Synthesized from the futureneering work of the storytellers and organisational alchemists in the Business Intelligence Unit (BIU) of

During December and January every year, magazines and websites are filled with predictions of the future. From one year to one century ahead, it seems that everyone has an opinion about what will happen. Of course, there is a danger in doing this. Virtually all predictions about the future turn out to be wrong: if not in content, then at least in timing. Futurology is as much science as it is art. But knowing these challenges doesn’t stop our fascination with looking ahead.’s Business Intelligence Network (BIU) undertook its own survey � find it here:
For the record, the BIU is a network of professionals, strategists, futurists and observant human beings, and includes very few content specific specialists. We make no claims based on our academic or professional qualifications (although if you’re interested, you can see a summarised list of these at We give these predictions, not because we’re economists, scientists, politicians or “experts” in any particular scientific field. We’re comfortable ‚putting it out there‛ because we believe that a synthesising view of the world, combined with a solid understanding of history and of people, provides a unique perspective on some of the most important, emerging meta-trends in the world today. For more information on our view of predictions, see the short explanation below the actual prediction set.
To make sense of the world as we see it, summarises the main drivers of change in society under three main headings: changes in Technology, Institutions and Values. Each of these elements interacts with the other in a complex system of development. Our frameworks cover each of these areas, and show the connections between them. But our primary focus is on the “values” part of the equation, which most directly impacts people. Thus, this is the focus of our prediction set, outlined below.
Note that we have therefore specifically not put timeframes on our predictions, although in our minds we worked on a 2-7 year horizon.
Just for the record (in case your lawyers need to know), it should be obvious that any use of this information (as in reliance upon it for decision making of any sort) is done at your own risk. We’re happy to share that risk with you, if we can share in the reward as well. By this we mean that we regularly work with our clients to unpack the implications of these predictions, our more generic frameworks and detailed research to help our clients gain a competitive advantage. We refer to our process of consulting as Organisational Alchemy (see, and if you’re interested in finding out how to turn the ordinary golden, please make contact with us (specifically, Raymond de Villiers, [email protected]).
1. Technology
� Technology will increasingly impact our daily lives. This will be driven by increasing computing power and miniaturisation.
� MEMS â€? microelectromechanical systems will proliferate. These tiny devices will be in everything â€? even in toilets and clothes. Don’t be surprised if your doctor visits you because your toilet called her after analysing yesterday’s ‚data input‛.
� We have yet to see the first major use of digital terrorism in the global markets. This will happen within the next few years.
� Linux will finally arrive as a major competitor to the Microsoft Windows operating system.
� Pilotless aeroplanes will become accepted. Similarly, major urban areas will begin working on cars that are driven by external systems on specially equipped highways and roadways, to eliminate accidents and driver errors.

� The cost of communication will continue to plummet around the world, just as speed and quality increases. New and improved communication technologies will make it increasingly easy to do business and connect over large distances, and will affect productivity, especially in developing countries, more than any other trend.
� The next big thing in personal computing is voice recognition.
� From Big Brother to small brother – mobile phones fitted with cameras will continue to dominate, with the quality of these cameras increasing dramatically. This will cause a full-scale discussion of our values around what can and can’t be captured and shared.
� 3G is a new cellphone technology that allows full multimedia to be used on cellphones. Users can send multimedia messages to each other, download videos like they download SMS’s at the moment, and get streaming information in an Internet-like way. Cellphone companies have literally spent billions of dollars of licenses and research to get 3G working. They have a vested interest in making it work, and ‚talking it up‛. For those with laptop access to ever more available hotspots, it is unlikely to ever be more than a gimmick. 3G is likely to attract the youth market, more intent on using their phones for games and fun. This is a lucrative market. KPMG reckons that more money was spent on downloading cellphone ringtones in December 2004 than on buying CD singles. Even though trillions of text messages are sent each year, the “real” money is in ringtones. Cellphone companies, while not yet squeezed on their margins, nevertheless have quite high infrastructure costs, whereas the money made from providing ringtones, pictures and other “silly” add ons for cellphones is a billion dollar industry already, with very little overheads. Therefore, 3G will likely capture the low end of the market, where high volume and low margins rule. And providing 3G content will be a much cleverer way to make money than providing the 3G infrastructure. Even cleverer, will be those who exploit the three gene networks to help people connect with each other and with markets.
1.2. Energy
� The world is unlikely to run out of oil with in the next century, especially as global threats to its power supplies are likely to see the United States tapping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
� The use of nuclear power and the threat of nuclear weapons will increase around the world. Countries with existing nuclear capabilities are:
o Acknowledged weapons: Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, United States
o Unacknowledged: Israel
o Seeking: Iran, North Korea
o Abandoned weapons: South Africa, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine
o Seventeen countries depend on nuclear power for at least a quarter of their electricity. France and Lithuania get around three quarters of their power from nuclear energy, while Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia and Ukraine get one third or more. Japan, Germany and Finland get more than a quarter of their power from nuclear energy, while the USA gets one fifth. A full list of all countries with nuclear power plants is available at
� The use of hydrogen based fuels will become more prominent around the world.

