Six artifacts from the future

Six artifacts from the future

Inspired by BII+E’s research on employment in the year 2030, artifacts from the future are designed to spark thinking about what kinds of goods and services might exist in the next 10 years and beyond
Six artifacts from the future

Designed by: Jessica Thomson

Heather Russek
Director of Policy Innovation
Jessica Thornton
Collaborator
Erin Warner
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Jessica Thomson
Marketing and Communications Specialist
January 16, 2020
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The following artifacts from the future are fictional—despite how real some may look. They are designed to spark thinking about what the future might bring.

As we enter a new decade and reflect on the changes over the past ten years, many questions remain about what the next ten or even twenty years will have in store for us. Thinking about the future can be a challenging activity. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the range of possible futures or overly focused on our own worldview. Given the Brookfield Institute’s dedication to helping generate forward-looking insights about the future of Canada’s innovation economy, we are always experimenting with new ways to help Canadians engage and plan for the future. One way is through the creation of artifacts from the future.

Artifacts from the future are designed to spark thinking about what the future might hold. The physical nature of these artifacts helps to bring some of the potential futures into focus, allowing us to better understand what they could mean. By visualizing the possibilities, our hope is that we may be more equipped to recognize both our preferred and non-preferred futures, pushing us to act now for the tomorrow we desire.

These six artifacts are inspired by trends identified as part of the Brookfield Institute’s ongoing Employment in 2030 initiative that explores the changes impacting the future of work in Canada. These trends are described in detail in our recent report Turn and Face the Strange. To push the trends a little further, these artifacts reflect a time horizon of 15–20 years into the future: ~2040. This longer time frame allows us to consider some of the impacts that are (or appear to be) further away, and can help us consider what the next decade (or two) may have in store for us. 

In hopes of sparking a broader conversation about these artifacts, we are sharing them below. As real as some of these might seem, it is important to remember that they are fiction. As an observer, we encourage you to ask yourself: what if this was real? What would it mean for my life? My family? My job? My community? What are the trade-offs inherent in this future? Ask yourself, if this is a possible future, what do I want to change about my actions today? 

Our goal is to provoke useful dialogue about what the future of work may look like in Canada, what Canadians would prefer it to look like, and what needs to be done to create the future we want. Join the conversation @BrookfieldIIE.

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Canadian mangoes freshly grown on the former site of the Fort McMurray oil sands.

Fort McMurray Fresh Mangoes

Most Canadians now see Fort McMurray Fresh Mangoes as a symbol of Canada’s leadership in agricultural innovation. What is less known, however, is that these mangoes are equally a result of Canada’s humanitarian work absorbing refugees that were displaced due to the climate crisis. 

In 2030, when Canada welcomed the first of many climate refugees from the Caribbean, groups settled in Northern Alberta to take advantage of more affordable living conditions. Many went to work at the newly established Fort McMurray greenhouses that were built atop the out of service oil sands. While agri-scientists began to introduce new farming technologies to improve greenhouse productivity, a group of Trinidadian workers also began experimenting with growing produce from home right here in Canada—mangoes. 

Trade-offs:

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  • It’s a privilege to enjoy locally grown mangoes and other produce once attainable only via importation. It’s also better for the planet to use less fuel.  
  • Our growing and diversified agricultural industry creates new jobs for immigrants and Canadians alike and boosts the economy.  

  • Yet, Canadian mangoes also represent millions of people who’ve had to flee their homes due to our collective inaction around the worsening climate crisis. 
  • These mangoes are also a reminder of the challenges many Canadians faced during the shutdown of the oil sands and the resulting layoffs. In fact, in many parts of the country, the phrase “getting the mango” describes a scenario where someone’s misfortune is of benefit to another.
Nobody likes a bad temper. Not even Siri—thanks to Apple’s recent rollout of the CivilityTM feature.

Siri Ban

Verbal abuse of iOS systems are reportedly down by 75 percent following Apple’s release of the Civility™ feature. Civility™ tracks instances of verbal abuse directed at Siri, eventually locking Apple device users from accessing Siri or Siri-linked apps once the threshold has been exceeded. 

Critics initially blasted Apple for introducing such an “anti-human, pro-technology” upgrade, however support grew once it was linked to a broader decline in social media abuse activity. In fact, there are now rumours that Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are all exploring similar features for their AI-driven products.

Trade-offs:

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  • A little nudge toward politeness has never hurt anyone. It’s a wake-up call about the type of language we use and how we direct aggression not just towards other people, but technology as well.
  • When our interactions are used in real-time to train technologies and improve their functionality, shouldn’t we be especially mindful? What if we unintentionally train our iOS to direct aggression towards us? 

  • Many fear that Civility™ is Apple’s cover for monitoring users’ behaviour and commands, something data privacy experts have been weary of for years. If this feature is able to track instances of verbal abuse, what else is it tracking? 
  • Others worry that Civility™ is just one of the latest attempts to give human-esque rights to technology. What’s next, critics wager, sick days for Alexa?
Do you know your rating? Get your free trial of hyremiTM today and see what your former colleagues, employers—and well, everyone else—is saying about you.

hyremi™ Employability Score

Instead of applying for a new job with a cover letter and resume, today the majority of applications are submitted through hyremi™. The platform is able to predict successful employment, including the likelihood that candidates will remain in the job for over a year, or if they will contribute to business results. The tenure of each potential applicant is an important criteria for employers since it has become common practice to transition jobs every nine months. 

hyremi™ works by applying proprietary algorithms to the digital identity of job applicants to determine an employability score. This score is produced by scraping a variety of data sources, including social media, LinkedIn, police records, health records and public surveillance data. Given the success of hyremi™ to date, there are a number of competitor products in development.

