It’s the final day of 2020 and like most of you, I like to reflect on the past year(s) and also look forward to the coming year(s). These past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the rapid changes we’ve experienced in the last couple of decades and what we might expect in the near future.
At the forefront of any discussion about change has to be technology. We now hold the power of a desktop computer from not that long ago in the form of a small phone that fits easily in our pocket. Among many other uses, we no longer need to keep a map in our glove box because that, too, is on our phone. For the younger generation, Google “paper maps”, and consider yourself lucky.
I’m personally grateful for this particular technological advancement since I’m a self-confessed directionally challenged individual. I used to fight it but now when my wife shakes her head in disbelief when I make a wrong turn in the city I grew up in, I simply embrace my flaw and accept that it’s just who I am. For better or worse.
So what about the future? What kind of world and tools will our kids and grandkids embrace? A few predictions:
- Remote Work – Even before the pandemic, companies have come to realize that renting office space, especially in hot spots like San Francisco, NYC and several other cities, is outrageously expensive. As technology continues to improve, I would expect a continuation of WFH arrangements. Any time a company can save large sums of money, they’ll give it serious consideration. But it’s not just cost savings that will drive this trend. If an employee can work remotely it expands the talent pool exponentially. Now a company in Illinois can have access to top talent all over the country, and in some cases, the world. Why limit your options to one or two geographical locations? It’s time to kill the office as we know it.
- Travel – I would expect, and almost guarantee, multiple forms of faster travel for future generations, and possibly even my own generation. A concept similar to Elon Musk’s Boring Company, shuttling people in underground tubes is far from, well, far-fetched. It’s already been tested and with some degree of success. Also expect commercial flights to improve when it comes to speed. One idea is future planes will be powered by batteries. This will make them lighter, and as a result, faster, more fuel efficient, and better for the environment. Another longer term possibility is supersonic flight; think Concorde x 2 or 3. Again, if there’s both demand and money to be saved companies will explore it as a viable option.
- Fossil Fuels – Despite what a small minority believe, fossil fuels are horrible for the environment. It’s also a finite resource. While there’s likely enough oil to last several generations at our current consumption rate, I think the future is clear: Renewable energy is the future. If you want further evidence just look at Saudi Arabia. When you think oil you think Saudi Arabia and the middle east. Yet even this oil powerhouse has poured billions into solar and wind energy. The train has left the station and it’s not coming back, regardless of political lobbying or legislation that might discourage such a shift. Consumers and corporations will continue to drive this change, not the government.
- Space Exploration – While you couldn’t pay me enough to even consider being launched into space, there is demand. There are smart, driven people who don’t like to fail working on this every day, from Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, to Richard Branson. It may not happen in my lifetime but for young kids today, it’s at least a reasonable possibility.
- Shopping – The future will be about speed. I’m not saying this will always be a good thing but there will be some places where consumers will embrace it whole-heartedly. And really, they already have. One likely place this will occur is in the grocery store. We’ve gone from cashiers, to a mix of cashiers and self-checkout lanes, to home delivery and store pickup in the past decade but one concept being explored is the no checkout at all option. Amazon Go is already being tested in larger cities. In these stores you walk in, grab what you need, bag it and leave. The cart totals up your items, the payment is linked to your card, and off you go. There will be resistance, of course, because it’ll eliminate jobs. Still, I’m not sure it’ll matter because there’s going to be a demand for such a concept.
These are just a few and I’m sure you can think of many others, maybe a little more out of the box than my top 5. For my www.head2paper.com followers, I’d be interested in hearing your own predictions.
Happy New Year,