What Will the Bar of the Future Look Like?
Robot bartenders and levitating cocktails are just the tip of the futuristic bar’s freshly shaved ice cube.
The future of social drinking is almost here, and you barely have to lift a finger.
How do you improve an age-old tradition of drinking a pint (or a Cosmo) in the company of friends? Why, with robotic technology and new forms of alcohol, of course.
Drones that whizz overhead and deliver your cocktail after you order it remotely and alcohol with an “off switch” are the highlights of the bar of the future as predicted by The Daily Mail. The bar of the future will also be fully-staffed by robot bartenders that can learn your tastes and shake and stir with the best of them.
Our favorite part of this hypothetical space-age of alcohol is the not-so-far-off ability to switch your intoxication on and off. Sound too crazy to be true? Professor David Nutt at Imperial College in England is working on a substance that once consumed, can create the same amount of “fuzzy feelings” as a couple of drinks. Once you get tired of it, just swallow the antidote, and the feeling will go away almost instantly. But you may want to hold off on Professor Nutt’s invention; he was fired from his position as the U.K.’s chief drugs adviser in 2009.
The menu at your local bar might look a little different decades from now. If social drinkers of the future are looking to experience something a little different, they may want to order their cocktails levitated: a recent invention by a British scientist that suspends tiny drops of alcohol mid-air: no glass required. Or they can simply get their regular drink vaporized, a trend that’s already taken hold in some bars across the nation with a device known as the Vaportini, “a blown-glass globe over a heat source and warming up alcohol until it releases its intoxicating vapors, which are then inhaled through a glass straw.”
The tech trends that will change supermarkets as we know them
Supermarkets will be unrecognisable in five years, with checkouts tipped to fade out, and interactive smartphone apps to be introduced as a routine feature.
Technology is rapidly being introduced to business models to create a quicker, more personalised experience for the Australian shopper.
Some of the tech can already be spotted in trial rollouts across the country, but it’s just the start of what’s to come.
Much of it is becoming commonplace in the US, and it’s likely to filter Down Under quickly.
In the United Kingdom, developers are going further, using augmented reality to steer a shopper’s experience, suggesting recipes and leading them to related ingredients.
Food retailing expert Gary Mortimer said supermarkets were scrambling to constantly refresh and rejig the shopping experience to retain and attract customers.
“The challenge that the big supermarkets face is the constant requirement to be new and different,” said Associate Professor Mortimer, of the Queensland University of Technology.
“They’re trying to transform a boring, mundane daily task in grocery shopping.”
Professor Mortimer told The New Daily there were six key trends we could expect to see in our supermarkets within five years – plus some that are already in place.
Coles and Woolworths have already started to up their grocery delivery game by teaming up with third parties, and Professor Mortimer says we can expect strategic alliances like these to become the norm.
Woolworths in April announced it had partnered with on-demand service Yello to offer two-hour deliveries in select areas, while Coles has Uber Eats in its corner.
“When you buy a T-shirt or clothing online you expect to receive it in a few days,” Professor Mortimer said.
“But when you buy groceries you really want it delivered on the same day, or within a few hours.”
Cash or card? Neither
Trials of checkout-less supermarkets are already under way in Australia.
In the US, it’s predicted checkouts will disappear completely within 10 years. A research paper has tipped the physical space created by the wipeout will be replaced by grocery pick-up facilities.
While some players in Australia are trialling scan-and-pay services through mobile phones, technology is already at work in the US that uses shelf sensors and cameras to track customers’ movements.
Convenience chain 7-Eleven opened its first cashless, cardless store in Melbourne in May. Photo: 7-Eleven
Last year, Woolworths rolled out a cashless, cardless system at Double Bay. While there’s still cashier-manned and self-serve registers, through an app and the supermarket’s loyalty program, shoppers can scan their items and have the payment automatically deducted from their bank account.
Convenience giant 7-Eleven has also entered the game, opening a store in Richmond in May that is completely checkout free.
Back to the future
So what will supermarkets do with all the staff that used to man checkouts, or solve self-serve woes?
They’ll be redistributed as product specialists, Professor Mortimer said.
“It’ll be a return to that theatre of retail … A hark back to the s and s,” he said.
“You’re talking to the butcher about the cuts of meat, the baker is there pulling bread fresh out of the oven.”
New supermarket stores will also get smaller – companies will target inner-urban areas where populations are booming, but because the land is too expensive to build full-service outlets on, expect to see smaller, more tailored layouts.
Do you remember when supermarkets had butchers and bakers on hand? Photo: Getty
No more sales
Professor Mortimer said supermarkets will slowly phase out sales, in favour of cultivating a price trust system with shoppers.
“One of the gripes that consumers have, is they go to the supermarket, and this week their favourite cereal is $3.50. They go back the next week and it’s $7. The next week it’s $4,” he told The New Daily.
Instead of spending millions annually on promoting their specials, he said supermarkets will reinvest those advertising dollars into dropping prices across the board.
So goodbye to junk mail?
Catalogues will still exist, Professor Mortimer said, they’ll just be different.
Using data from loyalty programs – and purchase history gathered from phone-scan checkouts – supermarkets will tailor their e-distributed catalogues to individual shoppers.
Just for you
Personalisation will be an overarching theme in supermarket developments, paired with advents in artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
Again, customers’ smartphones will be at the heart of the development, allowing supermarkets to track and target shoppers to tempt them with specials.
Beacon technology has been around for some years, and is linked to smartphone apps, pushing out notifications and messages when a user comes near a beacon “sensor”.
