Some Long-term Trend

i) technology and communication revolution has radically changed the way we use and share information and data

ii) private sector needs to serve the public good, ie go beyond the short-term profit

"...encourage companies to have a clear mission, consider their communities and steer their innovative impulses to good ends..."
Larry Fink as quoted by Andrew Edgecliff-Johnson 2019

"...Need to move away from the single focused, self-interest identity to the multipurpose, publicly orientated corporation..."
Colin Mayer as quoted by Andrew Edgecliff-Johnson 2019

The talk of the triple bottom line, corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental, social and governance (ESG), shared value, inclusive capitalism, circular economy, B Corporations, etc is getting more focus from the corporate world, as they try to convince the world that business cares for more than just the bottom line. Yet scandal after scandal (social media with privacy, banks with poor governance, etc) shows otherwise.

iii) the rise of China as a global superpower with its associated geopolitical and trade tensions, eg trade war, Belt and Road initiative, etc

The rise of China is coinciding with the demise of America, ie
"
...America is no longer a self-contained economy. The US represents about 20% of world GDP, down from 50% at the end of World War II..."
John Kehoe, 2016

iv) climate change, eg move away from fossil to renewalable fuels

v) waste (FAO estimates that 1/3 of all food produced globally is wasted; efforts are underway convert food wastage into new products, eg
- surplus bread used to make beer
- packaging is biodegradable
- recycling water
- waste turned into bio-fuel
(sources: Debra Cleveland 2019; Andy Lowe 2019)

vi) surveillance capitalism (monopolising of  data and information) on the rise. Capitalism is changing with companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc are rewriting the fundamental nature of capitalism, especially the notion that markets are the king, ie
"...No bureaucracy could ever match the miracles of the market, which spontaneously and efficiently aggregates the knowledge of the society. Where markets collectively set a price, that price reflects discrete bits of knowledge scattered amongst executives, workers and consumers..."
Friedrich Hayek as quoted by Franklin Foer 2019

However, they are proving the statement that those having exclusive access to, and control of, data and information are king

At the same time, many people have access to data, information, etc for their decision-making

However, organisations like Amazon are getting a monopoly on data and information, eg
"...At any moment, its websites have more than 600 million items for sale  and more than 3 million vendors selling them. With its history of past purchases, it has collected the world's most comprehensive catalogue of consumer desire, which allows it to anticipate both individual and collective needs. With its logistics business - and its growing network of trucks and planes - it has an understanding of the flow of goods around the world......Amazon's cache of knowledge gives it the capacity to build its own winning version of an astonishing array of businesses..."
Franklin Foer 2019

vii) future shock (this happens when the world starts changing faster than we can keep up with, eg there is a lot of future shock around concepts like digitalisation, automation, artificial intelligence, etc)
"...Estimates 85% of jobs needed in 2030 have not even been invented yet..."
Dell Technologies as quoted by Hannah Tattersall 2018

They are gradual yet powerful trajectories of change (social, economic, environmental and/or technological) that will at some point express themselves with explosive force. We need to read early signals before they become strong and take proactive action early. We ignore these forces at our peril.

"...there are trends - patterns of change over time - that signal this possibility, which morphed into likelihood which morphed into certainty which morphed into reality..."

Stefan Hajkowicz, 2015

We need to be careful of complacency, especially as many trends are positive, such as improvements in longevity, incomes, education levels, health facilities, governance, etc. But this does not guarantee a better future.

These megatrends are different from wildcard events like black swans, ie nobody saw them coming

It is often hard to distinguish the difference between signals and noise.  For example, fragments of seemingly unconnected data and information exist well before an event occurs. This is relevant whether the events are major, eg September 11 terrorist attacks (2001), collapse of the Berlin wall (1989), Cuban missile crisis (1962), 1970s oil shock, global financial crisis (2007), etc or small, eg somebody hurting themselves, a car accident, meeting someone by accident, etc. In hindsight it is relatively easy to identify what information mattered and what information was irrelevant. On the other hand, connecting the signals in advance of the event requires great analytical skills, pattern recognition and powers of deductive reasoning.

"...Part of the challenge is thinking outside the box. We need to make imaginative leaps into the future to envisage what might be possible. This takes us beyond the world as we know it today..."

Stefan Hajkowicz, 2015

Our ability to respond to events is based on our ability to accurately identify, interpret and act upon signals, and to separate the signals from the noise. By getting a picture of how the world is changing, it's possible to start separating signal from noise and to make wise choices, ie right choices at the right time, and develop strategies to best handle them.

For example, the rise in populism worldwide since GFC, eg BREXIT, the election of Donald Trump as President of United States, rise of populist leaders in Europe, etc, is posing a challenge how to handle popular prejudices against people of different racial/ethnic groups, immigration, globalisation, distribution of benefits, etc. There is a dire need for leaders to explain complex truths in a compelling and comprehensive way.

We need to understand how online things happen.

Foresight is the art and science of understanding change and exploring plausible futures so that you select the most suitable.

"...the future is slippery and hard to grasp. It's a fascinating place where emotions are mixed with logic and it becomes difficult to neatly separate imagination from evidence.
To think about the future we need a mental model to give structure to our thoughts......thinking about the future is about preparedness..."

Stefan Hajkowicz, 2015

 

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