2022, future scenarios

by Foolproof

For Foolproof's 10th birthday celebrations we've been looking back at the last 10 years, but what about the next 10 years?

What are the trends in technology, business and society that will produce the most dramatic changes in 2022? And how will those trends play out in our experience as consumers, workers and citizens?

During our 10th birthday party last week we ran an exercise where we shared and discussed a number of future scenarios for 2022. Each one looked at a different aspect of our working and personal lives, reviewed the trends and drivers and painted a picture of the possible outcome.

We had a great evening, here’s a sample of some of the responses to three of the scenarios:

Industry: Personal manufacturing

  • Rapid advances in production technologies make it economical to manufacture goods in ever smaller batches.
  • Custom assembly from standard components spreads from cars and computers to most sectors.
  • Computer aided design and build processes standardise.
  • Additive manufacturing (3D printing) equipment increases dramatically in capability and reduces dramatically in price.
  • Commissioning bespoke items is a familiar process.
  • We can choose from a wide range of published designs or work with a designer to create something unique to us.
  • Many specialist designers offer their services to individuals and businesses.
  • When we see that our friend has a new watch or handbag we ask who designed and made it, rather than where they bought it.

What people said

This scenario produced the most positive comments:

  • “This will allow us to move away from the standard of mass production into the details of ‘mass personalisation’.”
  • “From open software to open hardware.”
  • “Trend may start with ‘pebble’ watches where you design your own watch face. Reminds me of Nokia X-Press-On covers.”
  • “Yes. Making not manufacturing will provide us with the objects we care the most about.”
  • “Maker movement and social making.”
  • “Moving from economies of scale to economies of locality, responsiveness and personality.”

Mobile: Wearing your phone

  • Mobile technology continues to reduce in size and grow in power and connectivity.
  • Smartphone use accelerates to reach a majority of the world’s population.
  • Smartphones collect more functions, from payments and tickets, to health monitoring and personal security.
  • Smartphones break up into a cluster of wearable devices and sensors, such as glasses, contact lenses, earpieces, earrings, badges, necklaces, bracelets and belts.
  • The devices we wear take their power from our movement and body heat.
  • Wearable devices and smart prosthetics break down the barriers of disability.

What people said

Of the scenarios this produced the most divergent comments:

  • “Exciting times. I remember the first mobile phones.”
  • “Your digital devices will be your ‘life concierge’, prompting you on everything you do.”
  • “Must happen. The phone is regressing to ‘the brick’”
  • “Not for this – where’s the downtime?”
  • “Not far enough – phone/electronics will be inside you.”
  • “Emotion sharing on clothes – the wearable self.”
  • “Do I ever get a break!”

Workplace: Work swarming

  • Routine business operations are increasingly automated and outsourced.
  • The remaining work has short-term objectives, requires a variety of skills, and is focused on exploration and change rather than production and stability.
  • Business divides into multi-nationals and local and specialist enterprises, with rapidly changing alliances and partnerships.
  • Most workers do not have fixed responsibilities.
  • They come together to form short-lived teams around specific initiatives.
  • Teams rely on collaboration technologies to work effectively across distances, languages, time zones and organisational boundaries.
  • The ability to navigate such fluid organisations and quickly gel with new a team are essential and valuable skills.

What people said

Some people felt inspired by this scenario:

  • “Excellent! Will spark creativity that happens when a new team comes together.”
  • “Will encourage individuals to think up new initiatives and business to invest in them.”
  • “Good for the developing world.”
  • “Always an opportunity to learn something new.”
  • “We no longer work 9-5. We need to be there for our customers wherever in the world they may be.”

And others were dismayed:

  • “Will customers forget the times when we spoke to humans not automated systems.”
  • “No. People you know, trust and compliment are the key to productivity and happiness.”
  • “So who is going to employ me?”

The other scenarios discussed during the evening – in between wine tasting sessions – included:

  • Personal: Always-on backlash
  • Health: High street healthcare
  • Infrastructure: Ambient interfaces
  • Sustainability: Collaborative consumption
  • Transport: Home delivery is the norm
  • Travel: Instant translation
  • Business: Customer capitalism

(download full summary as a pdf)

Predicting the future is notoriously difficult and we still have some responses to sift through. So what does the future look like? Well that’s still inconclusive so maybe we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thanks to everyone for the great discussions and comments we had on Wednesday. Let’s all meet back here in October 2022 to see how close we got.

Author: John Waterworth

What do you think?