home #SXSW Bruce Sterling: “the future is cities full of old people who are scared of the sky”

Bruce Sterling: “the future is cities full of old people who are scared of the sky”

Trying to fly back from SxSWi to Brussels proved very difficult, as some creepy snowstorm over the Midwest obliged us to stay in (sunny) Austin for an extra day.  As I picked up my bags, laptop, and some bone tired colleagues and went back to the car rental, I looked up and wondered how some silly clouds could ground me, a modern connected man.

And then, it struck me: Bruce Sterling was so right during his closing remarks to the SXSW Interactive festival . Sterling, a notorious science fiction writer, futurologist, and visionary in residence at the Pasadena University, predicted the world of the future yet again in a simple and concise sentence: “it will be old people in big cities afraid of the sky”.

This simple sentence combines three major human shaking trends in one sad statement.  We all know our population is aging, rapidly, and the speed at which we are able to live longer is still increasing. Populations get older, in a world that is still built for the young and quick. Secondly, people flee rural communities, resulting in a clear tendency of people flocking into high dense urban environments.  This tendency is even truer for the older generation that uses a part of their savings to live in a town, where services and amenities for the elderly are better and a broader cultural offer is at hand. Thirdly, global warming is triggering bizarre and catastrophic weather events planet wide. While countries as the USA, France and the UK can assimilate such catastrophes at a rate of one or two every decade, the pace is quickening. The impact on our ability to continue civilization as it is will be mindboggling unless we are able to reverse these effects quickly, and prepare in earnest for the cataclysm of angry skies, foaming waves and hellish wind.

Earlier, Sterling pointed out two clear communications channels into scared and hesitating audiences to me: “you can try to explain what is happening. Or you can take away their fear. “

Bruce is a smart man…

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