Back in the 1980s there were ideas and assumptions thrown around about what the future would look like. We would all have robot servants by the end of the century, self drying clothes, flying cars and hover-boards as seen in Back to the Future 2. Some assumptions were correct like being able to video call and automation (more on that shortly) and some were laughably wrong – the robot takeover during the Millennium bug anyone? So now we’ve reached ‘the future’, it’s probably time to get the guessing out of the way for the next generation. Here are three topics I see as inevitable:
1) The end of cable TV
Five years ago this would’ve seemed ridiculous. Cable TV was growing steadily with more ridiculous channels that you won’t watch thrown out weekly. The start of this downfall is partly due to the networks around the world not balancing their business correctly. They have to appease advertisers with commercial space to stay on air yet they are still forgetting to appease the other party involved – the audience. Nobody wants to sit through 20 minutes of adverts during their favourite programme. It can destroy the atmosphere created through a well written episode with an abrupt cut to Nicole Scherzinger enjoying yoghurts far too much. You’re lactose intolerant, is she trying to wind you up? You find your blood pressure rising, you just want to scream at Nicole to just get off the screen, so she does. Then we get the tedious Just Eat songs which is around the time you start to consider how humanity got as far as it has. This carries on until all the feelings and thoughts running through your head about the show you were watching are gone. The immersion is over. Sure you can Tivo/Sky+ it but sometimes you just want to watch your favourite TV shows at the same time as your friends and family around the country.
With streaming alternatives like Netflix and Amazon Prime you get to watch what you want when you want. Granted, there are licensing issues right now restricting content that other countries (America mainly) may get but I see this as a short term problem that can be resolved when the transition from standard network TV to streaming services develops. Personally, I’m almost entirely done when it comes to live cable TV – I find myself streaming through Netflix more often than not, minus Game of Thrones of course.
Taking away the content restriction issue, the two giant problems streaming services face before world domination is live sports and news. If they find a way to make a deal with sports/news providers to come on board with the new way to watch then it’s game over for cable TV. They’ve had their chance to shine, they refused to move ahead with everyone else and now they’re paying for it.
2) Cinema is dying – but it can be saved
This one I’m not too happy about at all but with the advance in technology like the streaming services mentioned above, the day trip to the cinema is seeing its final days. This is happening for multiple reasons besides the streaming alternatives. Whether it be the price, the availability to go out (some parents may find this difficult) or just the lack of anything interesting to see.
One major issue is piracy. Most of us who are computer savvy have probably pirated something at one point in their lives. There is a huge debate surrounding piracy. I think a huge aspect behind this is what type of film people are going to see. Does it warrant the cinema experience? Is it worth spending so much money on? Take for example the new Captain America film – it’s doing fantastically at the box office because it’s a fun, action packed, cinema-type of film. Individuals are going to make the effort to see this at the cinema. People trying to download Captain America at home aren’t going to get the full ‘cinema experience’ whereas if there’s a film like Neighbours 2 that isn’t going to take advantage of being on the big screen it might be better for a home audience. That is where a large part of the issue lies. Is it worth spending around £20+ for a film like Neighbours 2 (plus some snacks)? Almost definitely not, for a start it looks like an awful cash in from the first. This better suits as the type of film you might find yourself turning off your brain cells to watch at home on a Friday night with a friend/significant other on the couch.
This is where ‘Screening Room’ comes in. A man named Sean Parker (founder of Napster) is currently working on a device that will legally play films in the comfort of your own home on the same day of release as the cinema. Not all details of how this will work have been released however, with backers like Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg this may actually come into fruition and reinvigorate the idea of cinema. For each film rented it would cost you around £35 which, if there’s a big group of you may turn out cheaper than going to the cinema. This will also help families with small children who are unable to leave the house as often as they’d like to view a film. This would help cinema chains due to the price partly shared to them to make up for their losses in the actual multiplex. This could mean that filmmakers and production companies will focus more on quality for the cinema experience to be worthwhile to customers. I know that there are films I would prefer to see at the cinema than at home and vice versa.
3) Automation (or how most of us will lose our jobs)
Automation has been here for many years now however, we’re finally reaching the stage where we are beginning to see the effects. Robotics have advanced greatly, rendering most of our jobs useless – and it’s only increasing.
It’s pretty clear that the ‘self checkout’ counters at your local supermarket are testing the waters for a complete overhaul of the way we purchase our groceries which would put many families out of work. Right now, I prefer humans greeting me rather than arguing with a robot about whether or not the carrots are in the bagging area. Granted, staff will still be needed for now until we are able to pester robots about which aisle the gravy is on so until then, only half of a retail assistant’s job is secure.
Also consider driverless cars for example, fairly new right now but give it a few years and for those long haul deliveries this could be done entirely through driverless trucks. Adding to this – jobs for driverless taxis, buses, trains are all at risk of becoming redundant very quickly. Of course the governments are going to act on this too, they’d be silly not to in regards to the cost of maintenance on machinery to a salary for hundreds/thousands of workers.
Technology is becoming more intricate, even intelligent (check out the first AI lawyer, Ross who has just landed a job at Baker & Hostetler). I’m not saying this is going to end in a Terminator-style apocalypse for humanity but it’s starting to look like a large portion of the world are going to be living in a world without work. Sure, some professions can’t ever be touched by robotics like doctors, teachers, entertainers or sportsmen – even those in certain trades will still be around to fix any issues machinery may have. The whole concept of this idea is alien to the world – how would it be possible to live happily and not work?
One answer currently being thrown about as a Universal Basic Income. This would entitle everyone a certain amount of money per month and to an extent ‘live comfortably’. Compare it to the UK government now where some (not all) honest, dedicated, often desperate jobseekers have to go through hoops just to prove they’ve looked for work just so to receive the bare minimum from the government.
The Universal Basic Income is currently being considered to be tried and tested in Switzerland. The idea doesn’t sound too perfect, but we need to start thinking about a possible future where the idea of a job is rare. That’s not to say if this all comes into effect we as humanity just give up and sit and watch streaming services all day – now more than ever is the time you should invest time in what you really enjoy doing.