How Today's Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything - 2030 by Mauro F. Guillén

Who is this book for

  • Tech workers and marketing professionals keen to stay ahead of the curve
  • Eco-warriors looking for solutions to the climate crisis
  • Anyone curious to see what the future might hold

A window onto the world’s next decade.

What does the future hold? In these uncertain, turbulent times, it’s a more pressing question than ever before.

Arriving at a single, certain answer is, of course, impossible – but we can make informed predictions. Which is where these snippets come in. Extrapolating from a range of current trends, they offer a possible preview of the changes we can expect to see in the coming decade, and paint a picture of the kind of world we’re likely to live in come 2030.

So, what is life like in 2030? In a word: different. Over the next ten years, rising temperatures will threaten our predominantly urban, coastal way of life. A low birth rate combined with higher life expectancy will make baby boomers into a power-house demographic. And some national economies will stagnate while others will unexpectedly thrive.

To anticipate the challenges and embrace the opportunities the next decade will bring, you’ll need to be informed about what the future holds. 

In this summary, you’ll learn

  • which new technologies are offering hope in the fight against climate change and poverty;
  • why women can expect more financial gains than men in the next ten years; and
  • how our society is about to pivot to a collaborative mode of consumption.

The decreasing birth rate will forever change human demographics.

In 1968, professors Paul and Anne Ehrlich released the provocatively titled book Population Bomb. The Ehrlichs argued that if the human race kept procreating at its current rate, it was only a matter of time before humans would overrun the planet.

Fast-forward more than 50 years, and many are still alarmed by the prospect of overpopulation. But rather than a baby boom, our biggest worry come 2030 might be a baby drought. 

The key message is: The decreasing birth rate will forever change human demographics.

Since the 1970s, women in the US have had, on average, fewer than two children each. In other words, fewer than necessary to replace the current generation. 

What’s wrong with that? A dwindling population might be good news for the planet’s overtaxed resources. But our current economic system relies on the next generation to care for the elderly and foot the bill for pensions through their taxes. Now, all over the world, from Brazil to Japan, governments are questioning who, exactly, will support their aging populations in the coming decades.

Why is the birth rate declining? Well, these days women are more active in the workforce. So they’re likely to defer starting a family until they’re established in their chosen field. Fertility declines with age, so women who start their families later in life tend to have fewer children.

We’re also having less sex. A study by the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that in the 2010s Americans had sex, on average, nine times less per year than they did in the 1990s. Why? It’s partly because technology has brought a host of enjoyable distractions into our homes – sex is just one pastime among many we can indulge in on a rainy night. 

Not every country’s birth rate is on the decline. The African continent has a current population of 1.3 billion. That’s projected to rise to 2 billion by 2038 and 3 billion by 2061, with the boom concentrated in the sub-Saharan region. 

The African baby boom will have two key flow-on effects. First, sub-Saharan Africa relies on imported food. As its population grows, the markets for feeding and developing agriculture in the region will grow, too, potentially becoming a trillion-dollar sector, according to the World Bank.

Second, many Western nations will need to rethink their hardline stances on immigration. They may soon be dependent on immigrant workers from the Global South to fund and care for their swelling ranks of retirees.

Aging consumers will have more spending power than ever before.

The Netherlands, 1891: Frederick and Gerard Phillips, a father and son team, cofound the electronics company Phillips. Thanks to a series of innovative inventions – amongst them, tungsten filament light bulbs, the electric razor, the VCR, and the CD – Phillips stays relevant and profitable through most of the twentieth century. This changes in the 1990s, when Philips is suddenly undercut by cheaper, Asian-manufactured electronics. In the 2000s, the ailing company flirts with bankruptcy.

Phillips might have folded entirely if Frans van Houten hadn’t taken the helm in 2011. He shifted Philips’s focus to health-care technology, like scanners and imagers. Thanks in part to the world’s aging population, these products are now in high demand – and that demand will likely continue to grow.

Here’s the key message: Aging consumers will have more spending power than ever before.

Van Houten saw in 2011 what many companies still haven’t grasped – that the world’s aging population, or gray market, represents an enormous financial opportunity for firms.

Currently, people 60 years and older – that’s baby boomers, born between 1944 and 1964, and the Silent Generation, born between 1925 and 1943 – hold over half of the world’s wealth. By 2030, there’ll be another 400 million more people in the 60-plus age bracket worldwide. 

This cohort is predicted to retire later than its predecessors, meaning they’ll accrue even more wealth. To maintain the economy and stay in business, corporations need to tap this spending power.

Surprisingly, they seldom do. In fact, 96 percent of UK nationals over the age of 50 report feeling ignored by corporations and advertisements. 

