I recently watched the classic sci-fi film Blade Runner. I’m a real sucker for books and films that get us thinking about what possible futures there may be. What struck me as funny in watching it now, only a handful of years off from the year in which the film is set – 2019 – is that in this futuristic Earth, where we have flying cars and renegade androids, people will still smoke in the workplace. I suppose some habits are hard to imagine breaking.
Clearly in the early 1980’s, the idea that smoking in public spaces would not only be culturally unacceptable in most developed countries, but a criminal act…simply didn’t cross one’s mind. So, it gets me thinking about what activities we do now that will be unacceptable in the future.
I have been involved in a project called UK Fisheries 2050. It is based around the idea that on certain topics – fishing and climate change being good examples – we have talked ourselves into an incredibly negative space. There is a doom and gloom mantra, which though based in fact, can have a somewhat paralysing effect – not only on the public, but indeed on the scientists, industries, and policy-makers working to understand and improve the situation. This exercise is an opportunity to walk away from that paralysing scenario, think outside the box, and build a vision for what the future could be.
As part of the UK Fisheries 2050 project, I have been listening to experts as well as people on the street – asking them what a productive, lucrative and sustainable fishery might look like in 2050. It’s harder than you think. Firstly, most people haven’t thought about it. Then, if they can be encouraged to think about it, they quickly revert to that familiar place of doom and gloom to discuss what is wrong with fisheries today….or how they have changed from the past.
This is not a criticism. It’s an observation. After all, it’s difficult to use a map if you have no clue where you are. It’s also helpful to know where you are if you understand where you’ve come from. However, there’s also little point if you don’t know where you’re going – and it is this last aspect of navigation that the future-looking project is trying to help establish.
Now, perhaps it is because I am not a fisheries expert (particularly in the UK) or perhaps it’s the writer in me, but my greatest interest in this discussion of the future is scene setting and character development. This presents a million questions….
Will we continue on this trend of working more and find new and innovative ways to clock 100 hour work weeks? Or will we rebel against work overload, either in a concerted effort or in the wake of a complete breakdown of our mental health and family unit? Will the successful individual no longer be the person earning six figures (perhaps eight by then), but the person who has time to spend with kids?
With all adults in the family unit working, will we see more people hiring people to look after domestic responsibilities such as childcare, cooking and cleaning? In other words, will we all have a 1950’s housewife?
Will we have a heightened consciousness of animal welfare? How will this affect food production and consumption? Will we consider fish to be equal to other animals in terms of their ability to feel pain, show individuality and have complex behaviours? This is a particular rant I currently have as I recently watched some recreational fishermen leave their catch on the side of the road to slowly die. Could you imagine the mammalian equivalent? It would involve a hunter snagging a deer and then putting a plastic bag over its head and watching it thrash about as it slowly suffocated.
What will be our attitude to food be? Will it still be something many of us simply use to fill a void in our stomach or will we be far more conscious of every morsel we eat – it’s nutritional value, how it was produced, where it came from and its taste.
How has our relationship with fossil fuels changed?
What will be the Blade Runner smoking-in-the-workplace equivalent? Will our evolved relationship with food mean that eating at our desk is not only frowned upon, but a criminal activity under new occupational safety and health regulations?
Please, help me build this scene. I would love to hear your thoughts on what our world might look like in 2050.