I’m an ‘elderly millennial’ and as I sit here in mid-2023, AI is on the precipice of taking over multiple industries, apart from construction. The planet appears to be dying. There are dogs on Instagram that earn more money in a single month than I would over multiple lifetimes and as I stare into the void-like, unknowable abyss of the future, it laughs at me, mockingly.
No more jobs?
Copyrighting, something that took me years to break into and in which I am currently employed, looks set to go soon. Why bother trying anymore? Art, and video production as well as administration roles are likely to follow suit. A recent report by Goldman Sachs said that 300 million people will be unemployed thanks to AI. But don’t worry global GDP will increase by 7%. Hooray!!
No one really knows how the ‘AI revolution’ will end. Probably not the future envisaged in films; the Matrix ‘human battery’ scenario or the ‘war against the machine’ struggle of the Terminator franchise. More likely AI will just put us out of a job. Technological unemployment, ennui, decline and hopelessness become likely, as happened when robots took over human work in the automobile industry. The future is Detroit now, not a glittering techno-utopia.
No more planet?
The planet feels like it’s entering a state of almost irreversible environmental decline, although I will concede that the timescales for such predictions vary widely and have been pushed back numerous times. There are only so many times the media can use the sentence ‘five more years to avert catastrophe’ before it loses any semblance of impact. But I don’t need a climate scientist to tell me that something is off. I might live in a coastal town, but ground frosts, which were a regular feature of every winter, haven’t been something we’ve experienced for years.
Environmental issues, however, are global in scale and are almost unfixable by any government or intra-governmental organisation. We’ve had 27 international COP gatherings and, in my view, there will be 27 more until one nation will eventually take a unilateral decision, do something stupid and engage in a touch of geoengineering. My money is on spraying sulphur particles into the air. It’s relatively cost-effective and easier to do than a gargantuan sun-blocking space mirror. The AI can even manage it for us! Who said the tech wasn’t handy?!
No more civilisation?
Covid-19 demonstrated the fragility of the veneer of civilization that we cling to, but I had no idea how emaciated it actually is. If supermarkets ever have a genuine break in their supply chain, you will either be stabbed in the jugular with a makeshift shiv, fashioned from a bundle of emery boards, by an angry parent looking to buy that last pack of ‘chicken nuggies’ for their severely malnourished child or grievously assaulted for purchasing an eight-pack of ASDA smart price toilet rolls by someone who owns a Landrover Discovery.
No more endeavours?
We have no great nourishing endeavours to gaze toward, sustain, and inspire us. Not really. Ageing billionaires, having the most costly mid-life crisis in human history, blasting into low-earth orbit under the flimsy guise of ‘humanity’ is a far step removed from the heady days of Vostok, Apollo, Skylab, and even the long-retired space shuttle. I’m more convinced than ever that Elon Musk’s endgame is to evacuate from Earth with a smattering of those wealthy enough for a ticket on the one-way Mars-Musk-Express. The construction plans for the SpaceX Starship have a projected ability to transport 100 people in it and you sure as hell won’t be given a free ride. Instead, we’ll be left behind on a parched earth (check out the underrated 2013 film Elysium if you want to see that scenario played out in all its glory) with the rest of the proles bartering plastic beads for packs of super noodles.
No more heroes?
In the words of David Bowie, we’re in a time where there are no more heroes. Can you think of anyone you admire in the media? A genuinely nice, respectful person, with warmth and who hasn’t been caught grooming someone, or fiddling their taxes or abusing their position of power. Someone who just wants to tell you stuff, quietly, with dignity.
Okay. I’ll go first. I’d chose David Attenborough and Michael Palin, 97 and 80 years old respectively. I’d also add historian Lucy Worsley to the list (I have a mild crush on her). That’s it. I would rather eat fridge-cold semolina before meeting Mr Beast, Logan Paul or KSI. I reckon they would say ‘thanks for subscribing’ rather than ‘goodbye’ upon exiting an inane conversation with me about ‘engagement’, ‘merch’ and ‘metrics’.
And then, despite decades of low-wage growth, and trudging through a slow-burning, endemic, economic crisis, we have men like Andrew Tate informing us that we’re not ‘grinding’ enough, that weekends are for ‘pussies’ and that if I inadvertently wake up at 3 am I should spontaneously start ‘hustling’ rather than desperately trying to get back to sleep like a normal human being would. With the overall goal of telling another braggart that my Bugatti Chiron is a different shade of burgundy from his Bugatti Chiron.
Fitness gurus such as David Goggins do have some decent advice on staying healthy, exercising and cultivating a strong mental attitude (something I heartily agree with) but seem unable to share it without shouting at me to ’train like a marine!’. I’m not a US Marine seconded to SEAL Team Six. I’m an Administration Officer. Stop, please!
So, what do we have left?
If my scrawling gives the impression that I’m a hateful curmudgeon, you would be about 75% right. But like most partial misanthropes, I actually, genuinely care. When I look to the future I think greater acceptance and resilience is the key. Chances are you may well be poorer, less well travelled and have more economic hardships as you go forward through life. You may well have to save more, and work longer, to have resources that buy you less when you retire. We might have to accept the ‘Boomers’ had it better.
This isn’t what you want to hear, nor what you deserve. But it may well be what will happen. Like me, you’re living through these changes already and you can take comfort in the fact that previous generations probably did live through more difficult times. Hell, things are grim but let’s be honest the evidence of the first 23 years show you’re not living through the worst century in human history….. yet!
So 25% of me believes that we have hope left. There is also an opportunity to rebuild and become more resilient, even if it’s only on a small scale. If you have a garden, make sure you have something to collect rain water, a water butt perhaps? Take a step back and invest your spare cash in things like ‘slow tech’. Learn how to bake a loaf of bread or make your own cordial drink. Shop locally. Pick up some litter. Try a spot of foraging. Put your phone down and stop ‘doom scrolling’; it won’t help.
These suggestions aren’t exhaustive – they certainly won’t make you materially richer, but they will make you feel better about the future and give you a slight modicum of control back that has been taken from us millennials. That’s hope for the future.
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