When you imagine the future are you hopeful or fearful? Movies and books have described our future world in both optimistic and pessimistic terms. We are living in a world that would have appeared like science fiction to previous generations and the next few decades is likely to see our world transformed still further by changing technology.
Predicting Future Events
Human beings have long tried to predict future events, to increase their prospects for survival, such as when farmers plant and later harvest crops. When attempting to predict the future, we base expected outcomes upon past experience and our understanding of the factors that we believe will influence events. The greater the range and depth of relevant information considered, the more likely such predictions will be accurate.
The consequences of many decisions made today will be influenced by future events and developments, some too random to be accurately predicted, but others that planning could consider. Seemingly unrelated elements can determine an outcome. However, most experts are specialists and their limited perspective can cause them to miss crucial information. Individual human insights can also be shaped by personal circumstances, preferences, education and levels of understanding.
Models and Scenarios
When attempting to build a picture of the future and create suitable models and scenarios, it can be useful to consider past events and how they shaped the world we now live in. Human nature remains largely unchanged, even though cultural and environmental factors can differ across historical timescales. When looking at previous civilisations, they can serve almost as a laboratory, within which we can study why and how events unfolded as they did and possibly find some patterns of cause and effect. Using artificial intelligence to analyse vast amounts of data, it might be possible to more accurately predict the future.
Many factors should be considered when trying to predict the future. They include; demographics, technology, urbanisation, migration, environment, politics, conflict, trade, communications, psychology, social economic and political climate and life expectancy. Rather like a complex weather forecasting simulation, we could input data into a detailed model simulating the world and compare the predicted outcomes with what happened in recored history. The level of accuracy could then be measured and used as a baseline to predict future events by inputing currently available data, within predetermined parameters.
The Internet has changed how people are able to live, work and communicate. The growth in the use of mobile devices has led to increasing consumption of content through mobile applications and websites have been adapted to become more mobile friendly. We cannot know with certainty, the effects of innovations that might emerge during the years ahead, but we can look at some current trends. For example, augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are beginning to change the ways in which content can be created, delivered and engaged with.
The Internet of Things is increasingly effecting how we interact with many products. Big data processes are enabling companies to gather vast amounts of information, giving them greater power to predict and influence human behaviour. Small data is enabling businesses to provide services that are more personalised, catering for individual preferences. Although 3D printing is yet to make inroads into the domestic market, it is enabling businesses to make prototypes and custom designs.
We have seen the building of websites, once the preserve of well paid highly skilled specialists, become what is now available as an inexpensive packaged product, forcing many web designers to adapt to the new market realities. A similar process is beginning to effect aspects of business, where software can manage some automated processes. This could lead to a world where business owners are assisted by a range of expert services, which can analyse data, rapidly test scenarios and provide advice on everything from design and finance, to sales and marketing.
Business owners might decide to make use of artificial intelligence to run their digital marketing campaigns, rather than hire an agency employing human beings. In a similar manner to the way in which machines were able to amplify physical power during the Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence has the potential to amplify intellectual power. When combined with advances in robotics, this could lead to huge innovations in the way that business make use of technology.
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