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The Hong Kong city skyline. Picture: 123RF/SEAN PAVONE
The Hong Kong city skyline. Picture: 123RF/SEAN PAVONE

Dateline: January 21 2027

The evolution of society from villages, towns, and cities to cities, suburbs, and slums was well under way when two powerful forces shaping the future clashed head-on — rampant tech innovation and the impending climate crisis. Only a spark was needed to ignite the revolution.

The coronavirus pandemic provided the catalyst for people to re-examine their work and leisure lifestyles, and put the spotlight on the ridiculous habit of a daily commute in a world where technology made video meetings easier than a phone call, and global team collaboration was becoming simple and normal.

Networked infrastructure and mobility services meant that you didn’t need a private car, and anyway, cars are bad for the environment. Even electric cars need batteries, which means more mining. Planned communities that could be smart by design, and eco-friendly, were the answer. The 15-minute city was born, as “a real step towards the future.”

By 2022, projects like The Point, Utah and Culdesac, Arizona, were under way, while Paris, France, was also implementing 15-minute city principles in suitable neighbourhoods. As part of the “Great Reset” it made perfect sense. Enclaves and residential estates sprang up, with their own schools, clinics, restaurants, social clubs, co-working spaces, and of course solar power and internet service. Together with crypto-based community levies and service fees, they became hyperlocal governments.

It was inevitable that successful enclaves and desirable neighbourhood schemes thrived and flourished, while under- resourced and disadvantaged communities have become rundown, neglected, and relying on city authorities whose tax base has shrunk. It’s beginning to dawn on the sociocrats that you can’t fix deep inequality or the climate by building mini-utopias for the middle classes.

Now those who can afford to are seeking self-sovereignty in the countryside, while it’s back to the drawing board for urban planners, wrestling with their increasingly dystopian suburbia. Will cities smarten up?

Moving on up — to the country

Upgrading from city life to the rustic rural

Dateline: February 1 2027

The world is definitely urbanising at a rapid rate and by 2030 about 60% of the world’s population will be sipping (or serving) Martinis on skyscraper rooftop bars. With all this talk about metropolises, it’s no wonder that some of us got a bit carried away, moving all our business to the concrete jungles. However, the wise ones know that you should never put all your eggs in one basket, and once again this has proven to be true.

Tired of renting and never settling, sick of smog, congestion and the hamster wheel, those who can afford to get out jump at the opportunity. As the cities become crowded, the space-hungry run to the open fields. Some of the best and brightest have relocated, because freelancers know that they have the bargaining power, and that the business behemoths cannot do without them.

These ‘rat race refugees’ are well-educated, wealthy and looking to create the life of their dreams on the vacant lands at their disposal. It’s like playing Sims and building the most enviable and high-functioning communities you can imagine. As a result, rural counties are transforming from downtrodden, apocalyptic wilderness into elite and highly sought-after enclaves where the Gini coefficient is low and the wellbeing high.

The city has lost its attractor factor for those who have climbed Maslow’s pyramid. They can work virtually on ubiquitous high-speed networks, even in the most remote locations. But the 99% at the bottom of the pyramid have no choice but to stay and make the best of big city life, because even now, it is still where the bulk of jobs and resources reside.

  • Published 21 May 2015

  • Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. The Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, and challenge and stimulate strategic thinking.
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