Home, it’s where the heart is. There’s no place like it. And you can never go back there again.
This is how we’ve understood the word for decades. It’s a place full of nostalgia that’s located in the past.
So what is the home of the future?
By definition, it’s not the home of days gone by. That home, romanticized by post-war newsreels, is epitomized by 2.5 dogs and a kid, usually staring at a giant piece of furniture called a TV. It’s suburban and carpeted in a rich shade of burgundy in a neighborhood that’s crisp and homogenous. It’s paid for by a single male income and tended to by an elaborately coiffed woman in a petticoat. It’s the home you raise a family in before moving to a trailer park in Florida to die.
The home of the future, then, is a flexible space for digital natives who value location over square footage. These homes are prefabricated in giant warehouses to whatever globally agreed-upon aesthetic is currently trending on Instagram. It’s a home manufactured from modular components, finished with the precision of an iPhone, and then delivered quickly, for a fraction of the cost required to build on-site. It’s efficient and built using sustainable processes and materials because there’s no other choice. It’s cookie-cutter, but it looks like a highly designed piece of bespoke architecture.
The home of the future is, above all, connected. It’s a place where the home is the computer. It’s always listening and always watching, yet it still, somehow, manages to secure your privacy as well as your belongings. It is adaptable but comfortable, a respite from the urban jungle and a place to savor those face-to-face encounters that have largely been supplanted by the virtual unrealities of modern life.
In the past, the home you selected was dictated by the location of your employer and the salary it paid. You’re in advertising? Welcome to your 5th Avenue apartment. Manufacturing? Welcome to the utopian tree-lined streets of Detroit. People grabbed hold of the “American dream” and bought anything within a reasonable commute of their 9-to-5 jobs.
But what kinds of jobs can we expect in the future? When most of the world’s manufacturing has coalesced around the immovable supply chains of Southeast Asia. When robots have replaced warehouse workers, kitchen staff, and hotel cleaners. When AI has replaced truck drivers, legal aids, and money managers. When main street retailers have all shut down because the neighborhood Walmart is now a highly automated Amazon distribution center offering one-hour delivery, and everyday items like clothing and Tupperware can be made at home on your 3D printer with built-in Alexa, installed for free with a sub-Prime membership loan. Disruptions to our traditional means of employment will almost certainly affect where we live and how a home is used.
Technology, especially 5G connectivity and the rapid evolution of personal computing devices, will continue to redefine what it means “to work.” Beautiful people will, of course, be rewarded for their youth with lucrative endorsement deals that will become more accessible to anyone with an audience, as ad spending continues to shift to nontraditional channels. Knowledge workers of all ilks will be needed to keep the automation automated, Netflix netting, and YouTube tubing. In such a future, nomadic lifestyles become yet another norm, and fixed homes will morph into live / work spaces that can be shared with the access economy.
Unlike generations past, there will be no “dream home” archetype for the masses to aspire to. A white picket fence and manicured hedgerow aren’t very practical when living your best #vanlife in a vintage VW microbus. For the privileged, living in a “co-living” dorm in California, a Muji prefab in rural India, or an Airbnb-owned apartment in central Paris will become a choice enabled by their jobs, not dictated by them. Living where you want to, instead of where you have to, will become the ultimate claim to luxury.
But what about those without means? Industrial 3D-printing techniques can already print an 800-square-foot home (about the size of an average New York apartment) in less than two days for $10,000, with plans to bring the cost down to $4,000 per unit. Imagine the impact that could have on the world’s 1.2 billion people living without adequate housing. That’s the Silicon Valley pitch anyway, which is often far too optimistic for reality.
In fact, everything you’ve read is just one possible future that may or may not transpire. And nothing hits closer to home than a discussion about the home of the future.
Our series kicks off today with an episode that looks at exactly how the Home of the Future is built.