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What's Ahead?

By Marty Nemko

I was gazing at my assistant’s newborn Emma, smiling in her cradle. How will her life be different from ours?

Here’s what I envision. These thoughts could help you in long-term career planning. So many people would like to get in on the ground floor of the Next Big Thing.

Emma’s school and college classes are laced with online interactive lessons taught by best-in-nation teachers. These lessons are individually tailored to Emma’s interests and abilities.

By the time Emma is 20, medical tests are available to predict whether she will get cancer or heart disease early in life. She tests positive for cancer and gratefully elects to receive an individually tailored inoculation to prevent the disease.

Emma marries a guy, let’s call him David. They opt for the five-year renewable marriage contract, which is available to both straight and gay couples.

When she and David decide to get pregnant, they decide to have their eggs and sperm tested to ensure they don’t have genes predisposing a child to early heart disease, cancer, or mental illness. Alas, all of David’s sperm has a gene cluster predisposing any offspring to mental retardation, so he elects to have the defective cluster replaced with a normal one.

David and Emma live in a condo on the 132nd floor of a 150-story building in San Francisco. Some of the floors are random mixes of people, others are themed communities. David and Emma chose a floor aimed at work-at-home parents with young children. Their floor offers a community room, online discussion group, floor-organized child care, and special weekend and holiday activities. Because city ordinances had changed to allow such large buildings, there is an adequate supply of housing. So David and Emma paid only $90,000 (in 2003 dollars) for their 800-square foot two-bedroom condo.

Quality child care, unlike in previous generations, is easy to find because the government provides a 50% child care tax credit, allowing child care providers to charge enough to earn a living wage.

Both David and Emma work at home. David is a career coach. Watching his clients at work on videophone, he points out ways they can improve. Emma is a researcher, designing ever more efficient solar cells. The US uses virtually no oil or coal, deriving most of its energy from hydrogen, hydroelectric, and solar power, with the rest coming from safety-enhanced nuclear plants.

Because Emma and David’s building’s bottom floors have a wealth of stores and recreation, they don’t really need a car, but mass transit remains inconvenient, so they spring for a SkyCar. In development since the 1970s, this hybrid electric/solar car is now as convenient and affordable as a traditional car. As a result, governments have stopped building freeways, yet citizens are never subject to traffic jams—the sky offers tens of thousands of virtual freeways, each at a slightly different altitude, longitude, or latitude.

By 2010, most citizens had Tivos enabling them to delete all TV commercials. So corporations tried alternatives to commercials such as embedding products in TV show plots, but this failed to increase sales sufficiently. So citizens now must pay a hefty monthly fee for their entertainment center (TV, interactive TV, music, and movies-on-demand), but can reduce or eliminate the fee if they watch commercials based on their buying preferences.

Meals are now a breeze. Meals created by the likes of the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller are flash frozen. And thanks to sophisticated packing and new microwaves, in seconds, the food comes out precisely as it would in the restaurant.

David and Emma love a final innovation: the Cash Chip, which they chose to have embedded under their skin. It deducts from their checking account the amount of each purchased item, including an average 25 percent sales tax. To maintain a progressive tax structure, basic items are exempt from the tax and luxury items are taxed at a high rate. That sales tax replaces income tax. As a result, David and Emma, like all citizens with a Cash Chip, no longer must keep income tax records nor file those time-consuming tax returns. Taxing purchases rather than income also discourages unnecessary consumption, which reduces the amount of environmental degradation. The Cash Chip eliminates credit card or identity theft--the chip is coded with the person’s DNA. To maintain citizen privacy, the chip does not record what is purchased.

That’s my shot at what Emma’s life will be like. Do you agree? Disagree? Have other predictions? Email me and I’ll publish as many of your ideas as possible in a subsequent column.

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