Predictions about the future always tell you most about the time they were made in. Let’s say a Brylcreemed futroscoper from 1961 was trying to soothsay what kind of jobs would exist in 2011. His imagination would naturally dwell on Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s recent space flight. I can just see him hammering the typewriter now, the excitable fool: Sputnik Commander! Rocket Bus Conductor! Space Warrior!

My suspicion is ... the future could well be, you know, a bit meh. Technology will astonish us, but it will still fail (did our 1961 guy foretell the forehead-thumping evening I recently spent defragmenting my hard drive?). Metropolitan couples watching the 2061 equivalent of Mad Men, set in a 2011-era internet start-up, will find some of our workplace attitudes appalling (‘To think how ageist we were!’), some laughable (‘Look at the size of that BlackBerry!’) and some, perhaps, admirable (‘Remember social security?’).

They’ll still probably be trying to pull the girl in accounts, angling for a promotion and moaning
about the Tube. With any luck, they’ll recognise us as humans, just like them. So what would you rather your grandchildren became – a vertical gardener, a space architect or a geeky A.I. guy?

At Istanbul 2020, the Paralympic Games drew larger audiences than its Olympic equivalent, as developments in prosthetic limbs led to an astonishing series of records. By Mumbai 2028, performance-enhancing drugs were so common in everyday life (from the miracle ‘Jet-Lag’ drug to executive ‘creativity enhancers’) that the IOC legitimised them. By Dhaka 2040 developments in human cell production made Paralympics redundant – and a new games took shape with no bans on genomic alterations or nano-medical enhancements. As the Trans-Olympics graced Europe at Milton Keynes 2062, British hope Victoria Sayal (above) is close to the seven-second mark for the 100 metres.

Jackson (above) is one of three humans who works at the Centurion retirement home in East Finchley. His job is to service the A.I. machines who do the caring. ‘Charlie… wakey wakey Charlie,’ he’ll say, waving his hand at the robot’s preceptors. Then he’ll turn to you with some inscrutable diagnosis: ‘That’ll be your mood interfacer’ or ‘the nano-drive’s totally screwed’. His abrupt manner unnerves the centagenarian residents, more used to the predictable service bots. There is a rumour that Jackson shares his basement office with an interactive sex doll named Pearl. The rumour’s true: Jackson doesn’t really care for humans.

Laura (above) is passionate about the local produce she grows on her high-rise Bow allotment where developments in aeroponics and hydroponics allow 20 storeys of vegetable production. The food industry has become split between traditionalist and ‘sub-molecular gastronomists’ who have revolutionised food production (and high-end restaurants) with their ability to engineer taste on a molecular level. Laura sees her brand of hi-tech, low-carbon production as the ideal middle way between technology and tradition.

Text by Richard Godwin.
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