To capitalize on this demographic shift, businesses need to speak to the 60-plus cohort in a targeted, aspirational way, and tailor products and services to them. Unfortunately, they’re not an easy market to court. Their age means they’ve likely “seen it all” when it comes to advertising. 

Anticipating their changing needs and preferences will pay off, though. There’s a market, for example, for fashionable shoes that offer orthopedic support. And for stylish appliances modified to suit changing physical capabilities. A front-loading washing machine might be manageable for a user in his 70s, but impossible for that same user once he’s in his 80s. 

The lesson is simple. To take care of the economy, take care of seniors.

By 2030, the middle classes will have shifted dramatically.

Ask any economist and she’ll tell you: the middle classes are the engine of the economy. Neither affluent nor impoverished, they are steady – if cautious – consumers. And it’s their steady spending that keeps the economic wheels spinning.

And yet, in Europe and America, the middle classes, once robust, are stagnating. Many traditional middle-class jobs have been automated or outsourced. 

But that’s not the case everywhere. Over a hundred million people join the middle classes each year, and by 2030, the middle classes in Asia, excluding Japan, will account for half of global consumer spending power. 

The key message is this: By 2030, the middle classes will have shifted dramatically.

In 2030, we’ll essentially see a tale of two middle classes unfolding. 

In Asia and the developing world, the middle classes will be booming. And, continuing the current global trend, far fewer people will be living below the poverty line. That’s a global net benefit. 

Meanwhile, companies based in the developing world, like Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba or ride-sharing platform Didi, will be poised to become global powerhouses. Unless US and European companies that want to crack those same markets can adjust to the culturally inflected preferences of this new middle class, however, their outlook is far bleaker.

Walmart’s entry into the developing world illustrates the dangers of an unthinking expansion into a new market. In South Korea, the supermarket chain sold bulk-packaged items, apparently unaware of the Korean consumer’s preference for purchasing in smaller quantities. In Brazil, where there are no ski slopes to be found, they sold skis. Needless to say, Walmart’s expansion was not a success.

While the emergent middle classes will become wealthier, they’re also predicted to accrue more debt as they acquire the typical middle-class trappings of home and car, and display their status through luxury goods. What’s more, this upward trend in consumption will leave the globe with even more waste to process than now. 

In the US and Europe, however, the middle classes may continue to shrink. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1971 there were 80 million US households considered middle class, while 52 million were either wealthy, working class, or impoverished. In 2015, there were 121.3 million middle-class households, while 120.8 million households were not. So, while there are technically more middle-class households, proportionally the middle class has shrunk dramatically. 

The developing world once viewed the Western middle-class lifestyle as aspirational. By 2030, this perspective may well have reversed.

Women will hold the purse strings in 2030.

In 2008, the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers signaled the start of a global recession. But what if it had been Lehman _Sisters _instead of Lehman Brothers? Would the bank have gone under? Perhaps not. A study of male and female brokers at an investment bank showed that the female brokers were more cautious, while the men took more risks. 

Why is that important? Well, come 2030, women will hold more than half the world’s wealth for the first time. And global spending habits will change as a result. Spending will likely increase in sectors such as education, health care, and insurance, where women have typically been bigger spenders than men. In investing, women will lead the trend for “safer” investments, like indexed stock funds. 

This is the key message: Women will hold the purse strings in 2030.

So what brings about this shift in women’s spending power? Currently, women are active in the workforce, but still face significant obstacles to advancement and wealth. If a woman is also a primary caregiver, she can expect to lose a few years of work, and lose out on the corresponding salary. A University of Chicago study found a female MBA who takes three or more years off work could find her salary has dwindled by approximately 40 percent compared with those of her male counterparts. 

But the coming decade brings good news for working women. Thanks to our aging population and low birth rate, the pool of qualified workers will shrink. That means businesses will rely on working mothers more than ever. 

In fact, this is already happening in Japan, a country with one of the world’s lowest birth rates. For years, highly qualified Japanese women were tacitly expected to leave their jobs after they had children. Now they’re returning to the workforce because there simply aren’t enough young workers to take their places. A record 71 percent of working-age women in Japan are now in full-time employment. 

And it seems that this shift in gender power dynamics is one we’ll be ready for. A recent Gallup poll shows we're increasingly positively disposed toward women in positions of power. In 1953, Gallup asked survey respondents if they would prefer a male boss or a female boss. Sixty-six percent preferred a male boss. A mere 4 percent preferred a female boss. Gallup has posed this question every year since then. In 2017, 23 percent preferred a male boss and 21 percent preferred a female boss, while the remainder were neutral. 

