How do you predict the future? A Digital world in 2030?

It is not easy to predict the future for the next few years (some may even say for the next month –  Dec 2012!) ..  So it’s interesting to participate in a seminar to predict future trends in 2030.

That was the theme of the EIF event I was invited to participate in earlier this week at the European Parliament (Digital World in 2030)

The three overall questions were:

  • What would the world look like in 2030?
  • What would daily life be in 2030?
  • What impact does your theme(ex: technology in my case)  have on this future?

Chatham house rules apply here .. but here are some observations and my own key trends

The process is important here ..

Predicting the world in 2030 is not about specific predictions but more about the overall trends which you see dominating. For example, at the end of the Second World War, we wanted a world of Peace i.e. the desire for peace was an over-riding trend despite the wars which continued after World War Two

There were many such over-riding trends discussed – some included

  • Social isolation
  • Blurring of man and machine (Kurzweil – me again!)
  • There was an overall optimism on our table
  • Humanity and it’s values would not change
  • Local solutions would be relevant
  • Networks would define solutions
  • Disintermediation
  • Video conferencing (would we have this meeting face to face at all?)
  • Flexibility and adaptability for individuals
  • Socially designed regulation

The two trends I suggested are:

a)      Individual empowerment and

b)      Empathy

My view is: If you look back 30 years (1982) – we still are in a world mostly familiar to us in physical terms. The two major differences are the Internet and the Mobile devices. They have made all the difference over the last three decades. So, if we extrapolate over the next three decades, we can expect that the physical ecosystem may not change that much (impact of 3D printers not withstanding) – but communication technology will change dramatically and it will have a social impact

I have spoken about individual empowerment through the Internet many times. See ESPAS Report – Global Trends 2030 – Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World  to get an idea of the issues involved

The other trend I believe is ‘empathy’ – i.e. if you connect with people on facebook etc – you see how people live – and you can relate to them – and you can see that they share common values – and the chances of going to war on the whims of politicians is lower

I gave the example of Sting’s lyrics (the Russians)

One of my favourite songs is from Sting called the Russians whose lyrics go

How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy
There is no monopoly in common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

i.e. in the cold war, when both sides could easily annihilate each other, the only hope was if the ‘Russians loved their children too’

As MEP James Elles reminds us Victor Hugo’s famous phrase – All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

So, I think some of these ideas will manifest themselves over time. When viewed in that way, predicting the future in 2030 is not very hard .. It is more a case of spotting trends which are already with us and extrapolating them into the future.

Empowering the individual, as a trend, is already with us (with Arab spring for example) and has a long way to go

Finally, I found the views of the MEP chair on our group Britta thomsem very interesting and she guided the discussion well

Image source: EIF