At this time of year, most of the news media are busy contacting futurists, trends-forecasters and guys like me to bang together their year end articles about “what comes next in 2015.”
From my perspective, it’s easy to guess what we’ll see in 2015, since much of it will be an extrapolation of trends that are already well underway in 2014.
The real art is predicting what might happen, say, 10 years out, in the year 2025.
Bill Gates once made the observation that “most people tend to overestimate the rate of change that will occur on a 2 year basis, and underestimate the rate of change that will occur over 10 years.”
So try this for an exercise – go back just 10 years, and cast your mind back to 2005. Back then, Facebook was mostly used by college kids; Google Maps was relatively new; Twitter would not even come into existence until 2 years later (and when it arrived in 2007, most people didn’t even understand what it was for!). In 2005, most people weren’t really talking about autonomous vehicles or drone technology; the concept of the Hero GoPro was still a few years in the future; it was 2 years before the arrival of the Amazon Kindle.
And as always, most people weren’t really thinking about the future back in 2005, and thinking about how different 2015 might be. After all, thinking about the future is not the job of most people. The result is that most predictions about the future are often treated as ridiculous, comical, or viewed as being based too much on science fiction.
And in that context, there have always been a popular cultural mysticism about the future, such as this fabulous song from the early 70’s. It’s a duo called Zagar and Evans, singing about the year 2525 and beyond ….. the lyrics are eerie, somewhat full of doom, and just not positive…..
In the year 2525
If man is still alive
If woman can survive
They may find
In the year 3535
Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies
Everything you think, do, and say
Is in the pill you took today
(They could have probably fast-forwarded by 500 years when it came to the pill part….)
The reality about the future is this: a lot can happen in 10 years, and much of it can be positive. Can you imagine how different the future might be ten years from now, in the year 2025? What will the world be like? How different will things be? What will be the big trends that will cause economic, political, social and global upheaval? What trends will reshape the world of business?
Here are a few of my thoughts, based upon simple extrapolation of trends from today.
- Cash will have all but disappeared. We already have a generation that has been weaned on PayPal, online transactions and the Web. With the arrival of ApplePay and other initiatives that transform mobile devices into credit cards, the trend towards the decline of the use of cash will only accelerate. We’ll see the trend pick up speed as we drop payment technology into our cars, bicycles, clothing and everything else around us (as part of the trend involving “the Internet of Things.”) It’s clear that by 2025, if cash is not pretty well gone, it’s clearly well on it’s way out.
- Africa will have ceased to be a rural continent. Worldwide, there is a massive migration of urban populations to cities; the majority of the world’s population will live in less than 30 mega-cities by 2025. With that trend comes fascinating challenges with water, waste treatment, energy and other infrastructure. We can expect accelerating R&D in each of these fields as global society steps up to the challenge presented by ‘hyper-urbanization,’ and the birth of entire new lines of business involving “mega-city’ infrastructure support services.”
- Much of the world has ‘gone up.’ One consequence of mass urbanization is that you only have so much space to place people and the infrastructure that goes with it. Two solutions: dig down, or build up. We’ll see more of the latter as various groups figure out how to capitalize on new, innovative thinking with ‘skyscraper’ technology. For example, we’re already seeing rapid advances in both the concept and practice of vertical farming — and we will see the emergence of a new profession of people known as ‘vertical farming infrastructure managers.’ Big, tall buildings involving innovative new ideas will be one of the business growth stories in the years before 2025.
- We’ll see the first human live to the age of 150. Rapid advances in medical science, the impact of lifestyle changes, and new forms of a “super-health” diet will lead to global celebration of the birthday of the first human to live to the age of 150. Yet at the same time, society will be grappling with a fascinating new dichotomy. There will be a growing sector of the population living into their 120’s and 130’s — yet at the same time that we see an increasing decline in life expectancy in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Why? Because by 2015, the sale of statin (cholesterol lowering drugs) was already on an upswing in India as the countries succumbed to the diet and sedentary lifestyle of Western society.
