- So, what is life
like in 2020? What inventions will be the telephone, TV & car
- Here is how Europe can prepare for the future
- With multiple chances for business & government innovation
Dear Mr. Friedman, Rifkin and Florida,
Yes indeed, you are right. The world is getting flatter and we need
technology, creativity and talented people to survive. We have to
deal with wealth worldwide, not poverty anymore. Europe possesses
a very strong and very positive legacy. It can and will survive
2020, but it is necessity, not choice, that will drive us. We lose
low and high end jobs, disappearing into the technology and into
other countries. We lose our educational strength. Europe is too
rich and too lazy. Europe needs a dream, a focus. Please permit
me -- an independent European futurist, a native of the old continent,
and proud of it -- to outline European survival in 2020.
So, what's life like in 2020?
We will witness an acceleration in change and an overall sense of
insecurity. Due to globalisation, 2020 is flat,
with less trade, knowledge and entry barriers. 2020 is filled with
nomadic people in a constant flow of short and semi-permanent stays
all over the world, creating a constant brain and workplace circulation.
Due to digitalization, 2020 is virtual
with intelligent houses, cars and streets. Basically,
it is one giant video camera. We will gain and lose privacy. 2020
and, as a result, hyper competitive.
Every one knows your achievements and your failures, and only highest
quality will survive. Government and law enforcement will turn digital
and invisible: less bureaucratic, more powerful. In this world it
is difficult to lie or to hide. The mix of bits, atoms and genes
will cause a production and
services revolution, such as: printing products
at a distance; personal selfservice dashboards for customers & citizens;
and low cost, high quality virtual mobility tools. These inventions
will have the same effect around 2020 as telephone, TV, and automobile
had in the 20th century...
All of this may lead us into a new Golden
Century -- which we will need to tackle the enormous
energy and congestion problems of 2020. In some ways, 2020 resembles
the Middle Ages.
Back then the city provided safety, stimulated trade, and made children
grow up very fast. The world will be crowded with old people with
a lesser drive for innovation. It will make traditional social security
unaffordable, but it will also create a wealthy grey market: Silver
2020 is about customer power, self control and self service. It
is about personalized services around global commodity products,
about making technology invisible. It is about simplicity of choice,
about identity and lifestyle -- the only real cliff hangers in the
fast world of 2020. Such a world needs flat & flexible organisations,
and creative people with a drive for success.
The trend of globalisation, no matter how powerful it is, can be
reversed. The following emerging counter trends might do the job.
Unmanageable congestion problems. Global energy wars. A failure
to stop low talent immigrants, thus creating major safety and social
security problems. A failure to attract top talent immigrants, thus
creating a fallback in research and innovation.
Any European dream worth the name must recognize these trends and
counter trends and must have answers to them. What we need the most,
is energy, passion and enthusiasm.
The energy derived from a shared goal, a goal that every normal
citizen understands and embraces. We need the European equivalent
of a moon landing. In fact, we need multiple
moon landings in 2020. Here they are. We need to
be energy independent and self sufficient. We need global, individual
portability of pensions, education possibilities and health care.
We need to implement smart law enforcement. We need to develop low
cost high quality virtual mobility tools. We need to take advantage
of the Silver Century. We need to lead the production and services
revolution. To maintain our wealth, we need to make our organisation
flexible & creative. To maintain our civilization, we need a
straight back and a secular society.
A dream is not about dreaming. It is about taking action! If in
the next 15 years we land on all these moons, we will survive. So,
let's start innovating now!
As an independent European futurist and regular public speaker,
I have the privilege of presenting the future and sharing my ideas
with many different audiences. Four of these audiences, at the end
of 2005 and the beginning of 2006, made me think about Europe's
future, and write this article.
For Philips Research and a Technical University in Holland, I presented
the future of nanotechnology. It was a distinguished audience of
wise professors, whom I seated in the left corner, and ambitious
young students, whom I seated in the right corner. Place of action:
Eindhoven, The Netherlands. I showed images of technology and even
more images of creativity and communication, images of people. There
in Eindhoven I witnessed a flow of energy, of pioneering spirit,
but afterwards, I became worried. If I were asked to repeat this
presentation in 2020, would the right corner still be filled with
youngsters? Qualified youngsters? Or would it be empty,
meaning I would have to hold my presentation in Bangalore, India?
Then I helped the united top of Dutch civil servants to think about
government in 2015. Most people in the audience were convinced of
their ability to cope with 2015, whatever the situation might be.
