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Future-land! What the future might look like.

Published: Thursday, Sept. 5 2013 12:40 p.m. MDT

What will the future look like? Cowen takes a guess

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Hipsters will be successful; Yoga instructors will be rich. Expect a future where your phone will give you relationship advice. That’s the future Tyler Cowen paints in the New York Times with “Who Will Prosper in the New World.”

“Your smartphone will record data on your life and, when asked, will tell you what to do, drawing on data from your home or from your spouse and friends if need be. 'You’ve thrown out that bread the last three times you’ve bought it, give it a pass' will be a text message of the future. How about 'Now is not the time to start another argument with your wife'? The GPS is just the beginning of computer-guided instruction," Cowen explains about the future of the smartphone.

While it’s never a good time to get into an argument with your wife, it would still be weird for most people to hear their phone telling them that. People who embrace technology could potentially see their social and economic status soar, while those who hold back or who are less savvy could find themselves left behind.

And expect to be seeing that Zumba instructor at the gym doing remarkably better than you would think possible. “A lot of jobs will consist of making people feel either very good or very bad about themselves. Coaches, mentors and disciplinarians will spread to many areas of life, at least for those of us who can stand to listen to them. These people will cajole us, flatter us and shame us into improving our lives, our work habits and our consumption.” Drill instructor and/or Yoga instructor is apparently a great career choice.

But if you’re not very good at yelling at people to do back curls, don’t fear, maybe you won’t need to actually be well off to “be well off.” You can join the ranks of people who will presumably be wearing Hawaiian shirts and overly large glasses while sitting in a future Starbucks — hammocks are optional but recommended. “Berlin’s eastern neighborhoods and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are a window onto our future. These urban areas are full of people who are bright, culturally literate, Internet-savvy and far from committed to the idea of hard work directed toward earning a good middle-class living. We’ll need a new name for the group of people who have the incomes of the lower middle class and the cultural habits of the wealthy or upper middle class. They will spread a libertarian worldview that working for other people full time is an abominable way to get by.”

Now, naturally the world will become increasingly automated, with more and more jobs that historically required people (Wal-Mart greeter, cashier, etc.) will be replaced by machines. This will of course mean that less people will eventually have jobs — just wait until the robots are able to build the robots — and when you have a large part of the population having nothing to do but sit around wishing they had a job, bad things tend to happen. Or at least they would if you assume things stay roughly the same. Cowen believes that with an aging population (old people never get excited about politics) that the threat of major social and political upheaval will diminish.

And of course, “The more that work is done by machines, the less compelling is the case for putting your manufacturing in a distant country where wages are low.”

Do you agree with Cowen’s vision of the future?

Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and a writer for the Deseretnews.com Opinion section. Email Freeman at fstevenson@deseretdigital.com

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