Aftershocks and Opportunities – Futurists Envision our Post-Pandemic Future Call for Chapters Target Publication Date: June 1st, 2020

By Rohit Talwar

While the world grapples with the current unfolding crisis, as futurists we know how important it is to also be thinking about the next horizon and beyond. This can help ensure that the decisions we make today don’t lay the foundation for a new set of problems over the horizon. Equally, understanding the types of future that might emerge post-crisis can help us plan and prepare for those possibilities as we reshape our strategies today. Finally, such future insights might help us spot, train for, and adapt to the new opportunities that could arise as a post-pandemic world unfolds.

Here at Fast Future, we are starting to ask what the possibilities and opportunities are for a post-pandemic future – and we want to engage a global community of future thinkers in that dialogue. Hence, we want to develop a fast track, widely accessible, and affordable book to be published on June 1st, 2020 – providing individuals, leaders, and organizations with foresight, insight, challenge, visionary thinking, and navigational guidance on what might lie ahead. This is a fast track opportunity to put your latest thinking in front of a world hungry for ideas, hope, and inspiration.

We are inviting people from across the globe with a perspective on the issue to explore how the world might look after the COVID-19 pandemic. Aftershocks and Opportunities – Futurists Envision our Post-Pandemic Future (working book title) will portray diverse perspectives on economic, cultural, organisational, political, social, scientific, technological, commercial, and ecological evolution over the coming two to five years. Chapter submissions will be accepted until April 19th, 2020.

We want contributions from people who can write about some aspect of the emerging possibilities and opportunities in the form of scenarios, stories from the future, development timelines, or exploring how particular domains might play out. The book launch date is scheduled for June 1st, 2020.

Please use the link below to see the full details of the project and how to submit a chapter:

https://fastfuture.com/forthcoming-bo…/post-pandemic-future/

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

 

Image: https://pixabay.com/images/id-4947572/ by geralt

Navigating Covid-19 Impacts and The Coronavirus Tech Handbook

By Rohit Talwar

We are increasingly being asked to advise and comment on scenarios and response strategies in relation to Covid-19 and its possible implications in the short, medium, and longer term for individuals, society, government, and business. Our advice is that clients need to be thinking about three separate time horizons:

  • The next three to six months – how do we deal with the immediate impacts on and protection of our staff, travel and events, our supply chains, operating locations, demand for our products and services, cash flow, pricing, marketing, and brand reputation.
  • The next twelve months – How do we revisit every aspect of our business and operating model – encompassing all of the above – if the virus and resulting economic impacts might continue to effect us over the coming year.
  • The next one to three years – How might we change the shape of our business, location footprint, sourcing, routes to market, product and service offerings, staffing models, and use of technology if the knock on effects have a more dramatic impact on our markets and the economy more widely.

As mentioned in a previous article on the topic of Responding to the Coronavirus Disruption, scenarios can be a powerful tool for exploring how the key factors might play out and in determining alternate response strategies. To be useful, such scenarios need to go beyond narrow considerations about our immediate market and look more broadly, considering the dynamics of Covid-19 and a range of economic, business, and societal factors including issues such as:

  • The dynamics of Covid-19 – speed and extent of its spread, potential for secondary and subsequent infection waves, infection and mortality rates, emerge of reliable tests, vaccines, and cures
  • Economics – alternative scenarios and impact on GDP, supply chains, global markets, travel, financial markets, country stability, consumer behaviour, interest rates, availability of finance, insurance costs, company failures, and levels of corporate and individual debt
  • Business responses – cost cutting, headcount, recruitment, physical location footprint, pursuit of new markets, development of new products and services – where are the growth opportunities with Covid-19, innovation, investment, and overall confidence
  • Societal impacts – food chain security, capacity and resilience of health services, transport systems, policing, security, and public order, general wellbeing and mental health, environmental outcomes, education, and political stability.

To help understand the multifaceted nature of Covid-19, we found the Coronavirus Tech Handbook to be an incredibly valuable resource.  Initiated by The London College of Political Technologists at Newspeak House, this crowdsourced resource is aimed primarily at technologists building things related to the Coronavirus outbreak. However, we find the resource is far more generally applicable covering topics such as datasets and international visualisations, diagnostic tools, the emerging research infrastructure, national dashboards, countering misinformation, prediction markets and forecasting, communities, models, remote working and online conferencing resources, technical tools, graphics, public service announcements, practical projects, and project ideas. This excellent resource is being updated continuously and growing in content and value.

 

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.

 

Image: https://pixabay.com/images/id-4833754/ by The Digital Artist

COVID-19 Impacts: The Really Important Stuff – Rescheduling the Premier League

By Rohit Talwar

Although it might seem trivial in the broader context, the English FA Premier League is facing the challenging issue of how to complete the current 2019-2020 season. These are difficult times which call for radical solutions.

Why is this important? As a form of entertainment, football plays an important role in many people’s lives and is an outlet for their passion and energy. It is also a major employer, an economic contributor, and has an underlying structure of professional, semi-professional, and amateur leagues that together touch hundreds of thousands of people. So, as the richest and most economically important league in the world, how the Premier League decides to complete an unfinished season is important, with wide ranging implications for the game and other sports in the UK and around the world.

The basic facts are that we have 20 teams in the league playing 38 games in the season that normally runs for about nine months from early August to early May. Most teams currently have either nine or ten games left to pay. This season, Liverpool have had an incredible season and are 25 points ahead of their nearest rivals – Manchester City. Barring a miraculous collapse in form, Liverpool are on course to win the league, which has currently been suspended until April 3rd.

