Global Futures Forum: The Dislocated World (Part I)

'Shocks and surprises are the new normal and brands need to begin to anticipate change.'

I attended the Global Futures Forum on the 12th October, 2016 at the Shoreditch Town Hall. The forum was organized by The Future Laboratory, a research consultancy for trend forecasting. Due to the extensive content, I will try my best to tease out the highlights. Maybe seperate the post into 2 parts, so keep an eye out for the continuous post!

The Global Futures Forum is an all day event from 8am-6pm, consisted of talks, panel discussions, as well as experiential activities that are showcases of uprising startups consulted by The Future Laboratory. The topics ranged from technology, neuroscience, to hospitality, luxury brands and even food and drinks.

The conference kicked off with a short video The Dislocated World, addressing the current disruptive changes around the world, and how the current socio-economic climate is affecting consumer attitudes. It further identified the top nine words that people are most concerned and fear for in the future. That being said, when people have fear, that's where opportunity rises – are we ready for transformation?

Opening introduction by Chris Sanderson, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory

Opening introduction by Chris Sanderson, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory

Martin Raymond and Chris Sanderson, both co-founders of The Future Laboratory unpacked the dislocated world that we live in and characterized it as following:

1. Distrust

Discarded Futures: The systemic distrust of the organizations and businesses, whether it be banks, government, or even like recently with the Samsung case. Profit at any cost has become a one-way street to failure. According to Boston Consulting Group, "75% of senior executives in investment firms agree a company's sustainability performance is materially important to their investment decisions." Trust in financial services have decreased from 13% in 2015 to 8% in 2016. How to reinvent and recreate trust in the system is crucial. 

2. Disconnection

Technological Discord: Not everyone has access to the internet and can afford to get online; Bio-enhancement technology has the potential to divide society into those that can and those that cannot afford it. Scarcity becomes a commodity that nobody has enough of anything. 

3. Disenfranchisement

Rising Disenfranchisement: Those at the margin of the society, increasingly feeling disadvantaged. The richest 1% now have as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. Everything that we have created since the industrial revolution hasn't actually necessarily created all of the improvements that we would like to perceived. Our quality of living is no longer increasing, in fact, it is reversing. 

4. Disgust

Income Disconnection has also contributed to the economic and social changes. Millennials cannot afford to invest in what their forebears considered the traditional markers of success. For the first time over 130 years, living with your parents has become the most likely living arrangement for young adults aged 18-34 in the US, stated by the Pew Research Center. The definition of success and 'ideal life stages' may no longer be applicable in todays' society. 

5. Disorder

Demand Control: Everyone wants to be in control – whether it being their jobs, their bodies, their food, and many things in life. However, are we really in control of these things? Or are they being dominated by the greater system, and how much control do we really have? 

Source: The Future Laboratory

Source: The Future Laboratory

Although there seem to be many challenges in front of us, it's the perspective that matters. The opportunity sits behind the negative figures. How do we move forward? We must understand the consumer behaviors and forces in the dislocated world:

1. Automation Anxiety

People fear losing their jobs to automation. In the UK, almost a third of retail jobs are expected to vanish by 2025; McCann Japan has recently hired its first AI creative director; and according to Moshe Vardi, professor of computer science at Rice University, "Machines could take 50% of jobs in the next 30 years."

2. Uncaring Economy

The rise of the gig economy has led to labourers feeling volatile. The lowest earners in the US typically have 30% change in income from month to month (JP Morgan). People are insecure to make plans in advance due to the large differences in their financial support.

3. Post-Materialism

Product-led brands are finding it difficult to appeal to those who place less value on materialism. 72% of Millennials want to spend more on experiences than physical things. The intangible experiences and emotions become a selling 'product'. In China, 61.9% of Generation D teens no longer believe financial accomplishment is the main signifier of success. There is a shift in mindset that is more about how you live your life. (RTG Consulting). 

4. Media Fatigue

People are tired of spending their emotional energy on content that causes anxiety. We are overwhelmed by information and that the content definitely requires filter of some kind. Ad-blocker usage ranges from 12% in South Korea to 38% in Poland and 36% in Greece. However, when designing the filter, we also need to think carefully about the consequences of our selections. "Most of us have empathy, but we can't spend all of our emotional energy on terrorism", said Hilda Burke, psychotherapist. 

5. Control Anxiety

People are now less willing to hand over their personal data. Security (51%) and privacy (35%) rank as top definition of future luxury. The assumption that users will willingly share personal data in return for personalized services is wrong (Mary Clark, Syniverse). It's now the businesses' challenge to think how to reward the users to release their data. 

6. Decentrailisation Society

New technology is forcing old financial, cultural and democratic models to adapt or desist. We no longer need centralized services: in the future, we can buy our music directly from the artist and skipping the middle man (Imogen Heap, Mycelia).

7. Dislocated Labor

The competitive nature of our society is pushing us to work and exceed our natural limits. One shocking statitics – 26% of students at Oxford University have taken or are taking Modafinil (pills that keep one awake and energized). The effort and sacrifices we make in order to stay focus, to acheive and to compete is dramatic – and is that really what we want continuing moving to the future?

