Over the forthcoming years it must be expected that all aspects of life on Earth will change drastically and dramatically, be this through climate change, technological advancement or economic transition. On analysing the ‘eighties’, or even the ‘nineties’, the changes which have occurred from then to the present day are nothing short of amazing. Most children and teenagers cannot imagine a lifestyle which does involve such technology (or gadgets) as mobile phones and laptops. These applications have become firmly inter-linked with everyday life and are now a way of life rather than a ‘flashy’ gimmick, as they were often referred to as in their infancy. In a similar way, such technology has had the same impact on businesses and the environment they operate within. Mobile telephones are prevalent amongst employees in most industries and e-mails, databases, spreadsheets and various other programmes have, to a degree, rendered the pen and paper nothing more than a ‘supporting act’. With such major changes occurring in such a short space of time, it appears businesses will continue to experience extreme and drastic new environments. How they react to them will determine their success and longevity within their markets. There is only one thing certain about the future of business – it will always be changing!
Business revolves around consumers and, in the main, satisfying their needs and desires. However, clever marketing and propaganda can often mould consumer groups in to thinking they need a certain product, service or brand. Therefore, the key drivers of how business progresses will be consumers coupled with economic, political, environmental, social, technological and legal factors. During the course of this essay, each of the factors will be analysed and suggestions on their effects provided.
Ray Kurzweil, a renowned computer scientist, predicts “We won’t experience 100 years progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity: technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. In practical terms human ageing and illness will be reversed; pollution will be stopped; world hunger and poverty will be solved. Nanotechnology will make it possible to create virtually any physical product using inexpensive information processes, and will ultimately turn even death into a soluble problem”. (Extract taken from article ‘Readying a radical business plan’ on money.cnn.com). Whilst the above views may be deemed ‘far fetched’, the reality is that technological advancements in recent times may also have been classed as ‘unachievable’ only a few decades ago.
Appendix 1 attached is a document produced by British Telecom which contains a predicted timeline of technological inventions. The shear volume of predicted inventions and in many cases their immense advancement in technology clearly demonstrates the opportunities and threats which businesses face. Highlighted are a number of particularly interesting suggested inventions. It must also be considered that along with positive innovations, there will always be people with counter productive motives who thrive on damaging innovations. BT’s timeline predicts such potentially damaging developments as ‘Viruses’ aimed at toys, Jigsaw viruses, ‘Phishing’ of on-line banking, Corporate ‘cyberwars’ and terrorists using GM to pollute crops and damage economy. With this in mind businesses will have to pay added attention to security as improved technology equates to improved criminals.
Climate change and growing concerns over the environment are likely to have a major impact on the way business is conducted in the future. At present legislation regarding the conduct of firms with regards to the environment is extremely evident (eg. REACH – A new European Community Regulation dealing with Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemical Substances). However, a major problem is that many large industrial countries, such as the US and China, fail to comply or ‘sign-up’ to international legislation, such as the Kyoto Protocol (February 2005). They hold too much global power, at present, for legislative action to be effective against them. Therefore, it must be hoped that support is gained from amongst these countries populations, as ‘people power’ can play a major role in convincing politicians. However, climate change resulting in the widening desertification and rising sea-levels present opportunities for major engineering projects and potential ‘big business’ ventures. For example, by guiding the sea-level ‘overflow’ into areas with limited water such as Sudan, Ethopia or the Sahara desert, a positive outcome could be extracted from a crisis. Business can be created by supplying the answers which may save cities such as London, Venice and New York from flooding, whilst regenerating water-starved countries in Africa and Asia. The other side to the argument is that technology will become available to reverse or counter-act global warming, and indeed BT predict that the hole in the Ozone layer will have disappeared by the 2050’s. However such optimism is not shared by the majority of environmental experts who fear consequences of Armageddon proportions in the not to distant future.
New technology is continuously being developed, with today’s ideas becoming tomorrow’s reality. New fuels, greater computer capabilities and advanced machinery should all play a major role over the coming years. Many production lines are presently almost fully automated, so the question is what will be the next step technologically? Will computers / robots carry out the administrative / supervisor roles as well as the production ones? Will we see an Artificial Intelligence based Managing Director, and if so who are his/hers stakeholders? Will new technological advancement make companies more efficient and LEAN, but ultimately lead to a race of AI based humanoids running a world where humans are no longer the dominant species? These are questions which cannot be answered at present, but simply considered as a possibility.
With new technology will come new pharmaceutical advancements. Cures for diseases such as AIDS and cancer may be just ‘upon the horizon’, while who is to say age reversal treatments or life prolonging tablets will not be as common as vitamin tablets in 20 years time? Such advancements would create huge new business opportunities, with an even larger and older population businesses would have to adapt to service a new consumer group with new ideas, views and desires.
The growth of nations such as China and India will have a considerable impact on the business world. With huge populations (China 1.3 billion and India 1.1 billion) willing to work in ‘inhumane’ working conditions for negligible wages, it is difficult for westernised developed countries to compete on price and output. Whilst quality may be an issue on some products from these countries at present, eventually they will gain the experience to match and maybe surpass western standards. However, as Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’ explains, people’s expectations rise over time. Thus the people of China will not tolerate such hardships indefinitely, and will eventually demand parity with their western counterparts. This is already evident in India where I.T. personnel previously earning around 25% of their American counterparts salary, are now demanding around 70%.
The possibility of a major war or conflict can never be ignored. The world wars severely slowed down many aspects of business, but also accelerated technology in the form of weaponry, vehicles and munitions. Most nations are spending heavily at present in developing and manufacturing highly technical weapons. Should a Third World War occur, the results could catastrophic. The effect this would have on the World is obvious, but it could equally have a massive effect on business with the emphasis possibly changing on which countries to deal with. Many countries who have been involved in conflicts often gain many allies, and thus such partnerships continue through business once the conflict is over.
Space travel and exploration has long been viewed as the ‘next logical step’ of mankind. In 1969, when man first stepped foot on the moon it was envisaged that regular space travel would exist in the next decades. Political wrangling, disasters, international conflicts and economic issues have slowed down the progression, but it is highly likely that at some point in the future a major emphasis is placed on exploring our neighbouring planets and beyond. The previously mentions events such as climate change, limited resources and fuels, growing populations combined with man’s ambition to always achieve more may be the driving factors behind ‘big business’ investing heavily in space exploration.
Much of international business is based on fluctuations in countries currency. Therefore, in future years we may see a World currency, which all countries adapt to. This would make trade between countries much easier, yet would be open to misuse and corruption if not policed correctly.
Cultural and language barriers between business people has often been the cause of many issues. With business transactions increasing becoming international, such issues must be addressed and overcome. Religions, such as Islam, which dictate how believers lead every function of their life could become increasingly prominent in deciding which countries do business with each other.
2020 looks to be an exciting, scary and complex year, but there again, put yourself back to 1998 and look how the World has changed since then!!
Source by Ian Worthington