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Critical Shifts Driving the Reinvention

By Rohit Talwar
What fundamental shifts might characterize the emerging future?
Drivers of the Revolution and Riders of the Storm

Through the pages of this book, two things have hopefully become abundantly clear. Firstly, the old order of everything either has been challenged, is in the process of upheaval, or will be disrupted in the next few years. Secondly, our notions of a linear, controllable, and defensible progression to the future are being overturned. The future is being reinvented, and we are simultaneously playing the parallel roles of initiators, catalysts, investors, beneficiaries, and victims of the changes that will play out.

We are at such an early stage in the change process that it is impossible to know the likely outcomes of all this change. Nor can we pinpoint with absolute accuracy the key themes and shifts that will have the biggest influence in the reimagining of life, society, and business. However, it is clear that there are strong candidates that are likely to have more of a bearing than others. Whilst these are not all unfolding at the same pace, the instantaneous nature of the Internet and a 24/7 news cycle can make it seem that way. Here we identify twenty-one key shifts we see taking place that will be major drivers, or significant enablers, of the future reinvented.

Life and Society

1.  Harassment and Assault: From why me to #metoo – The #metoo change movement will gather momentum, and victims of sexual abuse and harassment around the world will continue to find the courage and support to challenge the offenders.The abuser’s fall from grace will be massive and visible—encompassing the church, the military, the professions, sports, media, entertainment, politics, and business. Successive waves of public apologies, enforced resignations, and early retirements will lead to fundamental changes of policy, practice, and protection in all these sectors and drive a shift in the balance of power towards the victims.

2.  Spirituality: From possession to purpose – As society becomes more technologically dependent and pressurized, people are increasingly looking for a sense of purpose that goes beyond material achievements and possessions into the realms of spiritual fulfilment. From religion to meditation and yoga, we are pursuing alternative routes to enlightenment. There is also a growing sense that the source—of the power and guiding inspiration we seek—may lie within us rather than outside.

3.  Privacy: From birthright to asset – In many nations, the right to privacy has, in the past, been seen as a birthright. Government policy and technology have changed that. Governments have gradually assumed the right to know more about us, and the major online players and personal technology providers have amassed vast stores of information on our lives.

Most of us have scant knowledge of what’s being collected or how it’s being used. We have effectively traded our privacy for the right to access certain services and information. Ironically, smart personal technology may gradually give us back control over that information and curtail the extent of the surveillance capitalism we are subjected to. We may increasingly be able to decide the tradeoffs we make with our personal information and when we’ll chose to trade that asset in return for things that we value.

4.  Mental Health: From my little secret to our collective responsibility – There are rising levels of pre-clinical and clinical mental health issues across society in both developed and developing nations. Stress levels are also expected to rise as the pace of technological unemployment increases. Organizations will be judged on their capacity to address and minimize workplace stress.

5.  Relationships: From monogamous to multivariant – The conventional model of a monogamous relationship with a lifetime partner is being challenged in multiple ways. The most obvious example is that of people pursuing polyamory and open relationships in a transparent manner. Alongside these models, we see multi-functional relationship models where one person might fulfill their romantic, child raising, emotional, and intellectual needs through separate partners of possibly different genders.

6.  Parenting and Home Making: From bed maker to bread winner – Women are consistently outperforming men at every level of the education system globally. Gradually, barriers to opportunity and glass ceilings are being dismantled and pay gaps eroded. The pace is expected to quicken—changing workplace cultures and driving a reversal of parenting and home maker roles within the family.

7.  Sex: From constrained to conscious – As people seek more meaning and purpose from life overall, a major shift in attitudes is taking place around sex. Clearly, many are still focused on consumption, influenced by pornography, and adopting a balance sheet accounting approach – demanding reciprocity for every act. There is though, a growing interest in a more conscious approach that sees sex as part of the process of deepening connection. The coming together of spirituality and the pursuit of a more enlightened approach to sex are part of what lies behind the increasing popularity of connection based practices such as tantra and orgasmic meditation.

8.  Augmentation: From human to post-human – A range of chemical, genetic, electronic, and bio-mechanical augmentations are starting to allow us to change the very nature of being human. To keep up with technology and the pace of modern life, we will be opting for enhancements, from extending life expectancy and changing our genomic make-up, to enhancing physical strength and augmenting our cognitive powers.

9.  Education Systems: From control to nurture – Education systems around the world are widely seen to be glaringly out of date and unfit for purpose. Technology is expected to play an increasing role, with some reports suggesting that it could take over 75% of what teachers do. The opportunity here is to reinvest that time in nurturing focused tasks rather than student control. Teaching roles will gradually shift to helping pupils learn skills—such as collaboration, problem solving, scenario thinking, and accelerated learning techniques—that will be applicable whatever their future might hold. The Internet is also driving interest in home schooling as the best content becomes available for free.

