Gazing Into the Future: What's Ahead for Investors?
Do you think change is happening faster than ever? You’re right, according to Erica Orange, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Future Hunters, one of the world’s leading futurist consulting firms.
“We have been shot through the COVID accelerator,” says Erica. Technology was rapidly transforming our lives even before COVID-19 struck. But the pandemic accelerated developing trends such as remote work and the use of artificial intelligence and robotics in a variety of areas including retail, education, health care and transportation.
Now, how we live and work will never be the same.
Going through so many changes in such a short period of time can be uncomfortable. But, she says, change can open up incredible opportunities.
How can you prepare for what lies ahead? Erica says it comes down to one simple thing—understanding where change is moving.
What’s a Futurist, and What’s It Got to Do With Investing?
Futurists—without the use of tea leaves or crystal balls—identify powerful emerging trends that have the potential to transform how we live and work.
And investing, at its core, is about identifying a product, service or business that has the potential to be profitable over time. Paying attention to current conditions and emerging trends can provide some clues.
Going From COVID Accelerator to “Templosion”
For Erica, existing words don't get us to where we’re going. We need to expand our vocabulary. Consider the word “templosion,” a term she coined to describe our future state.
Templosion refers to the implosion of big events happening in increasingly compressed amounts of time. Not only that, but we’ve been catapulted into the mergers of the real and the virtual, the tangible and the intangible, the analog and the digital, and in some cases, the biological and the technological.
The impacts of this acceleration and digital transformation are being felt everywhere.
When we look at how templosion is playing out in the corporate world, economists predict that the average life span of a Fortune 500 company could be as little as 15 years.* For example, the increased use of artificial intelligence, automation and robotics has significantly accelerated over the last 18 to 24 months. Most of us interact with online retailers and customer service centers (insurance companies, banks, etc.) using these sorts of tools. But the applications, and the economic effects, are vast.
The global artificial intelligence (AI) market is expected to reach $169 billion by 2025.
Due to AI, global gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to reach close to $16 trillion by 2030.
By the end of the year, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human through the use of chat bots.
Source: Erica Orange, The Future Hunters.
The Future Is Boundaryless: The Metaverse and Digital Twins
One consequence of templosion is the blurring of boundaries that have defined us. The starkest example of that is the movement to the metaverse, which takes flat content and turns it into spatial content—turning 2D into 3D.
The metaverse is ultimately about connection, allowing people—no matter where they are located—to meet and interact in shared multisensory, digital spaces that look and feel authentic. The applications of the metaverse are rapidly expanding beyond social media, shopping and entertainment to the industrial goods sector. And this really is where the physical world and the virtual world collide.
One of the biggest growth areas is the rise of digital twins. What is a digital twin? It is a virtual 3D replica, a mirror world. Manufacturers are using digital twins to really understand the factory floor and unlock insights that make the company more adaptable and efficient.
BMW, for one, is using digital twins to enable consumers to customize their cars—there are roughly 400 different ways to customize a BMW. The company can replicate the manufacturing process, look at the assembly line and figure out how to drive efficiency and make the space more conducive and safer for their workers.
3 Ways to Think Like a Futurist
1. See Through “Alien Eyes”
The older we get, the more knowledge we naturally acquire. But all of this learning can make it hard to see objectively into the future because we become conditioned by what we think we know. Erica states that being objective, removing our value judgments, is one of the most important skills for a futurist. It’s also one of the biggest challenges.
Erica suggests looking at the world with alien eyes. “Take a problem, a challenge, and approach it as if you are coming down to earth for the first time and viewing it like you were an alien from another planet,” she says. Seek objectivity and remove your own judgment to take a fresh look at the information.
2. Lean Into the Forgetting Curve
We tend to think all the changes we’re experiencing require a learning curve. That certainly may be the case when dealing with new technologies. However, Erica says implementing a forgetting curve may be more important.
The forgetting curve requires taking a step back and asking ourselves what are the things that are no longer useful and necessary for where the future is going. It’s about getting comfortable enough to let go of modes of thinking that no longer work and challenging ourselves to operate differently.
3. Get Yourself a Cyber Mentor
Advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, the metaverse... Some people are concerned about technological unemployment. But the future is not just about humans versus robots, but humans with robots—working symbiotically, collaboratively.
Researchers have found that robot-human teams were 85% more productive than either alone.
Source: Erica Orange, The Future Hunters.
To help you prepare for the future, Erica recommends making friends with a Cyber Hybrid, which she thinks is a better description than Generation Z. This is the first generation in human history to truly have a symbiotic relationship with the technology that surrounds them, giving them different neural wiring than their predecessors. And Cyber Hybrids are a growing number of customers and employees, making up close to 29% of the global population, or around 2 billion people.
So tap into the thinking of a 10-, 12-, 15-year old, and don't come with any preconceived notions about what they should say. Just talk to them about how they view the world, the platforms they use and how they speak to their friends. Use that information to expand your own thinking and challenge some of the things that you're holding onto that just might not work anymore.
Futurists Apply Escape Velocity to Stay on Top
The amount of innovation and transformation taking place since the pandemic is staggering. The considerable impacts of this acceleration will be felt across all industries and our daily lives, but one thing is for certain—we’re not going back to a pre-COVID reality. It may seem overwhelming at times, but Erica borrows a term from physics to help us acquire a futurist’s mindset: escape velocity.
Escape velocity is the lowest velocity a body needs to break free from something pulling it in another direction—or holding it back. We can apply escape velocity to outdated ways of thinking and operating that don’t serve us today.
Instead, we need to spend our energy devising new strategies that allow us to step confidently into the future. Getting comfortable adjusting and adapting to new realities will help us remain relevant in a time of rapid change and emerge on top.
Innosight, 2021 Corporate Longevity Forecast, May 2021.
The views expressed in this presentation are the speaker’s own and not necessarily those of American Century Investments. This presentation is for general information only and is not intended to provide investment, tax or legal advice or recommendations for any particular situation or type of retirement plan. Please consult with a financial, tax or legal advisor on your own particular circumstances.
Erica Orange and The Future Hunters are not affiliated with American Century Investments.