Welcome to the Future
A brisk Autumn day in Healesville, and I wrap my cardigan around my body as I wait for the kettle to boil. Plenty of time for a cup of tea and a calorie-free nutrient-rich chocolate cake before I start work. On days like this I reflect on the distant past when working for a living meant having to travel into the office each morning, wasting countless hours on public transport. It's funny to think that back then we all worked 40-hour weeks (or more) and never questioned whether that was the way life was meant to be.
As I finish off my cup of tea, I check my calendar to see what the day holds. Three zoom meetings. That’s more than usual, and doesn’t leave a lot of time in my standard four-hour workday for the other parts of my job, but Mondays always seem to be the busiest in my role as a Career Re-Imaginer. The sheer number of people who found themselves redundant following the pandemic as their jobs became unnecessary in the New Society seems overwhelming at times. Fortunately, the generous Universal Basic Income payments have enabled people to take their time in deciding on new careers and signing up for re-training. The signing of the World Peace agreement certainly put a lot of money back in government coffers, now that no country needs to spend money on weapons.
Oh well, time to get to work. My first meeting is a young man named Carl. He’s autistic, like me, and we agree to keep our cameras off so we can both focus on the conversation. A great start to my Monday!
“So, Carl, tell me a little bit about yourself. What job did you do before the pandemic?”
“I was a senior auditor for the Taxation Office. My role was to investigate and prosecute companies that manipulated their accounts and underpaid their workers”
“Well, I can see how that would be a dying profession. I read that it has been several years since the last time an Australian employee was paid less than a fair wage”
“Yes, that’s correct, since the unilateral Fair Wage Agreement every Australian earns enough to live a comfortable life – and if a company doesn’t make enough money to pay wages everyone still receives their Universal Basic Income”
For the next 30 minutes Carl and I discuss the different options for roles that would use his accounting and investigatory skills in the new economy. He settles on the idea of pursuing a career in providing financial and investment advice to people with disabilities planning for fulfilling lifestyles as they age, and I provide him with the details of organisations to contact.
My next two meetings are equally productive. Sarah is a passionate young woman who used to work in drug rehabilitation, back in the days when so many people had such depressing and unfulfilling lives that illicit drugs were their only option. We explore so many possibilities for her, and she decides to pursue art therapy for the elderly. Millie is around my age and was unemployed in pre-Covid times, back when ageism was rife. She is delighted by the range of opportunities open to people of all ages in the New Society, and decides to re-train as a music librarian.
Suddenly its lunch time and my husband is home from work. He’s a lot more outgoing than I am and he chose a job that involves lots of face-to-face interaction with other people. I love hearing about his days at the Re-Imagination Plant. He and his team receive daily shipments of items that are no longer needed by society and they work out novel solutions for recycling them into other things that are actually useful. They have been working on the same project now for over a year, but somehow they are still coming up with creative options.
After the World Peace Agreement was signed they started receiving huge crates of guns, planes, tanks and other military equipment – and the crates keep coming. Currently they have a team of engineers, ergonomists and occupational therapists working on turning the fighter jets into individual patient transport vehicles to eliminate travel time problems for people in remote areas needing emergency medical care.
We take the dog for a walk into town, and as we walk my husband tells me the latest details of the adjustments they are making to the jets – including equipping some with cartoon decals, soft toys and TV screens to make them feel a little bit less scary for kids who have to go to hospital.
Back home, we settle down in our comfy armchairs, each with a book to read. Suddenly, there is a knock on the door. We are a little surprised as we don’t usually get visitors, but it is my turn to answer the door (he answered it when someone knocked in January) so I put my book down and walk over to the door.
What a lovely surprise! It is the young girl from next door, looking a bit anxious and clutching her ‘History’ file (which looks almost as big as she is).
“Hello Sophie, lovely to see you. What can I do for you?”
“I am very stuck with my History project for school, and mum said you might be able to help me.”
“Come in and tell me what it is, I will definitely try to help.”
“Well, this term we are studying behaviours and attitudes in history that were accepted at the time, but seem unbelievable or outlandish now, like way back in history when people believed the world was flat. We each have a different topic to research from pre-pandemic history.”
“That sounds like a great project. What is your topic?”
“I picked racism. I’m not sure exactly how that worked, but my teacher said some people used to believe that they were better than other people just because of the country they came from, or the colour of their skin, or the language they spoke…”
I take a deep breath, and started to explain to Sophie what it used to be like before the New Society, before the world realised that things like skin colour were such petty differences compared to our shared humanity. Her eyes grow bigger with every example I give, and she writes pages of notes, shaking her head as she realises what a crazy world it was before the pandemic.
By the time we finish it is dark, and she probably has enough information for three or four assignments. I walk her across the driveway back to her house, and just as we get to her door she asks “could my two friends come by tomorrow after school to talk to you because their topics are even harder”
“Of course they can Sophie. What topics did they choose?”
“Katie chose poverty, and Sally chose cruelty to animals. Have you heard of those two?”