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Imagining our future

They say that when you grow old, you tend to reflect more on the past, reconstructing the memories of your life. That is certainly true. But in my case, it is equally true that I often find myself thinking what the future would be like for my children and my grandchildren.

In a previous column, I wrote about becoming a grandfather and how our grandchildren represent the future. Since becoming a lolo, I have often wondered what kind of world Tristan and Emma Therese would be living in.

The advances that we are experiencing now were unimaginable during our time. Who would have imagined that you could control your house’s lighting, security system, stereo, TV, and other appliances using your mobile phone? In the first place, did we ever imagine conducting most of our personal and business affairs using a smartphone? Looking back, how did we ever get to meetings and dates without text messaging? Today, you leave your smartphone at home and you feel helpless.

You can now hail a taxi or get a car service by tapping on the screen of your phones. You can rent a home in Paris, Tokyo, or New York by simply using an app. Families who use to go to cinemas to watch movies simply stream movies from Netflix or download movies from iTunes.

Will my grandchildren ride in self-driving cars when they grow up? They would probably laugh when they see photos of cars and jeeps and buses during our time.

Today, young people give you quizzical looks when you say the word “fax machine.” What is that? A typewriter to them is some ancient tool used by prehistoric cavemen. And a transistor radio is something they would see in a museum. I expect my grandchildren to come up to me and ask, “Lolo, what is a Walkman?”

Times have changed fast. And they will keep on changing in the future.

Will my grandkids have robots for nannies? Will they learn biology and math from Mr. Robot which they can simply access using their tablet? Will they leave in a future that is almost completely automated?

Sometimes, while in deep thought over a cup of coffee, I often wonder: How will the people of the future travel?

Aside from visiting the many beautiful destinations of the world, I imagine my grandkids vacationing on the moon or to Mars as space travel would have been the norm. Will they have time travel? Imagine meeting my grandkids back when I was still a young man.

What kind of work will they have? Some observers suggest that smart machines and robots will soon revolutionize the workplace that would displace the human workforce. Even today, many modern companies are embracing automation in the name of efficiency and productivity.

A number of futurologists – scientists who make it their business to predict what human life would be like in the future – believe that in the very near future, we would have “thinking” and “talking” buildings. I imagine buildings that can determine when repairs are needed or how to systematically counter any natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes. How tall can buildings get? And when they have become taller than today’s tallest, can you imagine the advances in elevator technology that requires? Is it possible to have small cities housed right inside a tall building?

That is not difficult to imagine. Look at our mall today with its almost complete lineup of services: shopping, dining, hospitals, dental clinics, chapels, and the like. And some of them are connected to condominium units so a community self-contained in a building is not at all far-fetched.

How will we grow food? The future will probably be characterized by a tremendous increase in population necessitating increase food production. Some believe that the future will feature what they call vertical agriculture where instead of farmlands we use vertical hi-tech buildings with artificial intelligence to manage the manufacture of our foods.

As it is being practiced for some years now, hydrophonics – simply put, growing plants without soil – may become the standard by which we produce fruits and vegetables. Imagine how that would transform the lives of our farmers!

I am hopeful that with advances in medicine and healthcare, my apos will live longer, healthier lives. I am also hopeful that technology will provide future generations with better quality education and better opportunities.

Imagining the future is, well, unimaginable.

(End of Part I) (Senator Manny Villar)