James Stuart: 2017 sounds far away but in reality it is only 10 years away from the present date. 10 years isn’t a long time. Think back to 10 years ago. Time flies. Yet in this time a lot seems to happen. In the background as people get on with their daily lives 10 years can hold many events both large and small. These events have a cumulative effect that over the march of time contribute significantly to the rate of change, and to the change in those everyday lives.
2017 may seem a far way off but in reality it isn’t. Time flies. Events happen. Organisations struggle to come to terms with the flow of change. Individual people can struggle even more to understand the change and their place in the world they thought they knew.
Therefore, what will the world look like in 2017?
The answer to this question depends very much on how the world progresses from the present date of 2007. Some areas of prediction in this text – for example, global warming – are based on the present trend of fuel sue being maintained through to 2017.
There will obviously be much similarity with todays world (2007), barring another world war or a global H5N1 pandemic … both of which are distinct possibilities. If there are no truly global catastrophe’s then indeed 2017 will have many similarities with 2007. Similarities – yes – but also with distinct differences.
From different base growth structures, China, India and Russia will have increased their global economic standing. As part of this growth, there will be unrest in China, massive social change in India, and a continuing struggle against corruption in Russia. Russia will base its growth strategy on the use of natural resources, especially fossil fuels, adding to both the stability and instability of global fuel use through its attitude to owning these natural resources.
A new cold war may develop as Russia increases arms and technology sales to those areas of the world deemed irresponsible and dangerous by much of the developed world.
With many organisations continuing to struggle with the changes that have led to 2007, they without a greater understanding and appreciation they will struggle even more with the impending changes leading to 2017. Organisational fortunes and structural integrities – and therefore jobs and economies – will depend very much on this understanding and appreciation.
Life in 2017 is likely to be more technology driven and technology centric as the standard of living increases throughout the developed world, and some areas of the developing world. By this, what is meant is that many aspects of life will by 2017 be run through technology and life in general will be more around technology enablement. This will pervade through most aspects of life including work, home and leisure, travel and transport, knowledge management, health and government. This is not just technology for the sake of it. It will be technology to make tasks easier, faster and less expensive. Crucially this will include identity management and tracking.
The technological shift will include an even greater emphasis on the internet and cyber life in general. For groups who want a voice this will mean greater access to the world at large. For countries and security forces, this will mean a greater clamp down on the concept of too much freedom on the net and a forced reduction in the amount of hate propaganda available to everyone. Security forces and crime fighting in general will benefit from this new public defence.
In health, from technology, there will be a significant shift to a single joined up view of the patient. In many areas of healthcare in todays world patient information management is hardly an efficient process. It is in fact a process that increases tremendously and introduces a number of dangers with regard to incomplete, missing or slow patient information. By 2017 in many areas of the developed world, much of this fault and cost ridden process will have been successfully tackled by the use of technology – for the benefit of the patient and the cost base of those organisations involved in healthcare.
Make no mistake, this will be sorely needed. Why? Because with increasing economic migration to those areas of the developed world, healthcare in general will be under extreme pressure to alleviate the health issues of the migratory populations and so place the healthcare sectors under severe budgetary stress.
However, another dimension of potential healthcare are aspects such as genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has tremendous potential to advance the effectiveness of care and cure for a wide range of diseases and disorders. By 2017 there may well be hidden research that pushes the boundaries of ethics and acceptability with the potential of grave instances that may shock the world at large.
Socially the population in each country – and across different countries – will experience a polarisation between the religious and non-religious. In-depth religious belief will increase as individuals in general will increasingly feel isolated from the technologically advancing world. Religious extremism will also increase not only because of the perception of isolation but also because of the gap between the developed and developing world – importantly also because of the government methods of some specific states who continue to use religion as a control mechanism to divert visibility of their own actions. This breeds contempt, jealousy and the type of reach for power through imposed culture that fanatical people transform into violence and exported terrorism.
