Your World in 2030

Ten years is not a very long time, but in a world of exponential technology, a lot can happen. So I thought I’d provide some predictions for the world by 2030. Thirty of them, to be precise. Let’s call it 30 for 2030.

Sure, some of the ideas below might seem like science fiction or fantasy, but so was much of the technology we take for granted today. It makes sense to think about these now, so that we can consider longer-term career, financial and corporate strategy decisions today. So buckle your seat belt, open your mind and enjoy!

1. All-Electric Economy: The vast majority of the energy we consume in the future will be electric. Fossil fuels will be replaced almost entirely by electricity, generated by renewables. Electricity will win not through a political battle, but purely through economics. Fossil fuels won’t be able to compete on cost. The energy will be generated by the the sun, wind and water. We’ll find a storage solution 10o times more efficient than the lithium ion batteries we use today.

2. The Energy Internet Emerges: We will be trading energy with each other through a new type of distributed energy grid. It will be akin to the way we trade information with each other on the internet now – except it will be energy – and we will generate excess energy on our buildings. Sometimes we’ll get paid for it and sometimes we’ll simply give it away. Centralised energy production will go the way of centralised news and media – and mostly be replaced by user generated content (but this time it’ll be energy).

3. Data Becomes a Liability: Data is currently seen as a commercial asset that companies try to acquire from us. By 2030 this will be reversed. Data will become a well-regulated liability. If companies hold our data it will be like a bank deposit that we own and they look after, and they’ll even have to pay us interest or fees. If they lose it, or it gets stolen, they will have to pay heavily for the mistake.

4. Globalisation Will Go into Reverse: The current trend to re-nationalise, and de-globalise will continue. Countries will become more closed and trade less. Fear of technology, job losses and immigrants will continue its current pattern. This will be further enabled by automation and manufacturing where the low-cost labour market trading advantage evaporates.

5. Climate Issues Will Re-Globalise: We will only become a truly global community when climate catastrophe demands it. While the technology to de-carbonise our economy is already here, we’ll be stifled by politics and the worst will hit in the early 2030s creating a necessary global alliance across countries for species survival.

6. Mobile Work > Office Work: More people will work away from office and formal work locations than those who work in them. Large companies will realise modern offices are a poor allocation of resources and de-centralise their workforces. Most people will be mobile in their work and cross-fertilise ideas with people outside their company and industry.

7. Freelancers Overtake Employees: There will be more freelance workers selling their time and skills on projects for companies than people who are full-time employees. As technology removes the friction of employment, we’ll all become modern day digital craftspeople.

8. Gigs with Benefits: The gig economy will evolve from its current exploitative business model. New startups will emerge to perform the roles of what unions and HR departments used to do to represent and organise gig economy workers. These quasi-union organisations will facilitate work benefits once only available to full-time employees. Think sick leave, annual leave, superannuation, training, wage negotiation. This will become a huge industry and may work in conjunction with the superannuation industry as employee numbers decline.

9. Regional Renaissance: Administrators and residents from regional areas will realise the internet can change their fortunes. Global e-commerce, lower living costs and higher living standards will create a renaissance for non-city places of great beauty. They’ll leverage their geographic monopolies and localised products, sell to global market places and compete effectively with cities.

10. Public and Private Transport Morph: The two forms of transport will continue its trajectory to differentiate from each other. Autonomous vehicles will be owned by private people who rent them to public systems. The shape of public and private transport will replicate each other and become mobile forms of commerce, relaxation and entertainment zones.

11. National Parks 2.0: National parks are generally enclaves reinventing the way the ‘world used to be’. A new form of National Park will emerge in cities. Places where there is no internet connectivity at all. These ‘zones’ will replicate pre-internet industrialisation where humans need to connect directly and nothing can be copied, documented or shared.

12. Cities Redesigned for Living: During industrialisation cities were designed around factories and offices. But cities will be reinvented to be built almost entirely around human living spaces. They will be more green than grey and grow most of the produce for their inhabitants in buildings. They will be pedestrian-centric with clean air.

13. Nationalisation of Technology Platforms: Big tech in America won’t just be split up – they may be acquired by the government and be redefined as national infrastructure – as we saw with railways. Some big tech companies will be repatriated. Many countries will build their own digital platforms such as search and social, taking them out of private hands. Algorithms will be regulated, and listed like food ingredients on digital platforms.

14. Government Will Love Small Again: Governments around the world will finally realise big powerful companies are reducing their tax revenue. They’re doing this in two major ways: through tax avoidance and reducing their number of employees paying PAYE tax due to production automation. New policies will be set in place the world over favouring local and small businesses. The current rhetoric of ‘corporate tax reduction creates employment’ will be rebuffed and the trend of lower corporate tax will be reversed.

