en it

We won – What does the world look like in 2030?

Posted on Wed 12 July 2023 in personal

I close my eyes for a second, and under the buzz of voices around me, I hear birds singing, squirrels chasing each other scratching the bark of trees, branches rustling in the wind. A couple times every hour I hear a rumble: an ambulance, a moving van, a car rented by someone who needs to move around things or people that it is hard to move otherwise. But since when private motorised transport has vanished, 2030 is a quiet time. We have stopped owning means of transportation not really because public transportation has become phenomenal (although yes: public transport + 10 minutes on foot do get you anywhere), but because we do not often need to go farther than what we can reach on foot, by bike, or by skates anymore. We have moved to a location where we feel in peace: close a to a thai take away, a cinema, and a pizzeria if we wanted the buzz of the city; close to (or deep into) the woods if that's what gives us breath. We all have the privilege of coming back home without feeling like we need to flee somewhere else.

It happened slowly, and if anything it's been one of the very few positive consequences of Covid-19. We started working from home during the pandemic, and we noticed that in many ways that was so much better than the office. Companies tried at some point to ask that we would regularly show up at the office, but those that got to the point of requiring it ended up facing resignation of the most talented and soon allowed working mostly from home. At that point, proximity to the office was not that important anymore, and we have been able to move where we felt at rest. Even if remoteness is still mostly a white collars' privilege, the working week has been reduced to 25 hours for everybody, and it is expected that every candidate is able to speak of themselves and their hobbies during a job interview.

In 2030 we all have utmost respect for nature, in all forms. We look at big trees from below as guardians protecting us, with their majestic trunks and branches interleaved like dream catchers; small trees from above as children to protect; flowers as marvellous expressions of colour.

And hand in hand with a more harmonious relationship with nature, we have also discovered a much more positive relationship with our bodies. Something shocking by 2020 standards is that everybody swims naked, everybody sunbathes naked. Not only because it is allowed, but especially because nobody is ashamed of it, and because we have realised that there is no another way: that as much as we shower without clothes, it makes no sense to have something on to swim. The direct consequence is that the expensive-plastic-genital-coverings-bacteria-breeders industry went awash. Nowadays Wikipedia page states that "it was a multi-billion industry based on hiding the secret that roughly half of the swimmer has the same sort of genitals, the other half the other sort". Naturist beaches do not exist anymore – or rather, all beaches are such, because going to the beach with a swimsuit attracts the same astonished looks which going there naked in 2020 did. There are no more missed opportunities of getting to a beautiful beach and not being able to take a dip because we forgot our swimsuit, and the ridiculous ballet of holding a towel to swap fabric underwear with other plastic underwear is also over. The world is just a simpler place.

An amazing fact is that in 2030 we do not carry computers in our pockets anymore. The turning point came in 2027, when smartphones were equated to cigarettes, and their sale accordingly regulated. From that year, by law all smartphones have to be sold with a compulsory screen saver saying "using the smartphone makes you dumb", and the back of any case "science says that using smartphones and socials creates anxiety, lack of confidence, and loss of focus". It has taken a while, but we have also realised that we just did not need them: that we can look up the route before leaving home, and worst case ask for directions to passersby or bus drivers; that there's no need to read the news or a book from a 6" screen, because bad news make their way to us anyway, and good ones are worth savouring; that there's no need to send holiday pictures straightaway, nor to constantly text each other; that there's no need to be constantly entertained. Most places are now smartphone-free, and there are apt spaces where its usage is allowed, in the same way as smokers areas. We have understood that, as smoke pollutes our lungs, technology pollutes our brains.

It has taken us a huge effort to disentangle us from the technology we had wrapped ourselves into – the road is still long, but if anything today it is forbidden to sell smartphones and tablets to anybody below the age of 16, it must be possible to use any public service through analogue means, and there is a promising policy under discussion that would forbid advertisements as a business model to private companies. This would really be revolutionary, because it dominos on discouraging companies from breaching our privacy and harvesting as much data on each of us, to then sell our profiles to advertisers. It would also strike a big blow to consumerism, which would not hurt. The consequence is also that there is much less work in IT, and a lot of people have had to reinvent themselves, was it just growing potatoes and knitting.

We have been able (at least in part) to avoid predictions of Wall-E, those that seemed so inevitable in 2025. Now that smartphone usage is decreasing and entertainment is much more intentional, there are much fewer people going around with headphones without uttering a word, creating that dreadful atmosphere that we used to witness on the underground of big cities in the first years of 2020. It happens more and more often that a child points and makes an inappropriate remark, that two strangers exchange comments on their day ... even that a love blossoms from a glance and a smile. The screens cast a bit to the side, we have started to re-nurture our social relations, and to give them the importance they deserve.

In 2030 there are a lot of people going around in outfits that under 2020 standards we would associate with the homeless: today, having socks with holes is normal, while having them mismatched (but whole) is rich. And then unstitched backpacks, scratched glasses or glasses with a single arm, frayed sweaters, pullovers with elbows worn out and already mended twice, tshirts so threadbare that you can almost see through them. The reason is surely that people have gained confidence and we have managed to make mainstream the idea that substance matters more than form. Mostly though, there has come about a general awareness that things cost – not money, but resources, and that thus all artefacts must be used until they melt. It is now very clear to us that resources are finite, and that we must treat them as the water from our well: when they are over, we are dead.

We have become much more careful especially after the 2029 green scandal, when we realised that the long-awaited carbon capture plants are very expensive tons of scrap metal. We are working to decommission the ones built in the early 2020s and plant the equivalent in trees in our daily environments: they cost little, have little to no maintenance, and broaden our breath. There has been a strong opposition from the green lobby, because environmentalism was the largest legal criminal market until a few years ago. In the end, for once, politics raised its voice though, and we got out whole – not really because parliament has become a idyllic wise man hangout (we are not that advanced), but because it had to cave to the outrageous public remonstrances of the last few years. Countries were basically stopped for months: large amounts of people worked as usual for their fellows, but stopped paying taxes. That turned out to be a very effective recipe.

We have also learnt to save energy as it got more expensive, already in 2021. Drinking from a glass and directly putting it in the dishwasher is today more barbarian than littering. We have reduced to a third the number of monthly laundries and also the number of hours spent at the TV: there is quite some social stigma towards people who entertain themselves too much in passive activities, and people simply spend more hours in nature, crocheting, reading, writing, listening. Physical proximity to the things we like and the much reduced transportation has had a huge impact on reducing consumption.

On teachers pressure, the education system has been recently flipped: now we allow students to design their own curriculum, and we contribute by helping them to find mentors in the activities they are interested into. We force them also to get exposed to other topics though, and they acknowledge that we do it for their sake and not for ours.

Broadly, we again hold in high esteem education: of those that put effort into learning (for real, not just to pass some tests) and of those that put effort into teaching (for real, not just handing out high marks to avoid trouble with parents). We value people wholly as they are: as unique individuals.

An extraordinary fact of 2030 is that every morning, all couples, flatmates, families, hug each other communicating each other that physical proximity is their energy, and come back home to hug again and prepare dinner, bake bread, pizza, and remind themselves that is what matters: living adagio. Everything else is just a side.