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