There are a number of key developments coming our way in the next five years that we strongly believe all businesses, large and small, need to be aware, say Rohit Talwar and Steve Wells, of Fast Future Publishing. How quickly your business decides to respond depends on how fast each development might impact your sector and the extent to which you want to get ahead of, or alongside, the front edge of change.

Whether you choose to act immediately or wait until the impacts are clear to see, we believe businesses of every size will need to address these future factors as they chart their course towards tomorrow.

  1. Artificial intelligence vs. genuine stupidity
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer the stuff of science fiction. From airline autopilots to smartphones, from call centre chatbots to automated legal contract generation – the technology is firmly embedded in society and its scope, functionality and processing power is increasing.

Sadly, many business leaders are refusing to invest the time needed to understand how AI could transform their company and generate new market opportunities. Under the guise of pragmatism and risk avoidance, they are putting the future of their business at risk.

It’s essential to carve out some time to understand the technology, how it is being applied and what it could mean for your sector. Armed with the relevant knowledge you can form a perspective on how and when to approach it.

  1. Born digital and hollow
An increasing number of new businesses are adopting a very lean resourcing model. From the outset they are automating wherever possible in their pursuit of exponential growth and the much coveted billion-dollar “Unicorn” valuation.

We will see a proliferation of so called Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), for example, that exist only in software and literally have no employees.

There is a critical and continuous conversation required about how to monitor the entirely digital entities we create and how to ensure that, somewhere in the system, the organization has sufficient human talent with the capacity to spot emerging changes, risks and opportunities and respond innovatively.

  1. Systems not humans
One of the most soul withering phrases we hear today is “I’m sorry, the system won’t let me do that.” As we automate more and place increasing authority in the hands of technology, leaders must be mindful of what this could do to their brand identity and the public discourse in social channels.

Firms will need to make clear choices about the extent to which they will allow humans to exercise discretion in the service of the customer, what their back-up plan is when the technology fails in a highly-automated system, and whether there are differentiation opportunities in having a more human face to the business.

  1. Surveillance capitalism
As individuals we are becoming ever more willing to both give away our personal data and allow firms to see the content of our social media, emails and online searches. The firms that provide “free” services in return for this information can extract valuable data from our activity which can be resold and used to target us more effectively. Some suggest that by using predictive analytics and machine learning tools to analyze between 64 and 200 of the items we like on Facebook, a detailed profile can be developed of everything from our likely purchasing behaviour to what we might watch and our voting intentions. This notion of “surveillance capitalism” is likely to increase in the coming years. As businesses, we need to decide the extent to which we’ll try to extract commercial value from our customer data and whether we’ll look to protect ourselves from others’ exploiting the data we have provided.


Rohit Talwar and Steve Wells are both global futurists and founders of Fast Future Publishing. They advise business, government and NGO leaders around the world on how to prepare for and create the future in an increasingly disrupted world. Their most recent book, The Future of Business, draws on contributions from 62 future thinkers around the world to explore how developments such as AI and robotics could transform existing industries, create new trillion-dollar sectors and reinvent business over the next decade. They are co-editors of a forthcoming book on The Future of AI Business


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