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Into the future: Thought-provoking predictions for the world

Futurist, author and business adviser Dr James Canton and his Institute for Global Futures (IGF), which advises industry and the Fortune 100, have released their thought-provoking annual report on the top global trends for 2012.

Friday 17 February 2012, 09:47AM

Business adviser Dr James Canton: Crisis or opportunity?

“There is a new future emerging,” Dr Canton says, “that may be characterised by complex trends, accelerated change, hyper-competition, disruptive innovation and uncertainty. This will demand a new way of operating. There are those who will see this as crisis and those who will see it as opportunity.”

The IGF report offers 20 predictions and warnings:


Look for Apple’s iPad and other tablets to take the lead worldwide and transform learning, bringing education resources to new audiences throughout the world. The ease, mobility and, most important. The interactive media that make learning come alive, will transform education.
Middle class growth: Especially in Asia, China and India but throughout the world, economic progress is creating a global middle class that will top 2 billion in the next five years.

Activist consumers:

Consumers, encouraged by their peers to share opinions, post reviews online, text their ideas, talk back to companies, give their feedback, and interact with others of a common shared experience, will be empowered to act on their values. Their opinion will have power to in?uence.


Hard-hit areas in Asia, the US and EU will de­velop water policies that will inevitably bring them into con?ict with neighbors. Refreshing global and regional water infrastructure will be smart investments by nations looking to head off the destabilization of their societies from the coming water wars.


Recent cyber intrusions on governments and organisations signal accelerated hacking coming this year. Why? It gets results and it’s highly pro?table. Hard-to-catch online criminals are the new threat. Cyber security has not kept pace with the bad guys.

Social media:

Social media have killed traditional marketing. Web 2.0 for enterprise is going to be big this year. Just as Google was a few years ago, Facebook is next.
The semantic web: Starting to emerge this year will be Web 3.0. Where 2.0 was about social interaction, 3.0 is about deep connections with data and an attempt to make the web more accurate, smarter and useful when you’re searching. Having the web become more intuitive, getting to know you and your needs as a more useful front end. Faster, more accurate, more useful and intuitive.

Cloud computing:

This is the year that Big Data and Cloud Computing break out. We are in for a global change in how we do computing and analyse data. Cloud Computing will enable you to do on any device anywhere what you currently do on your desktop.


How agile is your network? Is it integrated for mobile? Does it support VOIP, Web, Telematic and Transmedia platforms? Is your organisation ready to move beyond the legacy mindset and silos and move into the future? You want to be out in front of the customer, driving change, not playing catch up. Get agile.
Medical revolution: Look for innovations in medicine that can for the ?rst time give doctors a glimpse of potential precursors to disease and will lead to prevention. Cheaper and smarter genomic diagnostics, digital health technology and better use of medical informatics will lead to more personalized medicine.

Talent gap:

Companies will struggle and compete for talented workers. Jobs will go un?lled. Markets will go untouched. Outsourcing is not the only answer. The issue is not about job creation but talent creation. We need an education system that supports the next generation of the likes of Steve Jobs and Steven Spielberg.
Climate change: This is the time of climate change “on steroids”. Extreme weather change is becoming the norm as climate models around the world are in ?ux. More unpredictable risk factors affecting life, health and property as well as security, are likely.


Neuroscience is getting close to being able to read people’s brainwaves. On the positive side, treating brain injuries and age-related disease. On the negative, fears about mind control. Look for developments that will open a new area of fantastic new medical bene?ts but also usher in huge privacy concerns over “neurohacking”.
Quantum computing: Quantum technology is the next generation of information science. In the future we will embrace a new supercomputing technology platform that is vastly more powerful, based on the Qubit. The key drivers of Quantum are: need for harder encryption to avoid hackers; something faster than silicon in chips to manage the high complexity and huge data crunching of cloud computing.

Global youth revolt:

The rise of dissatis?ed youth against the inability of nations to manage economic and democracy crises will reach a boiling point this year. The linkage of global youth into a movement, is possible with a sense of social entitlement that will change government futures and the future of governance.
Innovation dividend: Those companies, individuals and nations that support and invest in innovation—the web, telecoms, social networks, wireless, software, nanotech, neurotech, biotech—will get the bene?ts. They will be the winners in attracting customers and inventing the future.

3D printing:

There is a manufacturing revolution underway. 3D printing will allow the manufacture of anything from buildings to body parts. We are at the early stages of a manufacturing transformation.
Cities: As more and more people live in cities, technologies are needed to unlock health, energy efficiency, communications, safety and pollution control. Cities of tomorrow must be green and productive, sustainable, secure and economically viable centers of life and work. We need a global healthy cities plan.


The electricity grid worldwide is desperately out of date, and not ready to meet coming demand. We need to move towards a smarter energy grid that can both serve and propel productivity.
Trend convergence: Social media, pervasive mobile phone networks and the Arab Spring are an example of a global change that is the end product of trend convergence. We need to learn how to think in bigger frameworks and longer time frames to solve grand challenges that
confront our world.

The Institute for Global Futures has been compiling predictive reports since 1990. Download the full 2012 report from



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