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Kent Bernhardt: The shape of tomorrow

If you’re like me, you often think about what the future will be like. I’m excited about some of the possibilities I may face, and frightened about others.

I’m no futurist. I even have a hard time predicting what time I’ll get home from work today. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the things to come.

Twenty-five years ago, a woman named Faith Popcorn – I remember her name because it was so odd – wrote a book called “The Popcorn Report: Faith Popcorn on the Future of Your Company, Your World, and Your Life”.

My employer at the time would quote passages of the book to us during staff meetings.

She was pretty good at recognizing emerging trends in her day, and used her insight to predict how we’d all be working and living in the future.

She advised Kodak to move from print photography to digital way back in the late 80’s. And as far back as 1981, she convinced Coca-Cola that it might be a good move to look at the idea of bottled water.

We laughed at some of her ideas then, but they have become reality today.

To be honest, I don’t agree with a few of her notions. She predicted a trend toward more physical contact that will include “mechanized hugging booths”. I don’t want to be hugged by a machine.

Well, it would have to be a really good looking machine.

She also predicted advances in genetics that would allow us to custom design our pets with our own DNA so that our dogs and cats will look and act a little like us. That seems a little wacky to me.

I don’t want a dog that looks and behaves like me. He would not only chew up the furniture, but he would leave his reading glasses all over the house.

In her original book, Ms. Popcorn also predicted we’d all be doing something she calls “Cocooning”. That’s the phrase she coined describing our desire to spend more time at home, with less time at public venues. She said our entertainment would come to us.

She was right about that. Cocooning led to the success of companies like Netflix and Domino’s Pizza, and left movie theater owners and restaurants scratching their heads and wondering how to pull the public back through their doors.

I haven’t kept up with many of Faith Popcorn’s predictions. But I do wonder what she sees in our future these days. I’ll tell you a few things I’d like to see.

I’d like to see us using our smart phones as tools to enhance our lives rather than what they’ve become, devices that control our lives. I’d like to see us talking more and texting less.

I’d like to see the selfie disappear. There’s something wrong with people spending an inordinate amount of time taking pictures, not of beautiful scenery and loved ones, but of themselves. How did that get started anyway?

I’d like to see politicians go out of style, and leaders emerge.

I’d like to see the home cooked meal and family time return. I’ve eaten enough food alone and on the run. I have some crumbs under my car seat that I’m pretty sure are at least six or seven years old. There was something special about a shared meal and simple conversation that many have lost today.

I’d like to see fewer TV channels. We’ve discovered that more TV is not better TV.

I’m happy for the medical advancements we’ve seen over the last fifty years, but I’d like to see us developing ways to put more life in our years, not years in our life.

I’d like to see someone, just one person, who knows how to sing the National Anthem without making it sound like an audition for “The Voice”.

And I think I’d enjoy this new trend the most:

I’d like to see us living lives full of simple joys and pleasures; enjoying a child’s laughter more than we enjoy a new Facebook post, a local concert or play more than a Netflix movie, and a night out with good friends more than chatting with strangers on the internet.

In short, I’d like the see an emerging trend of living each moment to the fullest each day.

Because when you get right down to it, we have no idea what tomorrow really holds.

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