I was recently asked by members of the European Commission about my thoughts when looking beyond 2020. And since I love thinking about long term development, I felt I should share, at least an extract, publicly.
2020 and beyond
Going beyond 2020 I see three plus one major developments. Two are already quite apparent one not so much. You may say there is no way to predict the future that far out. Well it isn’t actually that difficult. The foundation for Personal Computers were laid in 1973 – 10 years before IBM introduced the IBM PC which was revolutionizing the computer world. Internet was created in the 60’s with arpa net even longer before the launch of the public Internet as we know it. Social Media started with groups and forums long before 2003/2004 when LinkedIn and Facebook opened their doors. Cell phones gained huge popularity in the 90’s but my father had a mobile phone already in the late 70’s. In other words nothing that comes “out of the blue” and changed the world actually came out of the blue – but was invented at least 10 years earlier. The art is to identify those and predict the development of those existing technologies and their impact on the world.
Now – I don’t mention energy or environmental development in here because that is one of the challenges we are going through already today and it’s evolution is too obvious and will be a mainstream topic by 2020 – if it isn’t already today.
1) Democratization of influence
Our society is undergoing a massive change – probably bigger than any other change in history. With tools like social media but also and more importantly an urge to more individualism and more autonomy our society is influencing itself across all levels and traditional influence from industry or government leaders is rapidly diminishing. Co-creation of our future like co-creation of products today will have a significant impact on our political and economic landscape. The fear of creating an anarchy is pretty unsubstantiated – but the fear of missteps, failure in the experimentation phase is quite realistic. Governments will be challenged to stay involved in the democratization of influence and actually leverage the evolutionary development rather than fighting it in fear of loosing “control”. Governments, more than ever, need to be very clear about their responsibility as a function FOR the public and not a power in itself. By 2020 the democratization of influence will be in full swing and in the following decade democracy will be re-invented. There will be nations benefiting from this development and others will fail to create an integrated democratic model where the government’s role is more of a conductor orchestrating a societies development than leading it or even worst, controlling it.
2) Distributed Production & Service Networks
In several keynotes I described a “New Enterprise”. Already today we see the evolutionary development of distributed and rather “linking independent businesses” then “owning a complete process”. For instance: Code is developed by a software shop in India, a reception maybe managed by a “virtual assistance” who could work in Ireland, some of the production is in China and so forth. More and more of those functions get outsources to third parties. The antenna design of most cell phones was created and even patented by a small and creative shop. More and more start-ups and emerging businesses are leveraging those high energy, highly creative and highly productive small businesses, integrating them into their own product strategy. Reseller channels is an old technique to sell but in today’a age even more relevant than ever before. A company like Nokia could be as agile as a company like Apple if they would focus on market needs and designs and not on their own, old and very traditional company structure. A cellphone company doesn’t need to be more than 5,000 employees – Apple has approximately 10,000 in their iPhone group – Nokia has over 100,000. Running a business as a distributed production network means selecting the most creative people – most of them are not employable anyway, selecting teams when they are needed, selecting resources that are required while a project or a product is in high demand and needing to “keep people busy” because you have them on your payroll. It’s part of the human nature that we are thriving towards more individualism, autonomy, independence and freedom. Significant growth in entrepreneurship is just one facet of that trend. All indications are there that in the next decades Distributed Production & Service Networks will dominate our industries. Businesses and governments should be prepared for that evolution.
3) Age Revolution
Fact is that our live expectancy is notably accelerating since around 1900. Fact is that within the last 50 years the acceleration level actually doubled – creating a hockey stick effect. It is more likely than not, that we are on our way to get significantly older than any previous generation. There is a good likelihood that in the next 20 to 50 years we may expect people turning 140 or 150. If average live expectancy continues to grow at current rates – we will see a growth from 80 to 120 years in the next 50 years. The implications are enormous. Somebody retiring at age of 65 would have possibly another 55 years to live – which is longer than the live expectancy 150 years ago. 2020 and beyond Age will be one of the most challenging topics our society, economy and government is facing. While people may say I don’t want to become that old – the trend shows a different development and we just will get much older.
This will change the way we work, we live, we get educated, we adopt changes and the way we think. It may allow much longer term projects, will create a massive experience pool we could not develop in the past but equally a massive problem as much of the experience from the past is no longer relevant. It will change retirement planning, work live cycles, age care and many other things.
The next big thing on Technology
Things like social media, Internet, smart phones, TV, Radio, Automobile never came with a big bang. It took years to create the base for the technology, years for making early market entrants successful and than finally we are talking about the big thing. The next big thing can be considered as such when three things are happening: A larger part of the population declares it as a hype that will go away, large consulting firms caution industry leaders that companies will loose billions of dollars because of it and one group of people get very laud about the security risks.
In other words the next big thing in 2020 and beyond will be developed between now and 2016, emerge through very early adopters by 2018 to 2020 and then be wildly debated in 2020 and thereafter. Not sure if anybody can predict what it is but it maybe in the area of three dimensional image processing i.e holographic type technology, it may be cognitive prostheses, genetic computing, it maybe drugs increasing live expectancy beyond 200 years, it may be radical change in learning technology. All are addressing existing problems and inventions have been already bade to make it happen.
If you have an idea of a technology that does already exist in experimental state and may disrupt our lives in the future – share it. Make sure you have a good list of security risks and reasons why businesses my loose billions if the technology arrives on the desk of Joe Doe :)