Anticipating the possibilities for the future
Megatrends‘Megatrends’ are the global shifts that shape our world and society, but also specific technologies and companies that seem to be pushing at the boundaries of the possible and offering us a glimpse of what might be the everyday technologies of tomorrow. Many organisations, including charities, governments and industry, have taken to peering into the future in a bid to predict and prepare for the future. One of these is the international professional services firm PwC which has devoted some research to identify some of these megatrends. The PwC Megatrends website has more details.
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- Rapid Urbanisation: Today, more than half of the population live in urban areas and 1.5 million people are added to the global urban population every week. A massive 90% of this urban population growth will take place in African and Asian countries. On one hand, rapid urbanisation can put huge demands on infrastructure and the environment. On the other hand, it gives emerging cities opportunities to increase development and inclusivity.
- Climate Change and Resource Scarcity: A growing global population is expected to demand 35% more food by 2030. Vegetable oils, dairy, meat, fish and sugar will have a particularly high impact on energy and water demand. The connection between trends in climate change and resource scarcity is amplifying the impact; climate change could reduce agricultural productivity by up to a third across large parts of Africa over the next 60 years. In this time, the global demand for water will increase by 40% and demand for energy will increase by 50%. The world’s current economic model is pushing beyond the limits of the planet’s ability to cope.
- Demographic and Social Changes: By 2030, the world’s population is projected to rise by more than one billion, bringing the total to over eight billion. 97% of this population growth will come from emerging or developing countries. Equally significantly, people in all regions are living longer and having fewer children. The result is that the fastest growing segment of the population will be the over 65s: there will be 390 million more of them in 2030 than in 2015.
Emerging TechnologiesTechnology is a double edged sword. It has the capacity to create massive positive impacts, but also to reshape our world in new and unexpected, and often unwanted ways too. Just look at how nuclear science gave us both energy and weapons, or how the Internet has enabled both positive communication and organisation over vast distances but also a rise in abuse and fake news perpetuated by the same platforms. So what are the ‘game changing’ technologies of today that seem certain to be part of our near future at least? Here are just three:
- Virtual and Augmented Reality: VR and AR, after a series of false dawns, seem to be making real inroads into public conception. No longer just a gaming novelty, the myriad and diverse uses of these technologies are fast becoming more accessible and possible to more and more people. From Healthcare and Medicine, to Education and Engineering, the uses are proliferating rapidly.
- Artificial Intelligence & Robotics: with continued improvements in the abilities of AI and robots, more and more jobs and tasks are being automated. A 2013 study published by Oxford University (see the links at the bottom of the page to read the full report) suggested that 47% of US jobs were in danger of being automated. Not only does this create new possibilities but also huge challenges for policy makers who need to reshape society away from assuming that humans labour to earn wages and pay taxes, but instead work less but still need to generate incomes for both individual and state.
- Internet of Things: As more and more devices become IoT enabled our cities, houses, and clothes will become increasingly function and data rich. The possibilities are endless, from smart traffic control systems to health monitoring wearables. How will this change our behaviour? Who will control the data? Where will we draw a line between privacy and control?
Scanning the FutureAs we’ve highlighted it’s not just technology that shifts, we are surrounded by change in almost every aspect of our lives.
The PESTLE model is useful tool for scanning for all these different changes. PESTLE is a strategic tool that gives an overview of the different factors that should be taken into consideration when analysing an issue.“Even if we put aside some of the more speculative futurist predictions, a society increasingly driven by technology will see continuous change in the economy, human relations and our sense of identity. In areas such as employment we have seen the loss of traditional manufacturing, the rise of knowledge work, and increasing rates of in-work poverty.” – (Burbidge, 2017)
- Political – what is changing in terms of politics and policy?
- Economic – what impact will economic shifts and changes make?
- Social – how is society changing? Are social opinions and views shifting?
- Technological – what is new or increasingly obsolete in technology?
- Legal – is the law changing? A change in legislation can unleash a lot of new ideas…
- Environmental – how might environmental changes or considerations play a role?
Burbage, I. (2017). Altered States, RSA Journal Issue 1 2017, 10–15, full text available online
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