The pursuit of freedom may be the most consistently powerful urge of them all, and technology now allows us to untie many binds. Fixed acquisitions that once anchored us (jobs, contracts, mortgages) will soon flow with us. The world of one job, one house and “my” things will be replaced by the flexibility of constant connectivity and new models of work. We’ll have our assets and freedom, too. In a world prioritizing access over ownership, optionality is the new stability.
Where is the world headed?
Our lives will become increasingly de-located.
Constant connectivity allows us to de-locate tasks and complete anything from anywhere: work from the car, visit a doctor from home, join the family dinner from a hotel. Due to smart sensors, massive data centers, wearables and connected devices, the internet will be much like electricity — a constant, ubiquitous current throughout our lives, nothing we “log on” to, just something that’s always on. Retail will become an almost blink-and-buy experience seamlessly embedded in our lives. Consumption will be frictionless and immersive.
Flexible models of work will be the norm.
Artisans work through Etsy, artists through 99designs, consultants through Catalant, programmers through Topcoder, and everyone else through Upwork. Participation in this online platform economy has grown 47 times from 2012 to 2015, and experts predict it will continue to grow exponentially. New flexibility means income streams will become irregular as more and more workers trade the consistent corporate salary for the vicissitudes of 1099 forms. Moreover, even those with traditional careers will experience the enhanced flexibility (and constant demands) inherent to connectivity.
Ownership will yield to experience.
We’ll increasingly access assets through peer-to-peer sharing, co-ownership and on-demand rental. What used to be symbols of success — a home with a new car in the driveway — may be viewed as burdensome assets. Yesterday’s American Dream becomes freedom’s encumbrance in a world that prioritizes efficient mobility. In the future, we’ll pay for usage, not possession. We’ll connect and consume through peers as much as institutions. These collaborative markets mean consumers will contribute, create, gift, regift, recycle, donate, lend, loan, localize and customize in a direct way that requires a networked platform but often subverts a traditional institution.
The year most experts believe the first implantable mobile phone will be available.
The percentage of the working-age population in the United States and Europe, up to 162 million individuals, that engages in independent work.
The percentage of consumers in the United States who see themselves being a consumer in the sharing economy in the next two years.
How will Dawn respond?
She’ll gain freedom:
the flexibility of mobility and the opportunity of access
Dawn’s life depends much less on dedicated spaces. She shops anywhere, anytime. She can access the world from her home and her home from the world, so traditional delineations between home, work and travel blur. “Home” means something fundamentally different, as a portable lease replaces a 30-year mortgage.
She pays for usage, not possession, trading the status of ownership for flexibility and optionality. She shares any high-value asset that frequently sits unused (a car, a lawn mower, a piece of art).
What percentage of survey respondents is willing to share assets like homes, tools, electronics and services?
Dawn shuns anything that breaks the “flow” of her life: anything she can’t do from the comfort of her connected home (she trades doctor visits for telemedicine), any experience that demands a special trip (no checkout counters for Dawn), any purchase that ties her down (no house, no annual gym membership), and any job that tells her when and where to work instead of just providing the platform to access work. She doesn’t report to one employer, but works up to six gigs in a given day, applying her talents where they fit best.
Her life is in constant flow.
What percentage of the workforce in the United States is expected to participate in the gig economy by 2020?
There were 19.7 million telehealth video consultations (TVCs) globally in 2014. How many TVCs do experts predict will take place in 2020?
… but she’ll also gain uncertainty:
will she have enough?
This flexibility and fluidity usher in unprecedented independence, access and opportunity — but also complexity and insecurity. Dawn wonders: How do I manage all these options? Where will the next paycheck come from? She has new needs as an “enterprise of one” without the support of a traditional employer; she must assume the responsibilities of a corporation (sales, service, accounting), and she has mounting pressure to keep her ratings and digital reputation up so she can always get new gigs. She battles increasing demands to be “always on” in her professional and personal life.
How much time do Etsy sellers spend on making their products vs. on business-related tasks?
It’s already happening
(a future-oriented scenario built exclusively from companies operating today)
Today, Dawn wakes up in Miami. She pays weekly rent to Roam so she can bounce between communal living spaces whenever she wants. She has few possessions — and she likes it that way. Armoire sends her a new wardrobe every month, and if she ever needs a steamer or a suitcase, Peerby points her to a neighbor who owns one. She chooses experiences over things. Her career is made up of short-term gigs from Catalant, where she freelances as a consultant. Each project rewards her with new skills, perspectives and connections. If money’s tight, she walks dogs with Wag! or drives with Lyft using a car she co-owns with her Roam-mates. Her life comes with some uncertainty, but Peers.org gives her the health benefits she needs and Even helps her smooth out her irregular income.