If you could live in any era, what would it be? That was the question I was asked over dinner the other night.
“Well, there is definite appeal in the Roaring Twenties”, I replied, raising a prohibition-unfriendly glass. “But, I want to live in the future!”.
“Because in the future, the pace of change will never be as slow as it is today”
Here are three trends enhancing our future lives that almost make me want to wake up in 2050... tomorrow.
The Era of iHumanity
Welcome to the era of iHumanity, where digital everything pervades everything.
By many forecasts, there will be upward of 100 billion connected devices as soon as 2025, bringing an ambient intelligence to every aspect of our daily lives. This hyperconnectivity, supported by cloud-loads of contextual data, will move us beyond the internet of things into a realm of living services. Our environments, buildings, settings, and products will acknowledge our presence, learn our preferences and adapt fluidly to our behaviors. As these tools and open resources evolve, we'll augment the curation of uber-personalized home, work and play experiences.
This meta-trend of personalization, or “mine”, is also amplified by the culture of “ours”, as the sharing economy permeates more things, modes of transportation, physical space and time. Collaborative consumption facilitates a veritable feast of unique experiences and as convenience and luxury become more accessible, we are also shining a brilliant spotlight on sustainability and altruism.
As Jeremy Rifkin puts it:
“In this new world, social capital is as important as financial capital, access trumps ownership, sustainability supersedes consumerism, cooperation ousts competition, and "exchange value" in the capitalist marketplace is increasingly replaced by sharable value on the Collaborative Commons".
In this era of iHumanity, we will realize the acceleration of exponential technologies, a zero-marginal cost economy, and the generation of new 'currencies' for resources and data.
Speaking of currencies…
Wellness is the new global currency
Health and wellness will dominate as the world’s largest industry and new business models will emerge to dematerialize, demonetize and democratize today's bureaucratic and inefficient system.
The IoE data tsunami will ingrain the quantified self movement as a societal norm, rather than an obsession of a few. Though biometric sensing and AI, our bodies will output meaningful data via wearables, nearables, hearables, indigestibles (and other ‘ables’), empowering positive behavior change and self-managed collaboration with multiple healthcare practitioners.
These practitioners will finally prescribe more actions than pills as functional medicine takes center stage as the new healthcare operating system - addressing the whole person over isolated symptoms.
Beyond the body, the health of our workplaces will be dramatically enhanced. To remain competitive, businesses will need to prioritize people alongside profit, conceiving a culture of wellness and platforms for workers to achieve their highest potential and purpose.
“Profitability is a natural by-product of a happy, healthy workforce”
That elusive work/life balance will become a reality for many, as corporate rigidity is replaced with flexibility. Workers will be empowered with bespoke job descriptions, BYO devices, freelance opportunities and the ability to seamlessly transition from work to leisure modes within a dense marketplace of spatial variety.
This changes the rules of engagement between employer and employee, fosters entrepreneurship, and transforms the role that business plays within the community at large.
Business is Everybody’s Business
An all-encompassing wellness paradigm puts more pressure on cities to improve air, food and water quality, access to open space and deliver actionable sustainability plans. This pressure is mounting with forecasts suggesting more than 70% of the world’s 9 billion people will reside in urban areas by 2050.
But it is not just public sector that should pony up to save humanity or the planet. A third of the world’s largest economies are corporations, and there is a growing expectation that the private sector should play a larger role in solving social problems… and they may even be better suited to the task.
Progressive business leaders are already treading this course. On the topic of climate change, Richard Branson notes:
“I spend a lot of my time saying to business leaders, ‘we are citizens of the world. We cannot just leave things to the social sector and to the politicians to speak up. We have as much clout as they, if not more than some of them, and we have the responsibility to speak out. And it makes good business sense.’”
Those who embrace this role, will reap the greatest rewards. The future will be ripe with transformative businesses that are good, not just doing good. ESG disclosure will equate to action, not just more information. B Corp certification will extend to big business. And we’ll see the emergence of breakthrough financial models that will scale impact investing more democratically.
Business is no longer about what we expect of companies; it's also about what we, as individual investors, are prepared to accept. The growing notion of transparency has turned business into everybody's business - a paradigm shift that will reshape our world for generations to come.
Of course the best way to predict the future is to create it. But to create tomorrow, you must first be present today.
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