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Aging Populations and Social Capital


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A look at the "hard" and "soft" technologies that will empower aging populations, and how they will influence our future.

A look at the "hard" and "soft" technologies that will empower aging populations, and how they will influence our future.

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  • There are probable futures, possible futures and preferred futures. Smart communities engage in the process of envisioning their best future, and then engage in the process of making it real.

    But we are surrounded with choices, and these choices all make for very different outcomes. Today, I’ll talk about two or three different visions of the future.

  • As a futurist, I love to read a lot of science fiction. One of my favorite authors says that In the future…. There will be old people in BIG cities afraid of the sky.

    And I believe that he is at least two thirds right. We have a miraculous epidemic of aging. We’re all getting old. And this, of course is better than the alternative.

  • It has been said that we may seen see the first generation that spends more time taking care of the elderly than the young. One adaptation to a longer life is that we all seem to be spending more time in adolescence, middle age and senescence. People are getting married latter, having families later, working later, and living longer. The legendary Cellist Pablo Caslas was asked why continued to practice at age 90. “Because, I think that I’m making progress.”

    There is something worth mentioning about this demographic pyramid – it is no longer a pyramid. The bottom cannot support the top, and this is worrisome for many people.

    Birth rates are now below replacement rates for countries that account for almost half the world’s population – include Europe, Asia, and China.

    Australia’s population ahs increased more than fivefold in the past century from 3.77m to 19.2 m in 2000. It is expectedc that the population will level at about 25 million by 2040. Live expectancy for those born today is around 76 and 82.

  • A more useful statement about the future comes from another science fiction author, William Gibson. He says that the future is already here, but it is just not very easily distributed.

    If the future already exists here and today, where can you find it? Where does it want to live? I believe that the future is living in your child’s backpack. Because the 20-year olds of today will be the 60 year olds of 2050.
  • Within this backpack, you will find a lifetime worth of stories, photos, games, books, and music. With the digitization of everyday life, the millennials are quickly become the first post-consumer generation. This is what happens when having stuff still matters, it simply matters less than it used to. As a result of this, we’ll all have a smaller footprint.
  • So, less is more, more or less. And I find the tiny house movement fascinating.

    The is an example of simple, elegant, and sustainable living in the desert. The one-bedroom, 600-square-foot prototype residence relies on panelized construction to allow for speed and economy on site or in a factory.

    It can be connected to utilities or be “unplugged,” relying on low-consumption fixtures, rainwater harvesting, greywater re-use, natural ventilation, solar orientation, and photovoltaics to reduce energy and water use. The structure is dimensioned and engineered to be transportable via roadway.

    It can be built for about $40,000, or about the same amount as the downpayment on a conventional home. What are the implications of being mortgage free at the age of 30? At the age of 50? This downsizing opens up now possibilities in terms of flexibility and freedom.

    Questions – is this a high tech bachelor pad, or will people be comfortable raising families in these? Will millennials continue to be post-consumers when they have families of their own, or will they become homesteaders like the Generations Xers?
  • Another thing that we know about they millennial generation – they love the internet, and they love their tatoos.

    Talk about ambient energy – story about father the scientist who was fascinated by measuring things – what makes his children so energetic…. 2 volts of power.


    Peizo electric effect
    Crystal Radios
    Thermal Power
    Capillary Power
    Motion power
  • Nothing is lost, nothing is stolen, and nothing remains broken. That applies to people and cars, too.

    Chevrolet Pod Car based on Segway Technology.

    March 2014 Geneva Auto Show, Rinspeed — a self-described think tank for the automotive industry — will debut a concept sedan called “XchangE,” which sees an autonomous Tesla vehicle stripped of its normal interior and redesigned as a lounge on four wheels. 
    So far hardly anyone has taken this to its logical conclusion from the perspective of the driver. After all, traveling in a driverless car will no longer require me to stare at the road, but will let me spend my time in a more meaningful way. How will the interior of a vehicle have to be designed to let the now largely unburdened driver make optimal use of the gain in time?
  • Digital Nomads, Supercommutes?
  • Budgie Robot

    I Robot Ava Pedestal Robot Used in hospitals for telemedicine

    Robo Thespians
  • We really can’t talk about the future without mentioning 3D printing….

    Regenerative medicine is an emerging field that provides treatments to repair, regenerate, or replace damaged cells and tissue.  The applications include therapies for Alzheimers, diabetes, cancer, and spinal injuries.

    Cornell bioengineers and physicians have created an artificial ear that looks and acts like a natural ear, giving new hope to thousands of children born with a congenital deformity called microtia.

    Not to be outdone, princeton researchers created the first 3d printed bionic ear, with an expanded range of audible sounds. It’s not a particularly pretty ear, but you can hear like a bat.