The Premier League clubs are due to meet on Thursday to decide what to do with the season. Their decision will have wide ranging ramifications for those involved directly and in terms of influencing the decision making of other sports.

A number of options are being proposed. One is to render the season null and void and then start the 2020-21 season as soon as is practicable. A second is to effectively end the season now and award the title to Liverpool. In that scenario, there are various views as to whether any teams would be relegated based on their current position. One option is not to relegate anyone, enlarge the league to 22 clubs, and promote the top two sides from the Championship (the next league) – and repeat that process all the way down through the feeder leagues.

This could lead to a lot of litigation with clubs arguing that it works against their interests. For example, teams like Manchester United, Wolves, and Sheffield United are currently just outside the four Champions League qualifying slots in fifth to seventh position. They might argue that their form is better than that of Chelsea in fourth place, that they have a relatively easier run in for some of them, and hence are more likely to finish in the top four.

Another option is to finish the season with the games being played behind closed doors, televised live with no fans in attendance. This rather defeats the role of the game as live entertainment. Furthermore, while it makes money for the top teams, it would be financially catastrophic for teams in lower leagues that rely on matchday revenue for survival.

The final option is to simply delay the end of the season and complete the games in front of live attendees. This would allow Liverpool to receive the title as a rightful acknowledgement of their remarkable season. All of the other promotion and relegation issues would be resolved in the normal manner. My proposal would be to schedule the games to be completed between December 2020 and Mid-February 2021 – when the first and possible second waves of COVID-19 infection are likely to have subsided. The remaining European Champions League and UEFA Cup fixtures could be completed in that period. Co-ordination with the other European Leagues could ensure that they also completed their seasons in the same period. The European Championships could be moved from June 2020 to March 2021.

The next season could then start in May 2021 and run until December 2021. The following season could then run from the start of April 2022 to the end of April 2023 – allowing a mid-season break from Mid-October to the end of December 2022 for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which takes place from November 21st-December 18th, 2022. The league could then go back to an August start for the 2023-24 season. Alongside this, the Premier League clubs will need to act as long-term guarantors of loans to ensure the financial viability of the teams in the lower leagues.

There is no ideal way through this and I’m sure there will be a number of issues to resolve. However, we need a fair, imaginative, and forward-looking approach that allows fans to continue enjoying the game, takes account of player welfare, and secures the viability of clubs throughout the league system.

 

Image: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/corona-risk-football-football-match-4921066/

The Economic and Social Footprint of Coronavirus, Part 1 – The Macro Consequences

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington

What reasonable assumptions can we make about how governments, individuals, businesses, and markets will behave over the next 6-18 months in response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak?

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, there is a growing understanding that the economic and social ramifications could last far longer than the disease itself. In previous articles we discussed the need to plan for a range of scenarios and factors to consider in any such scenario exploration: Responding to Coronavirus Disruption and Navigating Covid-19 Impacts and The Coronavirus Tech Handbook .

In this three-part article, we focus on a baseline scenario of how things could play out economically and socially if the virus develops in the way that many virologists, epidemiologists, and public health experts are suggesting. This first part explores the macro economic consequences.

A Total System Reboot?

We appreciate that there are now many voices suggesting that this could trigger a reboot of the global economy and the entire model of capitalism. Indeed, there are a range of fascinating predictions and possibilities for how things might play out. However, we believe that right now, our readers want to focus on the nearer term issues and then move on to thinking about that bigger and more fundamental question in relatively short order. So we will be exploring some of those ideas in the coming weeks.

Facts Matter

The virus has spread from China to become a global pandemic. At the time of writing, the most up to date source we can find is https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ which provides current figures of 133,009 reported Coronavirus cases, 68,891 recoveries, and 4,946 deaths across 125 countries and one international conveyance – the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The infection rates per one million of population range from 0.1 in several countries with only one or two reported cases such as Jordan, Sri Lanka, and Togo, up to 250 for Italy, 153.5 in South Korea, 134.1 in Norway, 120 for Iran, and 56.1 in China – which still has by far the biggest number of cases and fatalities.

In most cases, it appears that around 80% of those infected suffer only mild or unnoticeable symptoms, with up to 20% needing hospitalization, and a mortality rate of 1-4% amongst all those infected – with the World Health Organization estimating 3.4%. This compares to 9.6% for SARS, 34% for MERS, and 0.02% for Swine Flu.

The rate of infection is spreading at something close to an exponential rate in many countries – with the number of new cases doubling every two to three days in many locations. Estimates vary quite widely, but virologists, epidemiologists, and public health experts suggest that between 40-80% of the population could be affected – with most not even being aware of it. In the UK, government estimates suggest that the number of deaths could fall between 100,000 and 500,000.

Government Responses

We are seeing dramatic variation in government responses – particularly in relation to issues such as social isolation – to try and flatten and delay the peak of infection. Hence, at one end of the spectrum, many, such as the UK, are taking a relatively relaxed “wait and see how this develops” stance – waiting on evidence of spread before taking any serious action – with an emphasis on delay rather than containment. Many are loathe to act too quickly for fear of acting too soon, exacerbating the economic impact, and causing widespread panic.

At the other end of the response range are those who are taking strong responsive or pre-emptive moves focused on delay, deterrence and containment. For example, Italy, the country with the second highest incidence rate, has acknowledged that it acted too slowly at first. Hence, it has now effectively put the country on lockdown with a very strict quarantine regime. India with 74 reported cases and an infection rate of 0.1 per one million of population has canceled all foreign entry visas, and the US has banned visitors who have been in the 26 European Schengen area countries.