Trade-offs:

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  • The recruitment process has been tedious and inefficient for decades. hyremi™ makes the process quicker and more effective for both the employer and potential employee. 
  • hyremi™ also helps rid human bias and nepotism from the equation.

  • Yet, not all job applicants are comfortable having their digital identity used in the hiring process. They don’t like the idea that their behaviour is being tracked, including the kindness they show (or lack) as they interact with friends and colleagues. 
  • This is resulting in some strange behaviours, leading some applicants to carefully curate their digital identities to ensure successful matches with potential employers.
Need a midday pick-me-up? Or, something to alleviate that stressful meeting? Your company has got you covered.

Corporate Cannabis

Despite warnings from skeptics and a slow-to-react legal system, cannabis strains designed for the workforce have reached new heights, with over 5000 tons/year now being produced in Canada. Some of the world’s largest technology firms were responsible for pioneering the cannabis trend, offering it to employees in an effort to increase creativity and reduce the mental strain of content moderation. This is seen as a natural extension of microdosing that became popular in Silicon Valley in the early 2000s. 

Driven by cannabis legalization in 2018, investors have given billions to Corporate Cannabis to develop bespoke strains using the latest in gene editing, reportedly with the ability to engineer incredibly specific physical and mental responses. Participating companies claim that employees experience increased productivity and improved mental well-being.

Trade-offs:

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  • Study after study shows the considerable health benefits of cannabis: chronic pain management, stress reduction, and even epilepsy treatment. 
  • Many employees see free access to cannabis as a company perk, helping to manage their energy, mood and mental acuity throughout the day. 
  • It also signals a move towards more flexible working environments with many companies vocalizing their respect for different lifestyles and modes of working

  • Yet, work-administered cannabis sets a dangerous precedent that employers can use substances to control or moderate their workers. It also diverts attention away from the reality of mentally strenuous workplace practices, such as moderating graphic or disturbing content. 
  • It beckons us to consider to what extent companies should alter our consciousness or brain chemistry at their service. Currently cannabis is just an option for employees to take or leave, but is there a potential future where use becomes a mandatory practice?
Escape the noise and enjoy some privacy away from ever watchful big business.

Wifi-Free Zone

It is disconcerting that only a few years ago, you could be connected to wifi anywhere—your device automatically joining a network without even getting consent first! Following the privacy riots of the late 2020s (sparked by the revelation that companies were scraping data off personal devices when they connected to free wifi, including private message logs and images), cities and towns across the world have since rolled out wifi-free zones. These zones are also driven by a growing trend of people looking to “unplug” from digital life. 

Some places have even placed a blanket ban on personal and private wifi use, creating entire communities free from the disruption of the internet. Here in Toronto, it is now illegal to transmit a wifi signal in a number of designated public spaces, with heavy penalties incurred for violations. Parts of Vancouver have gone even further, blocking 4G and 5G signals in entire districts of the city. The policy has been a resounding success with citizens, with polls showing that people feel safer and more secure knowing that they are not being unwittingly tracked or recorded. 

Trade-offs:

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  • Banning wireless internet connections in public spaces has created a greater sense of security and privacy for all. 
  • It has also satisfied a widespread desire for digital detox by many hungry to disconnect from their devices after years of seemingly mindless devotion, as well as mental health repercussions.

  • Yet, for low income populations without personal internet connection or even digital devices, these zones have limited their access to the web.
  • There are also rumblings that wifi bans will become more widespread and rigorously enforced, eventually becoming less idyllic and more restrictive. History has shown us the perils of state-controlled access to information or otherwise.
Quality sleep is now at your fingertips. Anytime. Anywhere.

INSTAREMⓇ

Artificially intelligent robots now comprise the majority of workers at numerous major Canadian corporations. These workers have very few physical limitations, working at all hours of the day and week. Although there are still bugs in the system, humans are hired to compensate for this by regulating and overseeing robot workers, demanding on-call support 24/7. This results in many sleep disruptions. As a result, corporations have developed a new, complimentary product for human employees called INSTAREMⓇ. This supplement is designed to manage sleep disruptions by providing, as the name suggests, instant REM sleep. 

Individuals are able to get quality rest whenever and in shorter amounts of time. It’s also been beneficial to Canadians outside of this use case, considering the rapid decline of sleep quality over the last 10 years. Prevalent anxiety and stress have completely disrupted our circadian rhythm. Accordingly, physicians have been vocal that remedies like INSTAREMⓇ are necessary to meet the minimum sleep requirements of a healthy lifestyle.

Trade-offs:

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  • INSTAREMⓇ helps individuals attain a greater quality of rest, resulting in higher levels of happiness and overall well-being. 
  • This is having impacts far beyond the group of human workers already using instaREMⓇ at a select number of corporations. 
  • In fact, there’s even been an increase in positive public interactions and community building initiatives with a direct link to this product.

  • Yet, public protests have also erupted over INSTAREMⓇ. Opponents are uncomfortable with not only the idea of robot workers, but also the ability of corporations to dictate their employees work–life and sleep schedule. 
  • Many are calling for a return to traditional employment and mandatory curfews in order to maintain sleep quality without the use of substances.

Artifacts from the future are fictional. They were created by Heather Russek, Ollie Sheldrick, and Jessica Thornton, with support from Erin Warner. The physical artifacts were brought to life by the design work of Jessica Thomson.

For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

Heather Russek
Director of Policy Innovation
Jessica Thornton
Collaborator
Erin Warner
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Jessica Thomson
Marketing and Communications Specialist
January 16, 2020
Print Page

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