- A constant stream of bio-connectivity data drives healthcare decisions. By 2025, most people in the developed world will have 3 or 4 bio-connectivity medical devices linked to them on a 24/7 basis. Some will be small, intrusive chips buried under the skin that constantly monitor medical vital signs such as blood pressure, glucose levels, temperature, oxygenation level and heartbeat. This data will be beamed and streamed on a continuous basis to a massive, anonymous health care grid that will constantly analyze the data for patterns, variances and trends. Such data will routinely help the medical industry discover the outbreak of disease and flu, and predict the emergence of potentially, previously unidentified global or regional health risks. Worldwide, a new medical infrastructure will have emerged that will guide political decisions on the best spending patterns to ensure overall societal health in an era of ever-more-scare health care support dollars.
- The fastest growing profession involves people known as ‘personal health concierges.’ At the same time that the bio-connectivity data-flood is fed into the health-grid, it will be sent to the personal health coach – or concierge — of individual patients. The concierge — who more than likely will have in-depth medical knowledge, generated on a just-in-time basis, will be located in one of the new, Asian/African mega-cities. They’ll work with the patients traditional family doctor to help guide the patient through both routine and complex health care decisions, activities and motivations.
- Plants will ‘talk’ to us. And by doing so, they will help to continue to drive a furious rate of innovation in the agricultural sector. Through the same type of small-chip technology embedded in humans, plants will be able to analyze themselves and “report in” if they need a nitrogen boost or a drink of water. Farmers will have instant, predictive analytical dashboards that allow them to continually monitor the health, growth rate, and maturity of massive areas of cropland with a single view. At the same time, most cattle and other farm animals will have their own Internet address, and also be part of large connected monitoring grid.
- The concept of TV as a ‘physical device’ has disappeared. By 2025, it will seem to be a quaint idea that many of us had physical devices known as ‘televisions’ – we might see a few in museums. Instead, most of us will carry around a variety of small ‘beaming’ technologies, embedded in our watches, mobile devices, glasses, car dashboards, clothing and just about everywhere else. The technology will let us instantly place a high-definition video and audio stream anywhere, at any time, on demand. YouTube, by this point, was a video delivery system that was something from the “olden days.”
- Micro nationals dominate global markets. The most successful, disruptive business organizations will consist of a small nucleus of people, focused on goals, ideas, innovation and strategy. They’ll instantly decide to enter a new market, engineer a new product, or transform a concept into a radical new business model. They’ll do so by having mastered the skill of going out and assembling the right skills at the right time, for the right purpose, at the most optimal cost. They will have obliterated the slumbering, slow-moving multinational organizational structure that seemed to serve its purpose so well up to the early part of the 21st century.
- Re-generative energy technology is everywhere; it’s transformative, storable, re-usable. Most energy use is no longer based on a ‘one-time’ use; instead, most of the energy consumption in the world comes from re-generative devices. We will have seen a gradual but steady decline in the use of carbon and other energy sources (in which the energy source can only be used once, and then disappears.). There will be lots of bicycles with hydraulics that store energy while going downhill; homes that create energy from static generated from people walking on a new type of intelligent floor covering; lights that use special reflectors to re-send the beam back to an in-bulb mirror that makes just a little bit more energy. Every photon counts!
- Poll-democracy takes flight. The mobile generation, weaned on the technology of text messaging and social networks, finally convinces a few brave countries to consider the idea of real time citizen-voting. Wary at first, these brave new democratic pioneers will discover that this new form of massively participatory democracy changes everything — in terms not only of the ideas that are proposed to solve some of the biggest challenges faced by the country, but also accelerating the speed by which solutions are accepted and implemented. Other countries begin to jump on board, eager to explore this fast changing world of ‘big ideas and big concepts with big momentum.’
- Paper is really something ‘from the olden days’. It disappeared in about 2019, in most traditional forms, as most media organizations gave up on the idea of a business model from the 20th century that was ecologically unsound, physically impracticable and ridiculously expensive. The one bright spot? Getting a paper book via a drone from Amazon became really, really boring. The other bright spot? Opportunities for other paper use within intelligent packaging, hygiene markets, 3D printing and other opportunities grew over time.
- Grown up! The first 12-generation family is part of earth society. In 2015, the the most number of generations that were alive in a single family was seven. But in 2025, due to longevity, advances with health care and lifestyle changes, society saw the first great-great-great-greet-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent. Try and do the math. It will boggle your mind. Try and make a little kid say it, and new words like “grandmaseven” were invented.