To weather the coming climate crisis, city living needs to transform.

Paris, New York, Delhi, Shanghai, London: The world’s major metropolises are hotbeds of art, culture, and finance – as well as inequality, pollution, and, well, actual heat. It’s true. Cities are warming at faster rates than rural areas, thanks to their high concentrations of concrete and asphalt. These materials trap heat, which in turn increases global warming. They’re also hubs for consumption, construction, and traffic. In fact, the globe’s cities are responsible for 75 percent of energy use and 80 percent of carbon emissions.

Climate change will undoubtedly be felt more keenly in cities. Cities account for only one percent of the world’s land, yet 55 percent of the world’s population lives in them. Moreover, 75 percent of cities are on or near a coast, making them vulnerable to rising sea levels. Asian mega-metropolises like Jakarta and Bangkok are especially at risk. Elsewhere, Venice, New Orleans, and Miami face immediate threat. So what can cities do to mitigate the coming climate crisis?

Here’s the key message: To weather the coming climate crisis, city living needs to transform.

The good news is that if city-dwellers make a few small adjustments to their behavior, they can bring about change for the better. But getting people to renounce old, eco-unfriendly habits is hard. The solution? Cities can incentivize their citizens to make more eco-minded choices. Credit card facilities on buses and cheaper fares, for example, would make public transport not just an eco-friendly choice, but a cheap and convenient one, too.

Another solution could be cities growing their own food. Urban agriculture can diminish the carbon footprint that comes from transporting food into urban centers and bolsters urban greenery – which, in turn, soaks up more carbon emissions. In Singapore, urban agriculture schemes are already in place. The firm Sky Greens grows commercial quantities of lettuce and spinach in vertical gardens in urban towers. Thanks to clean tech, each tower has a negligible carbon footprint and costs approximately three dollars per month to maintain. A bonus: In economically depressed cities, vertical gardening can make use of abandoned buildings and bring industry and jobs back to the city center.

Despite the climate threat they pose, our urban centers continue to grow inexorably. By 2030, over 400 cities will have more than a million inhabitants. Over the next decade, cities must encourage behavioral change and embrace green initiatives like vertical gardening, or face dire consequences.

Prepare for rapid technological change in the coming decade.

Remember the cartoon series The Jetsons? It was first released in 1962, but is set in the year 2062, where it followed the adventures of a futuristic family, the Jetsons. Father and husband George zipped off to work every day in a flying car, while his wife, Jane, delegated household chores to the robot housekeeper. 

By the year 2030, we might not be commuting in flying cars – but we can expect lots of exciting technological developments in the next ten years.

The key message is: Prepare for rapid technological change in the coming decade.

Unlike Jane Jetson, we may not have robot housekeepers, but robots and other similar modes of artificial intelligence are already in widespread use. In the US, bots have taken over the duties of two million workers. By 2030, manufacturers will employ more programmers than laborers.

What do the next ten years hold for AI tech? Well, robots will move into more cognitive fields. In 2030, law clerks and teachers may well have robot colleagues. Notably, so will surgeons. In fact, in 2016, a bot successfully performed surgery on a pig’s small intestine.

In the next decade, 3D printing will also come into its own. All kinds of things, from plastic parts to dental supplies, will be printed rather than manufactured. Coastal areas hit hard by global warming might use 3D printed seawalls to stave off rising tides, and 3D printed artificial reefs to bolster fish populations. In China, some companies are already printing entire homes, in an innovation that spells good news for disaster-relief efforts.

Of course, while many in the developed world look forward to the future, in other parts of the globe, people’s lives resemble the nineteenth century more than the twenty-first. In the developing world, where many houses have no access to sewers, they can have no indoor flushing toilets. Without toilets, people are dependent on pit latrines, which are a health and hygiene hazard. 

In fact, approximately 1.5 million children die every year due to contaminated water or inadequate sanitation. For these people, perhaps the most profound technological development won’t be a new product, but a riff on an old one: the waterless toilet. 

This innovative toilet is already being manufactured by the start-up firm Loowatt. It captures waste in biodegradable film, which is then sealed and collected. The waste is then used to generate electricity. This simple technological innovation may have the most profound impact of all on the world’s population.

Get used to sharing instead of owning.

If you’ve ever observed kindergartners playing with buckets and spades in the sandpit, you’ll know it’s true: sharing doesn’t always come naturally. But by 2030, we’d better have gotten used to it. The sharing economy is on the rise. Soon, we’re all going to own less and share more.