� In the next 40 years, we will need to produce as much food as we have in the whole of human history up to this point. In order to do this, genetically modified plants that can grow in less than ideal conditions will become widely utilised.
� China will continue to develop as a consumer of the planet’s resources. In one measure alone, the impact is staggering. Motor vehicle growth in the past five years have grown at 166%, and it appears as if the boom is only starting. Economic opportunities, yes, but environmental impact, too.
� Environmental issues will become increasingly sensitive, with the consequences of neglect, indifference, ignorance and arrogance, becoming ever more evident, and the demands of the general public ever more insistent.
� South Africa will play an increasing role in global environmental issues. With only 2% of the world’s land mass, it is home to 10% of the world’s plants and 7% of the world’s animals. SA grasslands have an average of 30 species per square kilometre â€? a greater biodiversity factor than the rainforests. Johannesburg is the world’s largest non-commercial forest and greenest urban area. The new 35 000 km2 Great Limpopo Transfrontier Peace Park (incorporating the Kruger National Park) is the largest conservation area in the world. South Africa’s future policies on sustainable development, ecotourism and community involvement in conservation areas will become models for the planet.
1.4. Intellectual Property
� The ability to define and protect one’s intellectual property will become increasingly important. Employees who develop new innovations will demand a share of future profits, rather than just a token bonus or promotion.
2. Institutions
2.1. Economics
� The world economy is currently growing at about 3% p.a. It will continue to grow for at least the next five years. Any interruptions will be short lived and explainable aberrations.
� The fastest-growing economic region in the world is likely to be the new members of the EU and the former Russian states that border Eastern Europe. India is only just starting a massive growth cycle, while China’s growth cycle seems to be reaching a peak.
� Global markets continue to become more efficient, and global trade will continue to increase. These two factors should combine to reduce market fluctuations and unexpected surprises in global economic indicators.
� Generation Xers (born in the 1960s through 1980s), spent most of their adult working life in the 1990s, a time of unprecedented economic boom. The dot-com crash at the end of the century, seemed like an overreaction to over exuberance, rather than part of a normal economic cycle. This generation expects economic success and is the most entrepreneurial in history space in an attempt to make it for themselves.
� There is a widening wealth gap � in ALL countries. The digital divide is creating even bigger gaps as the have nots become the know-nots and do-nots. The elites are cocooning themselves even more � and can do so more in USA with personal retirement and health care plans on the cards.

� Mass media, computer games, music, films, television and digital radio, as well as the globalisation of business, are a homogenising forces in global culture, promoting a common language and common cultural reference points. In particular, English will continue its global dominance.
� Today’s younger generations (the Gen Xers and the Millennial Generation, born from the 1980s to present) tend to share common values across the world. Their entrepreneurial spirit and global demand for economic reforms and deregulation, as well as the comfort with international migration, will only further speed up globalisation and its effects.
� Increased access to market information from other countries will continue to fuel consumer societies. With almost instant access to information about pricing, quality, service levels, delivery and product specifications, together with other people’s reviews and access to competitor’s information, competitive advantage will no longer be found in what you sell, but rather in who you are and how you sell.
� The recent trend in offshoring (outsourcing of white collar, service jobs to foreign countries, with much lower labour costs) will continue to increase. South Africa will be a major beneficiary of this, especially as the dominant English accent in the country is easily accessible to all other English-speaking nations.
� With its rapid growth, and now the devastation of the tsunami, construction contracts in Asia will proliferate, and there will be a global excess demand for the resources required to build infrastructure across Asia and the sub continent.
� The issue of farm subsidies will become ever more acrimonious, until it reaches a point where it cannot be ignored and must be resolved as a matter of urgency. This is likely to be the catalyst of a major revision in global trade regulations.
� The USA will open its gilded cage and once again allow freedom of movement and interaction for scientists, students and foreign workers.
� There will be a continued migration from south to north, and from poor to rich countries, resulting in a wave of illegal immigrants in developed countries.
� International tourism is set to boom in the next space a few years, with India and China soon replacing America, Japan and Germany as the world’s most travelled people. With the Olympic Games in 2008, China will see a massive influx of tourists in the next few years. With the soccer World Cup 2010, South Africa will see a similar influx.
� There is likely to be an increase in shorter holidays, rather than the traditional two-week break once a year. Retirees are likely to be the single biggest bloc of travellers.

