In the future, we'll all be homeless – Thoughts from Tech Open Air

In the future, we'll all be homeless – Thoughts from Tech Open Air

In the future, we will all be homeless.

In order to explain why, let me discuss a few ways in which the way we live is changing.

Let me begin with the concept of suspended adulthood.

In the past we moved straight from childhood to adolescence and then into adulthood. Social scientists are now starting to realise that a permanent re-wiring is taking place, resulting in a new intermediate phase between adolescence and adulthood.

This is what we refer to as suspended adulthood.

We do a few things during this period of time, and it differs in length. But essentially we are taking our time to identify a route into adulthood.

So let’s look at a few of these.

1. We experiment with our careers.

It's no longer a presumption that we will jump on the corporate treadmill and stay in a job for 30 years. Instead we try different industries and in different environments until we find what motivates us and where we want to focus in adulthood.

2. We become socially liberated.

We explore the arts, cultures and politics. We throw ourselves into different cultures with a growing tendency to live in amazing multicultural cities and we love to travel, whether it’s a gap year or during work, because we value the experiences over possessions. As part of the EasyJet generation, we can exploit the ease and affordability of travel with companies like Airbnb.

3. And as a result of this, we avoid settling down.

We avoid settling down because doing so creates responsibility and commitment which is far too much like adulthood. As such we have less affinity to a particular place or a home and no nesting emotions. In the last 40 years, the number of marriages in Europe has decreased by 30% and in the US, the median age of marriage has shifted from 20 to 29.  

Related to this idea of suspended adulthood, but underpinned by different factors is the rise of the nomad.

Why are we able to do this?

We don’t have as many ‘things’.

The things we still need are now delivered to us as a service or stored on the cloud. I have my vinyl records on Spotify, my photo albums on Facebook and my DVDs on Netflix. We don’t even want things as much, hungry for experiences, moments and communities over objects.

And if we don’t have things, we don’t need a physical place to store those things.

We are able to partake in The Gig-Economy

The emergence of the gig-economy means that we are dictating our own schedules. The concept of a 9-5 no longer exists, we constantly flick from professional to personal and structure our routines to suit us.

We are privileged to be hosting Remote Year at The Collective this summer – a programme where digital nomads spend a month in 12 amazing world cities.

So what is the result of all this?

At The Collective we have recently launched the world’s largest co-living building in London and are leading the way in the emergence of products that are responding to this shifting way of living.

Suspended adulthood and nomadic mobility are decoupling the function of living from the space in which that happens. This is where the thirst for ‘community’ is coming from. It’s the word on everyone’s lips, from Burning Man Festival to BMW. Why is it so important? Well because we are no longer anchoring ourselves to physical homes, we lose the communities that form from geo-location, and as result we need curated communities that we can belong to as we transition from place to place. That’s why co-living is not about the bedroom but is about a community and way of life.

We like to think bigger though – so let’s dip outside into the music industry for a second.

Until very recently, we bought and sold a physical piece of music – a vinyl, a tape, a minidisk even an MP3 file. But now, if I wish, I consume my media for free via YouTube or Spotify. I can consume it anywhere I like and as much as I like. Which is great for me, but no longer is money changing hands for the widget of value.

Therefore the value exchange has shifted. The music industry has found a way to monetise the community that listen to the music, and they advertise to them (sell them to brands) or reinvent live music. We have optimised the system – retaining the value creation opportunity for the musician but enriching the experience for the consumer.

So what happens if we apply that back to the way we live? 

We have already seen how we have decoupled the act of living from the space, so what if instead of the widget of value being the space in which we live, it moves to the services of living, or even better we find a way to monetise the community that co-live, can we not get to a stage where I am no longer charging somebody to use my space? If there were any way to solve a housing crisis…

So when I said we would all be homeless, we will be, but instead we’ll be subscribing to living as a service...



From a talk given by James at Tech Open Air in Berlin on The Future of Living

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