15. Highly Paid Because Human: The highest paid jobs in the economy will be paid as such ‘because a human is actually doing it’ even if it could be automated or done by a machine. Think of the cost of a concert versus a digital download, think barista coffee versus coffee machine . We’ll start paying more for the real thing. Highest economic value will be placed on humans doing tasks for other humans, even if a robot ‘can’ do it.

16. Personal Operating Systems Will Arrive: Software systems will organise our personal lives. We’ll train them like dogs and they’ll be our personal life assistant. They will owned by the individuals (rather than a company), powered by open source software and backed up by machine learning.

17. Humans Start Merging with Machines: Information technology and biotechnology will increasingly overlap. We’ll have the first versions of ‘upgraded cognitive ability’ for humans inserted into our bodies. This will start an inevitable split in our species: neo-humans and organic-humans.

18. Humans Become a Hackable Species: As we merge with the machines, we will for the first time become hackable from the inside. The hacking process will mean that we could be programmed to behave in ways we didn’t intend. The hacking will mostly occur without our knowledge that we’ve even actually been hacked.

19. Posthumous Existence: Our memories and intelligence will become uploadable into the cloud. In doing so, many of us will have a posthumous existence and continue relationships with loved ones after we’ve passed.

20. The Higher Education Bubble Will Burst: People will wake up to the fact that all but a few (eg medical) university qualifications can be obtained online, for free, from the world’s best practitioners on those topics. Alternative education methods will emerge and gain more credibility. Knowledge will also start to become a commodity we can buy and download directly into our brains.

21. Crypto Currency Replaces Fiat: Governments around the world will launch crypto currencies to replace their fiat currency. A global crypto currency will emerge and replace the USD as the quasi-official global trading currency.

22. 3D Printing Will Have a Smart Phone Moment: A revolution in 3D printing will occur, probably associated with new materials science. Materials like graphene will become ubiquitous, like ‘plastics’ did in the 1950s.  We’ll finally end up with desktop manufacturing in most homes and offices, the way PCs became household items in the 1990s.

23. The Toilet Will Become a Laboratory: The toilet will become a digital health parter as a mini lab in your home. It will be the most high tech device in every home.

24. Everything with Electricity Will Be Smart: If it has electricity, it will be smart and connected to the cloud. There will be near zero dumb devices that require electricity to operate.

25. Augmented Reality Metastructure: A new type of virtual infrastructure will emerge in cities and homes. We’ll put some technology into our eyes (eg glasses or contact lenses) that enables enhanced digital vision of everything around us to augment the physical world and provide bespoke, on-demand information for cognitive shortcuts.

26. Universal Basic Income Will Fade Away: The robot and automation job apocalypse will never eventuate as technology will create more jobs than it destroys. With this, the fashionable concept of UBI will fade away.

27. Clean Meat Movement: Clean meat (nature identical meat grown in a lab) will be lower cost financially and environmentally, than meat grown through traditional agriculture. This will create a massive consumer shift starting with the humble burger, ending in disruption to agricultural industries.

28. Semantic Language Coding: New software will be developed granting coding powers to anyone who can speak. Software that builds software based on voice commands will democratise the code development process, mostly through AI and machine learning.

29. AI Cold War: A cold war around winning the AI race (which has already commenced) will continue, resulting in a handful of AI superpower nation states.

30. Blockchain Digital Commons: Many platform businesses like Uber and Airbnb will be replaced by a new form of Digital Commons. Software will be owned and operated by the providers of the services,  instead of a giant internet company like Uber taking 30 percent for every ride organised.

 

Some of these ideas will happen within a couple of years and some will be closer to the end of the decade – but I’m confident most of them will eventuate. The exciting bit? It’s our turn to go and build all the good stuff and help circumvent the bad bits.

 

The Other 1 Percent

Ferrari sales in Australia are up 17% on last year. While new car sales are down 3 percent. A new Gulfstream private jet has a 2 year wait list. By all accounts the one percent are doing well. But there’s another 1 percent out there which doesn’t get nearly as much attention.

This is the 1 percent who take the time and effort to invest in themselves. The few who understand the gift technology has given us to transform. This is the 1 percent who:

  • Re-educate themselves on changes in their industry
  • Turn up to the free learning event on hot topics like  E-sports, Blockchain or Artificial Intelligence
  • Learn anything, for free, on-line
  • Do night projects
  • Start a side business
  • Tap into the world’s best thinkers who publish their ideas for free
  • Read the book and not just the blog post
  • Listen to podcasts instead of FM banter
  • Aren’t concerned about keeping up with the Kardashians

All of which have the very low price tag of allocating spare time differently.

