportation. We have things like gene editing with CRISPR. We have telepresence and augmented reality, and oh, I don't know, podcasts and all kinds of crazy stuff that people take for granted day in and day out.
If we don't live in the future — I don't know when we will — right now. To be fair, I want to point out two things here. One, I'm sure if you're an adult under 40 right now, and especially if you're an adult under 30 right now, you're probably saying, well, c'mon, this is just normal, and that's kind of the point. If you're older than 40, if you're older than 35 a lot of this stuff was the future, not that long ago. And today it's normal. It's reality. And that's something we need to just, accept, we just need to take in and, you know, own, right? We need to embrace it.
The Bad News: We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274)
Now the other side of this is, of course, the future isn't all good news. We've seen a rise of hate groups and criminal activity on the internet. That's terrible, right? I'm, I'm paraphrasing Benedict Evans, who's a partner in the venture capital firm a16z, who recently gave a talk and said, you know, when everyone is connected to the internet, everyone includes the bad people.
So you absolutely get bad actors and you know, whether they're doing it for fun, whether they're doing it for profit, or whether they're doing it for fun, like trolls and things like that. In his fantastic book "LikeWar," which is stylized as #likewar, the writer Peter W. Singer quoted Robert Bateman who said, "Once every village had an idiot. It took the internet to bring them all together." Which is not, I mean, it's a funny line, but it's also tragic.
I have mentioned many times before that "digital is like gravity" and quoting Paul DeLillo, the a French philosopher, you know, "when you build the ship, you also build the shipwreck. When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck." And digital is like gravity. It's got these problems.
I had a podcast episode not too long ago where I asked did we break the internet or did the internet break us? And I think those are questions we have to pay a lot of attention to. You know, I'm going to give you my point of view on this in just a moment.
But I want to take a step back to this great book from, Oh gosh, 10 years ago or more, a guy by the name of Joel Garreau, who wrote a book called "Radical Evolution." And he talked about the fact that there are multiple scenarios for the future. He called them the Heaven scenario, the Hell scenario, and the Prevail scenario. Right? I've also heard them referred to as "the Pollyanna scenario," right, where everything's going to be amazing. The "Gray Goo scenario" where everything's going to go to crap, and "the Muddle Through scenario," you know, where we just kind of take one step forward and 1.99 steps back.
And I'm going to be honest, I think that's the scenario that's most likely, the muddle through. You know, the future is not utopia, though there are elements of utopia in it. You know, when we talk about things like cancer rates going down and longer life expectancy and more people being middle class and having access to a modern economy, that's phenomenal, right? And that's before you get to the science fiction stuff, like space tourism and access to information and all that kind of stuff, right? That's utopian. That's heaven. That's Pollyanna, right? It's also not all dystopia.
You know that we don't live in a utopia. We don't live in a dystopia. We just kind of live in a "Topia" where things kind of muddle through and we have muddled the through for millennia, and I expect we're likely to continue to do so.
There's going to be amazing breakthroughs that make the world a better place. And we're going to have bad actors and criminals and all those other kinds of things of people who want to exploit the system to their own advantage. You know, when we look at people, when we look at some of the divisive rhetoric on the internet, some of the people who are, you know, saying terrible things or doing terrible things, you know, ask yourself who benefits from this. Are they are these legitimately good actors? Are these people who are trying to thrive on the chaos? So I think we have to recognize that, you know, it's not utopia. It's not dystopia, it's just a "Topia." And we will muddle through.
What You Can Do About It: We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274)
Now, if you think about it, I think there's a few things you can do to, to, you know, do well at because we live in the future.
And the first is kind of embrace the chaos. And I don't mean, you know, I don't mean necessarily create more chaos or add to the chaos. I mean, it's likely we're gonna muddle through. It's not all going to be wonderful, but it's probably not all going to be crap. You know, take it for granted that this is the world in which we live and try to make changes for the better in the areas that you can for the people around you.
