2025 – a very different world: are you ready?

By Sheila Moorcroft 

2025 is just over a decade away, and the scale of changes that are approaching are likely to make that decade tumultuous, for good and ill. Governments, organisations and individuals will all need to change their ways and learn new approaches if we are to take advantage of the positive and reduce the negative impacts.

What is changing?

What follows is a short summary of some of the forecasts for 2025, taken from the Shaping Tomorrow site. They are designed to be illustrative and in some cases surprising, hopeful but also a warning. All of these items and more can be found on the Shaping Tomorrow site, by searching for 2025.

Social changes
The plurality will be arriving in America, with no overall majority group by 2043 in the population as a whole, but among under 18s the plurality will arrive much sooner – possibly by 2020. Marketing and product development are changing in response.

China will be the world’s largest Christian nation in terms of numbers. As with so many changes in China, sheer size of population creates huge ripple effects.
70% of the workforce will be Millennials, that is if the Boomer generation actually retires. Their different approach to work is already making waves, what effect will they have once they are the dominant force?

Economic changes
Despite the uncertainty around the global economy, the longer term continues to look optimistic. Global flows of trade could be worth between $54 and $85 trillion, more than double or triple today’s value. And emerging market economies will account for 66% of global demand. How the west responds to the growing power of the new markets will be critical to global prosperity.

That economic shift is reflected in the projected wealth of cities: Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan will be among the wealthiest countries in the world by GDP per capita.

Africa is also expected to continue to grow rapidly. Africa has either a major demographic dividend – 30 million people in African cities will be under 25, or a nightmare if jobs do not materialise. Consumption and investment are growing: 600 million internet connected consumers in Africa could add $300 billion to GDP and China will invest over $1 trillion in Africa over the coming decade.

Technology transformations
The digitisation of all sectors of the economy will disrupt incumbents, create radically new business models and possibly destroy 1000s of jobs; before creating many new ones. The Internet of Things is perhaps the clearest indicator of the scale of this shift, with one forecast suggesting over 1 trillion connected devices by 2025 – others between 26 and 200 billion. Driverless cars are gaining ground. By 2025 they are still likely to be in the minority but rising fast, with road safety a major factor in uptake, but also enabling ageing populations to stay mobile. By 2035, they could dominate sales. Transport systems, land use in cities and car manufacturing – among others, will be directly affected. Not only will they be driverless, they are also likely to be hybrids or electric vehicles by 2050.

An energy revolution is also likely. Solar power should be cost competitive with natural gas and renewables as a whole cheaper than grid electricity. Not only will energy production in the west change, but it could take distributed energy supplies to every region in the world – as long as battery technology keeps pace – bringing an economic and technology boost like no other to poor areas.

Space will continue to attract governments and investment. By 2025, China will probably have landed on the moon and India will be en-route to Mars. The US meanwhile will be aiming to land on near earth asteroids. We could see huge benefits in technology and resources, but also greater potential for conflict. (See Trend Alert Designs on the moon)

Health technologies will also have major impacts. We may be able to reverse the ageing process – at a price, for the wealthy, and possibly begin to cure some kinds of dementia. But unless we radically change our ways, obesity, and its associated diseases, will affect half the planet. Technology meanwhile will also be replacing <80% of what doctors do now, leaving them to develop new approaches to care.

Threats 
Threats abound – many of them known but as yet not tackled, such as climate change. Two suffice to illustrate the scale of change needed. Global waste generation will double, to 8 million tons per day, with China alone producing 1.5 million tons per day if we continue as now. The landfill, climate and resource impacts are huge.
The project population of 8 billion people will need 5000 cubic kilometres of water per year, up from 4000 in 2000; by 2030 a 60% shortfall in supply will exist under Business as Usual conditions.

Political
Flashpoints exist the world over, any of which could escalate and knock the world economy off course. The Middle East and oil supplies remain vulnerable; the South China Sea and land disputes between China and Japan, but also tensions between China and other neighbours could flare up; the Arctic is being explored but has many nations involved and few treaties to resolve issues and claims.

 Implications

We are likely to see upheaval in markets, business models and margins as companies take advantage of the new digital platforms, and whole industries are transformed by digital and other technologies.

Skills will continue to be at a premium. Education too is undergoing a similar revolution to everyone else, as new technologies take learning out of schools to anywhere anytime. Learning will be more adapted and personal creating new ways to train and retrain for the changes ahead.

The need for collaborative and global responses will continue to grow as global issues such as climate change and water demand responses.

Click here to find out how we can help your organisation rapidly assess and respond to these and other key issues affecting your business.

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