500 Words — Day Nineteen: Fortune Tellers
One thing that I have noticed over the years is that in the month of January, people, for whatever reason, like to prognosticate the state of the future in technology, economics, or society. Something about the year incrementing by one brings the fortune tellers out to speak their mind about the future. They are often off the mark as most fortune tellers are because the future is unpredictable and most people use their intuitions as models even though they lack the objective data that would improve the probability of their predictions. Most people see the future with their hearts rather than with their head.
The fortune tellers speak of the end of the world, the imminent echoes of war and chaos. I see people that are comfortable, perhaps, too comfortable living boring, banal lives structured with routines that they probably don’t fancy too much. While chaos is exciting, chaos also relinquishes control. And most people like to have control of whatever situation they are in. So, while there is that animalistic spirit rooting for chaos inside of you, typically that goes away when the immediate consequences of chaos become noticeable. You get pushed outside of your comfort zone and fear seeks the situation to be put back under control. This is one reason why violence and unrest are often temporary swells in countries where chaos is a luxury. People may be frustrated with their terrible jobs and poor pay while billionaires can accumulate massive amounts of money with little effort. But the threat of bodily harm and injury often remind people that chaos and volatility can always make things worst. It is only when people feel pushed back into a corner, as opposed to feeling bored that we would find ourselves really in trouble. So 2022 might not be a good year, but certainly it will be a lot more boring than those anticipating the apocalypse would lead you to believe.
The fortune tellers of technology speak of all the wonderful things technology will do. How robotics will change the way we manufacture. How electric cars will save the environment from catastrophe. How cryptocurrency will impower creators and decentralize the power of outdated institutions. Most of these folks are marketers that are often floating their interests. They may be investors or enthusiasts of the technology that believe will progress humanity forward. Robotics and artificial intelligence are still limited to narrow problems and lack adaptability. There is also still a chip shortage. Electric cars require mining certain metals from the ground (which generates pollution) and are still dependent on an energy grid that is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. And for the electronics in those cars, again, the chip shortage. Cryptocurrency suffers from excess liquidity seeking a place to sit and investors hungry for unrealistic gains. Because there is so much demand and cryptocurrencies have artificial scarcity built in to them, they make a good breeding ground for speculative bubbles and mediocre products that cater to hungry investors as opposed to good design and long-term product market fit. There’s a lot of reasons to be concerned amidst all the potential excitement our fortune tellers might exude.
So, in summary, I leave you with this prediction. The future will be more boring than most people expect. Technology will advance more slowly than people expect. The more emotional a person is, the more surprised they’ll end up being by the end of the year and the more likely they’ll exaggerate minor events. We might move towards utopia or dystopia by the end of the year, but in all honestly, we probably already live in a rather boring one.