Longworth: A look ahead

Times are a-changing and our past 2020 year was filled with anxious moments and disturbing events. But where are we headed next year and into the future?

Richard Longworth column header

Our past is a haunting reminder of a life past-lived that might never return. It was a life of consumerism, achievement and success, experiences of temporary euphoria. We now realize simple contentment and freedom is something we desire and wish for in our future.

Is there an opportunity to live a more joyful life?

I think so. I believe the pandemic has highlighted a disturbing reality for most.

Here is what may happen in the next few years.

You’ll probably move closer to old friends and family. Recent generations have moved further and further from home to pursue careers in the big city. In the past, we embraced metropolitan and cosmopolitan lifestyles, labeling people who stay near their hometowns as unambitious and provincial.

The future is not going to be a world where you want to fend for yourself. The economy is not going to experience a V-shaped recovery.

Living without a support structure is already pushing millions of families past their breaking point. More young people have moved back in with their parents since the Great Depression. Fewer people will be running off to the big city to chase their dreams.

The economy will sink. World governments can not afford to keep supporting industries like airline, banks and hotels as in the past. Airlines already plan to lay off thousands of workers when their economic relief runs out. Landlords will not tolerate eviction moratoriums much longer.

Banks and governments in our modern society have grown to such an enormity and are poorly regulated that they are on the brink of disaster.

Destroying any possibility of further prosperity, it will transform the way we live today and in the foreseeable future. It might mean no more flying for the average earner. No more family vacations. No more binge buying on Amazon. Life in the future will be austere.

Probably not a terrible thing, at least for the planet.

Healthcare industry will collapse. Without universal healthcare, hospitals and medical practices will start to fall apart. People with terminal illnesses will simply opt out of treatment. They will be unable to afford it. They will choose to suffer rather than leave their families riddled with debt. Fewer people in general will seek medical care, except when it’s a real emergency.

Young people will start providing their own care for their aging parents replacing nursing homes and retirement communities. They probably will not be able to do it as well, but they will not have a choice.

Fewer will be able to afford medications or a universal medical plan.

We certainly hope all this doesn’t happen, but it might and possibly build an empathetic society.

You’ll probably buy a smaller home. A lot of us grew up on the idea that one day we’d own a mansion, or some island villa. The desire and aspirations for millionaire estates is part of what got us in this mess.

Large houses consume a lot of energy, unaffordable taxes and high maintenance costs make us house poor. Smaller houses are more sensible in every way.

And when the time comes, easier to sell.

You’ll probably be driving an electric car. Most countries have committed to phasing out gas-powered cars completely by 2030. We all should start driving less. The pandemic has made that easier. The next time you buy or lease a car, try an electric one — or at least a hybrid.

You might also consider sharing a car with extended family and friends.

North American governments need to incentivize smart, electric cars. They might even consider stricter regulations on vehicles.

You’ll probably add solar panels to your home. Solar power is becoming more affordable and more popular every year. You can finance it now. In the long run, this will save you money on energy. It will also help you get through the upticks in severe weather, thanks to climate change. Power companies will struggle to provide service during storm outages. If you have energy storage, then you’ll be able to use appliances when the grid is down.

You’ll probably start homesteading. Climate change will impact crops and agriculture. Items like coffee and chocolate could become increasingly rare.

Some people are already growing a little cautious of relying completely on commercial farms and grocery chains for their food. They’re trying to become more self-sufficient.

This is called homesteading. Just think if you moved closer to friends and family and start to homestead together.

You’ll probably begin sharing and bartering. ‘Buy Nothing’ groups have already spread across the country. The “Sharing Economy” will flourish. People are exchanging goods and services directly.

Money probably will retain its’ value, but a ‘new’ cryptocurrency might replace fiat government-backed money exchange.

You’ll probably take degrees online. Not only is the current post-secondary education system in bad shape but online courseware is replacing college degrees. Professional certificate courses offered by Google, Udemy, Coursera at the fraction of the cost of a university program is altering the landscape in education. Higher education can not continue raising tuition fees, as the value of college degrees plummets. There’s no reason to spend $100,000 on a Harvard degree without any guarantee of a lucrative job.

You’ll probably prefer to work from home. Working from home isn’t a pleasant choice for many. It comes with downsides that we’re all now well aware of. But future employees will continue to work part of every week from home.

To summarize, family traditions will be restored; we will become more nationalistic, more isolated and less globalist. In the long term it will be a gentler, kinder world with the realization that more is never better.

For 40 years Richard Longworth worked as a systems analyst and university professor at Capilano University teaching math, information technology, and system analysis and implementation. Longworth has published three books Reflections on Life Issues, Turning the Self Inside Out, and Harnessing the Internet into a Knowledge Framework – all related to technology and trends in the industry.