There are two types of future predictions: one looks to try and predict specific events and technologies, the other attempts to look beyond specifics at the causes of change and the forces that will shape the future. In a sense, the first looks for the milestones while the second attempts to find the general direction in our journey into the future. Both are important. Both are interesting. But they require different skill sets, and are meaningful in different ways.

Our company, TomorrowToday spends most of our time and effort on the second type of prediction, seeking out the disruptive forces and trends that are shaping the world around us, and especially the future of work in the next few years. Part of our research methodology includes meta-research as we track other researchers, futurists and insight companies.

Here is a selection of some of their recent insights into the forces that are causing change in the world. Read the articles we’ve linked to for much deeper analysis.

Clem Sunter was for many years the resident futurist and scenario planner for Anglo American. He recently wrote an article suggesting ten key megatrends for the 21st century. Clem brings both a first and third/developed and developing world viewpoint to his work:

  1. Populations are ageing
  2. More economies will return to a steady state (no growth, no decline; 0-1% growth)
  3. We have moved from the Age of Knowledge to the Age of Intelligence
  4. It is more about defending your wealth than growing your wealth
  5. Education is out of sync with the job market and changing nature of work
  6. We are witnessing a second scramble, and potentially more dangerous scramble, for resources
  7. Wars will continue to be fought as weapons become more sophisticated
  8. Like black swans, natural disasters will come out of the blue
  9. Dictatorial regimes will become rarer, but what replaces them is not necessarily democracy
  10. The work/life balance is now even more elusive

Greg Satell on the Forbes website suggests five trends that will drive the future of technology:

  • No-touch interfaces (voice and gesture driven)
  • Native content (home grown, channel specific content to attract attention to a delivery channel, such as Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft, etc – using entertainment to attract attention, or creating your own advertising platform)
  • Massively online
  • The Web of Things
  • Consumer driven supercomputing (natural language interfaces to Big Data databases for a better end user experience)

Not sure I fully buy into his titles or categories, but I think he’s on track with the detail he provides.

Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, suggests three specific ways in which technology will change the future of business:

  • Data Analytics Will Revolutionize Decision-Making
  • The Social Network Will Drive Value
  • Consumer Segments Will Cede To The Individual

Gerd Leonhard is a futurist and speaker, CEO of The Futures Agency and is currently based in Switzerland. He has recently written a two part article on the next five years of disruption (see part 1 and part 2):

  1. The end of offline
  2. The global consumerization of IT (individuals with better computers than the companies they work for)
  3. A true revolution in data-input methods
  4. Business will be socially driven
  5. Big data everywhere
  6. Data flows and fluid data (data is constantly filtered, sifted, changed)
  7. The Internet of Things
  8. The cashless society
  9. 3d printing
  10. Increased use of mobile devices
  11. Emerging markets
  12. Digitally-native innovation (products and services that only work online)

Seeing the futureThis is not the end of his list. He promises a third list next week. I like his list because it shows that these days the task of the futurist is not to surprise or come up with new insights only. In the past, this is what people expected. Almost like a new season of a TV show, people expected more shocks, something new and different in order to keep their interest. This is not the best contribution for a futurist to make. Sometimes we need to keep telling people what is already evident because telling/hearing is not the same as understanding/responding.

For example, you know 3d printing and driverless cars are coming. But how will they affect your industry and your job and your life? And what have you started to do differently already in anticipation of these changes? You know both of these things are coming, but what are you doing about it?

Finally, here’s a link to two really great images/infographics about future technology. Take some time to absord what each one is telling you:

I’d love you to add to my list. Which futurists do you follow? What have been their latest predictions? Please let us know in the comment fields below – even if you just put a link to their webpages.

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