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Are we ready to handle the future?

By G. Balasubramanian

“I never think of the future. The future comes soon enough,” said Albert Einstein. In a world where there is a continuous and consistent discussion about ‘the future readiness’ – the inability to predict the future with exactitude, except for some tangible trends, leaves one with as much anxiety as its latent stupidity. Yet, the human efforts to get ready for the future has never been inadequate, rather has been more aggressive than its handling of its present itself. The anxiety neurosis associated with the possibilities of the future has left the humankind with more insecurity than comfort. Predicting the future, Alvin Toffler, wrote in his book ‘Future shock’ as follows:

“FUTURE SHOCK - the disease of change -can be prevented. But it will take drastic social even political action. No matter how individuals try to pace their lives, no matter what psychic clutches we offer them, no matter how we alter education, the society as a whole will be caught on a runway treadmill until we capture control of the accelerative thrust itself.”

Nearly fifty years after release of this book, we are on the runway treadmill unable to control the acceleration that has been triggered by the recent innovations of science and technology which has impacted the thought architecture and life style of the people resulting in newer trends in social dynamics. With multi-dimensional challenges, the human society is facing a kind of chaos and an existential crisis. The future of the future being unpredictable, how the human kind is going to face this existential crisis, which if not handled and monitored, may raise questions about the safety of the race and the planet.

The following challenges are likely to haunt the humans which need to be understood, handled and addressed.

1. Handling Vision, Purpose and Goals

Given the multidimensional, unorganized and unlimited growth drafting the attention of human emotions and temptations, the ability to pinpoint, specify, define and articulate the vision of the future, both at the micro and the macro levels, is going to be an extremely difficult exercise both at the individual level and the societal levels. A journey to be experienced on the go will bring new perspectives and intersect with many of the predefined goals and objectives, calling for repurposing of the objectives and goals from time to time, thus impacting decision making, making them more critical, more contextual and sensitive. Even corporate visions and goals would need interventional surgeries to regulate their functional dynamics both for the purpose of survival and growth. Most institutions may be compelled to rediscover themselves at short intervals.

2. New versions of human identity

The explosion of science and technology with its multi-polar and multi-layer interventions on the existing systems will bring huge conflicts between the human mindsets and virtual systems. With increasing replacement of human interventions to functions by artificial intelligence, and the robotics taking positions to discharge routines with diligence and accuracy, the job markets will stumble. Newer versions of human operations and the urge for the newer identity for humans in professional environments will create conflicts and roadblocks in the pursuit of knowledge, seeking to repurpose their dynamics periodically. Though the human skills will continue to dominate and ensure their superiority over the technology skills, the challenge to evolve will be a continuous requirement. The urgency, need and the context for dominance of human intelligence over the artificial intelligence will be a serious socio-cultural and socio-political debate.

3. Managing psychological challenges

The impact of changing professional designs, systems, organizational behaviour and inter-personal relationships is likely to impact the psychological profile of the professionals. Continuous efforts to cope with changing dynamics is likely to trigger stress, anxiety, fear and loss of self-esteem among the working force. The continuous demand to upgrade or change their skills will create a massive divide between ‘the haves and have-nots of knowledge and skills. With a huge thrust on ‘learning to learn’, team working, remote working and lack of synergy among professional landscapes will create competency divides among professional cohorts. Sparked by ‘Achievement goals’ and ‘the number games’ the struggle to perform and prove will force learning as a necessity. The workforce will require continuous training and re-engineering of their professional skills. Increased cases of self-defeat, self-pity and inability for self-directed learning might call for more counselling, personal and institutional handholding and meaningful interventional mechanics in Professional outfits. “The future is about emotion: reactions to events are usually far more important than the events themselves” says the noted author of the book ‘The future of almost everything’ Patrick Dixon.

4. Loneliness and isolation management

One of the major existential challenges of the future society is likely to be increasing loneliness and isolation. Though relationship through social networks might keep them busy with cognitive and superficial emotional interactions letting them hallucinate profusely, the bonding will be loose, lacking credibility, sustainability and valid foundations. Co-existence will be non-harmonious and will be increasingly formal lacking solid bonding and with declining interdependence. With the symptoms of these trends already becoming visible, fragile relationships are likely to become social concerns to predict and reason out organized behavioral outcomes like the past. The society will have to learn new lessons to deal with newer patterns of emotional disengagements. Loneliness and non-participative mindsets might be a professional challenge to deal with.

5. Unlimited wellness concerns

With the super-industrialism, the concerns relating to global safety in terms of the fundamentals for existence like air, water and food will come under critical and stringent review. Chemical interventions leading to modification of genetics of the natural products may result in unpredictable and unprecedented health concerns. Further the work-life imbalance resulting in stress and irregularities in life styles will drive people to become extra conscious about their life cycle and longevity. Market forces dealing with medical products are already feeding and prospering on the presumptive problems than the real ones. High levels of pollution in spite of the intervention by global agencies will disturb the wealth of nature causing unfamiliar wellness concerns. With fear of unknown haunting the inner consciousness, the psychological support systems in the society will not only be in demand but would grow.

6. Increasing insecurity in social domains

While social constructivism of knowledge and skills will be the fashion of the emerging society, increasing concerns about data, personal privacy and cyber exploitations appear to be an emerging order. With cybercrimes on the increase, the digital manipulations by educated criminals will pose newer problems in forensic investigations. Handling of the financial data and personal profiles would call for enhanced security systems. With depleting trust among individuals and systems, every step of all actions would need an eagle’s eye to watch. Holding and allowing the money to grow will call for intelligent work and expertise.

7. Declining Institutional loyalties

As was predicted by Alvin Toffler, the institutional loyalties will have a serious setback. Consequently, the teams that can protect heritage, quality and continuous growth will vanish, giving rise to non-committed people in organizations who lack passion and intent to growth over a period. Short term gains and growth will provoke the work force to seek greener pastures in split seconds. Professional growth using non-credible branding of individuals and institutions may gain ground using emotional consumerism. The institutional credibility will be on periodic check. “Institutional blindness is a major threat to the future of all corporations” says Patrick Dickson.

The impact of future trends on educational systems will be significant . Michio Kaku observes in his book “The Future of Mind” “Your grades in school, your scores on the SAT, mean less for life success than your capacity to co-operate, your ability to regulate your emotions, your capacity to delay your gratification, and your capacity to focus your attention. Those skills are far more important—all the data indicate—for life success than your IQ or your grades.”

The message from Patrick Dixon seems significant in this context “Take hold of the future or the future will take hold of you - be future wise”-