What People Really Think About The Future

Jun 15, 2021 6 min read

We recently ran a question poll at Bambu to understand how people think about the future. We all have our personal intuitions about the future, of course, but does everyone feel the same?

Well, we asked 138 mostly random people from around the world and found out many fascinating things that largely went against known stereotypes and our intuitions.

NOTE: This wasn’t intended as an academic study to be published, so forgive any statistical or methodological oversight on my part. This was for user research, and helpful as such. Oh, and why is Bambu interested in the future, to begin with? Well, we’re trying to predict it. No, I’m not joking. But more on that some other time…

We think of the future as the next few years

Without getting too pedantic, I think it makes sense to first establish if we’re talking about the same thing. After all, the future is constantly happening to us at different timescales. It also depends on which future you think about, such as the future of the world or the human race. But here, we’re asking about your future. For the sake of the questionnaire, it’s helpful to see most people agree on a timescale of several years.

People think about the future more than you’d think

Well, since it seems we all think about the future a lot, I suppose it’s natural to assume other people do too. But people are weird like that, we all think we’re special little flowers that have interesting ideas and thoughts.

Interestingly, here we see some clear differences between the genders. Only one in four men think about the future every single day, but 37% of females do exactly that.

I got money on my mind

I suppose it’s the reality of western capitalism that we all worry about money. The questionnaire did allow respondents to enter their own answers. Nobody added happiness, which is a little sad, but equally telling that regular people are grounded in regular realities of a living wage, however big or small that wage.

In some sense, it’s nice to run little experiments like this, that are anonymous, because you see the pretences drop immediately. Ain’t nobody out here healing the world, it turns out.

While the #1 goal across generations is getting by, young people seemed less focused on opportunities (12.5% of respondents), which I find counter-intuitive. Instead, they are all about affordability. Older folks seem quite focused on opportunities with that being a priority for 36% of respondents.

We’re scared of living

Now for the juicy stuff. The gossip rag material. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised our main concern is how long we have on this Earth. So we can spend more time worrying about money, I guess.

Asians were somewhat more concerned about wealth (17.6% of respondents) and marriage (13.5% of respondents), and generally more curious about the future with only 9.5% of respondents not wishing to know a thing.

Young people below 40 cared more about marriage (14.2% of respondents), while those above were more concerned about losing their jobs (8.0% of respondents). The older group was also much more inclined to put their head in the sands of tomorrow, and not know what’s in store at 24.0% of respondents. Above the age of 50, the dominant question becomes longevity at a fitting 50% of respondents.

Somewhat surprisingly, things like illness, retirement barely even register on the scales! After all, those are the questions the wealth management industry is built upon.

We’re scared of dying, too

Isn’t it peculiar, that we are dying to know how long we’ve got, but it’s also the answer we’re most afraid of? Ah, the human condition, what a beautiful and terrible thing it is.

Again, paradoxically, it’s the youngest below 30 that seem most insecure about the future despite all the time they have. They worried more about unemployment (13% of respondents) and their financial prospects (8.7% of respondents). The most confident group was the working professionals at 30–40, who really only feared longevity, but were keener to know everything else at 33.3% of respondents.

How sensitive is information about your future?

This is obviously more self-serving towards what Bambu is doing, but nevertheless, in the age of GDPR and Cambridge Analytica, the stereotype is that people don’t want to share data. Meanwhile, people are sharing their private lives on Instagram like there’s no tomorrow, and accepting terms & conditions for the latest cool apps without even casually glancing through them. We consider data privacy a value, but we all know that values are just things we hope other people do. Cause I need to get on Clubhouse real quick.

Somehow it seems men are more gung ho about sharing data (50% of respondents would share everything, and 27% only specific events), whereas women are a lot pickier (50% of respondents would share only specific events, just 23% all data). Surprisingly, despite their reputation as privacy nerds, Europeans at large were also more likely to share all data compared to Asia.

We’d like to have a crystal ball and three questions

Knowing everything was only the third choice. For some reason, perhaps from cultural influence, we’d like an Oracle instead. No, not the database kind, the Greek kind. Notice there’s a 0.7% hope for humanity. Shout out to your lone soul, seeking happiness, while we’re out cashing checks.

Would you believe your future, even if I told you?

It’s a fascinating question, of course. While you may dismiss it, fortune telling is still big business in 2021. You find palm reading services on the streets of Manhattan and more so online in every language spoken on the planet. Clearly, a scientific basis isn’t a big requirement there. Yet as a more serious undertaking, that would seem to convince people to take my advice over the madam down the street. I see great opportunity ahead, but you must be cautious…

Asians seem less concerned about the scientific basis comparatively (32.4% of respondents), and more focused on detailed events including finances.

We would still act on inside information

If you get a hot tip, even from a guy who knows a guy, it’s human nature to see the cards. You just have to. For us at Bambu, this is very important. Because it means at the end of it all, people need to know, even if they kind of doesn’t. But they really do. People be people.

People in the autumn of their lives were more likely to ignore it all at 10% of respondents, but even there the vast majority would try and make a difference.

So… what’s next?

One can’t write about the future without saying something about the future, after all. So here’s a sneak preview.