Contemplating the future is embedded in RH Strategic’s DNA. Like you, we geek out about what’s possible and seek out what’s next on the disruption agenda. As storytellers, we see the innovation of the last few decades as only a prelude to an epic global transformation story that will play out over a century or more.
Most predictions circulating in the press right now are, in fact, predictable: “We’ll be chauffeured by driverless cars!” “Amazon will deliver my packages by drone!” “I will upload my brain to the cloud!”
We’d suggest taking a different approach to envisioning the future. First consider fundamental human needs and wants. Those can be summarized as: the need to be safe and secure; the desire to be connected and valued in social networks of family and friends; the want to live our best lives through good health, education and access to opportunity; and the freedom to pursue passions and contribute to society and its future generations. Oh, and we want it all faster, better and at less cost.
These fundamental human needs and wants have persisted throughout human history and been the drivers of all truly important innovation for millennia. Communicate in these terms, and you can create stories that everyone wants to hear and can relate to. Not just at the start of a new year but at any point in the future. So, how do we see these drivers playing out over the next decade?
Let’s start with headcount. Earth’s population is expected to welcome another billion people by 2030, and two-thirds of all living people will be concentrated in cities. This will necessitate big advances in how we consume resources and preserve the environment that protects and feeds us. Technology should drive massive leaps in agriculture and food production, transportation, manufacturing and energy generation. Automation will no doubt remake our workforce in ways that are difficult to imagine.
Add a half trillion connected things by 2030, all beaming data and content at 5G speeds and well beyond, and there will be few aspects of life that remain off the grid. Every node on the grid will be open to data-driven examination and manipulation, thanks to analytics, algorithms and AI. All in the cloud and all in need of defense against hackers and nation states.
That grid will further extend to space, where the race is already on to put nano satellites in orbit in order to make internet available absolutely everywhere, increase military advantage and push the boundaries of exploration. With four missions to Mars planned for next year alone, humans will continue their inherent quest for big answers and even bigger opportunity.
Back on Earth, 800 million people over the age of 65 will be chasing their fountains of youth. We’ll be watching for big breakthroughs in medicine: the convergence of computing and data analytics with medicine and healthcare, the emergence of entirely new fields like gene therapies, and the adoption of a radically different mindset about aging and quality of life. As long as people want to live longer and healthier, innovators will be answering the call.
It seems hard to believe now, but innovation hasn’t always captured imaginations the way it is at the start of the 2020s. Author Yuval Harari reminds us that not long ago people lived in a world where everything was nearly the same, generation after generation. Even as recently as 1899, the commissioner of the US patent office declared, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
We’re looking forward to revisiting this blog in 2030 to see where innovation led us. One prediction we can confidently make today: we’ll be surprised and amazed at what we didn’t foresee just ten years prior.
Until then, the RH Strategic team will be working passionately to tell the stories of the next generation of challengers, disruptors, innovators and leaders, and their contributions to the human condition. We look forward to continuing this journey with you.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.