Looking Forward: How Will Lives Change? Joel Kotkin, who studies metropolitan development and urban planning, talks about how people might be arranging their lives in the coming five years. And author Jamais Cascio outlines where technology might take us.
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Looking Forward: How Will Lives Change?

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Looking Forward: How Will Lives Change?

Looking Forward: How Will Lives Change?

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The world has changed a lot in the last five years. That's history - but what about the future? We want to know how we might be living five years from today. Joining me now is Joel Kotkin. He's the author of the book, "The City of Global History" as well as the book "The New Geography." Welcome to the program.

Mr. JOEL KOTKIN (Author: "The City of Global History" and "The New Geography"): Nice to be here.

BRAND: All right. So, much of the news in the past year has been driven by the collapse of the housing market, and let's talk about what that's going to mean for us five years from now. How will that change where people live and how they live?

Mr. KOTKIN: Well, I'm not necessarily sure how much it will change where they live. I think it's going to affect when they move there. In other words, I think that in the short run this is, of course, very catastrophic for people, and people aren't going anywhere because they can't sell their homes. And if housing prices remains somewhat down from the highs of the last few years, I think there'll be a lot of opportunity for people to actually go out and buy homes or condominiums in areas that they want to live in. You'll see a period right now of stasis, and then a period of great dynamism once the economy begins to recover.

BRAND: Well, we did see a period of great dynamism when it came to building these houses in places where there actually hadn't been any houses before. So there was this great outward push of the exurbs, and places like metro Las Vegas became the fastest growing areas in the country. Is that going to just pick up where it left off five years from now, or will we see another place that'll be hot, another area of the country, another kind of area where people will be living?

Mr. KOTKIN: I think fundamentally, what's going to drive mobility and where people are going to want to live is going to be jobs. So people are going to go to those places where they can find employment. Interestingly enough, some places like Texas are continuing to attract lots of people, while places like Las Vegas and Phoenix, not so much as they were before.

BRAND: And what about for traditional cities - the New Yorks, the Los Angeleses?

Mr. ROTKIN: Well, I think it's going to be rough because these places have many problems politically. They are expensive, they're heavily regulated. They have high taxes. New York, of course, is going to go through a very difficult period because about 35 percent of all the total income in New York City now is dependent upon the financial service sector. L.A., I think, is going to be a more of a mixed bag. I mean, California's still, you know, has everything going for it except its government. I mean, people are still going to want to come to California. The question is whether or not they're going to be able to stay and find work.

BRAND: And when you look at government as a whole, I mean, there is just a fundamental shift now in the role government is playing in the economy and in our lives, what with the stimulus package and bank bailouts. And I'm wondering, in five years from now, what do you think that will result in, in terms of the effects it has on the way you and I live?

Mr. KOTKIN: Well, I think one of the things, there's going to be an enormous shift of power to Washington, D.C., a concentration of power such as we have not seen probably since the Second World War. We're going to have much, much more emphasis on going on your hands and knees to Washington. I don't think it's necessarily a very good development, but I think it's going to have an enormous impact. Clearly, we're going to be a lot less of a market-based economy, at least in the next four of five years, than we have been in the past.

BRAND: Joel Kotkin in the author of the book, "The City: A Global History." Thank you very much.

Mr. KOTKIN: Thank you.

COHEN: With enough minds, all tomorrows are visible. That's the motto you'll find at Jamais Cascio's Web site. It's called OpenTheFuture.com. Cascio writes about the future of the Earth and about technology's role in it. He's also the author of the book called "Hacking the Earth." Jamais Cascio joins me now from a studio at Stanford University. Welcome to the program.

Mr. JAMAIS CASCIO (Author, "Hacking the Earth"): Thank you very much.

COHEN: You have said that the future we create is a future that we can be proud of. So, here's the big question. How do we do that?

Mr. CASCIO: The funny thing is, the answer is going to sound almost prosaic and that is, we need to try. We have such a perception that the future happens to us. And really, the future is a process, and it is something that we all create together. And the more we are conscious of our role in creating the future, whether you're building new tools or engaging with each other in collaborative projects, the better chance we have of creating a future that we like.

COHEN: Technology already plays such a crucial role in our lives now. How do you see that unfolding in the years ahead?

Mr. CASCIO: Well, the technologies that I'm really looking at are those around energy and around social collaboration and around making things. You know, there are all sorts of really interesting new tools that are coming out that give us really powerful new capacities, especially distributed capacities.

COHEN: Last year, you put out a computer game called "Superstruct," where players played basically themselves in the future, and that future in your game was a really bleak world and - some might argue - not that dissimilar from we're facing now. I'm curious what that experience taught you about the roles that all of us can play in this notion that you referred to earlier, of making our own future, of letting it be something more than what happens to us.

Mr. CASCIO: The world that we created as the base story was intentionally provocative and frightening because we wanted to really force people to think through how they could change things. What we were looking for is, how would they work together? And the ideas that people came up with around building new institutions, creating new forms of cooperation, new ways of helping each other, new ways of innovating - it gave us a lot of hope that things actually, as bad as they seem today, there's real opportunity for creating a 21st century that we can be proud of.

COHEN: Can you give us a specific example of something that people came up with?

Mr. CASCIO: It was a group of people who - using an emerging technology known as 3D printing, sometimes called fabbing, F-A-B-B-I-N-G, fabricating. It's a technology that's available today, but is generally used either to create flimsy, fragile, demo pieces of various consumer products, or it's used at the high end to make fuselage parts for aircraft. And it's basically the construction of material components layer by layer at a very microscopic level, such that what you get is a solid piece that can be in some cases, quite literally printed at your desk. And this technology is getting really cheap, really fast. What this group in Superstruct came up with was the idea that once these tools become sufficiently inexpensive, they become a way for communities to support each other, to be able to have bottom-up, distributed industries. Because if you think about it for a moment, a world where you can walk down to the local copy center, and instead of getting a copy of a document, you actually get a copy of a pair of shoes, or you go and you spend $1,000 on a desktop printer that can print a new toy for your kid. And so what we're moving very close to is a point where it would become possible to quite literally print a cell phone at your desk. This notion that suddenly these kinds of technologies aren't just created by people hundreds of thousands of miles away and shipped to you, but instead are things that you can make for yourself - that can be really disruptive and powerful.

COHEN: Jamais Cascio is author of the book, "Hacking the Earth," and he blogs at OpenTheFuture.com. Thanks, Jamais.

Mr. CASCIO: Thank you very much.

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