8. Access Exclusion

New technologies may create greater division in society. Definition of poor used to based on the access to food and space, but now it's access to TV or even wifi. We live in 'internet poverty' society: US families in poor areas are five times more likely than affluent ones to have no access to high-speed broadband (Center for Public Integrity). So would our future quality of life be determined based on our AR experiences? "With every new technology, there is legitimate concern about the impact it may have on us," commented by Dr. Thomas Metzinger, Johannes Gutenberg University. 

Martin stregthens here, "For those business innovations, it's not just the impact but also the unintended consequences of technology. Take mobile phones for example, they have not become one of the most successful terrorism tool. Do we panalize all telephone businesses for creating such effective and powerful weapon?"

I am going to pause on this powerful thought...

Design with intentions but also consider the possible consequences of unintentionals.

How might we create innovation values, working with the products, systems and experiences? What kind of experiences are we trying to create? Will be back for more exciting updates! Stay tunned.

*P.S. I didn't come across many articles on the Global Futures Forum, but here's a nice one by Nicola Kemp, Campaign – a summary of David Rowan's talk The Seven Rules of Successful Disruption

3 Things I have learned from New Year's Fireworks in London

As the beginning of 2016, I would like to dedicate my first post to my New Year's Eve experience here in London.

Coming from Taiwan, even though Taipei 101 has great fireworks every year, I cannot remember when was the last time that I actually stood in the crowds and watch the performance. Why would anyone want to dress nicely and stand in the cold while you have great view from your comfy living room? What's worse, you may not even guarantee a perfect view, depending on the wind flow, you might just see a bunch of smoke as if the building is burning on fire...

However, since 2015-16 is my first NYE in London– as "touristy" as it may seem, of course, I am going to see the fireworks display by River Thames! Here in London, the fireworks by River Thames is no doubt one of the main spotlights. Not only the locals, but even visitors from all over the world are coming to celebrate end of the year. Such significant event, definitely requires serious planning; especially after the tragic incident happened in Paris earlier, anywhere with large group of people requires extra attention and security. Since 2014, London's NYE Fireworks event became a ticketed event, due to the increased crowds in recent years. The concept is like going to a concert, which people may select the viewing area according to the direction they prefer. All areas are color-coded, but the prices are all the same (£10).

Having zero experiences, I had no idea what to expect. I assume it would be like scalping for concert tickets, tickets would vanish in seconds or internet would breakdown somehow. For fear that my first New Year's experience wouldn't be perfect (of course the fireworks isn't the only 'perfect' way to celebrate, it's just how I imagined it to be for my first year), I submitted to the Mayor of London newsletter in mid September to keep me updated for the ticket release date. 

What Happened Next

In total, I received a total of 19 e-mails related to the event:

  • 10 from Mayor of London
  • 5 from TFL
  • 4 from SEE Tickets (the partnered ticketing system)

Major Dates

  • 14/09/15   Register for Updates
  • 01/10/15    Tickets Release Reminder
  • 02/10/15   Tickets Released
  • 10/10/15    Tickets Order Confirmation
  • 25/11/15     Important Information About London New Year's Eve with UNICEF
  • 10/12/15     Confirmation of Despatch
  • 17/12/15     Important Travel Information
  • 22/12/15    Important Travel Reminder

Observations & Learnings

Overall, I was satisfied with the experience and to be honest, a bit surprised as well. Many people warned me how crowded it would be and how difficult it would be to get home. Instead, it was nothing like that at all. I had a wonderful night, and got home without any troubles. Below are 3 takeaways from my New Year's experience in London. 

Value of Scarcity
A total of 100,000 tickets were released and all sold out. Through the ticketing method, not only does it control the amount of people in the area, but also ensure the quality of the experience. People who purchase the tickets are most likely to be there for the fireworks. Therefore, it indirectly filtered out people who just want to have a wasted party. 

Information Transparency
By having constant updates and reminders, it allows the visitors to be aware of the event status. Keeping in mind that the event actually happened in the pre-booking stage, lasting a period over 3 months period, which sometimes may be hard to keep track. Personally, I found it helpful between the "ticket order confirmation" to "despatch of the tickets". The more the people know, the less anxious they are. It can reduce unnecessary stress and also lessen the need of customer service to explain things repeatedly. 

Empathetic Advice
As an international-scale event, participants' profile may vary from local residents to foreign travelers. It is crucial to take all kinds of possible scenario into consideration, and foreseeing what kind of troubles they may go through. A sufficient list of FAQ, from ticket booking/delivering, transportation, to security, they have provided the visitors with sufficient information for the event. See more at:

What's More

From a non-local's perspective, if there's anything I would add to make the event even well-rounded, perhaps some visual cue to assist area selection during the booking process would be helpful. For me, even with the map, it was hard for me to picture how it would look like in real-life. I had to google a few blogs and see what others recommended and also switch between Google map to try to get a sense of the perspective in different zones. In addition, I would be interested in finding out the profile of ticket buyers, and how many tickets are sold to the locals and how many are for international travelers. Perhaps, that will also assist in future improvement of the event.  

I can't say that I would go again for the fireworks, but it was definitely worth at least once in a life time. Feel free to leave a comment below to share your New Year's experiences. Happy new year and wish you a great year ahead!