What will the next decade hold?

Having looked back at the previous decade, it would be a brave person indeed who would attempt to predict detailed advances in the next ten years.

Only ten years ago it was being predicted that social media was the tool to set us free! Ten years on we see it as a tool that distributes mass disinformation, influences elections and certainly traps too many people in a constant desire to pour over their smartphones rather than looking at the world around them.

Even worse, people now gauge their success, not by their achievements but by the number of friends or followers they have. This then gets self-perpetuated as marketing companies reward those with the most followers in order that they persuade gullible followers to buy products. Not what I define as being set free!

There were many other predictions such as the rise and rise of Blu-ray, the mass use of AR, the rise of virtual reality and the continued rise of Apple as the innovative force in new technology. So predictions were not that good.

So, in putting forward my thoughts for the coming decade, I would suggest trends rather than trying to guess exactly where innovation will take us in the ten years to 2030 and with the sure knowledge that most people will have forgotten what I said by then!

Some things that are starting to appear are likely to develop quite quickly. There is likely to be an increase in driverless vehicles of various sorts from trains to cars to possibly aircraft. I suddenly realised that I had been travelling on a driverless train in Kuala Lumpur after several rides. It is a bit disconcerting to see a ten-year-old boy looking out of the front because there is no driver cabin, but that soon passes.

Artificial intelligence is clearly here to stay as it develops new ways of using big data and robots will also become more common particularly in applications such as medical surgery. Although many robotic applications will be gimmicky, they will be useful in demystifying robotics. Things such as robot servers or robotic mixing of cocktails are already examples of such gimmicks.

But probably the most important change for the next decade will come from the approach adopted by businesses in order to remain relevant and in business.

We have seen a steady increase in the importance of considering the climate and businesses will need to ensure that they are demonstrably contributing to the climate issues in a positive way rather than virtue signalling if they are to keep their customer base.

With the advent of increasing amounts of AI, businesses will find themselves under increasing pressure to cater for their workforce in decisions they make. Most developed countries have worker groups and laws that can easily slow down or stop businesses in their tracks if they are not considered.

One of the biggest challenges for the next decade is to reverse the trend that sees a smaller and smaller number of people owning a larger and larger slice of the global wealth. It will be insufficient to simply say that poverty is reducing by the odd percentage point, or for businesses to take advantage of cheap labour in less developed nations in order to make obscene amounts of money for a few shareholders.

Ethical trading will become a much more important aspect of the next decade, whether through tackling climate change, bad business practices or wealth imbalance.

What will fade out is people that are well-known for who they are rather than what they do who spend their time telling the masses what they should do, whilst failing to put their own house in order. This includes actors, sportspeople, models, reality TV performers or anyone else that spouts off for their own aggrandisement rather than as a way of really solving the problem.

Under the present institutions, we can also predict that the next decade will not see a major increase in understanding of the issues by civil servants in governments. Consequently governments will continue to run to catch up and this coming decade will continue to create those that abuse the new technologies for their own ends.

Clearly innovative minds are required to address all of these problems, as the status quo becomes a dinosaur option leading to extinction.

I would finish with one suggestion that may address some of the problems of the need to protect workers, deal with climate problems and improve the lot of the poorest in society.

Today governments across the world open their chequebooks to poorer nations (and sometimes richer ones) and sit back in a virtuous bubble. In the eighties secondments were a common way to pass skills on. On a small scale, in the UK instead of giving regular amounts to charities for a recurring problem they started giving consultancy to solve the problem.

One way that businesses and governments could work together would be to use development aid money to co-fund secondments to places that really need the support so as to transfer skills and to raise awareness of the issues amongst the secondees.

I cannot confirm that anything I have said will definitely come to pass in the next ten years, but I do know that, as Einstein said, ‘the definition of stupidity is when you keep doing the same thing and expect a different result’.

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