A Future so Bright we Cannot see It

Analysis

The future is bright; we just don’t know what it will look like. But it will be disruptive. And digital, obviously. You won’t have a job. Or, if you do, it won’t look much like what you do today.  

If the past is a foreign country, then the future certainly is, and it can, if you allow it that power, look like a scary place. But then humans are not terribly good at dealing with change or accepting that things might be done differently (or, perish the thought, that those different things might even be better).  

Perhaps what makes the future seem so scary now is that we know so little about it, beyond the fact that it will be different. It wasn’t always so. Not so very long ago in our collective comparative human past, things would barely change at all for centuries: Tomorrow would look pretty much the same as today, which was itself remarkably similar to yesterday. The only variety would be brought about by a subtle change in our clothing; perhaps a slightly bigger ruff around the neck this season, or rather less pointy toes to the shoes.  

In the 21st century, things move at a much more accelerated pace. The way we produce newspapers today has changed completely from what it was when I joined the profession in 1986. Back then we used typewriters and carbon paper, and most phones still featured a dial.

One colleague, an early adapter, bought himself what we would laughingly call a laptop. I cannot actually recall if that was the term we used back then (Dictionary.com tells me the first recorded use was 1980-85), but it would not have been particularly apt. It was about the size of a small electric organ and took up the better part of a desk. The internet was still a plaything for academia and the military, email did not exist and a mobile phone, if you could afford one, had the dimensions (and weight) of a house brick. Beyond the printed newspaper itself, few of the methods we routinely use to communicate with our readers today, be that our website, Facebook and LinkedIn pages, Twitter or Instagram existed even a decade ago, let alone three.  

However we do get to the future, it will involve a lot of clever people from the information and communications technology business, and doubtless some of our global progress – and let us be generous and assume it is progress – will be shaped right here in Hungary.

ICT is the focus of the special report in this issue. As it makes clear, the 5G revolution is just around the corner, and that will surely have a dramatic impact on how we live our lives.

I particularly enjoyed the comment from the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) at an ICT conference that banks should “think big” in embracing change. Central banks are not often thought of as radical or cutting edge, but the MNB does have its own FinTech sandpit in which to play and try out new technologies, and the banking profession has barely changed in the past 200 years or so, beyond using machines to help it count faster, so perhaps they are justified in saying so.

I don’t know what the future will look like – and as a journalist I am a paid skeptic – but I am broadly optimistic about what it might hold. I am certainly excited about what it will bring for my children. There is not, in any case, much we can do about it, so we might as well enjoy the ride.

Robin Marshall

Editor-in-chief

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