Checking in one-third through the 2020s: future shock is here


On 1 May 2023 we were one-third through the 2020s, one-third of the way to 2030.

In January 2020 I was intending to write a blog post saying that most people had no conception how different the world would be by 2030. I’ve been kicking myself that I didn’t get around to it, given that months later it would have been borne out.

As the pace of change increases the period into the future we can see with any semblance of accuracy reduces. The depth of uncertainty about what the world might be like in 2030 is already extreme.

Let’s consider where we stand one-third through the 2020s.


We have brutally learned what epidemiologists had been saying for years: a large-scale pandemic was close to inevitable. Now we understand that far more devastating pandemics are very possible. If so then we can be thankful for our ‘dress rehearsal’ for a bigger one.

Medical technology

At the same time we learned how extraordinary our medical technologies have become. Moderna designed its mRNA Covid vaccine in 2 days, and was ready for human trials in 63. The rest of the delay in getting people innoculated at scale was in regulatory approval and production.

This is just one manifestation of how far medical technologies have come, with dramatic advances in particular in genetic technologies and drug discovery


We appear to have reached an inflection point with AI progress, with almost every AI researcher and expert taken aback by the leap in capabilities with the latest scaling in size and sophistication of transformer models.

There is evidently the potential for absolutely dramatic impacts on work, business, and society within this decade, which we can only begin to imagine.

Interfaces, robotics, and transformation

Continuous advances in brain-computer interfaces will enable direct augmentation of our capabilities. Humanoid robots may come to fruition in forms familiar to fans of science fiction movies within the decade.

Progress in genetic technologies, compounding other advances including in longevity, will allow us to shape who we are.   

Present shock 

In the context of my book Thriving on Overload and in other ways I have been going back to the 1970s classic Future Shock by Alvin Toffler.

He was highly prescient in many aspects of his book. But humans have proved to be highly resilient to the pace of change over the last decades, overall adjusting pretty well.

Now the pace of change and uncertainty looks like it could well engender a state of shock and possible inability to respond effectively in individuals, institutions, and society.  

However I still have faith in the resilience of humans and that we can continue to adapt to this pace of change. We must.

The rest of the decade

This is an incredibly exciting time to be alive. The challenges and disruption will be massive. But there will also be incredible opportunities for positive change.

As in all my work, my emphasis is on the positive. How can we leverage these shifts to create a world and society that is far better than anything we could have previously imagined?

One-third down, two-thirds to go, let’s see where we can get to by 2030. 

Image: NASA