These people realise that even though there are income disparities, an eroding middle class, and change which will disrupt jobs – they’ve also been given a choice. A choice to change and adapt with the market as it moves on. A choice to be the person who invests small and frequent amounts of time to know more, become more and reduce their income risk when that change finally hits. This other one percent are thankful for the dignity of choice to ‘upgrade our skills’ we’ve all been given, and they’re taking it.

And the others? Well, they just watch the next season of that tv show they watched last year, with those people fighting each other to win some cooking battle, get voted off an island or marry someone they don’t even know. They opt out of their life and start living someone else’s.

Sure, it’s tough when the rules of business, life and the market change. But it would be tougher if we didn’t have all the choices we do to do something about it.

The Secret Innovation Budget

Research & Development and Marketing traditionally lived in different worlds. R&D for innovation purpose happened in secret, in the lab, while Marketing was mostly just advertising. The advertising itself? Well, that was generally about convincing people to buy what the company could already make. It was rarely about the future and what the brand might become. Smart companies however, have merged these two disciplines. It’s a ‘trick’ any firm big enough to have a marketing budget might want to embrace. Yes, the marketing budget should really be an innovation fund, and vice versa.

In times of great change we idolise the new. The wonder created by what was once the realm of science fiction, are todays most shareable artefacts online. Cool stuff we see for the first time like an Amazon drone delivery, a Google driverless car, or an Uber air taxi get viewed millions of times, voluntarily, without media expense. These companies are telling the market, we are inventing the future. If you’re a large corporation today, and you’re not inventing the future, during such a revolutionary time, then you just might be inventing your own demise.

But here’s a few questions worth asking:

  • When was the last time you had something delivered via drone?
  • When was the last time you took a ride in a driverless vehicle?
  • When did you last hover above traffic in your air taxi?

If you’re like most people, you haven’t, yet. That’s not to say that these things aren’t on the way – they certainly are, but in truth these companies have purposely talked up the technology many years before any of them were actually functional, let alone a commercial reality. This is where the trick part comes in. The time lag between the concept phase and the reality of these innovations being in market is a great brand building exercise for the firms smart enough to do it. Cleverly, their R&D has become their advertising. They’ve earned free global media attention and further ensconced themselves as innovators.

The perception this creates in the market isn’t just nice to have. It can also have a massive economic impact on the firms financially. Just compare the unit sales, price earnings ratios and valuations of firms serving the same set of customers:

Automobiles:

  • Tesla makes 245k cars per year, and has a PE ratio of infinity (no dividends yet), and a market cap of $48 billion.
  • Ford makes a 7.9m cars per year (one per 4 seconds) and has a PE ratio of 9.3x, and a market cap of $34 billion.

The market has clearly voted on how it values innovation.

So could an old world industrial company use innovation as a brand communication tool? Could they be seen as on the cutting edge of technology and reap the valuation benefits? Of course.

But it requires some shifts in attitude.

It requires the firm to set lofty goals in their innovation efforts, it can’t be incremental. They also need the courage to share these innovation dreams with the market and own them publicly. It also requires the vision to shift investment from traditional marketing and advertising budgets into innovation arenas and moonshot product developments. All of which can not only become an exponential product improvement, but be an effective form of advertising in the interim. But mostly, it will send a strong message and provide a new confidence to the firms customers, employees and investors that they have a chance at inventing the future too.

A New Retail Dynamic

Whenever we go on the internet to check out how much something costs, we expect that it could change by the day, the hour or even the minute. Heck, it feels like they put the price up if we dare to look at something twice – especially that flight for a weekend getaway.

We’ve been trained in digital forums to know that prices are in a constant state of flux – dynamic. They vary based on demand (which is now trackable) to maximise the sellers’ profitability. Everything on the internet just moves that bit faster – the programmable nature of the forum creates a naturally turbulent environment we have to navigate, especially when it comes to commerce. While it can be frustrating and annoying, it also creates a sense of anticipation. It makes us act quickly, and come back frequently to see what else might seduce us. We have to make sure we’re not missing out, or that we paid too much.

While prices in the physical world do change, they’ve never been as malleable as they are on the web. Sure, grocery prices to change every week, car yards to have offers every month, and most retailers have sales. But no traditional retailer changes price by the minute, or even by the hour. Maybe it’s time they started.