Many have clamped down hard once the evidence of widespread infection is clear – such as China. In Europe, countries like Italy and Ireland are closing schools and universities, postponing or discouraging sporting events, banning large public gatherings, concerts, and conferences, and shutting museums, theaters, and betting shops, while suspending prison visits, civil ceremonies, weddings, and funerals across the country. Now that the World Health Organization has declared the situation a pandemic and criticized the speed of national responses, we can expect a very rapid flow of announcements of more severe measures from many countries.

Alongside these direct responses to the pandemic, there are also a wide range of different approaches being adopted to fiscal and monetary policy, business support measures, and worker support. We believe that we’ll see a lot of announcements in the coming week and so will reserve comment on these until a future article.

The Global Economy

The prospect of national recessions in multiple large economies has now been baked in by many financial analysts and stock markets. This is also driving the prospect of a global downturn. As industries reshape their supply chains and geographic footprints, the impact on major economies such as China and the US are the subject of much conjecture. for example, there is a real prospect of firms reducing their reliance on China as a production hub and moving to establish more local facilities in many key markets. This might help drive investment and increase business resilience.

Financial Markets

Many stock markets have been in freefall and fluctuating quite dramatically as bargain hunters periodically step back in because they think prices have fallen below critical levels and believe that this is a good time to buy. Clearly markets are spooked, with the Financial Times FT100 index recording its second highest percentage fall in history today and the US Dow Jones Industrial Average falling to a 20% drop on its peak at one point. This is driven by a combination of factors. Firstly, there are genuine concerns about particular businesses like airlines being directly impacted by the virus and associated national and customer responses. Secondly, there is the concern about human behavior and the potential for market collapse – triggering a pre-emptive wave of panic selling.

In some cases, shareholders are forced to sell in order to meet their ongoing commitments such as pension payments and life insurance policy maturities. The final factor is a desire for safe havens, leading many large institutional investors such as pension funds to sell shareholding and buy into hopefully more secure government debt – effectively at negative interest rates. The hope is that this will at least preserve the bulk of their investment. Those willing to stay in for the long term may not see losses realized if the markets recover relatively quickly. Alternatively they could see a massive writedown in their portfolio valuations – exacerbated by the failure of companies tipped over the edge by the crisis.

Those sitting on large pools of uninvested funds could be the biggest beneficiaries – coming back into markets when they finally turn a corner. Stock market fluctuations, the disruption of economies, and the level of confidence in national governments will also drive behavior in foreign exchange markets. Some are arguing that this could be the start of far larger contagion that could dwarf the impacts of the 2008 Global Financial Crises – that will be the subject of a future article.

General Business Responses

Businesses are increasingly erring on the side of caution and likely to become even more risk averse as the virus spreads. In Italy, where most businesses have been closed and the population has been told to stay at home, the estimates of the scale of the devastation continue to rise. The impact on redundancies, business failures, and debt defaults are only likely to become clear once the length of the shutdown is known. Some are already suggesting that Italy’s recovery from this could take five years or more. Elsewhere, we can expect an escalation of the precautionary measures that are already becoming widespread. These include encouraging staff to work from home or smaller remote sites to help localize the possible impact of any confirmed cases. Non-essential travel, meetings, internal events, and attendance at external events will increasingly be banned or strongly discouraged – irrespective of what government policy is.

Cost control will become an increasingly prime directive in the face of declining demand. However, some may also see the need to think about the longer term, deepen and retain customer relationships, and take the opportunity to manage their organization in a slightly more foresighted, and less frantic and breathless manner. Hence, measures we can expect to see emerging would include investing more in customer service training to differentiate themselves and retain customer loyalty and in digital literacy to increase efficiency and flexibility.

Strategically, this may be seen as an opportunity to train leaders and managers in how to use foresight, horizon scanning, and scenario planning to develop anticipatory and forward-thinking capabilities. With people being discouraged from travel or banned from creating large meetings, we can expect a continued increase in the adoption of video conferencing and online training solutions that has already been evidenced.

Many may see this as an opportunity to pause for reflection, leading to the prioritization and cancellation or suspension of current business initiatives to focus on the vital few. Many will be accelerating the testing of the capacity of systems to support large numbers of staff working from home and remote locations. A number of financial services firms are already splitting key staff, such as traders, across multiple sites to minimize the risk of infection – this is likely to spread to every key resource group inside an organization.

Widespread cost cutting measures on non-essential spending will be increasingly commonplace – alongside reducing revenue forecasts and budgets for the next financial year. The virus could also see a growing number of firms investing in automation to reduce their dependency on a human workforce and lower their cost base. Hence, Robotic Process Automation and Hyperautomation could become major priorities. Alongside this we can anticipate increasing use of on demand outsourcing to reduce fixed staffing costs.

Among the health protection and cost reduction measures, we can expect an acceleration in the banning of all travel and external event attendance. Some may go as far as cutting the salaries and suspending bonuses of top leadership to lead by example. Those worse affected may also be asking staff to take voluntary pay cuts and encouraging them to take unpaid leave. Others may look to renegotiate the terms of contracts, leases, loans, and mortgages – with a particular emphasis on cancellation charges. This has already become a key battleground with owners of canceled and delayed conferences and exhibitions now locked in cancellation charge negotiations with venues and hotels. A number could end up in legal proceedings and lead to damaged business relationships and owners switching venues and even city locations when their events are rescheduled. Whilst many firms will be delaying major investment projects, others may see the willingness of vendors to cut prices to secure sales as an opportunity to accelerate major investment projects.