“(The sensors will be) embedded in lights, so you’ll be walking down the pet food aisle – and Coles or Woolworths know that your favourite product is Dine – and as you’re standing there, you’re getting a push notification (on your phone) with an offer right for you for Dine,” Professor Mortimer said.
Augmented reality might take a little bit more time to arrive, but when it does, it will look like this: “You look down the phone’s camera at the grocery aisle and offers will pop up – your favourite cereal pops up with an offer just for you.”
It’s not just supermarkets that are delving into the world of augmented reality – it’s expected to sweep all corners of retail. Photo: Getty
A lot of these advancements rely on customers happily handing over their data through loyalty programs and phones. But if they get something back in return – like a discount or special offer – they’ll play along, Professor Mortimer said.
What Does The Kitchen of the Future Look Like?
Let’s see what kitchen designers predict for our future kitchen.
Aside from seeing new products and touring homes, one of the best reasons to attend Dwell on Design is to hear industry leaders discuss trends in residential design. I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation entitled “Contemporary Kitchens on Fast Forward: High Design Goes Beyond Smart” featuring Laurie Haefele, owner of Haefele Design, Inc., Russ Diamond, President of Snyder Diamond, and chef Lulu Powers. Their insights into the future of kitchen design were truly interesting. As kitchen designers, they travel the world and see first hand new trends, new products, and what ideas are are in the pipeline for major manufactures. Just like fashion, these trends take time before they become readily available to the general public. But it’s fun to see how we may use our kitchens in the near future. Here’s what they had to say about the future of kitchen design.
Bespoke versus high tech
In the world of home design, there is a continuing trend of bespoke, or handmade, features, even in the kitchen. This might include a hand-hewn walnut kitchen island, leather drawer pulls, or hand-blown glass lighting. Fixtures and materials that feel “real” or handmade always lend a natural touch to the kitchen. Conversely, there is also a strong trend towards high-tech appliances, connectivity, interactive appliances, and mechanical elements. Shiny surfaces, metallic appliances and advanced materials will become more commonplace in the kitchen. Titanium cooking islands, like the ones offered by Bonnet International, scream “high tech” while the hand-feel of wood, like kitchen design company HenryBuilt, create a completely different look. The kitchen of the future can certainly combine both elements, and most often the best looking kitchens strike a balance between the two.
A hand-crafted piece by HenryBuilt, a leader in bespoke and ready-made kitchen designs.
Mechanics and automation
Automation in our appliances is expected these days, but more manually operated objects (like drawers, cabinets and ventilation hoods) will become automated as well. Remote controls, touch panel buttons, and improved mechanics are becoming more sophisticated, allowing for cabinets and drawers to be easily moved and lifted. New upper cabinet doors can be installed with a nearly invisible touch buttons, meaning that people will limited mobility can easily move larger objects.
Hiding the kitchen in plain sight
As kitchens become open rooms, connected to dining, family or living areas, some homeowners like the option to conceal as much as possible. Appliance garages have been incorporated into kitchen design for decades, allowing the homeowner to essentially roll down the door and cover up messy areas like the toaster or baking station. Going forward, homeowners can also choose sliding doors and smart hinges that allow entire walls of pantry storage or appliances (like refrigerators) to be hidden. Although some of the newest creations, like a pop-up faucet that allows you to hide the entire sink, aren’t yet available in the US yet. However, other products like hidden ventilation systems, like this flush mounted ceiling range hood by Best are only revealed when a remote activates the doors. Soon homeowners can choose to hide as much of the working aspects of the kitchen as possible.
A thoroughly modern kitchen design by Haefele Design. Notice the hidden ventilation system the drops down from the ceiling and titanium cooking island. Most everything else in the kitchen is hidden from view.
Connectivity and interactive features
New kitchen products and appliances are continuing to add interactive features that allow our hand held devices to communicate with our kitchen. Appliances like Top Brewer, which is a marvelous coffee machine and drink dispenser, can be controlled by an iPad, iPhone, Android devices (and I imagine, the Apple Watch). Meaning that you can wake up, punch in your drink order, and pick it up in your kitchen without having to actually grind your own beans or brew a pot (it also makes carbonated beverages). There are ovens that not only allow you to program in recipes and view images of how done you’d like your meat, it also gives you updated information on how the appliance is functioning. This type of self-diagnosis and repair come in handy for many homeowners. Whirlpool has developed a prototype for hologram cooktops, wherein a projected image of a cooktop can be beamed (or removed) from a heating surface. A hologram chef will give you cooking instructions as well as recipe cards – all with the touch of a button.
The inventive drink maker by Top Brewer, that connects to your hand held devices.
Homeowners are becoming more educated and innovative in the kitchen, and are creating a demand for professional-quality appliances in their residential kitchens. It’s not uncommon to see blast chillers, fryers, planchas, bratt pans, sous vide, bain-maries and boiling pans in the kitchen, especially in kitchens where homeowners have live-in chefs and entertain frequently. Manufacturers are actually designing at-home versions of these specialized pieces of equipment, making them fit the standard sizes of a kitchen cabinet as well as ensuring they can run on a standard electrical circuit.
The urban cultivator
As our world becomes more high tech, and space becomes a premium, homeowners may choose to grow and cultivate microgreens, herbs or other produce right inside their kitchen. This line of products by Urban Cultivator offers a unique alternative to any homeowner interested in growing their own foods but without having to go out into the garden. Access to fresh, home-grown food may also coincide with an increase in ready-to-swallow meals, like Soylent. Of course, it is yet to be seen how the food industry will change how and what we actually cook in our kitchens.