It’s worth remembering the constraints retail had in a pre-internet world. Changing the prices in a grocery store required weeks of planning, long paper trails, the changing of pricing tickets on shelves, and the printing of physical retail catalogues. Most retailers had similar constraints when it comes to changing prices in stores. It turns out the low frequency of price changes in stores was in reality, a technology limitation. While local retailers could slash the price on a slow selling item with a sharpie, or a fresh fruit retailer could discount a pineapple before it rotted, larger retailers with many stores had a much tougher time changing prices.

But now that many stores have digital pricing displays on shelves, why haven’t they leveraged the possibility for totally dynamic pricing on the shelf? Answer: Legacy Thinking.

The only constraint that now exists is in their minds.

Crazy idea for free

Imagine if retail stores had prices that changed constantly, maybe even by the second. The moment I mention it to people, they think I’m crazy and that this would be ‘unfair’ to consumers. They says it’s something a store just couldn’t do. How could a store just change its prices every other moment? Answer: The exact same way the internet does. How cool would it be to reduce a price dynamically in front of a consumer to entice a purchase as they walk past an item they picked up and put down again – to send out a post on social media on a quiet day and announce a half price sale for just the next 30 mins? Or to announce at a random time on a Saturday the store will have a radical price reduction. Maybe an unexpectedly busy time would require the prices to go up to thin out the crowd in a too busy fast food restaurant?

Sure, there’s massive flaws in this idea, there’d be winners and losers, people complaining and people gaming it to their advantage. But surely it would generate traffic, attention and conversation that harkens a market bazaar of yesteryear where literally anything could happen.

Maybe it’s this kind of crazy that retail needs.

The unexplainable gig

Today I was in a little talk circle among a few friends at the PauseFest event. We all made some introductions to each other and then proceeded to discuss what we did for a living. Then something weird happened. None of us had simple answers.

It turns out all of us are ‘projecteers‘. We do a number of small projects and tasks for a variety of customers. We create, think, write, speak, consult, write code and build strategy for people and companies who need it. The cool thing is that none of us could explain it because: all of us have so much variety in what we do. Of course, those who need to know get it. While this is a small audience, it’s also the only audience that matters.

It got me thinking about how much of an advantage it is that we can’t explain our ‘jobs’. You see, the more difficult it is to explain what you do to a person, the more difficult it will be to explain it to a Robot or an Artificial Intelligence that might replace us. The biggest advantage any of us can have in the future will become to have a gig, career, or job which is difficult to explain.

So here’s the next question it presents: How do we increase the complexity of what we do to make ourselves unexplainable? My answer is simple – make sure what you do involves the most complex thing the universe has ever created – humans. The more interactions with people and projects our gigs involve, the more complex it becomes. Breadth of interaction is the insurance policy of the future.

And if your gig is streamlined and simple, it might just be time to start adding some complexity and variety.

The shape of the future

Reviewing visuals from the first ever television programme is interesting. You’ll notice that they were basically radio shows, which happened to be filmed. A couple of people. In a room. With a camera. A few years earlier, they would have been in the exact same setting, doing audio recordings. Early TV was essentially still an audio programme with pictures. It took them (the television producers) many years to realise that things didn’t have to be the same shape.

Even when they started to create on-screen interactions, such as the Late Night talk show format, it was essentially live theatre for the TV – props and segments being interacted with on a small stage. It seems that we so often have an incremental mindset of how new technology can substitute whatever came before it. It’s not isolated to TV either. Our cars are still horse carriages with a motor. Our houses are caves with electricity. Laptops are typewriters with screens where the paper used to be.

It seems that only once we realise the new technology can be a different shape that really innovative things can happen. The smart phone changed so much because it removed buttons and built in a screen on a very flat device. Videos, app stores, mapping…. sure, the technological had to catch up, but the new shape had a massive impact.

Right now there’s lots of opportunities to change the shape of things:

  • How could supermarkets look now that we have self-checkout, and will soon have no checkout? How should the selves and aisles be arranged?
  • What will department stores look like when we try on clothing virtually and fit out our homes with furniture we buy from home using augmented reality?
  • How should car parks look given that many won’t even have drivers? Will they need pick up & drop off bays for goods and people, as well as charging stations in every bay?
  • Will commercial car parks be empty during the day and full during the night? How can we utilise that space? What about car-stopping spaces in cities?
  • Do cars need to have front facing seats or can they look more like rolling lounge rooms or rolling offices now we can take our eyes off the road?
  • Will houses need drone delivery pads for ecommerce and drone landing pads for our personal flying machines?
  • What will kitchens look like when automated vertical gardens in offices and houses are common?

