The latest technology in the world has changed our way of life immeasurably over the past few decades and the pace of change seems to be only accelerating. From the mid-90s on, the data availability, digitalisation and automation facilitated by the internet and supporting technologies has changed the world’s economy radically. In a way that is perhaps less obvious in our day-to-day lives, robotisation and automation has also overhauled manufacturing and production. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the way the ‘Information Age’ has changed the way we live and work will be considered superficial in comparison to what comes next.
A recent World Economic Forum report predicts that the jobs 65% of the youngsters currently in primary school do not yet exist. Occupations based on predictable steps, patterns and processes such as data collection and processing and non-creative physical work are expected to be almost entirely outsourced to technology within the next couple of decades.
There are many who fear the culmination of the information age will be a world of mass unemployment and an ever-widening disparity of wealth. There are other who believe even more strongly that the emancipation of the bulk of humanity from the shackles of repetitive occupations, which throughout human history have taken up most of our time, will lead to the most progressive age of humanity to date. The theoretic age that follows the information age has been dubbed the ‘Imagination Age’. The term was first applied by Rita J. King, an Executive Vice President of Science House, a creative consultancy in New York City and previously a ‘futurist’ at the National Institute of Aerospace and has been defined as:
“an economy where intuitive and creative thinking create economic value, after logical and rational thinking has been outsourced to other economies.”
The latest technology in the world has two forks. The first fork is that of technology taking over tasks that have previously required human input. The second fork is technology which supports and facilitates human creativity.
Both forks can make use of the same technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Many economists believe we are already seeing the beginning of this transition with the number of jobs for professionals such as designers, architects, software engineers and photographers increasing and those for accountants, factory workers and administrative staff decreasing.
As well as leading to a new age of aesthetic riches brought about by an artistic and creative focus to the ‘human led’ economy, the biggest change the Imagination Age would be expected to bring about would be humanity envisioning its own possible futures and then testing the ideas. As Einstein once said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.”
With every invention, from vehicles allowing space travel, to smartphones and architecture first existing in our imaginations, and humanity then subsequently working out how to make it a reality, the potential outcome of an Imagination Age could be phenomenal. The pattern of sci-fi to reality when it comes to technology advancements in recent decades demonstrates what could be in store for us if our primary occupation becomes that of imagination.