Supply Chains and Business Footprint

There was clearly some sourcing disruption as a result of large-scale factory closures in China in January and February. Many of these supply chains are starting to recover now. However, it is as yet unclear what the long-term impact might be on the ability of firms to source critical raw materials resulting from widespread infection and forced quarantine in countries like Italy. In the short term, we can already see the prices of fresh food and raw materials rising for many sectors – offset slightly by declining industrial production. Inevitably this will lead to firms looking to source more locally. It could also drive a number of firms to re-evaluate the operational risk and the economics of their geographic manufacturing and distribution footprint.

Many may consider that, with the extent to which production is now automated, they can bring production either back to their home markets or distribute it even more widely. We could see a growth in much smaller footprint facilities across a number of markets, with a view to hopefully minimizing global disruption and maximizing the capacity to service all of the current markets businesses are in and those that could be important for the future. The crisis could also drive innovation in newer approaches such as vertical farming, containerized farming, and 3D printing.

Global Aviation Disruption

At the center of the global economy – and the post-Brexit “Global Britain” strategy – is Air Transport. This is also currently looking like the sector that could experience the most immediate and severe impacts. Prior to the announcement of flight cancellations to Italy, and the impending US ban on travel from 26 Schengen countries in mainland Europe, there were reports of flight bookings being down up to 30% or more for certain destinations. With up to 400 daily flights per day from Europe to the US, these latest announcements are driving an even steeper collapse in bookings and widespread concerns over the sector’s future. As nations close borders to locations with higher infection rates, the volume of flight cancellations is likely to increase still further – with the very real prospect of a near or total shut down of global flights.

In response, many airline share prices have collapsed, Qantas has announced the grounding of 23% of all its international flights and the cancellation of new aircraft orders. The CEO of Virgin Atlantic has taken a 20% pay cut, with fellow executives accepting a 15% reduction. As bookings decline and route closures escalate, we are likely to see airline staff being asked to take unpaid leave, pay cuts, and ultimately redundancy. Prior to these latest announcements, IATA estimated the crisis could cost airlines $113Bn in 2020. That figure could now be significantly higher and a number of airlines could struggle to meet their debt burdens. Pressure will rise for governments to step in with tax relief, loans, and rescue packages.

Lower passenger numbers and fewer flights will reduce demand for all of the consumables that service a flight – from food and drink to aviation fuel. Cost cutting measures could see projects and new aircraft orders being delayed or canceled outright. The passenger number assumptions in airport expansion plans will be coming under scrutiny. A similar picture could be seen across rail, coach, and ferry services. The cruise industry could be worst affected with a triple whammy of cancellations, declining demand, and nervous nations increasingly refusing to allow port access to ships with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The UK government has already discouraged citizens from taking cruise trips.

Pressure has already been effective in persuading national and international governments and regulators to relax the current rules that are leading to the nonsensical situation where airlines have been forced to fly empty fights just to retain their landing slots in different airports – adding to their environmental footprint unnecessarily.

This is a rapidly unfolding situation, with many thrown into chaos by a lack of foresight and preparedness. We hope that the analysis and ideas presented here will help businesses to develop and test their plans and prepare for what seems like an increasingly likely base case scenario.

In future articles in the coming days, we will look at the impact on employment, investment, specific industries, societal infrastructure such as healthcare, education, and social protection, and the wider impacts on wellbeing and mental health.

We welcome your views and please do take the survey.

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.

Image: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/stock-exchange-financial-crisis-4878214/

Using Collaborative Working Practices in Foresight

By Rohit Talwar and Steve Wells

How can a collaborative approach to foresight help ensure a more robust and representative assessment of future opportunities and challenges?

One of the core themes to be explored during Fast Future’s London Futures Week is the role of collaboration and partnership in shaping the future. Here, Steve Wells introduces a fundamental; framework for collaboration and how it can be used in a foresight context.

One day, perhaps collaboration will genuinely be at the heart of interaction between intelligent machines and humans. But right now, collaboration is largely a human trait underpinned by behaviours, so most true collaboration happens between people and not between people and machines.

Setting the Context

The world is increasingly subject to significant change and the focus is often on exponential technology developments like artificial intelligence, robotics, adaptive manufacturing, and immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. However, other critical developments are also happening at break-neck speed, such as political, economic, and social change. This range of future forces acting on life, society, and business adds to our personal and organisational sense of complexity and uncertainty.

In the past, we have been confident in our predictions about how the external environment is changing and been able to come to consensus about the way ahead. Increasingly we are far from certain about how the external environment is changing and are less able to reach consensus about the way ahead. It’s this situation that often calls for a collaborative effort to align different stakeholder groups.

A Framework for Collaboration

Successful collaboration is an intervention based on an existing relationship, a process and an agreed outcome in addressing a shared business need; for example, to understand a particular aspect of the emerging future. Through collaboration, we can generate insight and create ideas that we might not be able to do by working alone.