This is a micro-sample of some of the changes we know are coming. They’ll be more we can’t even imagine yet. It just might be that the biggest opportunity of the future isn’t inventing the technology itself, but reshaping our physical spaces to accommodate it.

Top 10 tech trends for 2019

Last week was what piqued my interest in 2018 – and here’s 10 things I will be looking out for in 2019. Of course predictions are a tough business, especially when they’re about the future!

  1. Algorithms as ingredients: Seventy years ago we didn’t know what was inside our packaged foods. Likewise, few of us understand what algorithms are, and more importantly what’s inside them. So let me be very clear here – They are more dangerous than food with bad ingredients because we don’t have natural reflexes like taste buds and sense of smell to warn us about the bad ones. They infiltrate the mind by stealth. I predict this year we’ll see the first regulation where algorithms must be communicated with end users of digital products – like we have an ingredients list and nutrition panels on boxes of cereal. The black box is about to be opened up. I’m certain many will be horrified by how it’s decided what we see and consume on line.
  2. Big Tech Anti-Trust Action: I expect the first Anti-Monopoly case this year against a big technology firm. The most likely candidate is Facebook. Even though Amazon and Google are just as predatory in their behaviour, Facebook has made the most errors in handling their power. In the end, it’s humans that decide who to fight and perception matters more than reality. This is why Zuckerberg better get ready for another tough year in 2019. His services will might be blocked in a country or two, but I expect some US law makers to propose a split of What’s App, Instagram and Facebook. It’s overdue.
  3. Social Back Channels Emerge: Robin Dunbar proved many years ago we physically can’t manage close relationships with more than around 50 people, and wider relationships with more than around 150 people. This is why social media doesn’t really work for us. It’s not social, it’s just broadcasting for the masses. I only use it to share my work for those who are interested in it. Real relationships are something I do in the back channels: Texts, Private Messages, Small groups, DM’s. I’d imagine you’re already doing this and it will only increase to the chagrin of social media forums which harvest attention for revenue. In 2019 I expect traffic declines in public social media and actual social conversations to be in back channels and in person. So let’s just be honest here and admit that everything else we see on social media is really just ‘advertising‘.
  4. Buttons go missing: As voice AI’s like Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google get exponentially better – then we can expect these API’s to be opened up and embedded into white goods and all manner of electrical devices in our homes. At the CES next week – smart white goods, ones we command via voice, will make a bigger than usual play. We already saw the start of this with the Amazon Basics Microwave which has Alexa built in. Buttons will go the way of dials and disappear as devices listen to our instructions. (Which will help big tech invade us further – see 1 & 2).
  5. Electric Mobility: Scooters, skateboards and other small electric transport devices will pop up in cities around the world very quickly and provide an entree into electric mobility. An infrastructure will pop up around it to support the shift, essentially teaching consumers about the upside of electric mobility versus combustion engines. A trip in Shanghai, China is a great example of the shift to electric – 90% of motorbikes on the road are already electric there.
  6. The last 10 Steps: Will becomes the e-commerce go to phrase of the year. I wrote about it here a few weeks ago.
  7. Blockchain evaporates: Funding around Blockchain and Crypto projects will decline markedly. This will allow the true believers (me included) to get back to work on product in a non-speculative environment. We may even witness a Blockchain based service which is useful, and consumer friendly. In all probability food supply will be documented on a blockchain as the first commercial use. Walmart have stated it will be mandatory for suppliers in 2019.
  8. 5G Flow on: The impact of 5G isn’t faster downloads to watch youtube videos on the train – it’s all about new possibilities. With speeds up to 100 times faster than what we are used it will facilitate low latency, quasi-real time augmented interactions in our world. The big winner here will be automotive. We’ll see new models of cars come with more augmented features – interactive real world head up display advice, and move us closer to autonomy which requires faster connectivity. It will also facilitate changes in education and possibly ‘geographically displaced’ surgery.
  9. Personal Robotics gets real: Now that voice AI is very good indeed, I’d expect to see the first consumer facing ‘domestic robot’ hit the market at affordable prices this year. Some type of mobile humanoid robot which offers mechanical capabilities around the home. Think lifting, carrying, sweeping.
  10. AI Job stealing fears moderate: Expect a flip where articles start talking up how AI will create more jobs than it removes. The naysayers will realise humans have a never ending list of things which need done. Even with machine learning robots need to be taught, and are better at efficiency – what we really want from each other is nuance and humanity – which requires humans.

Make a splash in 2019, Steve.