Another thing you can do is learn to live in the future. Keep learning, keep reading. I'm going to paraphrase yet another quote, and I would attribute this if I could find the source, but there was a politician who said, once upon a time, you may as well embrace the future. You're going to live in it anyway.
That's the reality. That's the world in which we live, and so you're better off saying, okay, if that's true, if we live in the future, how do I live in it successfully?
Another thing you can do is plan. You know, I realized that dropping quotes all over the place here, but one of my favorite comes from a Yiddish expression that says, "Man plans, God laughs," by which it means that the circumstances that happen every day will likely force you to change whatever plans you make, sometimes dramatically. You know, Mike Tyson probably had the best version of this when he said, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." But that doesn't mean you shouldn't plan. It means that you should have a plan that's adaptable as circumstances change.
If you know change is going to occur, why not plan for that change and say, okay, what do I do if this occurs? What will I do if this occurs, what will I do if that occurs? What do I do? You know, what do I do to achieve the outcomes that I'm looking for? How do I make sure I put myself in a position to be successful as circumstances change and for lots of different definitions of success, not just in business, but in your personal life, in your interpersonal relationships, in your you know, health and wellness.
And that leads to my last point that I want to talk about, which is, let's be fair, the future hasn't always been bright for everybody. So look for opportunities to bring along those who are currently left behind. You know, I think it's really clear that the technologists and tech evangelists often only look at the bright side. They don't always look at the impacts — whether they're environmental or financial or cultural or just basic human — of those who don't get to participate as early adopters. And the reasons that they don't pay attention to this aren't evil. They're just blinded by the bright side. And let's be fair, they have some reason to be.
Think about all the news about longer life expectancies, more people in the middle class, greater access to information, et cetera. Full disclosure, this may be my blind spot. But just because it will probably get better for everyone eventually doesn't mean it's all good for everyone now. In fact, quite the opposite. And you don't have to look to the far side of the world to find examples of that.
Think about people in your local communities who struggle with access to education or information or you know, things like water that isn't mostly made of lead, right? I mean, you don't have to go that far to find places where people are being left behind. And the thing you can do is ask, okay, what can I do about that? How can I help?
I once met a hotel operator in Mexico who had built a series of schools for local kids to improve their access to education, to improve their education and their economic prospects. And yes, one of the reasons he did it was because he wanted to improve the quality of the workforce in his area. And yes, one of the reasons he wanted to do it was to give himself access to a local market. But he was educating far more kids than he could ever hope to employ and far more kids than he could ever hope would stay in his hotel. And he knew that, and in his view, that was a good thing.
I think it's amazing that you have the ability to use these tools to do well for people. And even if you don't believe that helping others matters altruistically — and I do by the way — but just like this hotel operator, think about how you can benefit if you have richer customers, more educated employees, and all the other benefits that come with that.
We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274) Conclusion
So we live in amazing times. We live in an era of unbridled opportunity. We have people who are living longer. They're making more money. They have access to more information that should bring the world closer together, that should bring you closer to your customers, but also just closer to people generally. And if that isn't a bright vision of the future, I don't know what is.
So don't just wait for the future to happen to you. Embrace it. Recognize that you live in the future and that because of that, you can do some truly extraordinary things. Personally, I can't wait to see what you do with it.
Show Closing — We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274)
Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are at a time for this week, but I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode, as well as an archive of all our past episodes by going to TimPeter.com/podcast again, that's TimPeter.com/podcast. Just look for episode 274.
While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to you every single week. You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Overcast, whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud, or Thinks Out Loud, we should show up for any of those. While you're there. I'd also appreciate it if you could provide us a positive rating or review. It helps listeners find us and it helps them understand what the show is all about. It makes a big difference for the podcast overall.
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As ever, I'd like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter by going to solosegment.com.
With that, I want to say thanks so much to you for tuning in. I really appreciate you listening. I know I say this week after week after week, but I really would not do the show without you. It means so much to me to have you listen every single week. I hope you have a great rest of your week, wherever you may be. I hope you have a fantastic weekend ahead and I look forward to speaking with you again on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be safe, be well, and as ever take care everybody.