And other terrifying topics

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Terrifying topics of the Future
“The future is coming at us fast. Do you feel you’re ready to take on Artificial Intelligence, the Robot Generation, the 4th Industrial Revolution and many other potentially terrifying topics?”

It was a minor post but it represents so much of what I see about fears of the future. The fact that this post actually refers to an event organised by myself, made it all the more amusing.

I am on the Board of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa, (PSASA) and the convention convenor for our mid-term event where we explore one central theme and unpack it for ourselves so that we as speakers and trainers have a better idea of the issue. I’m a futurist, so the them is, naturally about the future.

Some media outlets have picked up on our event and posted about it and this screen grab is from one of them. (unnamed to protect the naive)

As it turns out, besides some expected conversations about technology, innovation, big data and generational issues, many of the planned sessions are about health - bio-hacking our brains, green issues and depression.

There are two issues at play here:

The future is not necessarily filled with “potentially terrifying topics”. Just because we cannot confidently predict how developments will play out, does not mean that they are terrifying. Just because we are in the dark doesn’t mean that innovations are bad. All it means is that as humans, we are uncomfortable with what we do not know and that we crave certainty. Inflammatory headlines, even small ones, increase our fear and decrease our ability to sanely respond to change.

The really uncomfortable, even terrifying topics have been with us for years. These are our histories not our future. Sid Peimer, current Executive Director of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, analyst and business advisor, is going to be discussing depression.

A Google search on depression statistics in South Africa reveals the really terrifying topics:

- Depression and suicide: SA’s unseen killers

- 30% of people with depression have kept it a secret

- Depression is at an all time high amongst South African men

- Suicide on the rise among the youth

Depression is possibly a strange topic to discuss in a meeting comprising motivational speakers, but it highlights the very issue that Sid Peimer is going to raise: we have no idea how many people in our circles suffer from depression, how well they are coping and what the cost to the company is for leaving their condition undiagnosed and untreated.

Robots may come and go. Automation may improve. AI may indeed take some jobs away, create some new ones and make others easier. But depression needs to come out of the closest and be dealt with. People suffered from it when we rode on horses and they will suffer from it when we fly in Uber air taxis. Ignoring it - that is the real terrifying topic.

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