That may well be the case for each one of them individually -- all
smart people in fortunate situations -- but I left puzzled with
the question: will "the" government be able to cope with 2015? Will
government be able to reduce governmental chaos, implement truly
digital government services and taxes, keep society secular, and
ready for the rat race for global talent as well? The question remained
unanswered, and that was my second worry.
Then I addressed the Dutch Top 100 of police chiefs, and a bunch
of mayors and public prosecutors. Interactively, we shared ideas
about the future of safety. What safety scenario's are most likely
in 2020? Again, I shared images of technology, but above all images
of renewed authority. Decent citizens have so much to gain from
embedding hi-tech into the safety business process, and these police
chiefs were absolutely willing to do so. The police winners of 2020
will be the upcoming creative leaders that are capable of combining
all of these challenges. I remember vividly one critical remark.
A police chief told me his concern. That technology might well boost
crime solving rates but it would destroy civil rights at the same
time. I am convinced this is not true. Using a proper mix, crime
solving can rise to a stunning 50% with no loss of civil rights
whatsoever. Due to the essential characteristic of smart law enforcement:
only the criminals, not decent citizens, are confronted, bothered
and checked in a smart world. My main worry: will police officers
have enough backbone to regain the authority in the street they
lost in the 20th century?
Last but not least, I dwelled in the beautiful, ancient city of
Rome. There I had a Question and Answer session with the top 50
managers of a multinational company. We talked about the probable
and their desirable future. We brainstormed about the smart deployment
of technology based on the user point of view. We talked about making
technology invisible. We talked about identity and lifestyle, about
simplicity of choice, the only real cliff hangers in the virtual
and fast world of 2020. We talked about technology making illnesses
disappear, therefore eliminating the need for certain medical devices
and functions. We talked about marketing solutions and nearness
instead of products. Basically, without saying so, we talked about
turning threats into chances. I had no worries after this inspiring
Europe has serious problems. Hell no, let me rephrase that: Europe
faces interesting challenges. Stay positive! The old European economies
go down on several international listings. Europe is too rich, too
lazy and lacks a dream, a focus. And I am not quite sure if Europe
values its liberties and its civilisation enough to fight for it,
now that it is being challenged. Europe needs a wake up call.
Thousand experts on five continents told the CIA that the keyword
for 2020 is insecurity. Old economic roles have changed,
old habits have died, old certainties have disappeared. It is necessity,
not choice, that will drive us. We have not seen anything yet, because
change itself will be accelerating. We might well return to the
Middle Ages. Back then, the city provided safety, stimulated trade,
and made children grow up very fast. It was also the age of cruelty
and intolerance. With the keyword being "insecure", our response
keywords must be: "flexible" & "creative" to maintain our wealth,
and "straight back" & "indifference" to maintain our civilization.
But hey, let's count our blessings as well! Europe has a very powerful,
very positive legacy of civilization to be proud of. Equal rights
for women and gays, 50 years of peace, a secular society with a
strict separation of religion and government, freedom of press,
a powerful knowledge base, low on corruption, high on culture &
wealth, still going strong on patents and nanopatents. European
citizens are all millionaires compared to the poor people who lived
in the Middle Ages. And maybe Europe's biggest achievement nowadays
is our humour and self ridicule. I am proud of these assets, and
they are going to help us tackle the challenges. Every problem described
here is a chance for innovation and spiritual growth.
Are you fit to tackle 2020?
Do you think you are fit to tackle the challenges? Fit for survival
in 2020? Suppose it is January 1st 2020. You've got mail! (or something
alike). It says you are fired, together with all other European
employees. Freelance work and entrepreneurship is the rule, steady
employment the exception. Furthermore, the mail says government
budget is cut by half. A flat tax is introduced. Half of it is going
to be spent on tools for entrepreneurs to create wealth, like education,
research and innovation. The other half is going to be spent on
basics like health care and safety. Social security has disappeared.
Government is no longer redistributing wealth, only stimulating
the creation of wealth.
So, ask yourself. Would your skills be enough to compete in a knowledge
economy where maybe all jobs need higher education? Where much work
will be footloose? In 2020, all jobs and all organisations will
be decomposed and split into various virtual and physical parts.
Maybe your entire profession will be obsolete. So the question is,
will you be re-hired? Or will you yourself do the hiring?
(Maybe I should not be asking you. Maybe your children
should read this piece and answer these questions, because they
will be the future and experience it as self evident and natural.)
The answer, of course, depends on the eventual situation in 2020.
