The Twenties: The Beginning of a New Decade
The last 20s were known as “free-wheeling” and “carefree” and “spirit-full”, times of hope and hardship, and times of global transformation as well. That was 100 years ago! What then will the 2020s be like?
As we turn the page into a new year, and not only the end of 2019 but also the start of a brand new decade, how can we look ahead to some of the hopes, challenges, and expectations of the coming 10 years? Reflect with us, below, on some of the trends shaping our society and also some of the predictions that have been shared by experts in a variety of fields, on what we can expect in the coming years…
First, let us turn to the “expert” opinion and hear what people are suggesting will animate the coming decade, most notably the biggest changes in industry.
“Virtual ‘echo chambers’ will become a lot more real. In the next decade we will see the emergence of contact lenses that will track what you are seeing 24/7 and present you with personalised information – maybe suggesting you enter a coffee shop you pass because one of your friends is inside. This will mean each of the worlds we see through our contact lenses are completely different. We will also have more of a dialogue with companies, interacting with them and telling them what we want and need. At present, the exchange still tends to be very one-sided.” (Sandra Matz, professor at Columbia Business School)
“Now that there is so much new tech in the world, the next big questions will be how we can use it to improve wellness. We are fast approaching data-driven healthcare and it is an exciting time to be alive in medicine and tech. The next decade will bring personalised medicine and treatment plans, an AI interface, or hologram being our first point of contact.” (Shafi Ahmed, surgeon, futurist, and innovator)
“The last ten years saw the rise of smartphones. In the next ten years, they will disappear, and we will find other solutions that are more data-driven and personalised. We will have to choose the right technical option out of millions. The C-suite structure will change to a more fluid board. A less rigid structure will help us adapt to situations – the market, technology, and people.” (Heimo Hammer, CEO of Kraftwerk group)
“Everyone deemed ‘other’ by society (women, people of colour, disabled people, outsiders) will start their own industries, shaking up the corporate structure, which still centres on the existence of the housewife. These new ‘other’ businesses will offer fresh perspectives, including shared parental leave, work-life balance, and remote working.” (Cindy Gallop, advertising guru)
“We are shifting towards radically individual experiences of adulthood. People will choose to stay single, get pregnant in their 50s, or launch a company in their 60s. Traditional life stages are in flux and there are no rules. The role of the city in society will also change. Creatives won’t be able to afford to live in a city like New York, which has three times the average cost of living. Creative hubs won’t be in cities that have become extreme in wealth disparity and are no longer the cultural melting pot they once were.” (Lucie Greene, futurist and global director of The Innovation Group JWT)
“We will go back to being more human in how we look at business, and will move towards craftsmanship and slow work. We’ll look more at burnout, stress, and meditation. Growth drives business but we can only push it so far. The two may become de-coupled.” (Carla Johnson, business influencer)
What do the “experts” say to all that will not change, however, in the coming decade? Interestingly, their analyses focus almost wholly on the front-and-centre role of relationships and person-to-person interaction in business, work, and global industry.
“Interpersonal relationships won’t change. One of the things we are good at is looking after people, and these are the jobs that make people happy. Automation will take over some areas of our jobs, but care and human contact will stay human.” (Sandra Matz)
The Heart of Business
“Technology is an enabling tool, but nothing will ever trump human contact and interaction. Human connection in 2020 and beyond will still be at the heart of business.” (Sunnie J. Groeneveld, entrepreneur)
“Our need to learn won’t change. We will need to encourage people to keep learning and using their brains in a world of automation. They will need to implement “lifelong learning” to keep developing throughout their career.” (Heimo Hammer)
“The resistance to change in the business world [will stay the same]. At the top of every industry, there is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys. They have enormous salaries, gigantic bonuses, big pools of stock options, lavish expense accounts. Why on earth would they ever want to rock the boat? They have to talk diversity a lot (especially in public), but deep down inside they don’t want to change a thing. It’s like the old joke – how many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.” (Cindy Gallop)
“If we travelled back 75,000 years to meet our ancestors, we would look like God to them. We move faster, we’re stronger, and we live longer. However, the one thing that would be the same is the way we talk. Communication has not changed in the last 75,000 years and is the one thing that will stay the same.” (Moran Cerf, professor Kellogg School of Management)
How about a Christian response? What can we say in response to these expectations for the coming decade, and for all the predictions of life in the 2020's?
For starters, we can return to the prophet Jeremiah, and take caution of the words of God – spoken through this prophet. Who are we putting our trust in?
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17, NIV)
A healthy dose of humility is perhaps a good starting point for 2020. Whilst the world preaches radical anthropocentrism – that we human beings are the centre of it all, and more importantly I am myself at the epicentre – we can take a different stance. The gospel offers us the radical freedom of the orthodoxy of Theo-centrism – God at the centre of it all. As Thomas Merton (quoted in Buscaglia, 1978:90) wrote;
‘We do not exist for ourselves (as the centre of the universe), and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others. What do I mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean, first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift, a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give others.’
As Christians, we also have the gift of celebrating and worshipping God through our gifts, bringing Him glory, and exercising stewardship in all our endeavours.
