The future?


Let’s get this straight; I’m from the generation who were promised a manned Mars expedition in 1985. At school in the 1960s we were promised that by the year 2000 we’d have flying cars and subsist on food pills and protein concentrates.

So yes, I’m not a believer.


Then a friend sent me a list of predictions by one of the wise. Was I impressed?


One comment was


“Autonomous Cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.

Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighbourhood.”


I hate to say it but it’s not merely an entirely urban outlook, it’s an entirely city based outlook. Translate that into a rural area, even an area like Cumbria which in US terms is probably not all that rural.  Firstly, we don’t have mobile signal. Because I spend most of my life in an area without mobile signal I don’t have a smart phone. There are a lot of us about to be honest.

The second problem is where these self-driving cars come from. If I’m a vet in Broughton needing a car to get to an emergency do I have to wait for the car to travel seventeen miles from Barrow? Or does every small town and village have its car pool? And what happens when the pool is empty and you’ve got an emergency or do we have redundancy in every pool to make sure that never happens? Then you have the maintenance teams travelling between the pools to make sure the vehicles are up to standard. And then you’ll need the cleaning teams because when somebody sticks their drunk mate in the self-driving car to send them safely home, they’re not going to travel with them to clean it out when he throws up. Looks like an awful amount of fixed cost in the system.
Interestingly today I read in the paper that the Department of Transport has just published a paper which looks at driverless cars. It thinks that because of the caution programmed into them, they’ll not really show any advantages until they are about 50% to 70% of the vehicles on the road. Basically they’re the ones that everybody will cut in on because drivers know that their automatics will ensure they stop in time. Are people going to put up with a second class ride for as long as it takes to get to the magical 70% figure?

How well did google glass take off?

People moving out of town because they can work as they commute has a nice ring to it. But if you’re not paid for your commuting time, it’s not a win-win situation. Perhaps you ought to write your novel instead. But the problem with moving out of town to commute further is that you spend more of your life on the road and less at home. What’s the point of living in that beautiful area when you only see it in the dark?


When looking at these predictions, I’m sticking with the industries I know. One comment made was that software would answer most problems, replace lawyers etc. Well we’ve had to cope with the RPA and its software systems. Recently their mapping software spontaneously turned a field of ours into salt marsh. It’s inland and above sea level. Now then, does the software have a feature that spontaneously does this or does the RPA hire somebody to randomly change things for no real reason?
It strikes me that rather than replacing lawyers, we could see an increase in their workload. After all somebody has got to help you sue when the software screws you over. Lawyers, bureaucrats and rats evolve to profit from changes in society.


“Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all days on their fields. Agroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow-produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several startups that will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).”



The problem that third world farmers have is shortage of capital. They can end up going into debt buying seed and paying for fertiliser, borrowing against the value of the crop when it’s harvested. The last thing they need is to have to find money for $100 robots.

With regard to water, we’ve already got low water systems. ‘No-till’ has cut down water demand. In fact one of the big advantages of round-up ready soya is that it fits so well into the no-till system.

It’s the same with agroponics and hydroponics. It needs less water, but it needs vastly more capital, and unless you use the same land area as you do with conventional farming, it needs an awful lot more energy to replace the sunlight. Thanet Earth in the UK is a hydoponic operation, which has over 60 acres of glasshouses, produces more than 225 million tomatoes, 16 million peppers and 13 million cucumbers a year, which is about ten percent of Great Britain’s annual production.

As for insect protein, there are two problems. One is getting people to eat the stuff. Given that we got the British public eating horsemeat just because it was cheap, it can be done. But actually somebody has to farm the insects. I assume that they have to be cultivated indoors, to stop them just disappearing. Who provides the insect food? But then none of this is particularly new, ‘God Whale’ was written back in 1974.


If you want predictions then I’ll pass you over to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.


There’ll be flying boats, and condos with moats;
Cultivated oceans, floating cities in the sky.
Living underneath a bubble;
No more toil and trouble
Singin’ ’bout that sweet ole by and by.

We’ll all have lots of money
That we won’t have to spend;
You’ll be given everything
When everyone’s your friend
Hanging out together
In picture perfect weather –
This time ’round the party never ends.

Hallelujah, I can’t wait to see it
Hallelujah, come on and go with me
Let me show you the way it’s gonna be
At the turn,
The turn of the century.

We won’t need no tv preachers
To ask how much we gave
We won’t need no tv preachers,
See, by then, we’ll all be saved
No more fighting for a country
No child will go hungry
We’ll be smiling from the cradle to the grave.

Hallelujah, I can’t wait to see it
Hallelujah, come on and go with me
Let me show you the way it’s gonna be
At the turn,
The turn of the century.


Alternatively you might fancy sticking with the world we have now.


As a reviewer commented

“This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”

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8 thoughts on “The future?

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 7, 2017 at 3:23 pm Reply

    Even in the closest thing we’ve had to a utopia (in some senses), the early Christian communities, the rule was that if you wouldn’t work if you could, you didn’t eat. People loved each other – that was their distinguishing mark – but work had to be done.

    The problem with some solutions is the disruptive period in between: nobody wants us to go back to manual weaving looms – Industrial Revolution in England – except that in third world countries that may still be the only way to eat.

    Thanks for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – I’d never heard that one. In my defense, it didn’t play in Mexico on the radio when I grew up in the 1960s. I picked up stuff very erratically when I moved to the States to finish college, and never went back to live in Mexico.

    Good post, Jim. Maybe you’ll get a cell signal out there in the wilds before you have to call an emergency vehicle for a sheep in the middle of the night. Or maybe they’ll grandfather you in, and people will come out on weekends to see the old guy drive a TRUCK!

    • jwebster2 January 7, 2017 at 4:44 pm Reply

      I might even charge them to watch me split logs for the open fire with an axe 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 7, 2017 at 4:55 pm

        Wow! It would be worth an entrance fee. “See the real man do real things.”

        “For a small additional fee, get real, straight-from-the-sheep lanolin on your hands.”

      • jwebster2 January 7, 2017 at 5:09 pm

        real people doing things, will it ever catch on! 😉

  2. Roger January 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm Reply

    Part of me, in fact a very large part of me hopes that autonomous cars don’t arrive for the next fifteen years, which is when I’ll retire. I’m a chauffeur.

    • jwebster2 January 8, 2017 at 5:49 pm Reply

      I can empathise with that 🙂

  3. Kate McClelland January 8, 2017 at 8:41 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.

    • jwebster2 January 8, 2017 at 9:22 pm Reply

      cheaper than a crystal ball AND it comes with a Nitty Gritty Dirt band sound track 🙂

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