1. Do the rules still apply?
The past decade felt like a crazy oscillation. One week I would feel more liberated than I had ever before in life. The next, someone was trying to impose restrictions, conflict and guilt on me. I doubt I am the only one that feels this way.
For much of the 20th Century, we operated with certain cultural expectations. These “rules” were first challenged in the 1960s with the counterculture movements at the time. In the 2010s, they were further challenged. The most high profile manifestations are the acceptance of gay marriage and steady progress of marijuana legalization.
The nature of work is also starting to change, at different rates depending on location and industry.
The strangest dynamic I observed throughout the decade is the gap between where the expectations of the average younger worker is and the manner in which those at higher levels of established institutions operate. It’s no secret that younger workers today want flexibility, purpose, the ability to grow and the ability to be true to themselves. Some of this has shown up in flexible working hours, changes in dress codes and more collaborative environments in some places.
However, those at the top of most institutions, those with the real power, are mostly still using the old set of standards.
The same can be said for other parts of our lives. Many people are questioning assumptions and restrictions related to things like gender and origin. This has oddly coincided with a fairly zealous clinging to some aspects of the old set of rules. I still encounter plenty of people holding strict inflexible standards about what it means to be in a relationship (just without the one man one woman standard), and what kind of things people need to do when they reach certain stages (ages) of life.
In the 2020s, we need to end this state of confusion. Do the rules still apply? If some need to be kept, why? If we created new ones (see political correctness) can we get rid of them?
2. What’s next?
The key trends of the 2010s were older ideas. Social media and smart phones are turn of the century inventions. There were countless reboots or remakes of movies. Even the heavy use of auto-tuner in hip hop music is a revival.
Statistics have shown that what we are doing has not been serving us well.
Our culture seems stagnant. It’s time for something new. Given our mental health issues and a feeling of restlessness, it feels inevitable that something new will come this decade.
3. How do money, work, fulfillment and resources intersect?
Leaders around the world are starting to recognize that happiness is not directly tied to measures of economic success like GDP. That is because more money can only make a person happier to a point. Once a person’s basic needs are met, the focus shifts upwards on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, to feelings of love, belonging and fulfillment.
For nearly a millennium, some form of currency has been used a medium of exchange. Jobs have provided people with the money they need to satisfy their resource needs. The lucky ones also found some level of fulfillment out of their jobs. This may change. Cryptocurrency is challenging the role of money. Automation has the potential to significantly reduce the need for us to work to meet our resource needs. It may be possible in the not too distant future to meet these needs through a manner other than “jobs”.
4. What is the purpose of each communication method?
I doubt I am the only one frustrated by this one. We added a bunch of new communication methods over the past 30 years; email, text, social media, forums, chats and other platforms. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus around which forms of communication are for which purposes. This makes organizing groups of people a more confusing task than ever before. With loneliness on the rise and loneliness clearly linked to some of the bad mental health outcomes of recent years, we need to find a way to eliminate this unnecessary obstacle for those trying to share experiences with others.
5. What is the true source of power?
Traditionally one’s power is based on rank and authority, often in large institutions. One can also use soft power to influence people. Two things are changing how we view power.
The first is new avenues by which to influence people. The most commonly used ones are Instagram and YouTube.
There is also a growing distrust in our institutions.
While recent surveys still show general trust and esteem for our military, police and small business, trust has significantly eroded for our political institutions, educational institutions, the media and big business. It’s not hard to imagine a future where people do not take titles at these institutions too seriously. Alternatives to many of theses institutions are gaining momentum.
6. What is the true source of happiness?
This needs clear definition because we often fail to prioritize the things in our lives that lead to happiness, like spending time with friends and family.
To shift priorities, we need to develop a better understanding of what makes us happy. Luckily, people have been studying this, both in an academic and practical real world sense.
7. Can our institutions be modernized to reflect our true reality?
The institutions losing our trust have not kept up with changes in our culture. Memorization of facts will not lead to success in the 21st Century. Government policies don’t seem to account for realities such as the average job tenure being less than five years and success and happiness being more linked to reputation and attention than income for many.
Can these institutions be updated? Or do they need to be replaced, by something new that comes along and serves us better?
8. Is it possible to end self-segregation?
Many studies indicate that most of the most segregated cities are in places like Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit, where segregation was never or only briefly legally codified.
This came to be based on self-segregation, people choosing to live around “their own kind”. Unfortunately, this has lead to continuing misunderstanding among different racial groups. In the coming decade can we….
- End this practice of self-segregation which prevents interaction between people from different backgrounds?
- Perhaps more importantly, not replace it with a different type of self-sorting, along lines like economic status, political ideology or lifestyle preferences?
9. Are large groups of people (>100 Million) governable?
There are only a few places around the world where this many people are under one government of sorts. All seem to be facing some form of dysfunction.
- China went the authoritarian route, placing tight controls on the information their populace receives. They are currently dealing with mass protests in Hong Kong, one of the few places where there is access to information from the outside world. Many are also unhappy with their treatment of certain minority ethnic groups.
- India and the European Union grant a significant amount of regional autonomy. This is a significantly different model, but has not been without problems (see Kashmir, Brexit).
- The U.S. has tried to follow a model somewhere in the middle. However, we are dealing with a sort of national identity crisis.
Our identity crisis is related to this bigger question. Can a country with places as different as Seattle, Miami, Texas and South Carolina all live under the same national government? Is there enough that we share despite our differences? Can we avoid sliding towards the China model that tramples on people’s freedoms? Is there a new way?
10. What will be revealed to us next?
One of the main themes of the 2010s is the exposure of shady things. During this decade we learned…
- About countless sex related scandals in the entertainment industry
- Just how much steroids were being used in sports like pro cycling
- The manner in which the Government was lobbied by the sugar industry to indicate that fat is a bigger concern than sugar in the 1970s
- That the food pyramid many of us grew up with was completely wrong
I’m gonna go out on a limb, but I feel like in the near future, something even bigger is going to be revealed to us… stay tuned!