So, what is life like in Europe in 2020? The following trends will
reshape Europe in 2020. Thanks to globalisation, 2020 will be flat,
with less trade barriers, country barriers and knowledge barriers,
but more identity barriers. Thanks to demographics and immigration,
it will be crowded with culturally mixed people who have
much less in common than now and who are generally rather old, with
a lesser drive for innovation. Thanks to technology (the mix of
nano, digital and bio), 2020 will be virtual or smart.
An all-video, all-virtual world in which everybody and everything
is online without even realizing it, filled with intelligent machines,
buildings and cars. Intelligent machines will be lighter, smaller
and will use less energy in a more efficient way. They will sense
their environment, sense themselves, able to make decisions and
to be repaired at a distance. In fact, every machine will be a mobile
phone, talking to their owner but mainly to other machines. Our
cars will be connected to other cars and drive themselves, aware
of the road and your destination, thereby reducing congestion. It
will increase overall security. Uninsured driving? Driving in a
stolen car? Exceeding the current speed limit? Impossible.
The combined effects of the virtual and the flat world will change
the very nature of every business model, every production process,
every service. It will lead to a transparent, hyper competitive
world and an invisible, less bureaucratic and yet more powerful
You ask me if it will be a happy world? Well, that depends on you.
On what we do and don't. These trends pose both the problem and
the solution. They contain tremendous opportunities for realizing
the very concrete dream of a creative, secular and wealthy Europe
in 2020. They may lead us to excellence, but missing out on them
may well bring us down. Cope or perish! This story is not a story
of ideology; it is a story of necessity. There is enough room for
growth for all continents and for cooperation between them. A dream
is only worth dreaming if you have a path and a toolbox and a plan
of action. Here is how to seize the opportunities.
So, what's life in 2020? One big video camera, adult children, your
home and the street as living creatures
In 2020, we will always be online without realizing it. And not
only we will always be online -- so will our machines, cars and
homes. Your coffee machine and the walls in your home will talk
to you, and most of the time those machines will talk to each other.
We will even have self-cleaning and self-repairing bridges, cars,
tables, homes, walls and windows. Our surroundings, our homes, our
streets will be like living creatures, sensitive to us and even
responding to our behaviour. You will not be able to tell the difference
between the virtual and the physical world anymore. Physical will
be virtual and virtual will be physical. The internet grid will
merge into the power grid, the transport grid, the grid of shareable
machines, the grid of rules, the grid of taxes, the semantic grid.
When you think 2020, think video. Video-dating, video-chatting,
video-making-your-homework, video-working-together, in short, video-life.
You will be watching movies, chatting and phoning with other people
all over the world on the walls of your house. You will work together
virtually, you will enjoy sports together virtually, you will date
virtually. You can keep in touch with your (grand)parents by taking
them into your house virtually. Daily eye to eye contact combined
with automated medical checks, using the giant video walls. Like
in the Middle Ages, but without the lack of privacy that was so
common in those days. Life will be very intense with lots of partly
pleasurable and partly unavoidable sensory and information stimulations.
The silent printed images that surround us now, will come to noisy
life in 2020. In the streets we will be overflowed with personalized
video walls. It will not be possible to escape the huge and noisy
video advertisements. Two possible scenario's: either we get used
to it, or it leads to government regulation.
In 2020 the world is one big video screen, one big video camera,
one big mobile phone. In this transparent world, it is difficult
to hide. The mobile will be the most important lifestyle instrument
and small camera's will be all over the place. We will be filmed
while drinking, walking down the street, having sex, fighting, doing
our jobs, without prior notice or permission. We will lose our geographical
privacy since our GPS-location is always available. We will have
the (non)privacy of the celebrities of today. VIP-spotting will
turn into neighbour-spotting. Private communication can and will
turn up on internet for public display without the user's permission,
and it will undermine public trust. These new facts of life may
well lead to an increasingly exhibitionist culture in which porn
images are street images, in which sex is not private but (semi)
public, fun to share or to watch. Even at present, teen boys and
girls use video chat sites to masturbate life, anonymous or even
face visible, for any virtual visitor passing by. Fun! Share! This
situation is, literally, unique in the history of mankind. What
will it do to us? I don't know...
Due to the incredible amount of easy means of communication, children
will be exposed to adult content in all thinkable ways at a very
early age. They will get used to kicks, they will need more kicks
and even more extreme kicks. Just staring out of the car on the
way to the holiday destination, or feeling bored, like children
in the old fashioned days did, without a screen providing distraction
and entertainment, will be unthinkable. Thrill Fun Chill! The ever
present mobile phone will give children not only more personal entertainment,
but also more personal privacy and personal reachability then they
ever had in history (or wanted to have). This will make parent's
at-home supervision obsolete. It will pose the biggest threat and
the biggest challenge to modern upbringing.