10. Work: From defining purpose to pastime of choice – Across the planet, people are beginning to understand that technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could mean that we may need a lot less people to work in paid jobs in the future. Concepts such as universal basic incomes and services may become a reality in this next decade to help people fund a reasonable lifestyle.

Those that do choose to work may do so simply for social connection and the physical or intellectual challenge, rather than as a means to earn money. Phrases like “long-term unemployed” and “burden on society” may start to disappear from society’s vocabulary as the realization grows that we might just be seeing the beginnings of the end of work.

Politics and Economics

11. Politics: From the center to the edges – We can expect to see a continued shift towards, and growing calls for, devolution of power to a more local level. From Brexit to separatist movements in Catalonia and beyond, pressure will rise to escape the distant hand of central control. Not all will succeed in securing independence, or in making a success of it, but the pressure will mount.

12. The US Presidency: From sovereign standards to situational solutions – President Trump has challenged all traditional notions of how he should conduct his role and what constitutes acceptable Presidential behavior. From his use of Twitter and deliberate misrepresentation of facts through to his direct attacks on individuals—Mr. Trump has effectively widened the Presidential playing field.

13. Transparency: From nothing to say to nowhere to hide– Governments, institutions, and individuals will find it increasingly difficult to keep anything secret. For at least the next decade, hacker collectives, and those who support them, will have the resources to access critical data and make it public. Whistle blowers and investigative journalists will keep the spotlight on abuses of power, and the Internet will provide channels to put the content in front of the public.

14. Money: From controlled to chaotic – The rise of digital currencies such as Bitcoin have challenged the notion that only central banks could issue globally tradeable forms of money. The decade ahead is likely to see a proliferation of cryptocurrencies, and governments and financial exchanges authorizing their use in trading. At the same time, governmental desire to know what people are doing with their money will clash head on with the anonymity that goes with a Bitcoin transaction. The outcome will be a growing level of complexity and confusion over the potential to transition to a single global currency.

15. Financial Control: From institutions to networks – There is continual erosion of the financial sectors’ monopoly on the processing of transactions and the management of our funds. New FinTech ventures are allowing us to bypass the traditional players to transfer funds between us and raise money from each other directly. The advent of Bitcoin as a currency and blockchain as a mutually assured distributed transaction ledger allow for counter-parties to settle directly with each other without ever going through the traditional middlemen.

16. Tax: From gaming the system to a fairer game – Governments around the world will increasingly seek to grow their tax revenues, close loopholes, and simplify the systems. They will also look to make those systems smarter and more powerful through the use of AI. They also want to be seen to be creating a fairer and more balanced system. At the same time, the risks of technological unemployment could reduce income taxes and sales taxes and increase the pressure to collect more from larger firms and higher earners.

17. Brexit: From bravado to fluidity – The hardened negotiating stance being taken early on by both the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) will continue to soften and reshape. Tough talk will be replaced by the pragmatism of finding a solution that doesn’t create total havoc for the UK, but which still discourages other EU members from trying to leave. The challenge for the UK will be to leave the EU in name, whilst establishing policies and mechanisms that allow individuals and businesses to behave as though they are still members.


18. Intelligence: From human to artificial – The pace of development in AI is likely to continue at breathtaking speed. Inevitably there will be a growing tendency to replace humans with their more consistent, reliable, and faster machine counterparts.

19. Business Mindset: From linear to exponential – The exponential growth in performance of many technologies is driving firms to pursue similar improvement rates across their business in sectors as diverse as construction and car manufacturing.

20. Knowledge: From expert curated to discovery led – Technology is eroding the expertise base of traditional advice giver roles from lawyers and consultants, to accountants and clinicians. Increasingly, AI tools will help us seek, sort, and analyze far greater volumes of data than any human can, whilst ensuring that we are drawing on the most up-to-date information. Rather than paying experts to provide a lot of information and opinion to justify their fees, the new tools will increasingly enable us to find the point information and decision options most relevant to our current situation.

21. Employment: From castles to cottages – Whilst the number of organizations with a turnover of US$100 million may grow, the number of people collectively employed by larger national and global businesses is likely to fall as a percentage of the total workforce. Hence, a multi-fold increase is required in the number of small to medium businesses to fill the short- to medium-term employment gap. Clearly, as discussed above, the longer term picture is harder to determine. To support the growth of small and micro start-ups, the amount of support provided to entrepreneurs will need to increase at least exponentially if they are to take up the slack.


This article is excerpted from The Future Reinvented – Reimagining Life, Society, and Business. You can order the book here.


Image: by TPHeinz


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