The Urban Cultivator lets you grow your own herbs and microgreens right inside your kitchen.
Everything is Easy to Clean
Every surface in the Miracle Kitchen was chosen for its ease of cleaning, and a sort of proto-Roomba would follow a prearranged path around the kitchen, both vacuuming and washing. All the cupboards had motion detectors and opened with a wave of the hand so that touching was minimized.
What Does the Restaurant of the Future Look Like?
In an increasingly interconnected world, technology is rapidly changing every aspect of our lives—and the hospitality industry could be no exception. What will the restaurant of the future look like? Online reservation systems, drones delivering food, and robots taking part in preparing meals will probably be on the menu.
Is the Future Already Here?
Smartphones are already ubiquitous in our daily routine and we no longer have to drop in or call a restaurant to make a reservation. While many restaurants have their own apps for securing a table, it seems that the future belongs to third parties who will provide a comprehensive service, like Resy. In 2017 alone, some 28 million people used the Resy app to book tables across 125 U.S. cities—while also taking advantage of other features like online reviews, offers, notifications on whether a table has suddenly become available on a Michelin-starred restaurant, and suggestions on nearby venues depending on budget and cuisine.
The trend of outsourcing reservations and relevant customer service is growing across the industry, especially ever since online reviews took off through providers like TripAdvisor and Yelp, and will most likely determine how we approach the process of deciding where to dine out and reserving a table in the future. The big question is: will humans still be around in the restaurant of the future? In production and prep, maybe. A California startup, Momentum Machines, has managed to develop a hamburger-making robot that can create roughly 4,000 burgers within an hour, and they have already secured $18 million in funding. Yet it seems that provision of services will remain a mostly human affair: 80 percent of consumers have stated that they prefer to deal with humans.
Food Delivery Will Take Off—Literally
Ordering food will also be different in the restaurant of the future: restaurants are already letting customers pre-order food for collection or delivery through apps, cutting back on employee costs. According to Deloitte, 40 percent of diners prefer to order online, while when they are able to do so, they spend 26 percent more within a quick-serve and visit frequency goes up by 6 percent. Yet implementing online ordering systems also demand attention to detail in other sectors, like ensuring that the system is secure. Online servers that process log-ins of customers placing orders need safeguards like a WAF or Web Application Firewall, a cybersecurity tool that prevents hackers from accessing sensitive data like banking and credit card information by filtering out malicious requests, in order to protect users.
As for the delivery system, drone tech is really taking off and seeks to consolidate itself as the leader in food and package deliveries in the future. According to a survey by Statista, 38 percent of American consumers would trust Amazon’s drones for deliveries, 23 percent would prefer the U.S. Postal Service, and a further 20 percent would rather see Google deliver their order, with Walmart in last place with 19 percent. Meanwhile, POS systems in restaurants are turning to fingerprint scanning to increase the security of their POS software.
While they may have seemed the product of a wild imagination a couple of decades ago, many of these changes are already in the works, giving us a rough idea of what dining out will look in 10 years from now.
Decentralization of Project Management
Considering that Project Management is an interdisciplinary approach to tackle temporary endeavors, at operational levels PMOs should provide consistent guidance to initiate a project properly, to plan the project with enough detail, to support the project’s execution, to monitor and control the project through its life cycle, and to close the project formally.
There are plenty of standards, methodologies and best practices created by private companies, governmental institutions, professional organizations, and more. The Project Management Institute is one of the leading organizations in promoting project management practice with the PMBOK Guide. The International Project Management Association holds the Competence Baseline and the Axelos Global Best Practice now sponsors PRINCE2 and MSP standards, to name a few.
By definition, a Project Management Office is an organizational structure and it should operate according to a business model aligned to corporate goals and strategy. New types of PMOs surge to face current organizational challenges. As pressures for more agility mounts, traditional PMOs stumble to keep pace with innovative approaches and hybrid methodologies . On top of that, cloud-based project management platforms made easier for organizations to adopt more than one solution.
Decentralization is a trend in which PMO’s functions are distributed, and sometimes duplicated, among different business areas to suit their particular needs. For example, a large aerospace company structured an Engineering Division around project management communities of practice while the IT Department possess a PMO to manage outsourced projects.
When it comes to PMOs, there is no “one size fits all.”
The key take-away here is that organizations are preferring to have virtual PMOs, decentralized PMO’s functions and even temporary PMOs instead of traditional corporate PMOs. As project management professionals and practitioners mature, it is expected that they take over some of the PMO functions.
The Future Of Buffets And Salad Bars After The Coronavirus Pandemic
For decades, self-serve salad bars and buffets have been ingrained in the American dining experience. But now, with the coronavirus threatening to contaminate buffet surfaces , the pandemic has upended salad bar chains, all-you-can-eat Indian and Chinese buffets, cruise ship and casino buffets, hotel breakfast bars and self-serve prepared food bars at grocery stores.
On May 7, the buffet industry had its first casualty when Souplantation ― or Sweet Tomatoes as the chain is known outside of Southern California ― permanently closed its 97 locations. Was this a harbinger of things to come?
Not exactly. As restaurants across the U.S. reopen for dine-in service, these food bars continue to exist but have morphed into different concepts.
For instance, Golden Corral has adapted to cafeteria-style and family-style dining at most (but not all) of its locations. Instead of customers serving themselves at the buffet line, an attendant dishes out the food for them. Some items, like desserts, are pre-portioned for customers to grab themselves.
