In the future what will we look back at in horror about our world today?


An article in Sydney Morning Herald today, What we do now that will be unfathomable by 2050, looks at what we might not be able to imagine about our lives today.

The piece quotes me on cars and parking:

Some house-hunting friends recently warned me off looking at properties with off-street parking, explaining that autonomous cars will become the norm and car parks will be obsolete. Having just paid a motza for a house with a car spot, I nearly choked on my tea. But futurist Ross Dawson agrees. He says autonomous cars will negate the need for car parks in the future, “I would say car parks are probably, and hopefully, one of the things which we’ll look back at as an extraordinary waste, which will seem mind-boggling in the future”.

The idea is that self-driving cars will be rented rather than owned and won’t need parking spaces because they just … won’t park. Dawson says the shift to autonomous electric vehicles is inevitable and a much safer alternative: “The best autonomous vehicles are far better than the average human driver by a long shot.”

There are two ideas here:

One is that at some point we will inevitably be completely horrified that we allowed drunk, tired, distracted, and incompetent drivers on the roads, not to mention that even today few humans are usually safer drivers than autonomous vehicles. Recently there were 1.35 million people killed on the roads around the world last year, including over 200,000 deaths in each of China and India. It is the leading cause of nonnatural death for Americans, with 40,000 dying each year. And while we have eliminated lead in petrol, cars continue to spew fumes around our schools and living environments. These incredible costs will seem barbarian and horrific in years to come.

In addition, once we shift substantially to autonomous cars, we will need a fraction of the parking space we currently have. What useful can we do with the numerous car parks scattered throughout our cities? Imagine your streets with trees, nature, and parks instead of rows of cars on either side.

There are many other things we may well look back on in horror, as most of us do for smoking in restaurants and workplaces and on airplanes, buses, and trains, phenomena within memory for many of us.

Many of our carbon-emitting behaviors, including burning low-quality coal, petrol-fueled cars, and widespread deforestation, not to mention widespread opposition, let alone reluctance, to taking substantive measures to improve.

The extent of carnage of animals in feeding us will likely seem bemusing. Over 50 billion chickens, 1.5 billion pigs and half a billion sheep are slaughtered each year, too often in unsanitory conditions or at the culmination of miserable lives.

I suspect that we will look at our current education system in disbelief, once we can transition from the legacy of institutional indoctrination to nurturing childrens’ unique potential.

I do hope that we will look back on our structures for (supposedly) representational democracy with dismay, however that does depend on us creating a better future for democracy, which is by no means as given.

Undoubtedly there are many other currently accepted activities and social structures that we will look back at in horror.

What do you think they might be?