For many years we have all observed massive change, driven
not only by extraordinary developments in information, medical,
and material technologies, but also by accompanying social
shifts that have been as dramatic as technological change.
These shifts have been incremental over years, so while we
are all aware of these shifts, many still do not realize quite
how dramatic the impact will be.
We are now reaching "Crunch Time", when cumulative
change is reaching the point of fundamental disruption
in many aspects of society. Now is when the extent of
change truly hits home, leaving many dazed, yet others
seizing the extraordinary opportunities that emerge
from rapid change.
In this brief report we highlight 14 domains in which we are
reaching crunch time, and how we need to respond.
Given the pace of change, everyone from primary school students
through to retirees must learn to understand these fundamental shifts.
With the world of work being utterly transformed, only those who
learn continuously will experience better opportunities tomorrow.
In every domain new ethical issues and quandaries are
emerging. The job of ethicist will grow massively moving
forward, yet we are all responsible for grappling with the new
challenges and choices we have, individually and collectively.
EVERYONE A FUTURIST
The role of thinking effectively about the future
cannot be outsourced. Not just leaders in business,
government, and society, but all of us must
actively engage with the extraordinary challenges
of the future, so we can act better today.
Crunch time is, most importantly, a call to action. Those who
have already understood these fundamental shifts are on the
front foot. Now the world will divide between those who
choose to take action and those who ignore or deny change.
Work is being transformed
through two dramatic forces: the
rise of remote work and rapidly
increasing machine capabilities.
This is resulting in a dramatic
polarization in which those with
world-class skills and capabilities
opportunities, while the
less-skilled are commoditized by
icy global competition. The
middle ground is massively
eroding. As existing jobs
disappear at an unprecedented
rate, the dramatic question we
face is whether will be able to
generate sufﬁcient new kinds of
jobs to replace vanishing
categories of work.
Governments must focus on enabling
education for all ages and supporting
industries that will create tomorrow’s jobs.
Companies need to re-organize so that
work is ﬂexible and inspiring. Individuals
must continually develop skills that will be
relevant next year and beyond.
Individuals are increasingly choosing
to buy online as they are given more
choice. Online retail is far from new, yet
many more products are rapidly shifting in
how they are bought, with enhancements
such as same-day delivery, easy no-cost
returns, and digital ﬁtting making the case.
Physical retail will certainly not die, but it is
in the midst of a dramatic transformation,
in which a far smaller number of suburban
stores thrive or survive, and the successful
larger retailers merge physical and online
to create unparalleled experiences.
To succeed, retailers - both in
physical stores and online - must
focus on improving in four domains:
Immediacy, and Community. They will
reach out to their customers across
multiple channels to create value that
transcends any single retail avenue.
The extinction of print media is rapidly approaching. Newspapers are
struggling, shifting to weekend only, or simply dying, while magazines are
rapidly disappearing from newsstands. Free-to-air television’s resistance to
online distribution will be transcended, helping create a mind-boggling
abundance of channels covering the full spectrum of formats, professionalism,
and budgets. Crunch time for old media unwilling to respond to change goes
hand-in-hand with an explosion of possibilities for quality news and content,
shaping what will be an entire global economy based largely on media.
“Pro-am” models that merge professional and
amateur capabilities will be at the heart of the
highest-quality, most proﬁtable news and
content. Rapidly iterating experiments in
revenue models will sense and also shape
people’s willingness to pay for content, while
traditional advertising will rapidly morph into
engaging communities with shareable content.
The use of cash is ﬁnally receding as contactless
cards and mobile wallets are broadly accepted.
Reasons for physical notes and coins to remain,
including anonymity of transactions and lack of
trust in ﬁnancial institutions, are helping the case for
digital currencies such as Bitcoin. Digital currencies’
volatility and resistance from governments will slow
their uptake, but individuals’ desire to transcend the
fortunes of nations will push more value and
transactions beyond ﬁat currencies.
Far too much economic value is still
being taken by yesterday’s payment
systems. Those who provide better
alternatives will be richly rewarded,
even as they destroy old franchises.
Individuals are right to be suspicious
of currencies both past and future.
After years of erosion, all the outer layers
of our privacy have vanished, leaving the
core of who we are exposed. This enables
corporations and government agencies to
know us literally better than we know
ourselves, in our behaviors and inclinations.
Facial recognition is moving beyond
recognizing us wherever we go, to being able
to pick up the micro-muscle movements in
our face and uncover our hidden emotions.
Yet the erosion of privacy goes two ways, and
institutions are rapidly losing their secrets and
ability to hide their intentions from us.
The debate on privacy cannot
be private, it must be open and
engaged, so citizens and
consumers understand and are
comfortable with how personal
information is used. The
purported value of having our
personal information gathered
must be made clear, highly
speciﬁc, and constrained. This
just might shift the debate.
Governments everywhere, from local to national,
stable to precarious, now realize they must enable
rather than quell engagement and input from their
citizens. Citizen crowdsourcing is being applied across
the board from shaping policy to delivering services.
Massive government debt means new solutions must
now be created, in which the borders between
government and citizen dissolve for joint creation of
social value. Transparency exposes politicians’ intimate,
ideological and pecuniary relationships, yet enables
them to catalyze movements as never before.
