Reading today's news, one might think that our world is "headed in the wrong direction" -- even in America women feel the need to demonstrate for equality, religious fundamentalism continues to brutalize multiple societies, and we hear reports of oppression in so many places. Despite these problems, however, the future actually looks quite positive in many ways. Here are three of my predictions:
1. The future is female.
While today's world is clearly male-dominated, the age-old reasons for men enjoying disproportionate power and influence are quickly disappearing, and factors that favor the success of women are increasing. In the information age, brute strength -- once critical for survival -- is becoming far less important than a good mind.
Likewise, modern women can increasingly work during pregnancy, and face orders-of-magnitude less danger when reproducing than their forebears did for nearly all of human history. Women are free to pursue their dreams -- women who do not marry and "produce heirs" for their spouses are not treated as misfits and abused as they once were.
At the same time, jobs often dominated by males due to the need for physical muscle are disappearing and are often the first to be cut during downturns. During the 2008 recession, for example, men lost far more jobs than did women.
Consider how many jobs disproportionately held by men in factories, warehouses, and shipping facilities will be replaced by robots within the next 20 years. As just one example, 95 percent of US truck drivers are male. How many of them will be employed when self-driving trucks become the norm?
Meanwhile, the information economy is creating a tremendous increase in the number of jobs requiring creativity and the collaborative working of minds -- items much harder to automate than routine tasks and, which studies show, favor women over men.
The Western world is also increasingly less religious in the orthodox sense, and, in the West, far fewer Millennials and Gen Zers -- the generations of the future -- accept any form of "God-ordained sexism" than did their predecessors at any other time in modern history.
Couple this with the fact that, in the 1950s, women comprised only about a third of the American workforce and now make up almost half of it (even possibly, for the first time in history, having become, at least temporarily, a majority of the US workforce), and, the with fact that women now earn significantly more college and graduate degrees than men - and it is obvious that women will dominate in the future. Even fields that suffer from terrible sexism (including the technology sector and Hollywood) are changing.
While there will be blips along the way -- and the third world certainly faces major challenges in evolving towards egalitarianism -- the trend is clear. In short, the reasons that men became the dominant sex politically and economically are disappearing, and factors that favor women are increasing -- these factors will create a very different looking world for future generations.
2. The future is automated.
The era of automation has dawned, and daylight is arriving far faster than many want to believe.
Take self-driving trucks and cars, for example. Besides changing our thoughts about car ownership and transportation, they will dramatically change the speed at which we travel, as well as many aspects of rest stops, fuel stations, auto insurance, and many other dependent businesses. How many people will be needed to staff factories, the trucking industry, construction, and other industries involving physical labor 20 years down the road?
We already see improved automated logistics and robot-inhabited warehouses allowing stores like Amazon to sell all goods over the country with extreme efficiency. Recently, Amazon even opened a cashier-less store in Seattle. How many cashier jobs will exist in 20 years versus now? (Ironically, automated store-checkout technology is one advancement that will likely impact more women than men.)
Sadly, our politicians seem be stuck in the past. In my own town, for example, it is illegal for local stores to sell many products on a Sunday, yet Amazon can process same-day delivery for the same items, all while elected officials don't seem to notice higher numbers of vacant storefronts. How often do they argue about minimum-wage laws instead of about how to retrain minimum-wage earners for new roles once automation permanently kills many of their jobs? Successful societies must transform themselves for the era of automation -- what we see today is only the tip of the iceberg.
3. The future is free.
Despite the continued presence of terrible brutality in some parts of the world, the world as a whole is actually far more peaceful than ever before. Even with all of our problems, free countries continue to lead the world in almost every positive aspect -- from per person productivity, to medical advancement, to technological revolutions and innovation. Technology -- such as ubiquitous handheld devices that can keep people busy while they might otherwise have been causing trouble -- has also helped lower crime in much of the Western world - which also makes people more free. Even blockchain is a sign of greater freedom: People can organize currencies and systems of trust without a government or major corporation overseeing them.
As women increase their influence around the globe, and as technology unites the world in terms of communications about quality of life and the availability of advanced technologies, the world will become freer. Freedom and free economies create economic prosperity, but also create challenges: America must prepare for the day when its population will compete with billions more people living in free societies. The impact of globalization that we have seen to date is tiny compared to what will come when the world is freer -- and that may come sooner than we expect.
On the topic of the future, I have some personal news to announce: This article will be my last for Inc. Starting tomorrow I will be publishing my articles on my personal website, and you can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I have greatly enjoyed sharing this journey with you over the past six years, and am thankful for both the attention that you have given to my writing, and for engaging in discussions with me via social media and email; I look forward to staying in touch.