- Crowd thinking has replaced most forms of peer research. Most long established medical and science journals have transitioned – big time — accepting a new form of instant crowd thinking as the best way to evaluate the new world hyper-science. On an instant, a researcher can summon a crowd of vetted, quality specialists who have niche knowledge in a rapidly changing field. The result? A further acceleration of knowledge and in the pace of the the discovery of new ideas and concepts. The impact? Massive velocity in the development of new technologies, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and forms of treatment, agricultural concepts and methodologies — every industry and profession has seen a profound shift bigger than the once amazing macro-knowledge burst of the Manhattan project.
- Regenerative DNA farms will abound. Many people will have registered their DNA with a variety of medical companies that will guarantee to provide a personalized body implant on demand. Knee replacements made of bio-tissue that is based on your DNA. Hip replacements customized to your particular weight and balance profile — based on information from last week. By 2025, some 30% of the typical body mass was artificially grown….
- The package is the product. In 2025, food consumption was an entirely different thing because the packaging participated with you in the process! Packaging had long ago become intelligent, but now integrated with tiny bio-sensors within the food, pharmaceutical product or drink. You instantly knew about your consumption, calories, digestion rate….
- What we did for heart health in the 20th century, we did for brain health in 2025. Cholesterol, heart disease and blood pressure became phrases from a bygone era as global scientists attacked the challenge of an aging population. Alzheimers, dementia, muscle shutdown and other diseases that came with an aging brain took over the agenda. The global health community threw themselves at the challenge, and came up with numerous innovative ideas involving therapy, gene-specific drugs, exercise and other methods of achieving one of the greatest health transformations of the early 21st century.
- Most industries have gone upside down. Entire industries were flipped on their back by some pretty big trends. Genomic, or DNA based medicine, led us into a world in which we could more easily understand what health conditions you were susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moved us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. Similarly, most industries “went upside down.”
- The concept of an education degree has come to an end; “just-in-time knowledge factories” dominate the educational landscape. University degrees disappeared; tenure was out the window. The concept of a resume was gone; you simply beamed your personal-knowledge-genome to interested skills partners. The rule of the economy became just-in-time knowledge: it was your ability to get the right knowledge, at the right time, for the right purpose, that accelerated you into opportunity.
- The electrical grid of the early 21st century is gone; micro-grids dominate energy supply and use. The Napster and PirateBay generation grew up, bought homes, installed backyard solar and wind — and figured out how to share the new magic they had in their neighbourhood. They built new, small, technologically driven backyard micro-grids, sharing their energy and insight, and gradually worked away from their connection to their local utility. Consumers were in control, and nothing would ever be the same.
- Sub-Saharan Africa emerged as the world’s new China. Water was the big potential problem of the 21st century, and science attacked the challenge with a vengeance. The result? Fast paced advancements with water-osmosis, de-salinization and micr0-weather control led to the opportunity to bring a once desolate area back into opportunity. Efforts by the global community to educate, enhance and enlighten a transient population saw an economic miracle that made the transition of Vietnam — from the Saigon of 1972 to the world’s factory of 2015 — pale in comparison.
- Light has been stopped in its tracks. Within the confines of an innovative new network router technology, light has been slowed down from approximately 186,000 miles per second to – literally nothing. Zero. 0. Dead stop. The impact? Network routing technology that allowed for the instant evaluation of each individual light photon, and instant determination of destination and origin. The result was an immeasurable and staggering increase in broadband speed; so much so that “yottabit-to-the-home” became the new, established buzzword for the world of telecom.
- Domain names disappeared. Instead, people now purchase individual light spectrums (or wavelength’s) for personal and business use. It was no longer necessary to have a cumbersome bit of software to figure out how to route yourself to global knowledge. Instead, with your own individual bank of light spectrum (of which there are an infinite number), people invite you to visit their personal information spaces, holographic memory decks and visual worlds by linking to their particular spectrum. Light-on!
- Apple is delisted. Once one of the world’s most innovative, cash-rich, highly valued company, Apple enters a new phase in 2025 when it is delisted from most global stock markets. Why? Most industry leaders never survive; there is always someone with a better idea. It’s the age old world of business.
- Jim Carroll shoots his age! In golf. His friends and family thrill at the moment!
In the year 2025? Is all of this silly? Conjecture? Scientifically ridiculous? Perhaps, and probable.
On the other hand, maybe not. Most people tend to overestimate the rate of change that occurs in 2 years — they underestimate the rate of change that occurs in 10 years.
The most important thing about the future is to know that it is there, and it’s going to come at you faster than ever before….
We’ll see you in 2025!