At the risk of killing the joke by over-analyzing it, what I love about this meme is that it depicts a contingent vision of the future. It says: the future can be incredible, a shimmering Jetsons-like utopia where everything is amazing and life is easy, but only if certain conditions are met.
That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about the future. And it’s why, when someone asks me whether I think Technology X or Company Y is going to make the world better or worse, my answer is usually: It depends!
Will AI free us from mundane tasks and help us solve humanity’s biggest problems, or will it eliminate millions of jobs and create a dystopian society of haves and have-nots? It depends!
Is social media going to strengthen communities and increase access to information, or will it increase polarization and erode the foundations of democratic society? It depends!
Will Amazon provide good, rewarding jobs or usher us into a future of labor exploitation and algorithmic management? It depends!
All of these outcomes depend on choices made by humans – executives, workers, politicians, investors, users – in the present. Nothing about the future is inevitable or fully baked; everything rides on what we decide to do with the tools and resources we have, and whether we decide to design and use new technologies in a way that makes people’s lives better or worse.
In Futureproof, I tried to strike a balance between optimism and pragmatism – explaining how AI and automation could make our lives either much, much better or much, much worse, and how the difference between those outcomes rests, in large part, on the personal and political choices we make today. I’m going to try to strike that same balance in this newsletter. I’ll keep sharing stray thoughts, links to things I find interesting and the occasional mini-essay. But I’ll also try to pitch things forward, and talk about how certain choices are bringing us closer to, or further from, the utopian vision of the future we all want. You could think of it as “Society if…” in newsletter form.
As I do that, I’ll be thinking a lot about this guy from the meme: