How will large scale shocks impact the future of your business?

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury, and Helena Calle of Fast Future.

Shocks are something we’ve come to accept whether it’s a reality star as US President or the vote for the UK to leave the EU. Alongside accepting them preparing for shocks is important for us as individuals, businesses, governments, or society. Many such shocks can be anticipated which, of course is a core part of the work we do as futurists. In our forthcoming book 500 Futures, we introduce a range of these future factors and potential disruptions which could shape the next decade and beyond. Here we highlight six possible shocks that could have a truly transformative impact and which every entrepreneur needs to consider for existing and future ventures.

  1. Total Recall Lite – Experience Dangerous and Different Worlds from the Comfort of Main Street?

With rapidly rising rates of retail closures around the world, they could be replaced by technology rich experience centers offering the promise of plugging in, zoning out of daily life, and tuning in to a range of other worldly experiences. A new type of leisure agent could start appearing in shopping districts and malls around the world. Where once travel agents provided their clients with a one stop holiday shop, they could in increasingly be joined, and even replaced, by experience agents.

Equipped with a range of immersive, multi-sensory technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, customers would experience the heat, humidity, rain, and sounds of the Amazonian rain forest. For a drier experience, why not try the intense heat, blinding sun, and shifting sands of the Sahara Desert. For those seeking otherworldly experiences, why not select the haunting sounds of wind passing across the Elysium Planitia in the near vacuum of the Martian atmosphere. Building on the trend of experience gifting from the noughties, the popularity of this new retail phenomenon could grow exponentially.

  1. Death of the Screen and the Spoken Word

A decade from now computers, smartphones, and tablets might be replaced by the projection of data and images directly onto our eyes. Virtual reality projections might be overlaid onto our eyeballs to influence and enrich our experience when interacting with the world. When coupled with thought transfer via our headsets, we might never need to speak to another human again. We could interact silently with a friend´s avatar instead of having to type the text on a screen. Mixed reality could become our daily experience of life. Those living in this mixed reality existence might choose not to interact with humans that don’t use eyeball projection and thought transfer and still require us to make the effort to speak.

  1. Unplugging: The Off-Grid Holiday?

The rise in workplace stress, and the pressures of 24/7 availability for the modern employee, could see employers, doctors, and even the state mandating that people deliberately take an unplugged break to rediscover and rejuvenate themselves. The desire for privacy and the need to unplug and go ‘off grid’ are also likely to grow as we become ever-more deeply enmeshed in the matrix of always-on, ever-present digitally enabled objects and sensors that connect and monitor humans virtually.

Today, some retreats offer Wi-Fi-free zones as an amenity, others promote themselves as a tech-free haven. In the near future, guaranteed off-the-grid, fully disconnected ‘sanctuaries’ may become the next hottest vacation destination to escape the fast paced, constantly observed modern lifestyle. Governments might be forced to act to mandate such breaks because of the rising costs to society of poor mental health, and the potential loss of tax revenues from people who take long-term sick leave, or simply quit their jobs due to stress.

  1. The End of Aging?

Manipulation of our cells at the genetic level using ingestible nanobots could help reverse or retard the aging process quite dramatically.  Nanobots are capable of moving through our bodies and blood stream to perform specific tasks such as removing or repositioning molecules from one place to another. The development of this technology might have dramatic effects on the of future human health. Based on the patient’s health requirements and their genetic predispositions, the nanobots could be designed to fabricate required medicines autonomously. Whenever certain disease starts manifesting, such as cancer, nanobots could deliver the medicine needed to fight it.

  1. Brexit Brings Down the Global Economy?

A badly managed and chaotic Brexit could drive a prolonged global recession.

Foreign companies may opt to move key operations out of the UK to ensure continuity of access to European markets. The pace of automation may accelerate as firms seek to reduce their risks by cutting staff costs and replacing humans with machines. The prospects of an uncertain transition period and protracted post-transition rebalancing of the UK economy could spook markets, driving down share prices and the value of the pound. Collectively, these measures could lead to massive job cuts in both the public and private sectors, declining spending, higher import costs, and a significant reduction in government tax revenues. The UK economy could nosedive into a prolonged recession that lasts several years with a contagion effect that sweeps across the planet and drives a global downturn.

  1. Manual Cars Banned from City Centers?

The days of taking a drive into busy city centers could be numbered. With the transition from petrol and diesel cars to electric, the precedent was set to accept new technologies in personal transport. Electric cars sought to keep people safe from polluting petrol and diesel engines, and the promise of autonomous cars is to eliminate human error; the major cause of road traffic accidents and the resulting injuries and deaths. With the development of artificial intelligence in vehicles and the connectivity with traffic signals, city authorities might begin to ban manually driven cars from city centers, almost totally eliminating accidents.

Large scale shocks will continue to arrive. We all need to anticipate those which impact our current businesses and take action in response.  We also can anticipate to help shape our next business ideas.


About the authors

The authors are futurists with Fast Future – a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting on the emerging future and the impacts of change for global clients. Fast Future publishes books from leading future thinkers around the world, exploring how developments such as AI, robotics, exponential technologies, and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, societies, businesses, and governments and create the trillion-dollar sectors of the future. Fast Future has a particular focus on ensuring these advances are harnessed to unleash individual potential and enable a very human