“This isn’t a time to sit back and wait for events to unfold. To be prepared for the future you have to understand it,” says PwC in a new report. It has proposed four possible scenarios that might unravel between now and 2030 – and some of the possible scenarios are downright scary, what are they, and what must you do to remain relevant?

Thinking machines are replacing human tasks and jobs, warns PwC. And it postulates that by 2030 we will see one of four scenarios unravel: what it calls a yellow, green, blue or red world. The four scenarios involve various mixes of business fragmentation, individualism, collectivism, and corporate integration.

“So, what should we tell our children?” asks Blair Sheppard Global Leader, Strategy and Leadership Development, PwC. He suggests that “to stay ahead, you need to focus on your ability to continuously adapt, engage with others in that process, and most importantly retain your core sense of identity and values. For students, it’s not just about acquiring knowledge, but about how to learn. For the rest of us, we should remember that intellectual complacency is not our friend and that learning – not just new things but new ways of thinking – is a life-long endeavour.”

The drivers

PwC identifies five key drivers of the changes set to occur:

  • Technological breakthroughs - “technology has the power to improve our lives, raising productivity, living standards and average life span, and free people to focus on personal fulfilment. But it also brings the threat of social unrest and political upheaval if economic advantages are not shared equitably,” says the report
  • Demographic shifts – as the world ages, older workers will need to learn new skills and a shortage of workers in rapidly aging economies will drive the need for further automation and productivity advances
  • Rapid urbanisation – according to the UN, by 2030, 4.9 billion people will be urban dwellers
  • Shifts in economic power – as we see a power shift between developed and developing countries
  • Resource scarcity and climate change – demand for energy and water is forecast to rise by 50 and 40 per cent respectively by 2030
Three types of artificial intelligence:

PwC describes three types of artificial intelligence: assisted intelligence such as a GPS navigation, augmented intelligence such as car sharing, and autonomous intelligence, meaning machines that work on their own, such as self-driving cars.

The four scenarios:

  • Combination of collectivism and fragmentation creates a yellow world in which crowdfunded capital flows towards ethical and blameless brands – artisans thrive, humanness is highly valued
  • Combination of collectivism and integration creates a blue world, which sees social responsibility and trust key as key business requirements
  • The combination of individualism and fragmentation creates a red world, in which innovation outpaces regulation, digital platforms give outsized reach and influence on those with a winning idea. Specialists and niche profit makers benefit
  • Combination of individualism and integration creates a blue world in which big company capitalism rules
What can we do?

Although each of the four scenarios are different, PwC identifies certain skill sets which will be invaluable, but the key skill will be adaptability.

PwC says that individuals need to

  • Understand the big picture
  • Plan for an automated world
  • Take action
Skills that will be useful include adaptability, problem-solving, collaboration skills, emotional intelligence, creativity and innovation, leadership skills, digital skills, risk management skills, stem skills and entrepreneurial skills.

Jon Williams, Joint Global Leader, People and Organisation, PwC, said: “As individuals – actual human beings – what do we need to do to thrive and prosper in whatever the new world brings? The secret for a bright future seems to me to lie in flexibility and in the ability to reinvent yourself. If you believe that the future lies in STEM skills and that interests you, train for that. But be prepared to rethink if the world doesn’t need so many programmers. If you are a great accountant who has prospered by building strong client relationships, think how you can apply that capability, without necessarily having to be an accountant. Think about yourself as a bundle of skills and capabilities, not a defined role or profession.”