Seattle's Future World: Our Crystal Ball Predictions, Part 3

Trying to predict the future is humbling—but even when we know we’ll probably be wildly wrong, it’s fodder for good conversation
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Click here for Seattle's Future World: Our Crystal Ball Predictions, Part 2

The Melting of the Seattle Freeze
In 30 years, the climate will be a little nicer and the Seattle Freeze will have melted. All that will be left of our purported Nordic lack of camaraderie will be a few puddles of aloofness and a spattering of social anxiety. Our combined sense of entitled cocooning and disdain for even the hint of an emotional scene cannot withstand the bustling sidewalks, the bursting clubs and the quixotic fixation on beard trimming. 

What is the Seattle Freeze, anyway? 

Are we really so different from any other city where new folks are moving in and the longtime residents are feeling pinched? 

The complaint has been that it is hard to make friends because so many people have already formed tight-knit groups. But high school eventually does give way to house, car, job and cocktail lounging rather than beer bonging.

One friend, who sort of believes in the Freeze, told me that making a connection isn’t hard here (e.g., “Let’s grab a few drinks together”), but taking the next step is (“Sure, let’s share a few whiskey sours, but I’m not ready to go kayaking with you—and don’t drop by the house”).

That’s right, we don’t allow anyone to just drop by.

In just the past few decades, the boomers, the yuppies and the millennials have turned the whole “my home is my castle” notion into a pinched pillar of our decorous ways, complete with moat and drawbridge raised at the end of every maddening day.  

Well, our parents would be shocked. Mrs. Nelson could come over anytime, and my mom would be ready for a chat with coffee and the cake on the table. 

Now, it’s text me anytime, but hold on there, fella, don’t even think about coming over. I got stuff I gotta do, fish to feed and feet to pumice. 

But that’s not a Seattle Freeze; that’s the whole ego-laden culture of self-absorption. That’s too much TV time and too much navel-gazing. You really aren’t all that precious, you know. 

Get over yourself. You want to make a friend, push your way right in there. Don’t take anyone’s supposed slight to heart. Most of the folks you know are just uptight, freaked out, unable to open up. It’s just poor training and bad manners—most likely just a vestige of all those weird high school shackles many of us want to shake off. Buy a drink, or two, get to a putt-putt course, sing a little karaoke. 

By the 2050s we will all be strangers in a strange post-Trumpian dystopia anyway. Robots will be doing most of the work, so rather than muttering to ourselves from our curtained living rooms, we will need to join clubs, go clogging or take up skeet shooting just to keep our minds off our lack of accomplishments. 

But everyone will be in the same leaky boat. Better to have a few laughs. 

We may as well start now. I am thinking of making eye contact on my next bus ride. Maybe, just maybe, even at the risk of a baleful stare, I might start up a conversation. I know. How dare I make you take out your earbuds, but heck, you might just have an interesting story to tell. And I’m buying the first round. STEVE SCHER, part-time instructor at the University of Washington. His podcasts include “That Stack of Books” and “The Overlook.” For many years, he hosted Weekday on KUOW-FM

Is There A Doctor in the House?
Have you waited too long with your sick child at an urgent care facility? Maybe your aging parent didn’t make it in to see his or her doctor because of a transportation issue. And perhaps you have a friend who is worried about covering the bills from a newly diagnosed illness and is considering just giving up on his or her medical care.

Health care of the future will build new ways for patients to receive care more conveniently and affordably, and Seattle—as a technology and research hub—is likely to be at the forefront of innovation. Expect to see even more places offering retail walk-in health clinics; more availability to health advice via online and video services; and remote monitoring of health conditions via wearable technology. Health care in the future will adapt services so that they deliver better outcomes; so that many, many more people can use them; and to make already good services even better. ELIZABETH FLEMING and WELLESLEY CHAPMAN, M.D., lead the innovation and development team at Group Health


Educating Our Kids
Here’s how education will evolve in Seattle, especially if corporate education reform takes hold, moving education further toward privatization and technology-based learning. 

Personalized learning. More time on a computer for students with software that guides their learning. Whether more than an hour a day on a computer without a teacher is the best way for student to learn remains to be seen. 

Charter schools (publicly funded independent schools). Given the issues throughout the country with charters today—more segregation and fewer special education students and English language learners served—Seattle will not have as many charters as most big cities, but the presence of those schools will be noticeable.

Diversity. If current housing challenges continue, it’s unlikely we will see schools that are more diverse. And, unless the climate around teacher pay and morale improves, diversity in our teaching corps will not increase.

Reaching every child. Our city will improve outcomes for students of color via “whole child” programs focused on those youths and their families. MELISSA WESTBROOK, moderator of and a writer for the Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

Seattle’s Front Door—Our Waterfront—Will Be Constantly Evolving
James Corner, the landscape architect and lead designer for Seattle’s new waterfront, doesn’t believe it will ever be finished. He is not handing in a finished design at the end of his contract. 

He is designing a canvas that future generations will shape and reshape through their use. He once said that the idea for the waterfront is really that of a classic Pioneer Square loft: a large space that new generations of residents will change and reorganize to accommodate the needs, demands and trends of their own time. 