Governments must battle their structural rigidity to focus on how
to create value for society in a connected world, and not just on
perpetuating institutions. Citizens must seek to actively engage in
creating change, as that is how that change will come. We must
all seek to tap the promise of truly participatory democracies.
The focus of education is shifting dramatically from institutions to
individuals, as we are able to access better teachers and resources
online than in our classrooms, and peer recognition becomes more
valuable than certiﬁcates and degrees. Schools have always focused
on homogeneity and conformance; now they can and will enable our
uniqueness through learning designed for the individual. Continuous
education will be at the center of the world, for all of us becoming
the difference between prosperity and unemployment.
Almost no schools today are
effectively preparing children for
the world of tomorrow. The pace of
institutional change is far too slow
and radical prescriptions are
required. All adults are responsible
for their own ongoing education.
The resources they need are now
Shifts in the Earth’s climate have been visible for decades. During
that time the center of the debate has moved on from whether the
climate is changing and whether it is caused by human activity, to what
and how much should be done. Extreme weather events around the
world are bringing home the potential impact of continued climate shift.
There remains very high uncertainty about the nature and extent of
climate change, yet there is a real chance in just the next few decades of
a destructive impact far beyond what most people can even imagine.
When the future of our planet and indeed
humanity is in question, there is no doubt
that a massive response is required.
Finding mechanisms to limit carbon
emissions is essential. We must also go
beyond these immediate challenges to
explore technologies that may be able to
positively shape Earth’s climate.
The most important technology
developments today are not in
the technologies themselves, but
in how humans interface with
them. Wearable technologies
such as the forthcoming Google
Glass and smart watches will
familiarize us with an entirely new
level of information access. Voice,
gesture, eye gaze, facial
expression and even thought
control will ﬁnally allow us to
transcend the ancient
technologies of keyboard and
mouse. Our clothes and devices
will continuously capture vital
medical information, assisting to
live healthier, richer lives.
Be prepared for a whole new
level of information access and
immersion. Those who develop
their skills at using next
generation interfaces such as
thought control will have a
strong advantage over others.
The entire structure of business is shifting towards
a collaborative economy, in which value is created
collectively. An array of services are emerging to
match availability and surplus with latent demand,
transforming domains as diverse as gardening tools,
accommodation, cars, textbooks, leisure, and
fertility. The inexorable drive to greater efﬁciency in
the economy is helping to drive this collaboration,
in turn reducing waste across many domains and
spurring greater connection in communities.
The extraordinary opportunities in the collaborative
economy are ripe for the seizing, in the process
generating not just proﬁts but also social value. Those
who are worthy of trust will be strongly advantaged.
We will need to shift our attitudes beyond ownership.
Social media is connecting
people as never before, yet it is
also dividing us. While many
are now deeply absorbed in
the connected world, others
are choosing to live wholly IRL
(In Real Life), eschewing digital
connections. The reality is that
those who are actively
engaged in online networks are
ﬁnding far more opportunities
than those who do not.
Another divide is emerging
between older users of social
media, who are familiar with
Facebook and LinkedIn, and a
younger generation that is
moving onto new platforms.
We must all choose how we
want to participate in a world
increasingly driven by digital
connections. It is a valid
choice not to engage, as long
as you understand the extent
of the lost opportunities.
More of us need to know how
to sometimes switch off, to
avoid being sucked into an
online vortex that ultimately
subtracts from us rather than
Since chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov was ﬁrst beaten
by a computer in 1997, the capabilities of computers
have soared, and are now reaching extraordinary levels.
IBM’s Watson provides advice to doctors, computers are
writing sports stories, and driverless cars are licensed on
the roads of three US states. Technology is threatening
not just blue-collar workers, but many of today’s
middle-class jobs, from insurance claims processing to
legal work. We are hitting the long-anticipated juncture
where machines’ capabilities at cognition and “thinking”
often transcend those of humans.
Individuals, companies, and governments must understand
which jobs are in imminent threat of replacement and plan
for inevitable shifts. We must all focus on and develop our
uniquely human capabilities, of imagination, innovation,
relationships, and indeed humanity in its truest sense.
Technology and connectivity mean
that warfare from today on will be
massively different from the past.
Drones and robots are replacing
pilots and soldiers, leaving no
humans on the battleﬁeld, and
turning game-players into detached
killers. As importantly, much warfare
is shifting from physical war to
cyberwar, with the potential for
power, dominance and destruction
vested largely in digital worlds.
Warfare will be undertaken not by
nations and armies, but arrays of
hidden vested interests striking
selectively in a world become utterly
dependent on technology.
If robot soldiers might be making
autonomous decisions to kill, the ethics
of unmanned warfare must be fully on
the table. We must strive to achieve
consensus and treaties between
governments and citizens on what is
acceptable, even in times of war.
We have become as gods. We are entering a world in which we can
literally create ourselves. New medical technologies include lab-grown organs,
genetic modiﬁcation, thought-controlled limbs, and the ability to choose our
children’s DNA. Technological augmentation gives us the ability to achieve far
more than ever before. As robots and other machines achieve extraordinary
capabilities, we need not fear, because we will be one with the machines.
Our ability to choose who we
are will uncover our deepest
nature. As we amplify ourselves,
we amplify our underlying
attitudes. We should embrace
the possibilities of self-creation,
but spend far more time
considering who it is we truly
aspire to become than on
enacting that desire.