What will the world look like in ten or twenty years? It’s not just curiosity that makes us ask the question. The innovative solutions to today’s problems are the opportunities for tomorrow’s income. Knowing where we are heading gives you an entrepreneurial edge.
Remember The Jetsons? The 1985 animated series described a family living in a future where cars are jet powered, self-driving, and food appears at the touch of a button. If you do remember it, like me, you’re probably a little surprised at how far we’ve come.
Although predictions for the future are bound to be inaccurate, it’s worth considering what experts envision, especially if you consider the near future.
Besides all the clever new gadgets, the way we work, think and interact are all changing rapidly. The business plans and marketing models that worked ten years ago are no longer valid. How does all of this affect your entrepreneurial outlook for the future? The following predictions will provide some food for thought.
1. Mathematics Will Completely Replace the Dollar Bill
Our ideas about money have certainly evolved. Today there are plenty of convenient ways to transact, but it comes at a cost, and trust is a big issue. Most people still prefer a $100 bill to an online transaction, and in countries that are still developing, electronic payments are still a bit of a novelty.
Nevertheless, cryptographic currencies are already in place and predicted to dominate in future. Mathematical algorithms are set to become the next money standard. Bitcoin is one of the biggest, most controversial, and poorly understood new directions for the evolution of money. Opinions remain divided as to its future, though.
Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder, predicts that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin will forever change the world.
“EVERY informed person needs to know about Bitcoin because it might be one of the world’s most important developments.” – Leon Louw, two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
“Stay away from it. It’s a mirage, basically,” – Warren Buffet.
Money is a powerful and mysterious part of life, and the way we use it is changing all the time. With technologies like Bitcoin, the “coins” don’t actually exist. There are only records of transactions, linked to a public ledger called the block chain. In a decade from now, most transactions are predicted to take place using a system based on these ideas. Entrepreneurs will have to adapt, and many will build new products on top of these platforms.
2. AI and Robotics Will Become Part of Life, and ‘Invisible’
We are in the dawn of the Smart World. The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing, like it or not. Expect the internet to migrate from the smartphone into an ever-widening range of applications and everyday objects. In a decade, we will see trillions of devices connected. We’re just starting to understand the possibilities.
The futurists at Pew Research Center reported a survey they conducted with some of the world’s leading researchers in the AI field. Here are some of the comments:
“Over the next decade the ubiquitous computing era will come into full force. Computers will ‘disappear’ and ordinary objects will become magic. Significantly, Steve Jobs was the first one to really understand this. But the pace is relentless.” – John Markoff, senior writer for the Science section of the New York Times
“By 2025 we may well be witnessing the disappearance of AI and robotics into the ordinary landscape as they follow the usual path of technology. First we see it, then it becomes invisible as it integrates into the landscape itself.” – Elizabeth Albrycht, Senior Lecturer, Paris School of Business
We are further along the road than you might realize. Already IBM’s AI application, “Watson” is being offered as a solution to a number of sectors, particularly Customer Call Centers. IBM makes this bold claim on its website:
“Watson communicates on customers’ terms, so it can prioritize and solve problems the way a human can.”
3. The Internet Will Eventually Know Everything
The Pew Research Center had this to say about the future of the internet:
“Experts foresee an ambient information environment where accessing the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily, it will flow through their lives ‘like electricity.’”
Putting aside the science-fiction of a “singularity” for the moment, think about the practical implications of a business environment such as this.
When software is able to track more and more of our habits, history, biology, and personal records, all the while communicating to the world around us, our business reputation will be ever more visible to others. Marketing is already a networking activity, and our personal brand will be more vital than ever.
Virtual assistants and remote workers are already a reality. Many experts expect huge advances in “telepresence.” Ten years from now we can expect to have holographic images of co-workers attending meetings with us.
4. Restaurant Food Will Be ‘3D Printed’
It might sound strange and unappetizing, but it’s a lot closer than you may think. Besides guitars, bikes and artificial bones, 3D printing technology has huge potential in the food market.
The engineers at MIT are already working on machines that combine ingredients, prepared in various ways, and then print them onto the plate. It’s called the Cornucopias Project, and renowned futurist, Thomas Frey discussed the potential for the food industry in a fascinating article covering some of the developments.
Besides the unlimited presentation options that will open up, Frey mentions that by combining smart nutritional and biotechnologies, each meal will be perfectly matched to your personal needs. To quote Frey:
“As an example, people in the future will be able to order a “13.2% fat cheeseburger with 2.7 grams of potassium and 3.6 grams of calcium, coupled with a hint of almond and banana flavoring, on a sesame seed bun with exactly 47 sesame seeds on it.” And they will be able to do this simply by ordering a cheeseburger and our personal information cloud will handle the details.”
Of course, our ideas about what makes a good meal are still very traditional, and it will take a while to roll out this kind of tech into the market, but the possibilities are limited only by the imagination. If you’re a food entrepreneur, take note.
5. Dedicated “Driverless” Highways Will Appear
Higher communication speeds will reduce the need to commute. Many more people will collaborate without actually having to meet in person. Still, congested roads will remain a problem, and will get worse with growing population numbers.
Already we have seen the beginnings of intelligent vehicles, and driverless cars will be on the road soon. According to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla:
“By 2023 I think we’ll be able to achieve true autonomous driving, where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination.”
With the rise of GPS technology, and Logistics software already moving in this direction, experts predict that this will be the sector most changed by advancing tech. The future will open huge opportunities for transport sector entrepreneurs.
A Brave New World
Predicting the future is not an exact science. The Science Fiction of the past didn’t all become the reality of today, and some of these predictions might be way off. Major environmental disasters or political developments might set us back quite drastically. New discoveries might speed things up even more. But the direction is set.
When the nature of learning changes and knowledge is freely available to the multitudes of humans in all parts of the globe, just imagine the possibilities. E-learning is already transforming the world, and this will grow.
Technology, of course, doesn’t change human nature. It won’t remove greed, corruption and crime from society. As city life becomes more complex, another part of us longs for the simple, natural life. Even that can be a market opportunity.
What we will have, though, are better tools to shape our ideas into products and services, and entrepreneurs will find many new ways to take advantage.
What are your predictions for the future of entrepreneurs? Add your comments below.