� Labour markets will continue to become more flexible, and labour forces will continue to become more mobile. This will be evident especially in the expanding EU.
� People in developed countries will continue to accept restrictions on the freedom in order to provide them with safety.
� The use of terror has always been a method employed by those seeking to change the government in their countries. If they win, they are usually referred to as ‚freedom fighters‛. This is unlikely to change. In an article in The Spectator, 8 Jan 2005, entitled ‚Phoney War‛, Max Hastings makes the point: ‚I am not here seeking to reopen the interminable argument about the means of achieving Middle East peace, only to make the case against treating all dissident forces which employ terrorist means as part of a common global manifestation of evil, which can only be addressed by military might. Some people may suggest this is a trite observation. Yet it flies in the face of everything said and done by the US government over the past three years.‛
2.4. Companies
� The demand for skilled labourers will continue to outstrip supply. The mobility of skilled labour will mean that competition for talent now stretches across the globe. They will be an increase in creativity in recruiting, benefits, perks, retention strategies in all industries. Non-traditional retention and motivation strategies will include rewarding outputs, contribution, speed, quality, creativity and innovation, with training and personal development opportunities becoming more and more important.
� Computer competence will be mandatory for any job in any field.
� The growth in the number of small and medium-sized companies will continue in all countries of the world.

� It will become increasingly important to control the distribution channel, rather than the content or the product being sold.

� ‚The Leadership Deficit will be Crippling. As employers discover serious inadequacies, leadership development will take on new importance. Up and coming managers will be expected to demonstrate leadership skills before assuming new positions.‛ – The Herman Group, Top Ten Workplace/Workforce Forecasts for 2005.
� The investment in leadership training and development will be required to increase in all companies.
3. Values
� ‚Industrialisation raises educational levels, it changes attitudes towards authority, reduces fertility, alters gender roles, and encourages broader political participation. This process is just beginning throughout the developing world. Witness the increases in literacy, the increases in fertility, and broad voter turnout seen in India over the last five years.‛ � Marvin Cetron and Owen Davis, 53 Trends Now Shaping the Future.
� ‚Developed societies will increasingly take their cue from Gen X and the millennial generation (aka Gen Y all generation dot-com), rather than the baby boomers who have dominated its thinking, for most of four decades. This will tend to homogenise basic attitudes throughout the world, because Gen Xers, and especially the millennials around the globe have more in common with each other than with their parents.‛ � Marvin Cetron and Owen Davis, 53 Trends Now Shaping the Future.
3.1. Health
� Whilst the world’s population will continue to grow and will probably reach 9.2 billion by 2050, the average annual growth rate will continue to decline. Most developed nations will soon have declining populations, with fertility rates below the replacement level.
� The most important implication of declining fertility rates is that would be retirees will need to stay on the job longer, and/or developed nations will need to encourage much more immigration. If neither of these two things happens, there will be a sharp economic contraction and lower living standards.
� In most countries of the world there is a looming generational war. In most developed nations, wealth is disproportionately held by the older generations, and for the first time in history seems unlikely to be handed down to younger generations in significant amounts. The Baby Boomers (born post-World War II into the 1960s) are unlikely to retire or give up their positions of power, making it increasingly crowded at the top of the pyramid. In countries with large retirement costs looming (such as the United States), where younger generations are expected to pay for older generations’ retirements rather than each person paying their own way, difficult and painful changes are required in the near future. This is likely to divide voters along generational lines as never before.
� Medical advances and improving technology will dramatically increase the average life expectancy of all peoples in all countries. They will be a massive demand for geriatric medicine and specialists.
� Work-life balance remains one of the most important issues in people’s lives. The ability of a company to provide this balance directly impacts its ability to attract talented employees.
� The top health challenges facing the world in the next 10 years are: AIDS, malaria, the threat of Asian bird flu becoming contagious to humans, the lack of sanitised drinking water, obesity and the lack of access to affordable geriatric medicines.
� The focus of the fight against AIDS will shift from Africa to China and Russia. Other countries will join the commitment made by the UK to purchase an AIDS vaccine as soon as it is available, and this will continue to spur research towards a cure for AIDS.
� The number of people smoking will continue to decline, as more nations put a ban on smoking in public places.
� More restaurants and cafes will offer no-carb, low-carb, gluten-free, and vegetarian entries on their menus, as more emphasis is given to the connection between good food and healthy living.
3.2. Family
� The masculinisation of most of Asia’s populations is one of the most important global mega trends of the 21st-century.
� Millennial kids will attempt to re-establish the nuclear family as a societal hub. For the first time in history, great-grandparents will become an increasing factor in family’s lives.
� Boomers will feel the squeeze of supporting not-yet-independent Xer children into their early 30s, while at the same time supporting ageing parents who did not plan adequately for retirement.
� ‚Once national security issues lose their immediacy, family issues will again dominate American society, at least through 2008: long-term health care, day care, early childhood education, and anti-drug campaigns, as well as environmental concerns.
� ‚In periods of economic difficulty, children and grandchildren move back in with parents and grandparents to save on living expenses. In the United States, one third of Gen Xers have returned home at some point in their early lives. Growing numbers of grandparents are raising their grandchildren, because drugs and AIDS have left the middle generation either unable or unavailable to care for the children. This trend is strongest in Africa, where AIDS has orphaned some 12 million children, half between the ages of 10 and 14.‛ � Marvin Cetron and Owen Davis, 53 Trends Now Shaping the Future.

