A human life span is roughly 80 years. This sets the horizone for how far into the future we are able to see. Anything beyond that horizon becomes hard to grasp. Untangible. Slipping through your fingers.
This inability of ours causes us to paint ourselves into corners all the time. Remember the Y2K bug? Our inability to see that we needed to use four digits to represent a year could have caused us serious problems. Luckily, it turned out fine.
In Sweden, we are running out of registration numbers for cars. With three letters and three digits, it was believed that we could never runt out of combinations. Ok, not all letters are used and some combinations are disregarded, but still it leaves quite a good number of combinations. Fifty years later, we are running out of combinations.
We have difficulties estimating new advances in any field. In the beginning the growth is so small that we don’t notice it at all. When it picks up a little speed, the people with special interest in that field start to recognize it. Then the effect of exponential growth truly kicks in and there’s a rapid spread around the world.
To survive you have to adjust. If you don’t, you’ll be left treading water to stay above the surface whilst others learn to swim. The notion that still persists among older people is that you either have a job or you start a business that you dedicate yourself to. Usually, you stay at the same job for a very long time. The business that you start is traditionally not scaleable, but relies heavily on you performing some kind of service, for instance being a plummer.
If they read about someone who has started multiple businesses, they instantly draw the conclusion that they must be a failure. The notion that you can build up a business and then sell it at profit and move on to the next one is not a concept that they can grasp. If you start a business you stick with it the rest of your life; why would you ever want to do it any other way?
It’s not easy to keep up. Sometimes I also feel as if the world is spinning way too fast. But we have to try to keep up with it. We have to constantly educate ourselves to stay on top of the game.
It seems as if around age 45, people stagnate and tend to think that they’ve done their part and now it’s the younger people’s turn. Come on, they probably have half their life left! Are they just going to sit around and wait? Do something! Anything!
There was a documentary about a woman that lost her spouse at age 90. She also thought that she would die soon. But she didn’t. So now at the age of 103 she has a successful blog and educates 80 year olds on how to use social media. Her motto is ”Things were not better before.” Talk about choosing yourself.
Every day I try not to stagnate. I want to learn something new every day. Every evening I ask myself what did I learn today? This is intertwined with the question of who did I help today. Because when helping someone, you usually learn something. Every day I also ask my kids what they have learned today. Usually they say ”Nothing.” But I encourage them to think further and identify something that they’ve learnt. Not neccesarily in school. To be honest, probably not in school.
Unfortunately, the school system hasn’t been able to keep up either. In Sweden, home schooling is not an option. It’s very difficult to get approval for that. But you can take control of your children’s education by teaching them the things that school don’t. My children are still quite small, but I’ve started to show them videos of great innovations, like what 3D printers can do. They’ve also been exposed to learning programming via Scratch. There’s talk about programming becoming obligatory in school, in the same way as English is. We’ll see how that goes, the older generations don’t really see the need for it. If you always close the browser window and start a new one every time you want to go to a different website, you’re not going to recognize the benefits of learning how to code.
Sadly, we also suffer from an inability to remember our history. This causes us to repeat the same mistakes all over again, some more severe than others.
How can we learn from our mistakes and how can we try to have a better handle on the future? We need people who can think more freely. The ones that can come up with a multitude of ideas. Even crazy ideas.
These are the people that make the world a better place. The people that are constantly evolving and coming up with new innovations. It’s difficult to think outside of the box, but not impossible. If you practice you become better at it.
Steve Jobs said: “You cannot ask people what they want because they don’t know it.”
It’s not as if I was longing and dreaming of an iPhone. Now that I have one, I cannot imagine life without it. In a few years the term personal computer will be obsolete since everyhing will be seamlessly integrated in our everyday life.
I believe that an area that will change dramatically during the coming years is healthcare. Cheaper technology will make the lab on a chip a reality where you can test for all kinds of diseases at home. Our therapies will become better and more directed towards the disease itself, not knock out the whole person. Genetic engineering will become a reality. Disease prevention by lifestyle changes will be more accessible and direct, since you’ll be able to do blood tests at home to immediately see the effects of your changes.
Interacting with the doctor will change dramatically as we become more aware. After all, you are the only expert on you. In Sweden, the first steps towards a transformed health care system has been taken through the digital online access to your medical charts. In the future, I belive we’ll be able to add information and data ourselves into those charts. Making your health and wellbeing a collaborative effort between you and your doctor.
We need those people who can see further than the horizone. Who can envision things that are mind blowing to the rest of us. Without those people the whole human race will be left treading water until we drown. If we want to survive we have to learn how to swim.