Dawn in the Age of Impact

An exercise in futurism. Excerpted from our 2023 Annual Report.

Ben DeVries |
Dawn in the Age of Impact
A bed still feels like a bed. You still like waking up to music.

Your clock radio is ancient; it’s been repaired umpteen times, the folks at the repair centre used to help, now you know how to do it yourself. Your printer can print spare parts. The clock radio is plugged into a wall socket that’s plugged into a grid running on a cocktail of hydro, bio, wind and solar. It’s an efficient grid: AI knows where power is needed and where it’s not.

The alarm goes off. An old song: “I read the news today, oh boy...”

The news is good news. Headlines are read aloud in the voice of Morgan Freeman. You can also have a hologram deliver the news in sign language. Or any language.

Good news.

Young children are more educated than ever. AI can tell what kids need to learn, what enables them to learn quicker and, when they can’t get to a classroom, the teacher is in their homes with them, teaching. Their parents are boosting their skills by similar means. Recent gains in education and skills are highest in underserved communities and the Global South.

Next to the weather (windy today), there’s the daily listing of the global warming rate (1.7 degrees) and net carbon emissions for the city (0.3 kt).

Electric airplanes are too quiet; birds can’t hear them coming and get out of the way. There’s talk of introducing a pleasant whirring sound. 

The scientist responsible for curing Alzheimer’s disease has won another prize today. She didn’t just win it for the breakthrough; the company she started reinvests 100% of profits in research. That trend is catching on in the health sector.

Now for the Business section. It doesn’t look much like Business sections from 20 years ago. Most CEOs are women. Boardrooms reflect a company’s diverse stakeholders. Ties and white shirts are scarce. Shareholder responsibility is rarely mentioned; stakeholder responsibility replaced it, but more and more it’s community responsibility under discussion. Articles talk about how a spike in earnings has helped people. Very precise data back up these claims – how many people, how their lives improved. 

And a lot of former Business stories have migrated to the Impact section of the paper. There’s talk of impact capital nearing the share of ‘regular’ capital in the European market. 

The market is mature: impact funds and funds of funds continue to proliferate like mushrooms, while actual mushrooms are used for carbon capture, industrial clean-up – and eating, of course.

Enough news, time for breakfast.

Coffee still tastes like coffee. On the package it lists the farmer’s name and monthly income.

A bit of an indulgence today. Bacon and eggs.

You marvel at how the eggs crack just like real eggs, the bacon sizzles and crimps just the way it used to. Life is good. You could kiss the people in the lab who cultured your proteins, hug the chicken and pig who leant their DNA to this venture, probably years ago now. Pigs lead long lives; maybe your pig is still around somewhere, totally oblivious to its gift.

Apples, blueberries, kiwis, spinach – bought at the farmer’s market, from a farmer who loves to chat about their process. You know more than you ever thought you would about how dirt becomes soil, and the cycle by which nutrients end up back in the ground. Actually, the spinach came from a community garden on your block (you have to put in some hours planting, but it’s worth it). Ever since pesticides were banned, produce only needs a rinse, not a wash. Into the blender. The smoothie comes out green.

A window is still made of glass. You can still look out.

You can fish out of the river now. Bike lanes have grown wider, accessibility ramps ubiquitous, charging stations more subtly designed.

The square. There’s still a market every Wednesday. People still gather in cafes to debate; but unlike in the past, no one fears to speak too loudly, and everyone can name a leader who looks like them. Boardrooms, government bodies, academic institutions: they are peopled by the previously marginalised, the previously without hope.

The previously unhoused – many have houses now. There’s an international movement among this group to reclaim and retrofit unused buildings. One of these is right across the street.

The city is not ‘livable’; it is living.

And there’s life beyond the city, too.

An electric train can take you to visit friends in nearby villages; to access more rural places, you can borrow an electric car. Green transportation has improved; it took a lot of coordination between the public and private sectors to get it done, but it’s worth it, you feel more connected. Rural places maintain the spirit of being rural – serenity and stars at night – but feel closer than ever, because in your life an awareness has been growing. 

It is the awareness of networks, ecosystems. People rarely speak of chains anymore. It doesn’t make much sense to use the word in when most things are circular. Economies, first and foremost.

The hills beyond the city still carry with them the memory of wildfires. The memory of tent-cities. We still live with the ghosts of Ages past. Once, these ghosts were threatening; now, more benign. But still they hang around, as ghosts do, to remind us if we need reminding.

It’s 2050. You’re living in the Age of Impact. Time to greet the day.


>Read our 2023 Annual Report for more