A great anthology of work from the most capable thought leaders in futures studies of business.
Book Review: The Future of Business
Book Review: The Future of Business
Technology and social change are constantly transforming the business landscape. The Future of Business, edited and published by Rohit Talwar (Fast Future Publishing, 2015), offers a broad look at these changes in more than 70 essays from over 50 forecasters and writers. It is the first in a planned line of books that will explore different aspects of the future under the series name FutureScapes.
The book covers a wide range of possible disruptions in business from such trends as the transition to the digital economy and multiple currencies, the generational shift, the blurring of body and machine, and the growing impact of technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, and AI.
Almost any reader is likely to find topics that are of particular interest in this wide-ranging volume. As a science writer and technology analyst, I found several themes particularly thought-provoking and potentially transformative.
B.J. Murphy envisions a future dominated by cyborgs cobbled together through plastic surgery, 3D printing, and biotechnology. We will, he projects, be able to walk into a "body shop" as a human and leave as a hybrid of man and machine. A double amputee could buy prosthetic body parts or cybernetic implants as we buy a pair of glasses or a tattoo today.
David Saintloth predicts that "biohacking"—genome editing with technologies like CRISPR—will enable consumers to make cosmetic changes in their own bodies. By editing genes, we may be able to regulate hair growth, color, and texture to match our selected eye color and skin tone.
The printing press brought us general literacy and more accurate news even as it undermined government and religious authority. These developments helped make democracy and capitalism possible, according to writer/futurist Jeffrey Joslin. "While the printing press gave birth to capitalism," he says, "the 3D printer could be the invention that kills it."
As we move closer to 2050, when the global population is expected to grow from the current 7 billion to 9 billion, 3D printing could help provide more affordable and sustainable housing. Contour Crafting is developing a way to 3D-print homes. Skanska is planning to create 3D-printed commercial buildings from concrete by 2017.
There is bad news here as well as good. A sharp decline in the cost of building a home could bring a dramatic decrease in the value of the average home. Writer/futurist Puruesh Chaudhary points out that few homebuyers will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a house that Contour Crafting can build for roughly US$30,000. Homeowners and the housing and mortgage industries could lose trillions of dollars in the years ahead.
These and many other scenarios build a convincing argument that companies will need foresight to navigate the future. Like the "Red Queen Hypothesis" in evolution, in which organisms must constantly work just to maintain the status quo, business must adapt to stay relevant, and perhaps just to survive.
Talwar concludes that we cannot respond to every trend. Yet, businesses can map out a preferred direction and strategy to prepare for the future. To help businesses in this process, founder Bill Halal provides an essay on TechCast Global's system for producing forecasts. For companies that are more DIY-oriented, Peter Bishop discusses how businesses and governments might develop their own foresight capabilities if we incorporated forecasting skills into management programs and taught future studies in more schools.
In all, The Future of Business provides both interesting reading and a solid grounding in emerging trends and their probable effects on business. For anyone concerned with these subjects, it is worth reading.
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