  1. A quick Google search reveals a number of different, but similar, frameworks to support collaboration. One such model – the four-step Collaboration Cycle of connect, contract, collaborate, and close – helps individuals and teams navigate their way through the collaborative working process. The framework emphasises paying attention to the nature of the relationship, conversations, and activities that need to take place to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved. These are the critical components:Connect – Initially we should share our perspectives on the issue the collaborative effort is seeking to address, considering the organisational context – the degree of support or resistance to collaboration – and setting the tone for a collaborative relationship. In a foresight context, the key here is around clarity on the specific topic(s) or theme(s) around which we want to build a body of collaboratively assembled future insights.
  2. Contract – Step two should focus on understanding the wants and offers of both parties, gaining consensus on how the parties will work together, agreeing what question(s) the parties are answering, establishing the desired outcome, and defining the specific activities to be undertaken. The outcomes may include “how” the collaboration is to be conducted as well as the specific desired business results. This agreement on the steps in the foresight process and the timeframes to be considered helps ensure all parties are aligned on looking at the same future horizon – albeit in different ways.
  3. Collaborate – In collaborating, the parties should share understanding and experiences, and be prepared to ask and answer challenging questions. As the collaboration moves forward the parties should consider the experiences gathered and lessons learned and be prepared to continuously re-contract. This exploration and respect for multiple perspectives is vital in collaborative foresight as it helps ensure that emerging developments are examined through the different but equally valid lenses of all involved.
  4. Closing – In closing, the parties should collectively make sense of the information gathered and the outcomes achieved in the same spirit that the work was conducted. As well as focusing on the content, it is also important to take time to consider how the wants and offers shared by the parties have been met and to agree any next steps. This is a crucial part of collaborative foresight – condensing a wealth of analysis into clear insights and next steps suggestions that take account of the different stakeholders that were involved or represented in the process.
The Power of Collaboration in Foresight Work

In foresight work, collaboration is increasingly seen as enabling different perspectives of the emerging future to emerge to enrich plausible scenarios. Different perspectives are crucially important when we try to envisage different possible futures. They help ensure that we don’t re-create our potentially institutionalised views of the past or simply extrapolate a trend-based future. The trick can often be to manage the creative tension between the collaborators, valuing difference as well as similarity, to help ensure that we create something that neither party would have created alone.

Questions:
  • What challenges or opportunities is your organization facing that might benefit from a collaborative foresight approach?
  • What is your experience of collaborative working – particularly in a foresight context?
  • What skills and experience do you and your team have that help to enable effective collaboration generally and specifically on foresight projects?
  • What are you and your organisation prepared to concede to ensure an effective outcome from collaborative foresight?

Steve will be addressing the issue of collaboration and partnership in foresight at Fast Future’s London Futures Week. Visit the event page at http://bit.ly/LondonFuturesWeek to see more information and book tickets.

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

Image: https://pixabay.com/images/id-4901584/ by geralt

Reimagining Human Activity in a Digitized and Connected World

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington
Industry and Business 4.0 – The Industrial and Technological Revolution

Every business sector is coming to terms with the technological shifts enabling the fourth industrial revolution – an era of “cyber-physical systems” where intelligence is the primary driving force in society – mirroring and potentially surpassing the impact of steam, electricity, and computing in previous industrial revolutions. This new era is characterised by the use of artificial intelligence (AI) – converging with other potentially disruptive technologies and helping organise and exploit the data that they generate. Given the extent to which technology is being integrated into wider society, organisations will need to ensure their digital strategy includes constant scanning and rapid assessment of the potential of emerging technologies such as AI, digital twins, blockchain, digital currency, robotics, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), and 3D printing. This article depicts a few of the potential big developments coming down the pipeline.

Quantum Computing

This form of computing uses the ability of subatomic particles to exist in multiple states at one time. The behaviour of particles allows computing operations to be performed potentially thousands of times faster and with lower energy consumption than traditional digital computers.

Avatar Companions / Enterprise use of Digital Twins

We are already used to rudimentary digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa. These are set to grow into more functional companions, and evolve into a next generation of potentially holographic, avatar companions that can interact with human users.(1) There are avatar entertainers already, but the rise of meaningful human-avatar relationships and business avatars could force new thinking about how to accommodate these more obtrusive developments in future service and product design. Digital twins are digital world replicas of living and inanimate entities in the physical world, with data transmitted seamlessly between them.(2) This is the core concept underpinning the Internet of Things and allows developers to simulate the behaviours of complex systems – which contain a mix of human, physical, and digital components.

Implantable Phones

These would literally place the mobile device in the user’s body and possibly connect it directly to their brain.(3) This might mean greater privacy control over our data and, for example, that electronic documents such as E-tickets would no longer be at risk of being lost or forged. Similarly, digital forms of ID might be more secure on an implanted device.

Personal Digital Shields

Personal digital shields might operate at two levels. Firstly, tight access controls would put severe restrictions on who can use our data – with our personal AI acting as the gatekeeper. Secondly, we could see super smart software and hardware shields serve as anti-hacking protective measures on our digital devices and around implanted, embedded, wearable, or medical technology on a person’s body.(4)

Lifelong Personal Avatar Assistants

Digital avatars such as Siri or Alexa could evolve to the point where they are completely personalized to serve as our assistants for an entire life, aiding the user through school, work, and retirement.(5) This could lead to a day when the future workplace becomes capable of communicating with the staff’s avatar assistant each morning to tee up tasks before their human counterpart awakes.

Computerised Shoes and Clothing

Computerised shoes and clothing could be the next manifestation of wearable devices as smart garments.(6) Such clothing may contain high-tech adaptations which make them more expensive to replace if lost or damaged.

Smart Glasses and Contact Lenses

Smart contacts or glasses provide the wearer extra information about their environment, acting either as a display screen or by providing an augmented reality (AR) overlay to a given location or object.(7) Smart glasses could have applications from customer service and training through to security and facility management.

Life-like Mixed Reality

Mixed reality is where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) coexist with normal reality, creating an environment where people can create, work, or learn with VR and AR digital tools at their disposal. Such tools will prove particularly valuable during construction projects to help visualise structures, design changes, and traffic flows.

Implementation of an International Identification System

Nations may harness the power of big data, biometrics, global positioning software (GPS), and, potentially, blockchain to create a single form of personal identification that is internationally accepted.(8) The leaders in the definition and development of the enabling systems might find commercial advantages not yet imagined.

Autonomous Physical and Virtual Things

Inanimate objects may gain the capacity for autonomy through embedded cameras and speakers, motors, wheels, and the use of design elements such as biomimicry that allow them to move independently or respond dynamically within their environment. Hence, the potential for autonomy could spread well beyond drones and vehicles.(9)

Unpredictable Futures

Will digital avatars become our lifetime helpers? Can implantable phones replace the handheld mobile device? Are we on the verge of a self-driving world? These are key questions with hotly anticipated answers we all seek to help us make sense of what our techno-enhanced world might be like. The future will eventually surprise us all.

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.

References:

[1] http://www.fluxtrends.com/digital-companions-humans-and-avatars/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

[2] https://www.zdnet.com/article/digital-twin-initiatives-set-to-take-center-stage-in-the-enterprise-gartner/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

[3] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/business-school/events/exed-resources/disruptive-technologies-navigating-new-opportunities-and-risks/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

[4] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/business-school/events/exed-resources/disruptive-technologies-navigating-new-opportunities-and-risks/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

[5] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/business-school/events/exed-resources/disruptive-technologies-navigating-new-opportunities-and-risks/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

[6] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/business-school/events/exed-resources/disruptive-technologies-navigating-new-opportunities-and-risks/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

[7] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/business-school/events/exed-resources/disruptive-technologies-navigating-new-opportunities-and-risks/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

[8] http://www.stateofthefuture.ae/ Accessed 01/04/2019.

Communications 2025 – Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington

Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios were developed in partnership with Huawei Consumer Business Group. This latest scenario explores how a range of exponentially advancing technologies such as AI and big data could transform communications.

Advances in the underlying technologies could transform the experience of communicating. Developments could include mobile devices embedded into our bodies and clothing, with immersive, holographic experiences as standard for everyday conversations and video conferencing. The AR and VR evolution to 2025 will see multi-sensory experiences built into our communications, so that we can physically touch and smell the other person when talking to family and friends on the other side of the world.

Our device interfaces could be sufficiently advanced to recognise and call who we want to talk to – based on our thought patterns – and equally, screen out those with whom we don’t want to engage. For inbound sales and marketing calls, AI could take over the dialogue to screen the offer and determine if it would be of interest to us to have a follow-on call.

Say goodbye to…

  • Auto-correct fails – when composing text and email messages, AI technology could offer the options of automatically correcting poor spelling and grammar and highlight where a comment is open to interpretation. The technology could also offer context relevant suggestions of how best to convey a point or respond to the content, energy, and emotion in the other person’s communications. The technology could go further and suggest different ways of framing the same message for different audiences such as friends, a sibling, parent, or boss.

Our devices will learn our behaviours and the emotions associated with our choice of words and patterns of breathing and speaking. We can then give them the option of coaching us on calls, breaking a call if it becomes too emotional, or taking over the call and speaking on our behalf. An AI assistant or a VR experience might serve as a personal communications coach. We could practice speeches or presentations with them and get feedback about speaking style. Students and professionals might use them regularly and they might also help those nervous about approaching any kind of speaking, even interpersonal interactions. Language apps that help with grammar, accents, and writing may also grow into a necessity.

Say goodbye to…

  • The fear of public speaking – which would be greatly decreased in society, with support groups and courses to help drastically improve a speaker’s confidence and performance.

Mobile communication devices will increasingly be woven into our clothes with access to the data we need. Contacts, favourites, reminders, and destination navigation would automatically be stored in the cloud, ready to be accessed when we get dressed the following morning.

Our phone will effectively become our personal life concierge and prevent us from forgetting key events. Our smartphone AI will not only give us alerts of impending activities, but also remind us of the supporting actions that we need to take. So, if our child has time off school in three weeks for a teacher training day, we will be reminded to book time off, schedule to work from home that day, or arrange childcare. The urgency of the reminders will increase over time. Our AI might block us from doing anything else with our phone if we get to a week out from the event and haven’t yet taken the appropriate action.

Say goodbye to…

  • Disorganisation – There will be no excuse for forgetting key events and appointments, as our mobile devices will become our personal life concierge and transform the way we manage our diaries.
  • Task disruption – Greater streamlining of the daily schedule would be guaranteed – leading to fewer unexpected interruptions across work, home, and school.

 

 

The authors are futurists with Fast Future – a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting for global clients on the emerging future and the impacts of change. To arrange a presentation on the Life in 2025 scenarios please contact rohit@fastfuture.com

To access more of our articles and learn more about our work please visit www.fastfuture.com

You can find summaries of the ten scenarios here https://consumer.huawei.com/uk/campaign/truestories/tech/

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.

 

Image: https://pixabay.com/images/id-1991850/ by geralt

Workplace 2025 – Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington

Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios were developed in partnership with Huawei Consumer Business Group. This latest scenario explores how a range of exponentially advancing technologies such as AI and big data could transform the workplace.

Technological innovations will increasingly enable us to be as effective and secure while on the move, at a remote location, or at home as in the office.

The workplace environment could evolve to the point where smart furniture and intelligent personal assistants monitor our productivity, provide instant on the job training and instructional videos when we need them, and manage the physical environment to help enhance our comfort and performance.

Say goodbye to…

  • The traditional office environment – “Holoportation” would allow users to teleport their holographic 3D presence into a different physical space. Working remotely adopts a whole new meaning and digital nomads become the norm.

Workplace 2025 will be characterised by constant interaction between our personal AI, located within our interconnected devices, and the AIs of the organisation we work for. Monitoring of our brain waves, physical activity such as keyboard typing patterns, conversations, and movement, will help determine the type of support we require from one moment to the next, to help us concentrate and “produce”, reflect, and be creative, or simply rest.

Say goodbye to…

  • Inefficient working and wasted physical and mental energy – technology will help us ensure that we are working on the right tasks in the right way.

Remote workers and the self-employed may welcome a personalised mix of smart technology tools for tech support, accounting, and customer contact – keeping us productive and connected. The technology could also remind us to slow down and take breaks at appropriate spots in the day.

Employers will start to place increasing reliance on AI at every stage of the recruitment process – from framing the job advertisement to convey the right information, through to evaluating CVs, candidate selection, interviewing, and even making automated job offers.

For the individual employee, regular personality type assessments will be used to determine whether we are in the right role and what we need to work on to take up new tasks and opportunities within a thriving internal gig economy, where potential, aptitude, and capability are key determinants of each placement.

By 2025, AI could be proactively scanning the market for new opportunities that might be of interest to us and automatically constructing our CV or job application to best convey our suitability for a role.

Say goodbye to…

  • Bad work / job placements – allowing people the opportunity to work in the right project given the balance of their current abilities, interests, and development goals – in turn leading to better job performance and productivity.

For those seeking advancement and salary increases, AI technology could help us assemble our case, rehearse how to present it, and advise on different types of negotiating strategy – driving towards a positive outcome for all. Training in self-management skills such as communication, conflict resolution, negotiation, and collaboration could be delivered in daily bite sized chunks to ensure we are constantly curious, always learning, and extending our capability and impact.

Within organisations, we can expect the continual automation of HR tasks and processes such as workforce planning, procedural advice to line managers, skills matching, recruitment, selection and onboarding, performance monitoring, and rewards management.

Say goodbye to…

  • Resourcing gaps in terms of both capacity and skills – With AI providing the input to drive early issue identification, thus enabling rapid resolution and increasing productivity over time as the right resources are put in place more rapidly.
  • Unequal pay – fair pay regardless of gender, age, or race could be guaranteed.

Alongside the advent and use of new forms of automation, robots, and intelligent avatars, employees may also choose to upgrade their performance through the use of implantables to provide constant monitoring, exoskeletons to enhance strength and speed, and nootropics to improve cognitive capabilities. As a result, our workplaces could encompass different types of basic and enhanced human alongside digital actors, requiring us to adopt new models of, and approaches to, leadership for the hybrid organisation.

 

 

The authors are futurists with Fast Future – a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting for global clients on the emerging future and the impacts of change. To arrange a presentation on the Life in 2025 scenarios please contact rohit@fastfuture.com

To access more of our articles and learn more about our work please visit www.fastfuture.com

You can find summaries of the ten scenarios here https://consumer.huawei.com/uk/campaign/truestories/tech/

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.

 

 

Image: https://pixabay.com/images/id-2682712/ by geralt

Fashion and Beauty 2025 – Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington

Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios were developed in partnership with Huawei Consumer Business Group. This latest scenario explores how a range of exponentially advancing technologies such as AI and big data could transform fashion and beauty.

The power of AI, AR and VR, enabled on the move by 5G, offers the potential to reinvigorate and reimagine the retail experience. Our smartphones will become the nerve centre of our personal care regimes. We could eliminate the bulk of our wardrobe and opt for the element of surprise, with our smartphone choosing or advising on a daily rented outfit which we confirm and have delivered the night before via drone or street robot.

The desire for new, coupled with a sustainability mindset, could see us join clothing sharing networks, accessed via a smartphone app – where we purchase or rent the items collectively and then have a certain level of usage rights for every item in the shared closet. Pre-determined sustainability and provenance filters might ensure that we never even get to see things that are ecologically unsound or produced unethically. Advanced 3D printing services will enable us to design items and have them custom fabricated while we shop elsewhere or grab a coffee in a mall.

Personalised offers, fitting, and selection will become the norm with bespoke window displays targeted at the individual passer-by. We can envisage a rise of “experience stores” with product interaction through immersive technologies.

Through virtual fittings using AR and VR we will be able to feel the sensation of the clothes against our skin. Point at an outfit – in store, at an event, or on the street – and see how we’d look in it on our phone, on an in-store mirror, or using a 3D hologram. We may just choose to shop in our own closets, using apps that show us how to create new outfit combinations from what we already own. Second-hand or vintage shopping might also be newly invigorated with the assistance of apps or AI services, which locate items in our size and to our liking.

Say goodbye to…

  • The imperfect fit and buyer’s remorse – long gone are the days of ill-fitting clothes, with AR and VR set to become staples in our wardrobe to help us try on clothes through virtual fittings.

Larger purchases could be delivered by drones, street robots, and autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vans could also bring the store to you – offering the latest items selected for you to try at home at any time of day or night. To help with item selection, AI technology would share information on our current wardrobe, measurements, interests, accessorising approach, usage patterns, and forthcoming schedule. Friends could then be called in by video to consult on our choices.

Say goodbye to…

  • Children in ill-fitting and outdated clothing – parents could save money with AI predicting their children’s clothing and shoe sizes over the coming months and shopping accordingly. Given the short window of usage, parents could reject outright purchases in favour of a subscription service that provides the necessary uniform and choice of casual clothing items for a period of time before the child grows out of them and onto the next size up. A smart speaker or robotic AI assistant may also help with getting the elderly or young children dressed in the morning.

Our clothing itself will undoubtedly become more intelligent using smart adaptive materials, 3D and 4D printed elements, and built in sensors. USB or wireless connectivity and wireless charging will become standard features on many items. Our clothes could also be the source of the power required by our personal devices through energy harvesting techniques such as piezoelectric, the capture and conversion of body heat, and harnessing static electricity.

Say goodbye to…

  • Retro fashion – smart clothing, such as garments and shoes will be able to change properties according to lighting and heating conditions, as well as “breathe” to control airflow around the body.

Smart fabrics may increasingly be self-cleaning and require no washing whatsoever. Smart closets might automate our wardrobe selection so that we always look our best. Busy mornings would go smoothly with pre-scheduled clothing choices for the whole family.

Say goodbye to…

  • Cosmetic products – such as creams, makeup, lipstick, and other “manual” forms of personal care and beauty, which would seem outdated and only used to create a retro or historical effect.

This same level of personalisation will apply across the beauty and personal care sector. A combination of increasingly “programmable” skin care products and AI could guide our choices using deep physiological knowledge of our bodies and how they react to different chemicals.

The beauty care sector will see a dramatic expansion by 2025, with offerings ranging from dynamic permanent and temporary video tattoos and light adaptive colour changing makeup, through to biological rejuvenation treatments, 3D printed limbs, and life extension therapies.

Say goodbye to…

  • Bad lighting – our smartphone AI and connected home devices will work together to offer us a range of lighting options for every possible occasion.

Smart homes may be programmed to enhance our personal beauty through moment by moment lighting and ambience adjustments. We may invite a date for dinner and put on the most flattering lights for the evening or create the right mood to complement style choices when hosting a party.

 

The authors are futurists with Fast Future – a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting for global clients on the emerging future and the impacts of change. To arrange a presentation on the Life in 2025 scenarios please contact rohit@fastfuture.com

To access more of our articles and learn more about our work please visit www.fastfuture.com

You can find summaries of the ten scenarios here https://consumer.huawei.com/uk/campaign/truestories/tech/

  • How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week.

 

Image:https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2018/01/10/13/47/essential-oil-3073901_960_720.jpg

Communications 2025 – Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington

Fast Future’s Life in 2025: “Say Hello Say Goodbye” Scenarios were developed in partnership with Huawei Consumer Business Group. This latest scenario explores how a range of exponentially advancing technologies such as AI and big data could transform communications.

Advances in the underlying technologies could transform the experience of communicating. Developments could include mobile devices embedded into our bodies and clothing, with immersive, holographic experiences as standard for everyday conversations and video conferencing. The AR and VR evolution to 2025 will see multi-sensory experiences built into our communications, so that we can physically touch and smell the other person when talking to family and friends on the other side of the world.

Our device interfaces could be sufficiently advanced to recognise and call who we want to talk to – based on our thought patterns – and equally, screen out those with whom we don’t want to engage. For inbound sales and marketing calls, AI could take over the dialogue to screen the offer and determine if it would be of interest to us to have a follow-on call.

  • Say goodbye to…Auto-correct fails – when composing text and email messages, AI technology could offer the options of automatically correcting poor spelling and grammar and highlight where a comment is open to interpretation. The technology could also offer context relevant suggestions of how best to convey a point or respond to the content, energy, and emotion in the other person’s communications. The technology could go further and suggest different ways of framing the same message for different audiences such as friends, a sibling, parent, or boss.

Our devices will learn our behaviours and the emotions associated with our choice of words and patterns of breathing and speaking. We can then give them the option of coaching us on calls, breaking a call if it becomes too emotional, or taking over the call and speaking on our behalf. An AI assistant or a VR experience might serve as a personal communications coach. We could practice speeches or presentations with them and get feedback about speaking style. Students and professionals might use them regularly and they might also help those nervous about approaching any kind of speaking, even interpersonal interactions. Language apps that help with grammar, accents, and writing may also grow into a necessity.

Say goodbye to…

  • The fear of public speaking – which would be greatly decreased in society, with support groups and courses to help drastically improve a speaker’s confidence and performance.

Mobile communication devices will increasingly be woven into our clothes with access to the data we need. Contacts, favourites, reminders, and destination navigation would automatically be stored in the cloud, ready to be accessed when we get dressed the following morning.

Our phone will effectively become our personal life concierge and prevent us from forgetting key events. Our smartphone AI will not only give us alerts of impending activities, but also remind us of the supporting actions that we need to take. So, if our child has time off school in three weeks for a teacher training day, we will be reminded to book time off, schedule to work from home that day, or arrange childcare. The urgency of the reminders will increase over time. Our AI might block us from doing anything else with our phone if we get to a week out from the event and haven’t yet taken the appropriate action.

Say goodbye to…

  • Disorganisation – There will be no excuse for forgetting key events and appointments, as our mobile devices will become our personal life concierge and transform the way we manage our diaries.
  • Task disruption – Greater streamlining of the daily schedule would be guaranteed – leading to fewer unexpected interruptions across work, home, and school.

The authors are futurists with Fast Future – a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting for global clients on the emerging future and the impacts of change. To arrange a presentation on the Life in 2025 scenarios please contact rohit@fastfuture.com

To access more of our articles and learn more about our work please visit www.fastfuture.com

You can find summaries of the ten scenarios here https://consumer.huawei.com/uk/campaign/truestories/tech/

How can I bring the future in my organization?

To find out more about key developments, ideas, tools, and approaches to help you and your organization navigate a fast changing future, why not attend one of the 20 leadership focused events taking place over seven days during Fast Future’s London Futures Week 2020.

 

Image: https://pixabay.com/images/id-1991850/ by geralt

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