The future is often seen as a daunting and uncertain place, especially for parents raising children in a world that seems to be filled with problems such as climate change, economic inequality, and political instability. However, there is hope for the future, and futurists offer a unique perspective on what our kids' lives might look like.
One of the most exciting areas of the future is the potential for sustainable and innovative housing. Rachel Armstrong, a Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, believes that the homes of the future could be powered by microbes, utilizing wastewater and food detritus to produce electricity and soil for urban farming. The exterior of homes could also feature living materials with self-healing capabilities, such as bricks made from mushrooms that can sprout more when damaged or concrete that contains bacteria to fill emerging cracks.
Interactive toys with artificial intelligence might also become more personalized within the next five years, equipped with voice recognition and the ability to learn individual children's behaviors and responses. Futurist Josh Calder believes that there could ultimately be fully virtual artificial intelligence "friends" that are so personalized, smart, and creative that they follow people from childhood into adulthood.
Video games will become more engaging, and virtual reality will become more prevalent. This shift in technology could change how children perceive the world. For example, kids will perceive a virtual concert in a video game as a legitimate concert experience.
On the other hand, traditional non-tech toys will always have a place. The inclusion of 3D printers in toy design could help children develop the kind of creative thinking that will be essential in a rapidly changing world. Despite any resistance from adults, children will naturally show us what they require.
Feeding a growing population of 9.7 billion by 2050 is a challenge. Still, futurists believe that alternative plant-based proteins, lab-grown meat, microalgae, and mycoprotein, created by fermenting the root-like spores of certain mushrooms could become a regular part of our diets. There could also be more urban agricultural and vertical farming, along with indoor farming, which uses fewer pesticides and resources.
Adopting adaptive learning software, a highly personalized primary school experience is hoped for, where the educational experience adjusts according to the student. The possibility of pre-k becoming a part of the public school system and the first two years of community college being made accessible can improve access to higher-paying jobs.
According to futurist Alexandra Whittington, college is no longer seen as a guaranteed pathway to the middle class, resulting in a decline in the college population since 2012. This trend is likely to continue due to changing attitudes and demographics. Whittington advises parents to save for college if possible but cautions that their children may choose to invest the money in alternative options such as a Bitcoin fund or an eco-startup, which may offer different returns.
The future job market is expected to demand STEM-related jobs, including cybersecurity, AI, and healthcare. However, the nature of work is also changing, and futurists believe that jobs in traditional trades like woodworking and HVAC will continue to be in demand, as well as non-routine jobs that cannot be automated.
According to McGowan, the career path chosen by today's children has a high probability of changing, regardless of their initial choice. "The best research I've seen indicates that young people today will have 16 jobs in five different industries in the developed world," McGowan explains. "Parents must assist their children in comprehending what drives them, as this will be critical in navigating their future."
The future of transportation also holds promise with the development of hyperloop travel and autonomous vehicles, which will become even safer. However, the challenge of decarbonizing transportation is still present, and experts believe that air travel is especially difficult to decarbonize.
Finally, the future of technology is rapidly changing, and smart glasses and smart contact lenses will enable "a digital paint splashed over reality." Quantum mechanics and artificial intelligence will become exponentially more powerful, and this could be harnessed to solve problems such as climate change and healthcare.
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