Getting Stuck In
Paul’s letter to the Colossians is a call to living a life that is alive in Christ. He has instructions for husbands and wives, for servants and slaves, for masters, and for Christian households. At the end of chapter 3 his instructions turn to ‘bondservants’ - and his call to work has a ring of the ‘gift of responsibility’ (of “avodāh” in the Hebrew) that we study in Cross-Current Module 1. Paul writes:
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism.” (NIV)
The call to ‘work at it with all your heart’ is a call that can still ring for us today - a call to service, a call to work well for others, a call to work well with others. This is the gift of responsibility and service that comes from work. Ever since the curse of the ground in Genesis 3, work was destined to be hard. And yet in this hardship, God gifts us the grace of work itself to serve others and to care for others’ needs, as well as for our own.
As we get stuck into a new decade of work, this can be our anthem of working well, working hard, and doing it all, ‘as working for the Lord, not for human masters’ (Colossians 3:23).
Diversity in Work
Sola (1992:395) notes that the work we do in the 21st Century may take a very different shape, and that this may be very healthy indeed:
‘The victorious campaign of [antiquity in] Western civilisation was made possible by homogeneity, uniformity, and continuity. Our task may seem logical if we get back to the pluralism, diversity, and discontinuity of trying to reach out again to the vital forces of natural development...in doing so we should speak about the entire world.’
With a view to technological prowess, in particular, Sola notes an important dynamic in the role of human agency in contemporary society. Sola (p.399) writes:
‘Technology will always impose itself, but if we do not yield totally, we may augment our chances of returning to the mythological, poetical, irrational and non-functional. Thus, gaining the balance through the creative process.’
Conventional wisdom has plenty to teach us on the importance of healthy relationships and what makes for true intimacy. As Cross-Current teaches in Modules 1-3, relationships can even be qualified, according to the Jubilee Centre of Cambridge, by the measures of wealth and health, along these five lines;
Guy Brandon of the Jubilee Centre also writes on the importance of true, stable, healthy relationships (2016:3):
‘Dunbar’s number is a suggested limit to the number of stable relationships the human brain is capable of maintaining, where not only each person is known but also how they relate to one another – as has been the case in communities since the dawn of time. It is usually set around 150. Our online connections typically far exceed this number.’
What about time to listen to the still, small voice of God in the coming decade? Fascinatingly, silence can help us as we pursue healthy, bounded living, and close communion with God. Deresiewicz (2009:1) argues that we have traded in idleness for boredom, and solitude for loneliness. He warns the risk that ‘technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration...[and] also taking away our ability to be alone’ (ibid.). Nonetheless, this has impelled communities to re-enact these traits.
‘Communal experience is the human norm, but the solitary encounter with God is the egregious act that refreshes the norm...the still, small voice [of God] speaks only in silence.’ (Deresiewicz, 2009:1)
This is refracted in the gift of prayer, a gift we can exercise both in community and in the privacy of our own rooms. C.S. Lewis – the British writer of the 20th Century – reminds us that prayer is first and foremost about ‘acknowledgement’. He moves us to start, in prayer, with the simple acknowledgement that God is God, and I am not. He is Creator. He is Sustainer. He is Author of my faith. He is God Almighty. Acknowledgement of these matters can move our hearts a long way towards correct prayer – as well as praise and worship, and adoration of our God. In prayer, C.S. Lewis was known for his natural, simple, practical-realism. He wrote, ‘Relying on God has to being all over again every day, as if nothing had yet been done’ and the truth of prayer is that ‘we must lay before him what is in us; not what ought to be in us’.
When we read the story of Daniel in the Old Testament, we see the gift of prayer well exercised. Daniel has a habit of praying, as we see in Chapter 6. One commentator notes how the habit of a train is to be confined to its tracks and therein consists its usefulness and safety. As Dale Ralph Davis (p.88) notes on this story in Daniel, ‘so we see with Daniel: consistency assists courage, and discipline feeds faithfulness. In the crisis Daniel’s habit set him free to be faithful’. Indeed, freedom has a form – and habits deeply shape us.
‘When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper room open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.’ (Daniel 6:10)
We could also think of the importance of embodiment and the human body, of music and art, of culture, of community, of close fellowship, and of active listening as noble pursuits for the coming decade.
What are your hopes for this new year, for this new decade?
If you are interested in marketplace formation, join us! Cross-Current is launching new City Groups in both Geneva and Brussels in the winter of 2020 and we would love you to be a part of our community!
Please get in touch online through our contact page - www.graduateimpact.org/contact
References: all quotes taken from FFF Venice, 2019 (Fast Forward Forum), see www.fastforwardforum.eu for the main themes from the FFF conference
Buscaglia, L. (1978) Personhood: The Art of Being Fully Human (New York: Slack).
Brandon, G. (2016) Digitally Remastered (Jubilee Centre: Cambridge).
Davis, D.R. (2013) The Message of Daniel (Illinois: IVP).
Deresiewicz, W. (2009) The End of Solitude, The Chronicle Review, pp.1-6.
Sola, T. (1992) The future of museums and role of museology, Museum Management and Curatorship, 11.1, pp.393-400.
Image Credits: www.ideas.com