So Seattle’s new waterfront really is not about what it might look like. Sure, it will be green and open to the sky and the water and the mountains. And open to the crowds—the hustle and bustle of people at play or at rest or just passing through the big city. 

It is more about how the waterfront will be used by succeeding generations: locals, newcomers and visitors, young and old, the fit and the not so fit, all seeking to contribute to the mix of activity in a place that encourages a changing use. 

Think of a lot less stressful noise and more happy noise. Music. Laughter. Even healthier fish and a cleaner Elliott Bay. 

I hope for what we have dreamed of. A waterfront for all. To use as each person chooses. CHARLES ROYER, former mayor of Seattle and cochair of the Central Waterfront Committee

Gig Harbor
Our on-demand economy will grow with pleny of new apps
The gig economy has changed America and Seattle. Tasks we always considered menial or annoying—running errands, walking the dog, shopping for groceries—now have enthusiastic champions who are happy to do them for us.

If anything, this proves that companies like MyLackey.com—remember? Back in 1999?—were ahead of their time. MyLackey did exactly what so many of today’s apps do, namely, give somebody a few bucks for rendering a service.

Spare5.com will pay you a few pennies to complete crowdsourcing tasks—you’re not going to get rich doing it, but you might as well make some money while you’re standing in line at Starbucks.

The idea that you can cobble together an existence by doing a few odd jobs has taken hold in an environment where the old concept of “career” has been redefined. Here are a few apps—not yet invented—that will appeal to locals conditioned to summoning an Uber driver instead of a cabbie.

Guber: Who doesn’t hate it when the vendor tosses a bag of peanuts at the ballpark and the bag lands at your feet and explodes? Avoid this embarrassment anywhere, anytime—even at the ballpark—with Guber’s exclusive drone-delivery service app. Say you’re watching the game with some buddies in a bar, but the bar doesn’t have decent snackage. Just tap the Guber icon on your smartphone, and some guy will hand you your nuts in minutes. Salted. Unsalted. Shelled. Unshelled. You name it, Guber has it. Even cashews when you upgrade to Guber Fancy.

Luber: Nobody changes their own oil anymore. Luber promises an artisanal oil change by a Certified Organic Lubricant Exchanger, so why not do your car a favor and get a fresh splash of 10W-30? To keep the carbon footprint to a minimum, your car’s old oil will be used to grease the skids for legislation ensuring workers in the gig economy of a living wage that exceeds 87 cents an hour.

Puber: Fretting about having The Talk with your adolescent offspring? Avoid the whole awkward scene by jobbing it out to a qualified Puber associate, who will discuss birds, bees, and fashion dos and don’ts with your son or daughter. Please specify male, female or otherwise inclined.

Tuber: Community supported agriculture is all the rage, but potatoes always seem to get short shrift in those CSA delivery bags. Probably because they’re so heavy. Tuber rectifies the situation by having the choicest potatoes, yams and jicamas—a festival of starches, if you will—delivered to your doorstep faster than you can say, “Can I have fries with that?”

Buber: Click on this app (named for philosopher Martin Buber), and two grad students in philosophy will be dispatched to a location of your choosing for a spirited debate on the existence of God. Handy for cocktail parties, family gatherings and breakup dates. As with Uber drivers, you can rate the philosophy students’ arguments in five categories: 1. Makes sense. 2. Whoa. 3. You are smoking some primo stuff. 4. Seriously? 5. WTF? 

Surely there’s more to come from the fertile minds of those who have discovered that some of us will pay good money to have someone else do just about anything for us. Martin Buber might have called it the I-Thou economy. JOHN LEVESQUE, managing editor for Seattle Business magazine

Family Time
Seattle will still have some two-parent families and kids in the future, but the notion of family will be more flexible. Multigeneration “family” groups will be more common, and “family” will be defined more by choice, resource exchange and values than by biological relatedness. Communal groups will share housing costs and child care, and screens and robots will have a role in child-rearing. Family life will change due to the same forces that have made touch screens the leading play activity among children. Dopamine-rich interactive devices will make child-rearing less of a hassle for parents and marketing pitches will spin them as educational and superior to real-life play. Robotic nannies will be promoted as nurturing, intellectually stimulating and calmer than human caregivers. 

Or maybe not. Brain research will increasingly prove that there is no substitute for human touch, face-to-face connection, and the interpersonal symphony of love and nurturing. For some families, knowing such things will override the urge to make life easier. For others, not so much. The lucky ones will still enjoy a family meal, a book and eight hours of sleep. LAURA KASTNER, clinical psychologist and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington

Business in the City
The Seattle area today is connecting the world through aerospace, revolutionizing the customer experience, advancing cutting-edge technologies and eradicating disease. Our private- and public-sector leaders are working together to take bold, clear steps to ensure our future economic health and the vitality of our community. In 30 years, Seattle will continue to be celebrated both as the birthplace of innovations that have changed the world and as a place that embraces diversity, reflects a strong sense of community and supports an enviable quality of life. CHRISTINE GREGOIRE, former Washington governor

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