10 Forces Shaping the Future of Business

Editors Note: London-based futurist Rohit Talwar is a colleague who’s work inspires me and often causes me to dig deeper and rethink assumptions. Rohit has just published The Future of Business, featuring the forecast of 60 contributors from around the world. An excerpt:

Our world is being transformed by rapid advances in science and technology that are touching every aspect of our lives. We only have to look around us to see just how much can change in a relatively short space of time. So what changes could these developments bring about for life as we know it in the next ten years? What are the questions that these developments raise for businesses as they try to lay out their strategies for navigating an uncertain and rapidly evolving future. Here are ten scenarios that we can see arising out of these developments:

  1. Human augmentation will accelerate in the next decade. By 2025 we will be witnessing a new breed of human 2.0 and 3.0 who have “hacked” their own bodies. Mind-enhancing drugs are already a reality and we can now have super-smart prosthetic limb replacements that have greater functionality than the ones we were born with. Both fields will continue to progress and we will see genetic treatments to eliminate conditions such as rage and obesity. All of these enhancements will be monitored and managed 24/7 by a variety of wearable technologies and devices implanted into our bodies. These will help us track every vital sign and link directly to both our own hand held devices and to monitoring services provided by our healthcare providers. 3D printing already allows us to create replacement body parts. The evolution to 4D printing will enable the manufacture of body parts that can self assemble and adapt their shape and properties over time – giving us limbs that could reinforce themselves as we age
  2. National Sovereignty will Change. In the next decade, the map of the globe will change, driven by economic forces. Many smaller and poorer countries may find it impossible to cope on their own with the accelerating pace of change and the cost of keeping up to speed with a globally connected planet. By 2025, we could see 20-25 country mergers as “at risk” nations seek to come together to create the critical economic strength and attract the investment required to serve their populations and compete in the hyper-connected era.
  3. New Organizations Will Emerge at a More Rapid Rate. Fifty percent of the Fortune 500 index of the largest publicly listed companies in 2025 will come from firms that were not even born in 2015. We will see an ever-increasing number of so called “exponential companies” that achieve rapid rates of growth by using science and technology to disrupt old industries and create new ones. For example, the taxi app Uber didn’t even exist in 2008 and is now valued at $50 billion while a number of new technology-based businesses such as AirBnB and Snapchat are already valued at over $10 Billion. Many more mega-growth players will emerge in sectors such as driverless cars, 3D and 4D printing, genetics and web-based applications and services that we can’t even imagine today. Some argue that the notion of public stock markets will have been transformed by more efficient online crowd funding platforms and the widespread use of digital currencies that effectively create a single global monetary system.
  4. Financial Services Will Be Altered Radically. By 2025, the financial services landscape will have been transformed by digital currencies like Bitcoin, blockchain technology, open markets and a wave of new providers offering crowd based solutions for everything from insurance to equity investment and commercial financing. These community platforms will let us lend to and invest in each other – bypassing the existing providers of saving, business investment, loans and personal insurance.
  5. Brain Uploading is Coming. By 2025 we will have mapped how the human brain works and technology companies will be competing to host the ‘back up’ of our brains online. Three major projects in Europe, the USA and China are currently involved in major research activities to understand how the brain stores information and memories. This will ultimately allow us to create memory back-ups with the information stored remotely via an online service provider in exactly the same way as many of us already do with the data on our computers and mobile devices.
  6. Immersivity Will Be Huge. By 2025 technology advances will give rise to new immersive live and virtual leisure experiences. For example, we will be able to become participants in live action adventures games from Roman battles to re-running the Olympic 100 metres final with robots performing the roles of the other contestants.
  7. Mixed Reality Living Will Become Common. The boundaries between virtual and physical worlds will have disappeared by 2025 as we overlay multiple layers of digital sensory augmentation over our physical environment. Augmented and virtual reality will have advanced to the point where we can stimulate all our senses over the internet and via our handheld devices. So, for example, when booking a hotel, these developments would enable us to feel the bed linens, taste the food in the restaurant and smell the bath products – all from a device in the palm of our hands.
  8. Robotics Will Impact Every Aspect of Life. The replacement of humans by robots in manufacturing has been taking place for two decades – it is now spreading to a wide range of other sectors such elder care, crop spraying and warehouse management. By 2025 robots will have entered every aspect of human life and will be commonplace – performing functions as diverse as nursing, complex surgery, policing and security, through to construction, retail and hotel service roles. All of the major vehicle manufacturers are working on autonomous or driverless cars – a form of robot that we will see coming to market in the next few years.
  9. Breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Will Accelerate. With the development of computer software that has the capacity to mimic humans’ ability to learn and adapt over time to changing circumstances. AI is already in widespread use in applications such as satnav systems, aeroplane autopilots, assessing credit and loan applications in financial services, automated call centres and healthcare diagnoses. Advances in AI will gather pace in the next decade. For example, by 2025, the interfaces to all our devices from phones to computers, cars and home appliances will be highly intelligent and adaptive – learning from our behaviours and choices and anticipating our needs.
  10. The Internet of Life Will Awaken. In the next decade upwards of 100 billion objects from smartphones to street lamps to cars will be connected together via a vast Internet of Everything.” This will impact every aspect of our lives, including, for example, the criminal justice system. By 2025, evidence in a court case will include data taken from body worn cameras and microphones and sensors in everyday objects such as clothing, furniture and even our coffee cups – proving exactly what happened and who was present at the scene of a crime.

The Future of Business – What would be the driving purpose and societal role of business in a world being transformed by all these forces of change?

Final thoughts: None of these developments have simple or straightforward answers. The decisions we make will have diverse influences depending on our outlook on money, technology, humanity, and the role of business in society in the decade to come. This promises to be a challenging, exciting, developmental, and experimental decade as we learn and feel our way through to the strategies and models of the future.

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and CEO of Fast Future Research and Fast Future Publishing. He is the editor of The Future of Business (www.fastfuturepublishing.com), published in June 2015. This fast track publishing project was completed in just 19 weeks. The book’s 60 chapters draw on the views of 62 future thinkers from 21 countries to explore the drivers of change and how business could evolve in response over the next two decades.