� Work-life balance will become a bigger issue than ever before. This will especially be driven by parents, both male and female, who want to spend more time with their children.
� More people will work flexible hours, telecommuting from home or suburban hubs, and technology will further enhance the ability of virtual teams to connect effectively, the traditional workday and workweek will further erode.
� VoIP (Voice over IP) will help to speed up the advent of real telecommuting, virtual offices and suburban hubs.
� ‚Gen Xers and millennials are virtually gender blind in the workplace, compared with older generations. This is true even in societies such as India and Japan, which have long been male dominated, though not yet in conservative Muslim lands.‛
� Women will become increasingly more prominent in the workplace, and will increasingly bring the feminine touch to corporate structures and leadership styles.
� Demand for day care centres, after-care facilities, corporate cr�ches and flexitime will continue to increase.
� ‚More people will become independent contractors, selling their services on a project, contract, or set-term basis. Specialized staffing firms and electronic communities will evolve to connect workers with employers.‛ – The Herman Group, Top Ten Workplace/Workforce Forecasts for 2005.
3.4. Trust
� Trust is the new currency.
� Within the next few years, ‚trust passports‛ will be common on the Internet. Like or eBay’s current systems for evaluating people within an online e-commerce community, we will all have trust ratings that will help us to interact with each other with more confidence.
� Consumer watchdog bodies and advocacy groups will continue to proliferate.
� ‚As prices fall to commodity levels and online stores conversed virtually every product and brand in the industry without significant overhead, service is the only field left in which marketers on and off the Internet can compete effectively.‛ � Marvin Cetron and Owen Davis, 53 Trends Now Shaping the Future.
� John Stewart’s The Daily Show, a feature of Comedy Central and CNN, was recently ranked amongst the top three most reliable news programmes on US TV, even though it is clearly a satirical comedic look at news items. Traditional news media will continue to lose public trust.
� Voter turnout will continue to decline in most countries that are dominated by baby boomer politicians, until the next generation of politicians emerges.
� Current accounting, corporate governance and corporate regulation reforms are just the beginning of measures that will be put in place across the world to protect all corporate stakeholders.