Some groups may be in possession on nuclear materials from those extremist states currently formulating their own "civil" nuclear programmes.
There will be greater government tracking of individuals. This will increasingly be introduced as identity tracking in order to reduce crime – and increasingly to tackle the terrorist threat. In some areas, this sophisticated management of individual data will include biometric information even down to the genetic level.
Contrary to the fears of those who claim this move will lead to a police state, the needs of the state will be balanced by growing voice of personal freedom and the “human rights” of the individual or groups. Some of these personal freedoms and human rights are likely to be curtailed – but with good reason as states attempt with every means at their disposal to maintain stability and growth in the face of the rising challenges of terrorism and external cultural influences. These will be quite distinct from the challenges arising from energy and natural resource use.
By 2017 the map of energy use will have altered. As a proportion of activity, there will be a decreased reliance on fossil fuels for energy production and a greater reliance on energy efficiency as well as renewable energy resources. As a proportion of activity this use will have decreased, yet in real terms will have increased on 2007 levels, as activity as a whole increases worldwide.
The use of fossil fuels will still be widespread and in a number of instances there will continue to be a reliance on imported fossil fuels which will, by 2017, have already been shown to be a major economic mistake as could be seen by the global energy crisis early in this 10 year time span.
In many quarters, the continuing reliance on fossil fuels and imported sources of fuel will not only be an economic mistake, but a significant environmental mistake. The environmental damage from the continued use of fossil fuels, from deforestation and from aquatic pollution, resulting in an enhanced global warming, will be starting to be felt across the entire world. High on the consequence list will be flooding of low lying costal areas displacing millions of people, the appearance of super storms, increased drought and desertification, the shifting of pest borne tropical diseases into previously temperate zones, a distinct change of crop patterns, etc.
These consequences will start to pressurise the worst affected countries to breaking point. Those countries less directly affected will feel the consequences in the form of a greater economic strain from changing markets and global developments, and the burden of large numbers of migrants.
By 2017, the face of the world will not have changed … but it is likely to be in the process of changing.
Sustainable land and freshwater resources will be among the most sought after global assets.
This, of course, is likely to lead to an increase in the population pressures on the developed world. As a result, there will also be increased cultural tensions as an undercurrent of activity and perception. This will manifest itself in the most violent forms of terrorism. The terrorism will not solely be as a result of shifting populations and migrations, but the terrorist philosophy of some will be made more accessible by others because of the new wave of migrations. In turn this will cause states across the world to increase their internal and external security mechanisms – including identity management – and is likely by this stage to have resulted in an increase in conflict areas around the world, and an increase in the sales of arms.
In the developed world, and those states seeking stability and global status, directly affected by the violence of terrorism, there is likely to be a strong political backlash against people who are perceived to be abusing the hospitality of their host country. Nationalism will be gaining strength. This will make further internal and external conflict more likely.
Many of these events and trends will continue in the background – much as todays events and trends do – as the vast majority of the worlds population continues on with their daily lives. From the nature of daily lives, most events and trends or largely invisible or barely noticeable until they directly affect the lives of ordinary people, for example from terror attacks.
The majority of global trends tend to piece by piece transform life slowly so little imperceptible change is noticed.
Therefore, what will life be like in 2017?
It is likely to be very similar to 2007 – but with a background of significant change that will have a direct and increasing impact on everyones lives.
2007 – and many people / organisations secretly believe the world will not change much for them, or that they are largely immune from change from the great trends and events affecting the world.
2017 – and this will be the beginning of a sustained period of change that will start to directly affect everyone. Some of this change will be good. Some of this change will be not so good. It is up to those organisations who are serious about harnessing the impending change to understand the detail of this change – and put in place actions to take advantage or even manoeuvre the change.
Regardless if they do this, or not, regardless if the change is random of even partially managed, there will still be change. Within all change there are those who will gain advantage and those who will gain disadvantage.
Which one will you be? And … how do you know? If you don’t understand the changes how will you understand your impact or their impact on you?