He is not just one of the most widely-read authors of our time – Yuval Harari is a modern intellectual powerhouse, turning generation Y onto the intricacies of our past thanks to his extraordinarily popular bestsellers about human development and his free online course at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “A Brief History of Humankind”, which has been taken by more than 100,000 people throughout the world. Now, Yuval is tackling the future, asking: how will education adapt to fit our changing world? What are the implications of new technology? And how might algorithms come to rule our lives? All are fascinating and important questions that young folks today need to ask today. So ahead of a rare lecture from Yuval in London tomorrow, where I’ll be acting as a digital host for F&C Investment Trust’s 150th special anniversary event, I take a look at what the financial upshots of his vision might be…
The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible; for the fainthearted, it is unknown; but for the valiant, it is ideal.
So said Victor Hugo, poetically summing up the intangible nature of this thing called “the future”. But one man is attempting to create a more concrete vision of the future, having already done so much to open our eyes to what has gone before.
Professor Yuval Harari will be speaking in London tomorrow as part of F&C Investment Trust’s 150 year anniversary. F&C is celebrating its big birthday in style, inviting not just Yuval but gen Y expert and academic Eliza Filby to speak about how we can understand tomorrow’s investors – i.e. you guys!
Eliza consults with a number of large businesses on how to market and manage Generations Y and Z. She is a founder of Grad Train, a business designed to help graduates make the transition from university to the workplace. So both her and Yuval are perfectly placed to help F&C (and indeed the rest of us!) understand what might be deterring young people from thinking about their financial futures…
I’m delighted to have been asked to act as digital host for the packed-out event, allowing Yuval and Eliza to communicate their insights to a wider audience on social media and through this blog.
If you’re not familiar with Yuval’s work, you’ve been living in a cave (well, anywhere without advertising hoardings for his books). His book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind was an almighty blockbuster – I recently saw two people on the same day, reading this book *while walking or standing on an escalator*. That is testament to how readable his work is.
His most recent book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, did exactly what it said on the tin, anticipating very 21st century challenges like cyberwar, climate change, biotechnology and artificial intelligence.
The implications of the world fleshed out by Yuval are seismic. He imagines a race of “superhuman beings” enhanced by biotechnology and artificial intelligence that could completely obliterate the economic and political rights of plain old human beings. Google and Facebook could become the true masters of this world, as they harness enough biometric data and computing power to create mega algorithms, essentially telling us what to study, where to work, whom to marry and whom to vote for.
If young people feel out of control and uncertain in today’s world, Yuval’s basic message is: “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
In my role as a “young money” writer and commentator, the future crops up all the time in my work. Being good with money is all about having one eye on the future and not just being consumed with the presence. Forming long-term goals, having the right financial plan to meet them, delaying gratification (to some extent)…these are key financial skills that are no longer desirable but absolutely essential today. That’s because financially savvy behaviour is highly conducive to happiness, which experts largely agree is a combination of savouring the present and working towards a better future.
But the role played by the future in financial planning is also what makes this area potentially nerve-wracking and off-putting. So many people I know avoid thinking about the future, associating forward planning with uncomfortable change (think of Donald Rumsfeld’s known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns….), aging, growing responsibility and, of course, death.
Confronting the future won’t make it any less frightening, vast or unpredictable. But fore-warned is fore-armed. If you are at least aware of certain expert interpretations of what lies ahead, you can mentally prepare however you see fit, and possibly take some action that makes you feel far more empowered and resilient in the present. That could mean making your personal consumption much less wasteful (as is my resolution this year), constantly skilling up to adapt to this new world or putting a cap on the role played by big tech in our lives (it is well-known that Yuval doesn’t even have a smartphone!)
So whether you’re (like me) endlessly curious about what the future might hold or more fearful of what’s around the corner, stay tuned on my social media channels for some fascinating titbits from Yuval’s lecture, which will be starting at 3pm tomorrow (Wednesday 21st March). I will be tweeting @ionayoungmoney, as well as providing updates on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/iona-bain-6b9b4643/) and the blog. Also watch this space for some post match analysis on the blog (probably coming Thursday, if not late Wednesday).
And come join the conversation. What do you think the future will hold? What do you make of Yuval’s analysis? Can we ever successfully prepare for the future or is it better to concentrate all our energies on the here and now? Tweet me using the hashtag #FCIT150, comment below or join in on my Linkedin updates.