The future’s not what it used to be

February 2019 News

It struck me the other day that I was talking to people about what we will do in 2020. Time certainly flies, 2020 is less than one year away. Whatever happens this year, one thing we are guaranteed is that it won’t be boring with political shenanigans playing an ever more important role in business. Hopes are things will calm down in South Africa after the elections, but many think the unstable situation in South Africa at the moment won’t allow that to happen.

If you’re in East Africa things may start to look up as the Stratfor Decade Forecast for 2015 to 2025 (https://worldview.stratfor.com/forecast/decade-forecast-2015-2025) tells us that this region (including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) is in for some major manufacturing investment due to their low costs. Of course, the stability of the countries will determine if this actually happens or not. Other beneficiaries, now that China’s manufacturing is on the wane (due to higher costs), includes countries such as Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Cambodia and others.

In the technology world, artificial intelligence and all its offshoots will be making headlines this year, some of them actually doing things not possible before instead of just rebranding existing products with an AI sticker. The impact of AI will only grow.

And while the impact of AI will be tremendously exciting for anyone interested in technology, there is also a downside to all these advances. Those who have read Kai-Fu Lee’s book AI Superpowers will have seen the depressing news that 50% of our jobs will vanish in the next 15 years due to AI developments. (If you haven’t read it, it is definitely worth getting a copy.)

Many say that these job losses will be offset by new jobs we have never even thought of. Sadly, this is a catch-all for people who don’t want to shrug their shoulders and look stupid because they can’t (or won’t) answer the question: What new jobs? If one considers the current education system in South Africa and the renewed rush to emigrate (if you believe the populist media), we’d better hope this country suddenly discovers huge oil reserves.

Of course, I may be a touch cynical. Not all future expectations actually happen. For example, in 1966 Time magazine said that by 2020 “machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy” (http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,835128-5,00.html).

More realistically, reports from PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2017 and from Harvard Business Review in 2016 make it clear that drugs will be an acceptable part of the workplace of the future. Sadly, these will be drugs that enable people to work harder for longer hours. I don’t know about you, but the harder and longer is already a reality for some of us, but as yet we don’t have the drugs – not legal ones anyway.

What are your expectations for 2019? Let me know at andrew@technews.co.za

Andrew Seldon

Editor


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