A representative for Golden Corral told HuffPost that in most locations, soft-serve ice cream machines have been suspended. “In parts of the country where self-service is permitted, we provide protective paper napkins next to the machine so that our guests do not have to touch the metal lever to dispense their soft-serve ice cream,” said the representative. “We are also sanitizing guest touch points at a minimum of every 30 minutes.”
“The judge-free zone was one of the best things about salad bars. . That ritualistic part of going up and getting as much as you want and how you want it now gets lost in translation.”
The representative said that so far, customers like the new approach. “The feedback on our cafeteria-style service model has been extremely positive. Our guests appreciate the personalized service and the added sanitation measures we’ve put in place.”
When asked how long Golden Corral plans to continue this new type of service, President and CEO Lance Trenary told HuffPost that it’s “still not clear what the ‘new normal’ for all of us will be,” promising the brand will “adapt to meet [customers’] needs and exceed their expectations.”
Sizzler, which is known for its steaks and its long-running Craft Salad Bar, has begun reopening dine-in service, beginning with Arizona. The salad bar, however, will now be brought tableside. “With this new format, guests can choose their Sizzler favorites and one of our employees, who has been trained to follow additional safety techniques and precautions, will assemble guests’ selections and serve directly at their table,” Forbes Collins, Sizzler USA’s chief operations officer, told HuffPost. “As time goes by, we will continue to reevaluate different solutions based on the needs of our guests. It’s a fluid situation, and we plan to stay fluid.”
Since the 1970s, Sizzler has offered its salad bar to customers. But with the pandemic expected to last more than a year, what does the future of Sizzler’s salad bar look like? “While we understandably have our concerns, the thought of Sizzler guests not being able to make their favorite salad bar creation their way is something we aren’t ready to come to terms with,” Collins said. “But public health comes first. Even during these unprecedented times, we are confident that we can still provide our guests with a memorable Craft Salad Bar experience, safely. In fact, there’s even potential that some guests might enjoy this version better.”
In Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, Frisch’s Big Boy operates a total of 110 locations. Starting on May 20, the hamburger chain with a soup, salad and breakfast bar will reopen with “frictionless” dine-in service at two locations in Indiana. On May 27, nine Ohio locations will reopen, and every seven to nine days about 10 other locations will return for dine-in. Frisch’s has offered its Soup, Salad ’n Fruit Bar since 1982, but its entire self-serve format changed in mid-March. Akin to Sizzler and Golden Corral, Frisch’s salad bar has a new iteration.
“We’re not going to open up the salad bars right away,” Jason Vaughn, Frisch’s CEO, told HuffPost. “We’re going to have build-your-own salad. You can create your own — whatever guests want on it that normally comes from our salad bar. We’re going to prepare it in the back of the house and have a food runner bring it out to them.”
Vaughn jettisoned cafeteria-style service, because he didn’t think customers would feel comfortable with employees wearing PPE and dishing food onto their plates. “If you were to walk up to our salad bar and someone was in a mask and gloves, would you be OK with that?” he said. “Right now the sentiment seems to be, probably not. So let’s just prepare it safely in the back of the house, in the kitchen.”
In the past, a person could build their own salad with whatever weird combinations they wanted (and how much they wanted), without worrying about an employee judging them. “I thought the judge-free zone was one of the best things about salad bars,” Vaughn said. “I’ve always enjoyed watching friends and families talking to each other about what they were going to put on their salad and what they like and how they like to mix it. That ritualistic part of going up and getting as much as you want and how you want it now gets lost in translation.”
If Frisch’s self-serve food bar does return, what would it look like?
“ If and when it does come back — and I happen to believe a version of it will come back — I think there will be an attendant making fresh salad for someone and the customer is picking and choosing the ingredients they want in it and someone is making it for them, is how I foresee it coming back,” Vaughn said.
But what about going back to the days when you could do your own thing with your own two hands? “If that ever comes back, it’s a long time from now,” Vaughn said.
At Culver City, California’s Mayura Indian Restaurant , which specializes in cuisine from the southern Indian state of Kerala, co-owner Padmini Aniyan had to shut down dine-in a few days before “ Top Chef” aired an episode that featured the restaurant. Thankfully, Aniyan was able to pivot to carryout and delivery, and based on health guidelines, she hopes to reopen dine-in in mid-June.
However, the lunchtime buffet, which highlighted dishes not offered on the regular menu, won’t be returning then, or anytime soon. “ We are not going to open the buffet until the situation is 100% safe,” Aniyan told HuffPost. “Not until the coronavirus is gone or a vaccination comes, because now the priority is 100% safety for our employees and our guests.”
When Mayura does resume dine-in, customers can expect something special: thali. The South Indian preparation entails 12-15 small portions of food set on a platter for individual servings. “I don’t think anyone is comfortable to go to the buffet,” Aniyan said. “Once the restaurant reopens, I know a lot of people will show up. We’ll try to block them from doing something that will create some friction in the crowd. It’s not good for anyone. That’s why we decided not to start the buffet soon. At the same time, we want to make guests happy with all the items they used to try from the buffet.”
The buffet used to be a traditional part of dining at some Indian restaurants, and Aniyan said it was a communal experience for her guests. “It’s hard,” she said. “We used to do so many celebrations here, like special Indian festivals. We had long, long lines here, and long waits. But we are going to miss all those things, at least for some time.”
What Lies Ahead?
Curious about what changes and innovations you and your patients might encounter in the hospital of the future? Read on.
- New technology: So many changes are on the horizon, including computerized medical records/information management. President George W. Bush has appointed a “health IT czar,” David Brailer, MD, PhD, to expand and integrate information capabilities in healthcare.