    Raises the question of who gets upgraded and when…and the trade-offs of transhumanism and the wisdom of exchanging our bodies for new ones….
  • Here I am going to start looking at an alternative future. Something a little more gritty, something a little more realistic. And I’m going to do this by introducing a new idea that I’ve been working on, which contrasts hard vs. soft technologies.
  • Let’s compare and contrast these two

    And this raises the question, “is culture a type of technology?”. These days the internet is abuzz with crowdsourced funding for new projects. But how did people raise money before the internet? Or before banks?

    Here I start with a story… In 20’s I barely two coins to rub together. Yet, my closest friend from college was a boat person from Cambodia, and her family immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970’s, and she was buying multiple real estate properties. She worked for a non-profit, and I could never figure out where the money came from.
  • And this raises the question, “is culture a type of technology?”. These days the internet is abuzz with crowdsourced funding for new projects. But how did people raise money before the internet? Or before banks?

    Here I start with a story… In 20’s I barely two coins to rub together. Yet, a close friend from college was a boat person from cambodia, whose her family immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970’s. She and here husband were buying multiple real estate properties. They both worked for non-profits, and I could never figure out where the money came from.
  • …until I went a Cambodian wedding in Washington D.C.

    This is the original crowdsource funding. A day of dancing and food. 800 people and everyone gave cash. More than enough to start a business, but everyone only gets one shot.

    The drawback here – is if eight hundred people go to your wedding, over the course of your lifetime, you may be asked to attend 800 weddings.
  • Here is another type of banking that helps build social capital and relationships….

    Eighteen years ago, budget cuts were eliminating the funding for government social programs, creating shortages in basic human services. A Washington, D.C. area lawer, Edgar Cahn, cam up with an unconventional idea. Why not create a system that uses volunteer time as a type of currency? The people who have the least money sometimes have the most time. Using this approach, people could accumulate hours of service by contributing skills to each other and their community.

    Time Banks USA provides a software infrastructure that enables communities to establish and administer their own time banking systems.
  • Who lives here? The importance of flexible housing.

    We have two key competitive advantages in the U.S. We have a lot of garages, and we have a lot of crazy people. Put a crazy person in a garage and (sometimes) interesting things happen!

  • Meanwhile, we are seeing a gradual disappearance of “jobs”, the “workweek”, and even the “workplace.” In the digital economy, productive work can happen anywhere, anytime.

    The career ladder is history, and the new career path looks more like a crazy quilt, as people attempt to stitch together multiple jobs into something that is flexible and rewarding. Some of these jobs may be complementary to existing skills, while others may be completely unrelated.

  • This is a picture of the farmer’s market that I run for my community association.

    People meet, tell stories, and exchange recipes. They buy organic foods that lasts longer than the food they buy at the supermarket.

    The more Jetsons we are the more Flintstones we need to be. Focus on what makes your communities real and liveable.

    I get paid in flowers and picked beets, and I love my job.
  • Progress isn’t always flashy. Sometimes it can be quite subtle.

    We still growing, still cultivating ourselves towards what we might call a “wisdom culture”.
  • Technology has helped us to live longer, community helps us to live well.  Let’s start thinking locally about the future of where we want to live.

  • Transcript

    • 1. Aging Populations & Social Capital James H. Lee Strategic Foresight Investments
    • 2. ChooseYourFuture
    • 3. Source: Australian Institute of Family Studies
    • 4. Data Source: World Health Organization
    • 5. The future is already here, it is just not very evenly distributed. WILLIAM GIBSON
    • 6. Post-Consumers?
    • 7. Image source: SmallisBig!
    • 8. Always Connected, Always Online
    • 9. AutonomousCars Source: Source:
    • 10. * *Empowers the very young and the very old with mobility, while freeing the middle-aged *Car ownership becomes a source of income *Reduces the need for public transportation *Current infrastructure is greatly extended *Hypercommutes
    • 11. Robots!
    • 12. Regenerative Healthcare Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
    • 13. *
    • 14. “HARD” TECHNOLOGY “SOFT” TECHNOLOGY Smart Wise Competitive Cooperative Expensive Cheap Efficient Resilient Financial Capital Social Capital
    • 15. *
    • 16. Is Culture a Type of Technology?
    • 17. Time Banking
    • 18. * *Pairs those in need with those with skills or ability *Proves that EVERYONE has something to offer *Builds social capital by creating new relationships *Allows for skill development *Assists in formation of community-based businesses
    • 19. Post-Nuclear Family
    • 20. Homesharing
    • 21. Tiny Homes Movement Backyard Cottage Your Adult Children Your Parents A Renter You Your Business
    • 22. Patchwork Careers photo by Kirsten Skiles
    • 23. Farmers’ Markets
    • 24. *Human evolution hasn’t stopped, it has simply moved inside. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
    • 25. Transitions • Ownership to Access • More to Enough • Financial to Social Capital • Cultural Adolescence to Maturity photo by Riccardo Cuppini
    • 26. * *Twitter: @jhlinde *Email: *Website & Blog: *Book: Resilience and The Future of Everyday Life, available on