The Future of Business in a Digital World

For our BDO Greenlight summer event, we brought over International Futurist and U.N Gold medal Winner, Ray Hammond, to offer an insight into how Jersey might look in 2027 and beyond. With over 35 years analysing global trends, Ray Hammond is one of Europe's most experienced Futurists, predicting trends in AI, robotics, medical devices, the internet. 

Here are a few ideas Ray shared with us about the future of business.

Population Growth

We are going to experience asymmetric population growth to nine or 10 billion people. There are big issues to think about such as food and other resources. It’s all possible but will require changes in agriculture and the way we regard food. Eg. the way we produce meat, by farming animals, isn’t scalable. We are likely to need to produce up to 70% more food in 2027, meaning we need to consider artificial meat and new forms of protein, e.g. from biomass such as soy.

In the UK and USA, Millennials will overtake Babyboomers as the largest adult group. Today, people born between 1980-2000 account for 27% of the population, by 2027 they will account for 36%. This will be a huge driver for anyone who does business in the UK and the USA as they will be the largest consumer group.

The number of Millennials is smaller in Europe, and is negligible in Japan, but is so large in the UK and USA because of immigration. It is an even larger group in the Middle East and Africa, although the generations following Millennials in these parts of the world will be even larger.

Climate Change

Whether believe it will happen, or not, the consensus should be on not making climate change worse. The biggest symptom of climate change is extreme weather. Clusters of extreme weather have been taking place year after year and companies are already reacting e.g. marina operators toughening designs to cope with larger waves.

We are transitioning from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, and have reached the tipping point where renewables are as cost effective as fossil fuels. In India, renewable energy is 80% cheaper than five years ago – leading to cancellation of 21 new coal-fired power stations. The final push to make the shift to renewables is better battery storage. Tesla and Mercedes are working on home battery storage devices and they are only five years away.

Globalisation

According to the World Bank, globalisation has lifted over one billion people out of poverty since 1995. People who had no future have been given a future by globalisation, and by investment in developing economies. Globalisation may also be the best antidote to terrorismbecause if you offer young men and women a future, they will be less likely to take up arms against the rest of the world.

Of course, there is a negative side of globalisation, with workers in developing countries being paid less than workers would be paid in developed countries, but when done ethically, it is the greatest force for good we have.

Revolutions in Medical Science

In 10 years, it’s quite likely everyone in Jersey will have had their DNA decoded. DNA decoding can tell if you will be resistant to everyday drugs, while in the future, drugs may be developed that are specific for your DNA.

Stem cells will allow us to grow new organs that won’t be rejected by your body. In 15 years’ time it should be possible to create back up organs on demand so you have a new heart, liver, lungs etc ready should yours fail. This will be expensive so only an option for those who can afford it. By the 2030s and 2040s we will be able to replace many parts of our bodies for health and cosmetic reasons, completely regenerating and rejuvenating ourselves.

Nanoscale technology will enable drugs to be coated with tiny particles to allow them to penetrate our bodies so they go to the right place, e.g. so they can specifically attack a tumour. We will be able to create drugs molecule by molecule, making them personal for our bodies and our illnesses.

Digital health is also moving quickly. Wearables stream data, allowing doctors to build up a better picture of health patterns than one-off scans or tests. Diabetics will wear watches that measure glucose levels, and people with heart conditions will be able to monitor heart rate through personal ECG scanners on their phone.

Accelerated Exponential Tech Development

Tech is developing so quickly we can’t measure the rate of change. Each development allows a new development that shifts tech further forwards disrupting all sorts of areas.

Digital disruption in media means the future for Hollywood is streaming, while TV remains important only for live sport and real time news. Disruption in travel means the norm is now for people to book flights and accommodation themselves online. AirBnB has changed hospitality, increasing competition and holding down prices. Amazon has disrupted retail, and is now moving into fashion, pharmacies, and even banking.

Robotics is transforming manufacturing. Robots such as ‘Baxter’ can work alongside humans on a manufacturing line, and are safer and cheaper than previous industrial workers (about £35K instead of £500K). AI is replacing back office staff e.g. algorithms already work out many risk assessments for insurance. The NHS is using Google DeepMind to help nurses with paperwork and this is saving staff up to two hours a day!

A lot of people who have been displaced so far by new tech have moved into the gig-economy e.g. Uber. Robotics and AI will continue to free up people but we won’t see mass unemployment in the UK, USA, and Europe for at least 15 years. However, after 2030 we may have to tax robots and reward people whose jobs have been permanently displaced. By 2035 we may approach mass unemployment.

Fintech

Banks are buying disruptors e.g. investing in Fintech start ups, or are becoming their own disruptors. Amazon is becoming a bank as it uses its data from sales to offer suppliers loans on better terms than banks. The first new clearing bank in 200 years is a Fintech app. Blockchain is also replacing governments, and national banks, as an authenticator of money.

We are not measuring our economic performance properly and will shift away from GDP to Big Data methods. We have had low inflation for the past few years and haven’t been counting the value created by digital. Satellite images e.g. of cars parked outside supermarkets, and google searches for things like ‘holidays’ and ‘new car’ give a better idea of economic confidence.

The Bottom Two Billion People

As the world moves forwards the bottom two billion people have a smaller role in global development. While many of these people are in Africa, they are spread throughout 64 countries around the world, including places such as North Korea. If we don’t reach out and include them in economic development they will reach out and get us.

Tech may help provide a solution for resources – low cost, low energy desalination plants will provide local solutions for water, while companies such as Apple and Intel are researching ways of creating substances to replace rare earth minerals.

Immigration has only just begun, and by 2040 it will be the biggest issue in the planet as people move from poorer to richer countries, with no way of stopping them

Jersey

Because of these trends, tech will have such a big impact on the economy, that despite Brexit, we are likely to see strong economic growth in Jersey for the next 15 years.

Tourism is expected to grow, and the number of new High Net Worth Individuals (people with wealth over $30 million) is expected to grow.  This should be a big area for financial services in the Island. I think the future for Jersey is fantastic.