- Fewer medication errors: Technology can reduce the number of medication errors in hospitals, thanks to the introduction of computerized information on smart cards and even smart clothing that indicates what medications are needed when.
- Better patient flow: More than turning beds over, improved patient flow at the hospital of the future will mean a more efficient and effective admissions process, discharge process, and everything in between.
- Improved transition from hospital to long-term care: With baby boomers heading toward their twilight years, this transition is being fine-tuned so your patients make the move to long-term care seamlessly and easily for them, their families, and staff at both institutions.
- More specialty hospitals: A number of procedures may move from a general community hospital to a specialized hospital or even a nonhospital setting.1
There are many, many more specific areas where improvements will occur in your hospital. Watch future issues of The Hospitalist for articles focused on the hospital of the future.
Works in Progress
Numerous professional organizations are working to advance some or all aspects of hospital medicine and administration. Some of the work that is currently underway includes:
- The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) hosted the 1st Annual International Summit on Redesigning Hospital Care, June 2005 in San Diego, where medical professionals and hospital executives attended sessions on critical care, patient safety, flow, and workforce development.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) awarded 108 grants totaling $139 million to advance the use of information technology in healthcare to reduce medical errors, improve the quality of patient care, and reduce the cost of healthcare.
AHRQ also created a National Resource Center for Health Information Technology and is facilitating expert and peer-to-peer collaborative learning and fostering the growth of online communities who are planning, implementing, and researching health information technology (IT).
DH is receiving input from operational, organizational, and regulatory experts (among them representatives from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, CMS, IHI, Microsoft, Siemens, and Ritz Carlton), providers and administrators, patients and their families. DH is creating a hospital command center to collect, control, and disperse information from a central location. It’s also focusing on improving operating room turnover time to accommodate more surgeries.
Hospitalists as Change Agents
Who will be involved in redesigning the hospital? Currently the major players in designing and implementing change include professional, nonprofit, and government associations (such as those listed above), universities, and independent healthcare consulting groups. Many groups work directly with hospitals on pilot programs for change.
Once change reaches the hospital level, different professionals can become involved, including administrators, physicians, and nursing staff.
But what role can (and should) hospitalists play in getting their institution to become a hospital of the future? “In looking farther to the future, one role that hospitalists may increasingly assume is that of change agent,” says David L. Bernd in “The Future Role of Hospitalists.”2 “The nature of the hospitalist’s work ideally situates him to act as a change agent, enabling him to identify process management initiatives and corral physician support. As a result, hospitalists will increasingly serve as administrative partners and leaders of medical staff initiatives to help facilitate organizational change. … hospitalists themselves may become the solution to some of the systems that need changing.”
Dr. Wellikson agrees: “Hospitalists, who for the most part are in the beginning of a 20- to 30-year professional career, are primed to play significant roles in this changing dynamic.
Next Month: an In-depth Look
In a series of articles over the next year or so, The Hospitalist will examine specific aspects of the hospital of the future. Experts and leading thinkers will provide their perspectives and plans regarding everything from what the hospital of the future will look like in terms of its physical layout, to how the admissions process might work, to the role that specialty hospitals will play.
Our series will envision the future of medical records and medications, critical care, patient flow, and how teamwork and collaboration might change the way medical personnel work.
In addition, each month we’ll contrast this vision of the future with a look into the distant past of hospitals (see “Flashback: The power of words,” below), providing a glimpse of the earliest beginnings of the institution and the medical profession.
This series on the hospital of the future is designed to encourage you to think progressively and plan ahead. Change waits for no one in hospital medicine, as we all know. Hospitalists must be poised to become active participants in those changes. So stay tuned the future is coming. TH
Jane Jerrard is an editorial change agent based in Chicago.
- Wellikson L. SHM point of view. The Hospitalist. 20052:5.
- Bernd DL. The future role of hospitalists. How hospitalists add value. The Hospitalist. 20059(S1):4.
How Bernie Sanders, an Open Socialist, Won Burlington’s Mayoral Election
Karl Marx once wrote dismissively of “those that write recipes for the cookshops of the future.” He emphasized that we can’t come up with a premade plan for what our future socialist society will look like — it wouldn’t take into account the specific conditions that such a society would be created in.
But Sam Gindin argues that we can’t use that quote to excuse ourselves from providing credible answers about what a future socialism might look like. Mass numbers of people aren’t going to get on board with the socialist movement if we don’t.
Sam set out to provide some of these answers in “Socialism for Realists,” in Catalyst. Sam Gindin was for many years the research director and assistant to the president of the Canadian Auto Workers (now UNIFOR). He’s the author of several books, including The Making of Global Capitalism as well as The Socialist Challenge Today , both coauthored with Leo Panitch, and a regular contributor to Jacobin .
Jacobin managing editor Micah Uetricht interviewed Gindin for his podcast, The Vast Majority , which you can listen and subscribe to here. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Your article is called “Socialism for Realists,” and I assume you meant by that title as distinct from “socialism for utopians.” Why is it important to lay out a case for socialism for realists?
Socialist discourse has reemerged in the United States, but much of that discourse is still about social democracy, about restoring or extending the welfare state. And people can imagine that. But if you ask the question, “What about a society in which private property in the means of production didn’t really exist? What about a society in which there was planning but also democracy? What about a society in which ordinary working people ran the world?” then people look at you a little bit differently.
We’re at a point where you get that kind of question as soon as you’re successful. To get people to commit to building that better world, people are going to say, “Wait a second, I don’t know if that’s possible.” You have to answer them, first to yourself as a socialist so you have confidence in it, and second to people that you’re trying to win over to socialism.
