POWER SHIFT -
“Science and, to a lesser extent, technology have always operated within a political context, but until recently they were more or less left alone. Not anymore though; both will come under the microscope as society debates not whether something is possible but whether its consequences are desirable. Top of the list of gatekeepers will be the government, with its own national and international agenda based on political philosophy, the economy and defense.” 23
ECONOMIC GROWTH AND EMPOWERING INDIVIDUALS
“Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations; it is a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world.”24 The idea and general concept of globalization, however, is far from new. For many thousands of years, local, regional, and later, transcontinental and intercontinental trade has been one of the corner stones in economic development.
Famous trade routes such as the Silk Road of central Asia and spice routes of India make it obvious that extended systems of buying and selling have long been a part of human civilization. Also, the East India Companies that were incorporated in Europe, starting in the 17th century, created new entities limiting individual exposure to risk. During the 20th century, global trade has exploded, and is today one of the fundamental drivers of economic growth and globalization.
SEPARATED, YET UNITED AND VULNERABLE YET STRONG
What is interesting when one looks closely at the megatrend of globalization and associated economic trends is the strange and somewhat twisted dichotomy of the modern world. People today are separated by the differences in the technology to which they have access while at the same time having the potential to be more connected than in all of human history. Mankind is vulnerable due to fear of change, while at the same time, remaining strong and determined to preserve our race. “Only a reckless fool would imagine that problems will sit patiently waiting until we find it convenient to receive them ... problems may rush upon us at the worst possible moment, and our very survival could depend on how well we have prepared for them.”25 The times, people, and the world are changing constantly and research is pointing out, time and again, that preparation is critical to the sustainability of modern society.
A lack of preparation and a disregard for the warning signs that are evident, does nothing but invite disaster. Many people today would rather stick their heads in the sand, ignore the signs and pretend that there is nothing to worry about. It is widely accepted now that many developing countries are not benefiting as much as they could, or should, from global economic growth. The reason for this is often that globalization and new technologies are being initiated from, and formed with, an already developed society in mind, meaning that it is based on and introduced into an environment where basic systems and infrastructure are already in place. Everyone that benefits from the current technological and economic environment has a responsibility to make sure that the result of their actions are not harmful to others and, more specifically, those less fortunate than themselves.
CONCLUSION - LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Ultimately, all the megatrends are changing our world at a rapid rate. From political and social structures as a response to the fears about the future26, the changes in migratory patterns as a response to military conflicts, changes in climate, temperature, and habitat availability27, or the crisis of dwindling food, water, and natural resources28, the planet, and all the creatures living on it, including mankind, are struggling to adapt and survive. In the coming years, society will be tasked with finding an answer to lots of questions relating to the proper use of the technological advances and new abilities mankind has granted itself. With each and every advance mankind makes with new technology, there will be thousands of potential dilemmas, side effects, and questions that will need to be answered. Most of them will deal with the appropriate uses and application of these new technologies and will focus on determining whether the benefits are worth the price the planet ends up paying.
“The megatrends illustrate a world in motion. Economic power continues to shift eastward. New markets and new trade linkages are emerging. The boundaries between industry sectors are blurring. New entrants who are digitally native are overturning existing business models. Existing players in one sector (technology) are entering other sectors (health) with exciting new propositions. As we hurtle towards 2030, developments within these ... megatrends, as well as the interplay between them, will certainly bear close watching.”29 We see a power shift where economic turmoil, slow growth and political indecision inhibit Europe, where Russia is alienating itself, and despite China’s relative growth slow down, a look east and south shows regions of high growth, interesting innovations and exciting market opportunities.
The megatrends that are shaping our world offer important insights and direction that sheds light on the mystery of where we are going as the human race. Sometimes, the outlook is grim and other times it is promising; what the reality ends up being depends largely on mankind’s ability to adapt, adjust, and plan for a better future. The rapid acceleration of knowledge and the mind-blowing advances of technology leave the future up to mankind as a whole to determine the course taken and the future we, as a species, choose to walk towards, or in some cases, run. The role of research and study is to help mankind get there in the best shape possible while fully understanding the short term and long term impact these megatrends have on all of human civilization.
The megatrends that are shaping our world offer important insights and direction that sheds light on the mystery of where we are going as the human race.