Imagine having a home on every continent, or a car in every city you visit. The only catch is, they’re not yours. Or not just yours. You’re one of many people who pays a fee to access them.** **Does that bother you? If the answer is no, you could well be a millennial or a Gen Zer. Statistics show that you value lifestyle over property, and are far more likely than your parents to see the value in paying a low price to use a product rather than paying a high price to own a product.

Here’s the key message: Get used to sharing instead of owning.

The sharing economy is nothing new: in the early twenty-first century, ride-sharing platforms like Uber and home-sharing platforms like Airbnb have gone from upstart ventures to household names. And we shouldn’t have been so surprised at their success. These early sharing platforms rode a market wave arising at the nexus of new mobile app technologies and a shift in consumer habits.

By 2030, half our average spending will be on collaborative consumption: leveraging services that allow us to use a product, whether that’s a song, a car, or even a workspace, without owning it. And we won’t just be sharing assets, like bikes or camping equipment. We’ll be sharing workspaces with a mixture of firms and freelancers, we’ll be paying each other's expenses via crowdfunding, and we’ll be financing each other's home loans and college educations through peer-to-peer lending. In the process, we’ll bypass institutions like banks and real estate agencies. 

It all sounds rather utopian, yes? Well, there may be some drawbacks. Sharing platforms are all about flexibility. That's great for their consumers, but might be bad for their employees. By employing “flexible” temp and freelance workers, companies like Uber avoid giving their workers critical benefits like paid time off, health insurance, or retirement plans. 

Despite these critical gaps for workers, the positive potential of sharing is huge. Sharing cuts down on possessions, and fewer possessions mean less overconsumption. Sharing might just help save the planet – if we learn to do it well.

In the coming decade, we’ll tap cryptocurrency’s full potential.

Late in the thirteenth century, the intrepid Italian explorer Marco Polo ventured to China. He was the first European to set foot there. He saw lots of amazing things that hadn’t yet arrived in Europe, like gunpowder and porcelain. But the thing that really blew his mind? Paper money. The explorer observed it being exchanged with great solemnity, “as if it were pure gold or silver.”

These days, we’re comfortable using forms of money that are increasingly abstracted from the value they represent – from the paper currency that so impressed Marco Polo to stocks and bonds. And the next potential revolution in currency is already well underway. By 2030 cryptocurrencies may have moved from the fringe to the mainstream.

The key message here is: In the coming decade, we’ll tap cryptocurrency’s full potential.

What is cryptocurrency, exactly? Let’s break it down by using one of the most popular cryptocurrencies as an example: Bitcoin. 

Bitcoin is issued and dispersed completely online, through a peer-to-peer system. It’s not affiliated with any government or bank. A record of each transaction made with Bitcoin is accessible online, in the form of a blockchain. A _block _is a recorded transaction. Strung together, these transactions form an encrypted blockchain. There are no gaps in the blockchain – the code makes that impossible. And if any block is tampered with, this becomes immediately apparent. The blockchain system, according to crypto-enthusiasts, makes Bitcoin and other such cryptocurrencies the most secure form of currency in the world.

Up to now, though, most people haven’t been tempted to part with their bank accounts and switch to crypto. That’s understandable. Crypto is volatile. Bitcoin’s valuation is constantly fluctuating. In 2017 one bitcoin was worth $20,000. That same bitcoin a year later? $2,500.

But blockchain technology could revolutionize the way we perform all kinds of transactions. When a contracted supplier completes his work, he could simply activate a code that triggers an automatic crypto payment to his account. A government could automatically deduct its share of tax from every crypto transaction. 

This might help us spend more ethically, too. Dexio, for example, is an app that uses blockchain technology to track transactions of diamonds, so consumers can avoid purchasing blood diamonds. This same technology could be used to bolster the security of e-voting, or minimize online piracy of intellectual property. If you access music, television, or a book online, a direct payment could be made to its creator. 

There are all kinds of applications for cryptocurrency technology, if we can only embrace it.

Final Message

The key message In this summary:

The next decade will bring big changes to the world we live in. Some, like the impending climate crisis and an aging global population, will present challenges. Others, like the rise of the sharing economy, cryptocurrency, and innovations in technology, will present opportunities. With preparation, we can overcome the former and embrace the latter.

Actionable advice: Adapt with intention.

**Businesses are often tempted to diversify in order to future-proof themselves. They should be careful not to lose sight of their mission when they do. In the ’90s, Lego diversified into fashion and lifestyle products with disastrous results. They only became a toy-making powerhouse again when they went “back to the brick,” improving and diversifying their core product range in line with contemporary trends. **

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About the Author

Mauro F. Guillén is a trained sociologist and acknowledged expert in global market trends. Guillén currently holds the Zandman Professorship in International Management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and his online courses have reached over 100,000 participants around the world.