You argue that we can’t pretend there aren’t barriers to the world that we want to create, and we need an honest presentation of those barriers. I’m thinking in particular about scarcity. Insofar as there has been some imagining of what a future socialist world could look like, there’s been a lot focused on “post-scarcity,” the “full luxury gay space communism” approach. You’re arguing that scarcity is going to be with us for the foreseeable future, and we need to plan accordingly.
When I write “scarcity,” what I mean is that choices will have to be made. When people assume that there won’t be scarcity, it’s like, “We don’t have to deal with any difficult choices, we can have as much of everything as we want.” What I’m trying to emphasize is that we will have to make choices as long as people don’t feel like going to work every day. Unless you assume that people are ready to work for free because they love the work, then you won’t have scarcity. But as long as there’s a choice, you have to have some incentives.
People have to say when I’m giving up leisure, I expect to be compensated. We could have all kinds of different things like collective goods and collective services. Don’t we want more education, more public spaces, more green spaces, don’t we all want more time to learn to play music?
You begin to see that there are all kinds of things we may want, and that demands some choices. People’s different preferences become very important. If we’re serious, we have to ask, “How do we solve this problem in the context in which choices have to be made about how our labor power is used, where it goes, and how intensive it is?”
You write that we will have to compel people to do things under socialism. We saw in societies like the Soviet Union that this was something that they dealt with, and obviously, we are not big fans of how they did it. We want to avoid those horrific mistakes. But compulsion will still be necessary to figure out in a socialist society.
This is really complicated. People want planning because you need to deal with the environment, to decide what you’re going to do — but as soon as you start talking about planning, you have to think about how we have checks on the planners. How do we make this democracy? When we talk about workers controlling a factory, the question is, “How does that fit into a larger plan? Why don’t people just get together and find out what they all need and just make it?” Well, the trouble is if you imagine making an electric vehicle, then you have to know how many the community wants, how much aluminum to use, and where else can it be used? And then, if it’s a dynamic society, whatever you’re doing will change immediately. As soon as you go through everything — how to make it, what suppliers think, what the demand is — somebody changes their mind. Then you have to get together and play with this again. And you don’t want to constantly be in meetings, so you have to have mechanisms for dealing with how choices are made, how people actually have autonomy, how as an individual you can choose different jobs, how planning can work without becoming bureaucratic. We can imagine a society that’s creative, that has freedom, that values people developing their capacities, in which people have room for making decisions, but we do have to figure out how this all comes together.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to do that, your basic argument is that the state isn’t going to wither away, even under socialism.
The question of the state is fundamental because it developed historically to solve problems to make capitalism work. It has all kinds of capacities essential to making capitalism work, and it doesn’t have the capacities we need to expand democracy. We need a state with capacities that have never actually existed within it before.
We have to think about what workers in the state will be doing. Will they be saying, “As a strong union in the state, we’ll just take care of ourselves, and it’ll be easier because we have a sympathetic state,” or will you start saying, “No, we’ve got different responsibilities: how we can help with the housing situation, how to help anybody who’s got a problem. You have to transform unions, we have to transform ourselves, but we have to transform the state, because we need this mechanism for coordinating how to allocate investment, how you coordinate inputs and outputs, how you think about where you’re going as a society regionally, how to decide how quickly to get rid of private goods and move to free and public goods.”
These are questions that require administrative mechanisms, and if you wish them away you never start dealing with them, and then you’re confronted with this problem that you can’t cope with.
One of the things you have to recognize about the road to socialism is that it will be messy. You have to figure out checks and balances. If it’s democratic then people may say they don’t like it after a point. You have to keep winning people over, and you might lose for a while. We’re talking about a world-historic event, about creating something that’s never existed before, people actually saying we’re not just moving with history, we’re making history. And you’re constantly discovering, learning, inventing, and that’s what makes it exciting.
Your article lays out a lot of those complexities. In a way, it feels more daunting than ever. But on the other hand, it lets you breathe a sigh of relief. You’re like, “Ahh, I don’t have to pretend like this whole thing is going to be easy.” Here is somebody who is really wrestling with the messiness of what that transitional process would look like, who is a bone-deep socialist but is not pretending that this is going to be a simple process with an easy roadmap.
Let’s talk about some of the nuts and bolts. You say that socialism will need to have both planning and markets. Why markets? What kind of market do you envision? Why do we need it, and what would it look like?
I have trouble imagining a perfect model where you could plan everything and have everyone do what they want. It’s not because people aren’t perfectible or we can’t invent new ways of doing things — it’s because even if people are perfectly committed to socialism, they have to have a way to decide why to do it this way.
I’m talking about people, for example, making a product in a factory. I have to have a way of judging whether the material I’m using and how much of it is really the best way to use the material. You can’t just decide that on your own because you have a democratic workplace. So it can be decided through planning. The question is as soon as you have planning you’ve got this material base for bureaucracy and people actually controlling you, so you have to have a check on this. That’s critical.
So the question is how? You can have all kinds of democratic mechanisms, forums for debating the plan, the plan being transparent, people being informed, but you cannot deal with everything.
When you say you can’t deal with everything you mean — questions of democracy aside — it’s not possible for some central planning board to make a perfect plan, right? You need some kind of input from the people, and a market provides that. However, you make very clear that you do not mean a commodified labor market or capital market.
You can imagine walking down a street in your neighborhood with markets for buying fruit, having a coffee or buying a meal or even buying your clothes, and in a society which is equal, in which people have a basic income and basic social goods, those markets wouldn’t be a threat to the system.