� Fundamentalism in all religions will continue to increase. Reaction against changing values is one of the prime motors of cultural extremism.
� Terrorism will become more and more linked to religious ideologies.
� The most unstable nations in the world at the moment are either atheist/secular or Muslim.
� 34,000 people left the Episcopal church in the USA in 2004 alone. Around the developed world, the decline of attendance in traditional Christian churches will continue.
� “Over the last three decades a major cultural shift has taken place in the attitudes of Western societies toward the future. Optimism has given way to a sense of ambiguity‌(which) threatens to stifle hope at a personal as well as a social level.” —Theologians Miroslav Volf and William Katerberg in The Future of Hope
4. Important Resources and Recommended Future Trends Reports
� In the futurist magazine, March — April 2005, trends now shaping the future (economic, societal, and environmental trends), by Marvin J. Cetron, and Owen Davies, presented a summary of 53 trends they believed I shaping the future. Under the major headings of general long-term economic and societal trends, trends in values, concerns, and lifestyles, energy trends, and environmental trends. The May — June 2005 issue will focus on technology and workplace trends. The full report can be ordered for eight dollars at the futurist online bookstore,
� The Herman Group, Strategic Futurists. Forecasts are prepared by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, Professional Members of The World Future Society and Founding Members of The Association of Professional Futurists. See
� Top Ten Trends from The Future Survey. See
� Mapping the Global Future, Report of the National Intelligence Council of the USA’s 2020 Project. See
Please note that wherever possible, we have attempted to attribute direct quotes, and all of our sources. If we have incorrectly attributed or have neglected to do so, please inform us immediately and we will make the necessary adjustments to this document.
You may make use of all or part of this document in any format, without prior approval, on condition that you include the following attribution:
� 2005, Business Intelligence Unit,
For more information on our view of predictions and how to use them, see below:
A Brief Word on Predictions
First, read The World of Tomorrow, today � available at This article outlines a methodology popular with futurists/visionaries. It involves placing yourself in the future, and looking back to the present. Stan Davis is one of the foremost authors in this field, although I have recently read The Visionary’s Handbook, by Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor, and been impressed by their process and methodology.
In their book, Wacker and Taylor make some very good points about predictions and their limitations. Nearly three decades ago, Alvin Toffler shared similar concerns in the introduction to his seminal book, Future Shock. Together with these authors, we have our own views on predicting the future, and it might be helpful in the context of this Prediction Set to list a few caveats and suggestions.

  • Nothing will turn out exactly as it is supposed to. Nothing will turn out as you expect it to. Today the whole world is a fast-breaking story, and facts are easily perishable.
  • As Toffler said, “No serious futurist deals in ‘predictions’‌ every statement about the future ought, by rights, be accompanied by a string of qualifiers — ifs, ands, buts, and on the other hands. Yet to enter every appropriate qualification in a book of this kind would be to bury the reader under an avalanche of maybes. Rather than do this, I have taken the liberty of speaking firmly, without hesitation, trusting that the intelligent reader will understand the stylistic problem. The word ‘will’ should always be read as though it were preceded by ‘probably’ or ‘in my opinion.’ Similarly, all dates applied to future events need to be taken with a grain of judgment.”
  • It is actually impossible, by definition, to predict the future. Rush out to meet the future, and your action will automatically begin changing the future that you are headed to. The predictions that we have laid out in this document are more about scenarios than prophecies.
  • The danger of making certain predictions, is that you get labelled a crackpot. The problem is, that the more likely your predictions appear to be, the more likely it is that your so-called prediction is actually just a statement about what is already becoming true. At, we track mega trends in order to help the sea, just before anybody else does, what is already beginning to happen. The further out a prediction goes, the more uncertain it becomes and the greater the chance it will outperform every other prediction competing with it.
  • Wacker and Taylor put it this way: ‚The future is a tale that needs constant retelling. Because every significant change in the facts of the present or in the understanding of the past, invalidate the future, and because the facts of the present and our understanding of the past are always in flux, the future itself is in constant flux as well. Thus, being a visionary means that you have to reinvent your vision time and time and time again, and that you have to accept the near certainty that every one of your visions will ultimately be proved wrong.”
  • “If each future is unique, if every reality is different, then predictions aren’t the point of futuring in any event. Predictions, after all, answers to questions about the future. It’s the questions that counts, and each of us has to answer them separately according to our separate journey through the world. And according to the separate choices we make… The role of the visionary [isn’t] to be a seer but to be a provocateur: to present a series of visions of the future against which those who want to prepare for the future can react. Nobody, after all, knows what the future holds; or you can really knows what frames of mind, what receptivities, what structures you need to have in place to meet would ever does eventually come down the pike. And no one is less ready for tomorrow than the person who holds the most rigid beliefs about what tomorrow will contain.
  • Your starting point, your unique worldview, your prejudices and preconceptions, everything about who you are will dictate your ability to predict and to accept predictions and visions. If you do not know who you are, or what you believe in, and why, then your efforts at futureneering will only lead to frustration.

With that all said and done, it is absolutely critical for us to keep visioning. Continually updating our vision of the future is critical to current success. We think of a vision as a moving target. We hope that the predictions offered in this document will be of help to those visionaries and futureneers who have the wonderful privilege of being just a little bit closer to tomorrow than most people.

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