Global Trends in 2015

Like many, I’m a sucker for those “look take a look at what’s on the horizon” type of posts. December’s always the month that these things start to really appear with a vengeance and the presentation from Global Trends is as good a place to start as any.

Here’s a few areas that stood out to me. I’ve partly picked these out of general interest but mainly it’s because I think that they reinforce a few of my own thoughts about key themes that every entrepreneur who’s looking to build a business in a growth area should at least be aware of.

1. Images hold more power than text

Not news in itself but it does reinforce this renewed interest in visual communications technologies (Oculus Rift, anyone?). In some cases, the technologies are developing to help us interact with the real world but in others, virtual reality will continue to gain traction.

2. The data security risk will worsen

Breaches will continue to happen more regularly and with increasingly serious repercussions. The problem will worsen significantly as the rapid advance of the Internet of Things eats up all manner of additional personal data. The battles for privacy, freedom and security will continue online, with the defence being strengthened I have no doubt by the hard work being carried out by my friends at MaidSafe.

At the same time, efforts made to access and index the Deep Web will continue apace. Those parts of the world wide web that are not indexed by conventional search engines contain a vast quantity of data that is several orders of magnitude larger than the surface web and remains untapped. A potential treasure trove of information appeals to many around the world for different reasons. But the potential to use such ‘big data’ to develop new solutions to existing problems is likely to attract people looking for new opportunities.

3. The battle for increasingly scarce resources heats up

As we collectively leave our own individual trails digital exhaust to be exploited by marketers and identity thieves, the demand (and, on the flip side, reward) for reducing waste by combining recycling, green energy and new business models will drive new ideas within what is being called the Circular Economy.

4. The rise of impact capitalism

More people will seek to invest their money in a way that delivers a measurable environmental and social impact, and not simply just a financial return. Crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending models will continuing to grow apace in order to tackle significant challenges that the market has previously ignored when left to its own devices.

My favourite example here has to be Watsi, the Y Combinator company that’s created a healthcare crowdfunding platform that lets you directly fund medical care for individuals in developing countries.

5. Working life continues to evolve

More people are responding to high unemployment levels with an entrepreneurial mindset, increasingly out of necessity. Self-employment and ‘on-demand’ working patterns will become commonplace with larger businesses becoming more open in general to collaboration with individuals.

6. Healthcare changes

More progress will be made this year in the field of personalised medicine designed for individual use, the tracking of health indicators using data captured by wearable devices that will increase diagnostic efficiency and the continued integration of robots (albeit without the AI of science fiction novels at this stage) into care and treatment cycles. Out of many fascinating areas, early-stage experiments into bioprinting will continue – using 3D printing technology to print body parts.

7. The rise of the city state

With the continued growth in population putting ever-increasing pressure on food and electricity supplies, cities are facing rapidly expanding populations – and therefore growing in importance as they seek to protect and provide for the demands of their residents. With more than 50% of the world’s population living in cities (there are currently 28 megacities with over 10 million people), the mayors who rule these cities will find their roles increase in significance. At the very least, they’ll have a significant role to play in tackling global issues, as cities currently produce 70% of all global harmful CO2 emissions in a world that needs such levels reduced drastically within the next 20 years.

8. Intelligence

And of course the debate will continue over whether robots are going to continue to close the gap on humans – and the existential threat to humanity that this development in AI may cause. Many of the predictions in the deck are likely to come to fruition well beyond 2015 but the meshing of machine intelligence with neuroscience, genomics and biotechnology provide no end of ideas for researchers and computer scientists to continue their collaborations.

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