But you can’t have a labor market, because the whole point of socialism is that you don’t want to sell your labor power to somebody else so they control how you develop your own capacities as a human being. You can have choices for people — if they want to move, to take another job. But you can’t say we’re just going to let you do what you’re doing even if the market says that you’re relatively hopeless.
You cannot have a labor market, and you can’t have a market for capital, because if those firms that are doing the best can invest their money for more equipment, then you’re institutionalizing inequalities. You can’t say that capital can be allocated according to who has the best opportunity to get it because of their profits.
When you say a market for capital, you mean things like privately owned investment banks, like the Goldman Sachses of the world, who are the ones who control what investments get made and then accrue profits based on those investments.
We’re getting rid of a market that’s not just financial, but that actually owns any assets. You have to have a mechanism for allocating capital that isn’t based on where should it go to get its highest return. You might want to allocate it so that firms that aren’t doing well get more capital so they can catch up to everybody else. You want workers visiting other plants to see how they do things.
How do you figure out a way of allocating capital so it deals with social issues, which region of the country you want it in — how do you do this in a way which strengthens equality rather than undermines it? Then it’s a similar point with labor.
One issue is this question of sectoral councils. In a sector — whether it’s a hospital, education, car manufacturing, or resource sector — you’d actually have an institution where, instead of firms competing like they do under capitalism, you have workers from the firms in that sector electing people to a sectoral council where they could make plans for that sector as a whole that fit into the larger social plan. Then they could distribute capital within that sector to meet the overall plans, but do it in a way that raises the productivity and the quality of every firm in that sector.
In addition to trying to establish equality across a sector and having centralized research and development so that everybody can access it — it means that you’ve got another layer of planning that’s separate from the central planning board. You can have planning centrally that does certain things, you can have layers sectorally that do certain things, you can have layers regionally that do certain things. A sector might be plugged into regional councils or urban councils, and then you have a lot of planning at the firm itself.
One of the arguments that Hayek made is that only capitalism can actually get latent information from people because it’s not obvious, for example, what people actually want to buy. They don’t sit down at the beginning of January and say, “I know what I want,” and give it to the central planners. His question is about how you find out what people want, and how you find out what skills people really have without private property and private incentives. He said that’s only something that capitalism can do through markets. It reveals capacities and information through competition.
It’s a serious argument, and my response is that first, markets — as they are under capitalism —actually systematically hide information because it benefits private property and competition. Socialism opens up the door to sharing information.
Hayek is right about the capacities of capitalism, but he’s thinking of the capacities of entrepreneurs. Workers are just commodities to him. The point of socialism is to see the potential capacities of ordinary people. If you gave workers factories right now, they wouldn’t know what to do with them. There’s nothing about capitalism that teaches you how to run things, never mind how to actually coordinate all this complexity. Socialism is actually concerned with not just the capacities of entrepreneurs, but the capacity of learners.
When you look at productivity growth in capitalism, it’s at 1 or 2 percent. The argument is that capitalism has incentives for higher productivity. Well, it’s not hard to imagine workers on a job coming up with ideas about how to do it better that could match this productivity. And even if they didn’t quite match it, there would be so many other benefits.
You mentioned the sectoral council, but what do workplace collectives and worker-owned co-ops look like? They’re one of the smallest levels of organization in the scheme that you’re laying out here.
In the sectoral councils you’d have representatives sitting on these sectoral councils elected by their workers. I was focusing on the productive sectors so you’re talking about firms making things, but also administering things in the community. You would imagine in a socialist society where production has less of an emphasis than other things that you do in your life then how you administer the community is fundamental. That’s where real democracy has to start. That’s where you develop the confidence that you know and can do things.
A really crucial point here is that if you just had market socialism — in other words, you said workers own it but we’ll let markets and competition be the context — then what happens is that in the name of competition and being successful, you end up leaving it to the experts because “they know better.” You end up reproducing inequalities, because if it’s based on the market then people who do better have to keep more of the profits and invest them more.
Getting rid of competition is so fundamental to having a democratic structure in the firm where people can get parameters about what the plan generally wants, and they can look at markets so they see what the costs are as valued by society of these different materials. You put special costs on things around the environment, and people actually begin to work together to share and reorganize work.
One of the arguments that is very important in thinking about co-ops is that co-ops, under capitalism, can fall into the trap of just being businesses. And the question under capitalism is: how do you politicize co-ops so you’re not just saying “join our co-op so you can get something cheaper” but “join our co-op because you’re fitting into a social movement.” You can start thinking about co-ops as places where people can start developing the skills they need under socialism. It’s under socialism you can start fulfilling those needs and spreading them to all of society.
You mention some level of inequality still existing in this socialist society and there being incentives for things related to production and presumably anything else. Can you talk about what inequality and incentives look like in the plan you’ve sketched out?
You’re trying to create a society which is equal in all ways. You try to have a society where more and more goods are free, public goods. At the same time, you want people to show up to work and work hard. You may want people to move to another community because you have to balance growth, so you want to have incentives, which may be in the form of a decent house rather than higher pay.
The point is that there are so many choices to make, especially between leisure and work, and the kind of work, but also about regional development, urban development — all those things will require some kind of incentive. But you want to limit it so you don’t have anybody accumulating wealth, and you want the inequalities to be squeezed by the social goods in society. Once you do that, then, it might be a small incentive that makes somebody do something so that they can get that extra good.
What I’m trying to emphasize here is that I’m not trying to prove that socialism is possible, only that it’s credible. It isn’t useful to be utopian and say, “The best way for me to mobilize people is to promise them that they can have everything they want with no drawbacks.” That kind of illusion will sink you if you ever start coming close to power and therefore have to deal with reality.