In this fast video world, in this zap & cut & paste culture,
children will be adult very early. Adults in a speedy nano-second
video culture of psychological multi tasking. They will grow up
earlier than ever before. A bit like the early maturing in the Middle
Ages. Puberty will be shorter than now and start earlier. Children
will be street wise, drink alcohol and have sex at a much earlier
age than now. It will be quite normal for youngsters to work and
travel all around the world -- if not physically, then at least
virtually. They will be extremely critical consumers, which will
force businesses and governments to stick to ultimate high quality
standards. Their horizon will be broader. It will make our children
more socially adaptable and cause concentration problems at the
same time. They will probably not be able to tell the difference
between private and public anymore, between school yard and pub.
Virtually, it's all the same!
In 2020, it will be easy to get to know new people worldwide and
to innovate worldwide and it will be easy to spread hate worldwide.
Back in 1994, I was one of the first Dutch Internet pioneers with
his own website. My first two thoughts back then: Wow, this
means freedom!; and Wow, everything will be Web! Theoretically,
I knew the Web would ease the spread of both compassion and hate,
but I never imagined religious hate and intolerance would mount
so easily to such furious heights. Even in our daily life, we tend
to be more brutal, more demanding, less polite, less polite. It
will probably be more and more difficult to find government leaders
willing to take the heat from citizens acting like mad, brutal dogs.
We may see global multimedia multinationals with no morals whatsoever,
providing depravated bread & games, like in the ancient Roman Empire,
but now for a global audience and with a global moral impact.
All in all, 2020 is the living "experience economy". With less physical
and more virtual shops. Consuming will be theater, and theater will
be consumed day and night. This fast world with fast emotions and
fast hypes and extreme kicks and too many choices will drive us
mad and will create a powerful need for counter trends like silence,
quietness and slowness, and businesses that organise warmth, simplicity
& choices. Two scenario's are possible here. 1, Our notion of
embarrassment itself will change, our notion of what is private
and what is public. Or 2, We will turn to government and technology
for protection against these grave privacy intrusions. We will badly
need technology tools to give us back control over our pictures,
our documents and our life. We will want technology to enable "personal
selfservice dashboards" and "permission instruments", like pictures
and camera's and screens that only display if we give permission.
Personal Dashboard 2020. Please give us back control over our life
In 2020, there will be so many companies and governments wanting
to communicate with us, that it is impossible to keep overview.
There will be so many criminals spamming us, trying to steal our
identity and invading our video and locational privacy, that we
will feel like loosing the battle. In 2020, more than ever before
in history, we need control. Control over our personal data, our
subscriptions, our financial transactions, our privacy. Control
over our communications with the rest of the world. We need a tool
to manage all our transactions and personal files and to protect
us against identity theft and spam at the same time. A tool that
integrates all information, flowing into and out of our mobile phone,
our laptop, our home, and gives us the power of selective availability
and selective communication. This tool will help us to make choices
and create simplicity. We need this virtual driver seat because
it is an essential tool for survival in a virtual and transparent
future. And we must be in the driver's seat. Not the government.
Not the bank. Not a global company. But we. We will be in charge
and we can be in charge, for the first time in history.
Call this tool Personal Dashboard, a self-service Information Communication
and Privacy Control Centre. The next big thing after the website,
and a likely bestseller to 8 billion citizens worldwide. Consider
it to be your personal manager. With a few clicks, you subscribe
and unsubscribe to the newspaper, you order your passport and a
pizza, you obtain a residence permit, pay the rent. You allow or
block ads. You allow companies and governments and friends to get
access to you and to deal with you -- or not. You grant permission
to companies and governments to use your personal data -- or not.
In this Personal Dashboard, you will have a current account with
your government. Government will act truly as one government, not
as many. The motto is: 1 government, 1 face, 1 interface, 1 citizen
card -- and your unique dashboard is that interface.
The problem is, no one is building Dashboard yet. Sure, there are
some attempts, but they are weak. I urge everyone who cares about
customer control, to build Dashboard. 8 billion people will buy
Dashboard, and Dashboard Company will be the new Google and the
new Microsoft of 2020. Stop thinking paper. Stop thinking websites.
Start thinking customer power. Start creating Dashboard. Interested
in more detail? Read Personal
Dashboard 2020. Please give us back control over our life. Open
Letter to Bill Gates and Larry Page
The mix of bits, atoms and genes. A new Golden Century in 2020
Three major technologies will shape this smart, virtual world. By
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