A future city for my daughters
By Yvonne Lo
I’m sitting in a cafe at 4:30 pm on a Thursday, reviewing my 2019 calendar. It’s August in Shanghai, and I’ve been to more cities this year than I can recall. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I don’t take any of it for granted. If you asked about my five-year plan a few years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be traveling the world and passionately invested in my career while raising teenage daughters.
Fast forward to now: I’m indulging in some much-needed caffeine, going over sales data to improve performance in yet another trade show city, and jotting down ideas for a guest column that’s due next week. It’s a welcome opportunity to take stock and think about what my life might be like in another five years, despite headlines declaring that we may not have much of a future at all. In a reflective mood, I came up with three visions that I have about the future from the perspective of a mom and entrepreneur.
Looking ahead, it seems like the world will feel like one big city. What used to be faraway foreign markets are now easily accessible. Thanks to the proliferation of business tools, we’re able to work closely regardless of distance. Site visit in Cyprus? See you soon. Client meeting in Moscow? I’ll be there.
I once had a client come up to me at a trade show in Las Vegas to say that he’s selling our products in Australia after he bought them from another customer in France. That’s just crazy to me. Our business opportunities grow as the world gets smaller.
Of course, this reality also poses challenges. More potential markets also increase the competition, as we now compete against international brands in every part of the world. Customer service training and making sure the brand messaging is uniform across the board have become a part of daily operations.
As we become more connected, using artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline everyday life will be a reality for even more people in the near-future city. Today, it’s already crucial to how I work and how my children live. Just how much data and personal autonomy we are giving up for this future remains to be seen, but it is undeniable that AI minimizes human errors, improves productivity, and saves us time and money. Time is an element that we will interpret entirely differently in the future.
I can already see my kids doing a lot more in 24 hours compared to when I was their age. But will it be a cycle where we do more in less time, get more stressed, and then look for more tech applications to help us do more? For the sake of my daughters, I hope traditional intelligence wins in this case.
In my last vision of a future city, the prevalence of women working in traditionally male-dominant industries will equalize. If public opinion stays on track, then race, gender, and sexuality will no longer be determinants for success. We have the scientific backing to support gender parity in and outside the workplace–now it’s time to implement it.
As a working mom of two daughters, I aim to teach my kids to be independent, creative, and unbound by outdated social limitations. We are already well on our way to reaching this goal of inclusivity, as long as we can suppress the extremist views that are trying to hinder progress. There is still something tech and AI can’t conjure: empathy.
As the world shrinks, grows, speeds up, and equalizes, all we can do is continue to appreciate and support our partners, families, schools, workplaces, and communities like we always have. If we manage to do so, we should be able to look confidently into the far future, beyond just five years.
About the Author
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Yvonne studied and worked in the U.S., where she gained a strong background in hospitality, with a focus on marketing and brand management. Since co-founding audio tech company onandoff, her experience as a busy, working mom raising safe listeners at home has helped to strengthen and expand BuddyPhones, the world’s most awarded kids headphones brand.