What we need is people who are prepared for the fact that this is exciting, it’s incredible to be part of this, but who also realize it’s hard. Then we have to think about what do we have to do immediately? Are the sectoral committees important? Do we have to have massive planning first and let workers wait, do we have to start with workers’ control right away? Then you have to think about how we keep learning how to do this and not screw it up, because we can screw it up.
You spend much of the article trying to make socialism and the nuts and bolts of what a socialist society should look credible, but you also say at the end of the article that “the making of socialism must be understood as permanently in an uncertain state of becoming. Far from delivering nirvana, what socialism offers is that, having removed the capitalist barriers to actively making life qualitatively better and richer, humanity can then begin to more and more consciously make its own history.”
There is a lot of contingency here, and there will be an incredible amount of room for human creativity and flourishing in that sense, both in constructing this future society but also in achieving and building that future society.
Capitalism creates a sense that this is all there is. The point of socialism is to see that what we can make of ourselves is an open question. The excitement is about the fact that we can actually invent this.
And to the extent that I dealt with the nuts and bolts, I want to emphasize that what I was doing was saying, “Here are things we have to figure out.” And some of them are intimidating, so I take on some of those intimidating things and say we really think about this, we come up with a few solutions, and every solution we come up with actually raises another problem.
I’m trying to invite people to say, “Let’s all think about this. Let’s think about how the hospitals, the education system could be run. How would an international economy work?”
I don’t know if we can answer it, and I don’t think we should pretend we have to answer that before we move on. I started thinking about this in the ’60s when I was a student. I was going to do my thesis on what socialism would look like, and I concluded that was a stupid thing to do in the ’60s, when there was so much going on. I don’t think that was the wrong conclusion, but the Left has been defeated since then — and when I say that I include the really exciting Left that I see out there, which is rather thin in terms of really talking about socialism.
We talk about a Green New Deal, which is exciting, but it doesn’t get to workers because we don’t have the power. They know that this will require planning. You can’t promise them a just transition if corporations are going to make the decisions.
Workers hear this stuff, and it’s too abstract. It’s tremendously exciting that people are talking about this in an easy way and getting the socialist discourse on the agenda, and I don’t think we should see them as our enemies. You’re doing a good job, but we also have to engage them and say that as you get more serious, you’ve got to think about the state and the transformation of the state. You can’t just say these are policies, you have to talk about how we will exchange power relationships so we can do this.
And you can’t assume that people are spontaneously perfectly knowledgeable. They have to learn things. Part of the excitement should be — and it’s a hard thing to balance — that the socialist discourse is thrilling, and yet we have to sometimes pull it back to earth a little bit without overwhelming people.
In 2028 food will be more creative
Kitchen creativity has few limits. From Weetabix ice cream to liquid nitrogen cocktail balls, exciting dishes are made by chefs who love to surprise, but few such culinary masterpieces make it into the home, owing to a reliance on specialist equipment and professional skills. Expect that to change as equipment becomes more affordable. Even today, the sous-vide water bath that was once reserved for fine dining restaurants can be purchased for less than a set of pans. In the coming years, the spiraliser will have been eclipsed by a handheld spherificator or foam-making espuma gun. For the ambitious home cook, getting creative is going to be a lot more fun.
When skills are lacking, a robotic sous-chef may lend a helping hand. Imagine being able to send a message your Robo-Chef while on the commute home to prepare a recipe of your choice. Within moments, android arms will be gathering ingredients from the fridge, julienning the turnips and deboning the chicken.
It’s not completely pie-in-the-sky, either. UK-based Moley Robotics has already developed a ‘robotic kitchen’, set for consumer release this year. Consisting of two articulated arms, cooking hobs, oven and touchscreen interface, this is a robot that can chop, whisk, stir, pour and clean. It’s no clumsy Dalek either: each hand has 20 motors, 24 joints and 129 sensors to mimic the movements of human hands. Skills are ‘learnt’ by replicating the movements of chefs and other cooks, and their recipes can be selected via an iTunes-like recipe catalogue. The speed and dexterity of the robotic kitchen will have foodies salivating at the possibilities. But with the first devices expected to cost around £10,000 each, it might be worth holding out until they throw in a dishwasher.
Elsewhere, 3D-printed food offers endless opportunities for creating intricate dishes that are impossible to create by human hands alone. Everything from toys to aeroplane parts, from prosthetics to clothing – even whole houses – are already being made with 3D printers. And the food frontier has been crossed. Custom sweets can be designed and made using sugar-rich ‘ink’ to construct anything from interlocking candy cubes and chewable animal shapes, to lollipops in the shape of Queen Elizabeth’s head.
Until recently, 3D printing has been sugar-based, but technology is emerging that reliably prints savoury and fresh ingredients. Natural Machines has developed one such kitchen appliance that can be loaded with multiple ingredient capsules to create and cook all manner of weird and wonderful foods. These include: crackers shaped like coral, hexagonal crisps, heart-shaped pizzas and hollow croutons that dissolve in sauce. With the promise of cutting waste by repurposing ‘ugly’ food and offcuts for food capsules, Natural Machines has the potential to drastically reduce packaging and transport costs. Not yet sold on the idea? Imagine wowing your nearest and dearest by serving up the ultimate romantic meal finished off with a personalised chocolate torte, where an invisible series of grooves in the chocolate surface plays their favourite song when placed in a special ‘record player’. Delicious!
This is an extract from issue 322 of BBC Focus magazine.
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