Now that the New Year is well underway, I decided it was time to use my futurist skills and make some forecasts about things that I think will become prominent in the year ahead. So here it is, my inagural Five Forecasts for 2015!
- The ‘internet of things’ takes off: Eventually, the nebulous concept of ‘cloud-computing’ has made sense to those who use technology (which means almost everyone!). In a similar way, expect the concept of ‘the internet of things’ to creep into our vernacular in the year ahead. In simple terms, this idea refers to what occurs when we start linking our stuff to technology. Digital camera’s did not used to be connected to our digital world but now wifi enabled cameras are a part of the internet. Exercise used to be technology free but now we wear devices which uploads our fitness activities. Soon we will have clothing with digital sensors which will connect us to the internet. Even our thermostats are now part of the digital grid (think NEST). The internet of things is what cloud computing was five years ago and it will turn most of our non-digital world into something connected to the internet.
- Oil takes a back seat: As solar power becomes more affordable and people are learning how to create their own power microgrids, petroleum-based fuels will continue to decline in global importance. We will be oil dependent for several more years, but the role of oil and gas is shifting. It used to be the bus driver but is becoming just another passenger on the bus.
- US foreign policy shifts: With the rise of ISIS, the lingering aftermath of Bin Laden and the Middle-Eastern fall-out from the Arab Spring, I believe we will begin to see subtle indicators that the United States will shift its position as ‘the worlds police’. While readers of this forecast will have a diversity of personal viewpoints on this matter, this is a statement without prejudice. The rules and norms of global security have shifted and as a result, I expect methods and policy will as well.
- The rise of the shrinking middle class: The gap between rich and poor (measured by something called the GINI index) has historical links to stability/peace (a low GINI score or income gap) and instability/unrest (a high GINI score or income gap). Between 2009 and 2012 the top one percent of Americans enjoyed 95 percent of all income gains. This does not bode well for the middle class in America and we will begin to see more signs of unrest and this gap increases.
- Ethics enters the mainstream: As we begin to acknowledge the interconnectedness of our world we are going to take more responsibility for the effects of our actions. Consumers are already expecting that their brands behave ethically or give back to the world. The example of the CVS drugstore chain (which stopped selling cigarette products because it did not support their brand promise of health) is an excellent example of the realignment of business and values.
As a bonus forecast, expect to hear more discussion about the post-capitalist era. Our literature and media is increasingly admitting that the economic capitalism is a broken model that is beyond repair (for example, review #5 above!). The collective culture will take some time to get used to this massive ideological shift (at least in North America). However, as this happens, watch for experts to begin proposing alternate concepts such as the sharing economy, economic democracy or economic sustainability.
And finally, I have one long-shot wish for 2015. I wish that food companies would begin adding the products % of daily sugar intake on food labels. Current law only requires them to list how many grams of sugar are in a product. As we shifted from away from high fat (a good thing), we simply replaced our problem with a new one – sugar intake. Low fat tastes bland so sugar has filled the void. Adding the daily recommended intake of sugar would be a big step in helping consumers realize this problem. When labels show that one granola bar contains 40% of our daily recommended sugar intake, attitudes and behaviors will begin to change!
Whatever occurs in the year ahead, I wish all of you a safe and joy-filled 2015!
Jeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman