We have entered an era of accelerated change that is being driven by technologies. Some of these changes are already popular: the “Sharing economy”, the “Internet of Things”, driverless vehicles, electric cars, robots, new forms of payment, and the enabling power of the internet itself.
However, the more disruptive technologies are yet to come. Once artificial intelligence (AI) surpasses human intelligence, by around 2045, the way we live and understand the world will change dramatically. Such a milestone is known as the Singularity. At this point, the human race will have transcended its biological destiny and will have to face many spiritual challenges.
This disruptive technologies span the fields of robotics, transportation, the changing internet life sciences, additive manufacturing and energy, all of which are experiencing tremendous growth. There will be consequences to these transformations, ranging from geopolitical to demographic, and they will change the way humans work and conduct their lives.
Increase use of robotics and automation will make life harder for emerging countries that have relied their economies on cheap labour based exports, forcing them to sustain and grow their economies through internal consumption. Africa, in particular, will experience difficulties in adjusting to this era of automation. A study by UNICEF reports that by 2100, almost half of the children under 18 in the world will be African, up from a quarter today. By then, Africa is forecast to have 4.2 billion people. It will be hard to find useful jobs for all these people, as automation sweeps across the rest of the world.
Overall though, these transformative technologies will result in a giant leap forward for mankind, extending life expectancies and improving the quality of our lives. Innovation will release humans from jobs that are menial and repetitive, which is just as well in a world with an ageing population. According to UN, the number of people over 65 will surpass that of children by the year 2047, with the total approaching of two billion. This longevity economy will expand opportunities for those who seize them but will also cause demographical and economy conflicts.
This digital revolution is changing almost every aspect of the global economy, making labour less important as an input in manufacturing and increasingly to services as well. Additive manufacturing (3D printing), robots and rising labour costs in emerging markets are all contributing factors that will move production closer to the consumer (known as “re-shoring”). This proximity effect will become more influential as time goes on. The days where people have to migrate to other cities to find work is rapidly changing.
Overall, my principal takes on the technological impact in the future are that: it´s coming to us faster than most people realise, it will be better than the past but disruptive in almost every aspect of our lives and it will create many business opportunities. In my opinion, those changes should not be seen as a threat, but they will certainly mean new challenges to which we must be prepared and have enough flexibility to adapt.