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How Will History View The Near Future

I was cleaning out my office and found an article I clipped out from the New York Times in 2010. On September 13, 2010 Douglas Coupland (the author who coined the phrase Gen X) published a dictionary of the near future. He said, “the thing about the future is that it never feels the way we thought it would.”

Given how 2020 was so concentrated with events and new language, I thought it was interesting to look back on how, ten years ago, Coupland was thinking about the near future. Given we have new terms from 2020 like new normal, BLM, contract tracing, Doomscrolling (a personal favorite), Pod, Virtual Happy Hour (or virtual anything), Zooming, etc. I was reading the article thinking which of his ideas are still with us.

Some things that seem especially pertinent to today include:

Frankentime: What time feels like when you realize that most of your life is spent working with and around a computer and internet.

Interruption-Driven Memory: We remember only red traffic lights, never the green ones. The green ones keep us in the flow, the red ones interrupt and annoy us.

Blank-Collar Workers: Formerly middle-class workers who will never be middle class again and who will never come to terms with that.

Post-Human: Whatever it is that we become next.

The last one seems very relevant for today. With the New Year we cannot lament about this year any longer, it’s stretched into a period of time or a brief era, straddling two years. Given the concentrated series of changes people have gone through, I’m curious to see:

What we embrace and do more of…

What we leave behind to never do again…

What new things we keep around a while…

As interesting as 2020 was, it feels like 2021 and 2022 will be more transformative for people as we change how we entertain ourselves, cope, shop, interact with each other, interact with brands, etc. Instead of being a reaction to a crisis the next one to two years will present more of an opportunity to carve a new path based on new choices, old choices, and the reality of a changed economy and world.

By the way, if you want to look back on words that you will never want to hear again in a year or two, the NYT published a list of those too, which you can find here.

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