What will the world look like in 2030?

As the world becomes increasingly connected, will technologyfree the human race and solve the age-old problems of the world? Orwill it lead to chaos and misery? Utopia or dystopia— what's is gonna be?

This may seem like just philosophical prognostication— and it is — but it turns out that there arehuge implications for the insurance industrythat should be considered. Let's look at the best case and worstcase scenarios that could result from a world where all things— living and non-living — are instrumented,monitored, analyzed and automated.

Utopian view

Utopian novels always seem to have an important element oftechnology progress to enable a better world (although they alsotend to have political dimensions as well). Assessing the currentstate of technology and the potential advancements of variousemerging technologies with optimism yields a future that may havethe following characteristics — or the utopian view.

  • Live long and prosper: Many emergingtechnologies promise to improve our health, extend our lifespans,and generally make the world a safer place. Biotech, genetics, theInternet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing,wearables and other technologies will all contribute.
  • The efficiency machine: Artificialintelligence (AI) and smart machines will allow the world to runitself. With intelligent automation, there will be no errors, nodelays and no accidents.
  • Leisure time galore: Autonomousvehicles, Hyperloop transportation, robotics, and smart homes willfree up people from having to work, spend time traveling, and domundane daily tasks. People will be free to think, create, play andspend time with others. 
  • A global village: Emergingtechnologies will be shared for the good of humanity, solvinghunger, poverty, and disease, while reducing conflict. Smartagriculture, new transportation systems, advancements in renewableenergy, new medical tech and other advances will pave the way to ahappy, connected world.
  • Entertainment bonanza: Individualswill have amazing options for entertainment, including virtualreality explorations of real and imagined worlds and digitalcontent galore. A new renaissance will be unleashed as new leisuretime will be coupled with digital capabilities that allow everyoneto be an artist and creator.

Dystopian view

Humanity has a way of messing things up. Every new societal andtechnology advancement seems to bring new problems. There's littledoubt that emerging technologies will transform our worldsubstantially by 2030, but it's possible that the misuse and abuseof those technologies will lead to disaster, looking something likethe following — or the dystopian view.

  • Surveillance state: Every aspect ofour lives will be monitored and there will be virtually no personalprivacy (okay, some would argue we are there already). The machinesaround us will constantly be watching and recording everythinghappening on the planet while sending it all to the government'sbig data complexes for analysis.
  • Cyber nightmare: The connecteddigital world enables criminals, terrorists, and evil empires tosteal, threaten, influence, and cause real damage to individuals,businesses, and governments. Bad actors are extremely sophisticatedin manipulating techs like AI, big data, and the IoT for nefariouspurposes.
  • Machines run amok: Despite the bestefforts of the designers and operators of intelligent machines,some will go haywire and inflict serious damage. Others will beable to think and create, leading to domination by the machines(The Terminator scenario).
  • Bio-disasters: How many sciencefiction movies have we all seen where viruses sweep through theworld like the plague? As we push the frontiers of genetics,biotechnology, bioprinting, and others, there will be an increasedpotential for human-caused bio-disasters.
  • A jobless future: Leisure time soundsgreat with all the boring tasks taken over by machines. But itcould lead to massive unemployment, which would exacerbate povertyand income equality and result in revolution and anarchy.

In the most extreme dystopia, we could consider end of world(EOW) scenarios — popular in science fiction today, but wewon't go there in this blog.

Insurance implications

Both of the worlds painted here — a wonderful utopiaand a tragic dystopia — are extreme. The most likelyfuture will have some elements of both the utopian and dystopianviews. We are already on a path toward many of these conditions— both good and bad. Does it make any difference for theinsurance industry? You bet!

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