When it comes to trend predictions for 2017, the overarching narrative is one of doom and gloom. Typically, trend predictions get bundled up in snappy phrases such as 'Apocalypse Now', 'The Dislocated World' and 'Brexterity'; along with the usual tech-cyborg discussion of Artificial Intelligence and robots taking our jobs and making decisions for us as we struggle to maintain a sense of anonymity within the digital chaos of our lives. Sitting in our driverless cars, wondering what it is all for. Futurists are well-versed at wrapping fear around the unknown future.
Beyond the fearmongering, what are the trend narratives that sit at the heart of humanity for 2017?
No doubt the world is changing faster than it has ever before; full of extreme groups, intolerance, distrust and at times utter horror. However, the reality is that all cultures in all periods of history experience anxiety and disruption. Some argue that today we are better off than we have ever been. The truth is more people die from eating too much not famine, from growing old not the plague, and from suicide not war.
We have manipulated the world so that it is dominated by us; humans are the dominant species, the top dog. We arrived at this prestigious position by generations of innovation. We created and re-created the world to deliver to basic human needs such as the need to be safe and the need for hope for a better future. It is certain that these human truths will see us into 2017 and beyond.
One trend narrative is Protectionism. This trend embodies the need to feel safe and secure in the face of uncertainty. It emerges when society is faced with perceived and real political, economic, environmental and social upheaval, i.e. Trump, all banks, climate change and data hacks to name but a few. Under threat, people retreat to what they know to be secure, a time in the past or a place that feels like the safety of home.
Sitting in our driverless cars, wondering what it is all for. Futurists are well-versed at wrapping fear around the unknown future.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs tells us this is critical for survival, people can't do much else if they don't feel safe and secure. If you are hungry you can't launch the next unicorn start up. As a developed country we may not be hungry but our sense of safety is being challenged.
By 2020, more than 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of things. This is a hacker's dream, the more connected we are the more our personal data and privacy is under attack. Expect to see an increasing presence of Blockchain technology, its ledger is nearly impossible to hack or forge.
The technology giants Google, Apple, Facebook are stepping up to deliver to the Protectionism trend. Yahoo and Google have developed algorithms that filter out any abusive speech online to protect children from trolls. From fingerprints to voice recognition, face recognition and cardiac rhythm, biometrics are being rolled out across the financial sector to protect identity. Retail giant Alibaba uses selfies as payment and authentication device. One of the biggest challenges society faces in 2017 is data protection.
On the other hand, the Sustainable Humanity trend shines the light of hope for longevity of future generations. Where the new moral code of conduct arises for people and businesses alike, to create a future that is worth getting out of bed for.
One of the biggest challenges society faces in 2017 is data protection.
This trend is manifesting in culture in many ways, observe the move to access over ownership, the new world order of Uber is delivering not only relief from frustration of the "system" but creating a whole new societal currency, where personal reputation is currency. Your behaviour in these peer to peer systems is a currency to be valued and traded, for example your social media conduct will determine if you are eligible for financing or not.
The United Nations embraced Sustainable Humanity by declared basic connectivity as a human right; Facebook is testing unmanned planes to provide Internet to communities who have none, to bring the Internet to all 7 billion people on the planet. Google is seeking to solve the problems of our modern cities with project Sidewalk Labs examining cost of living and efficient transportation in an increasingly urbanised world. At the same time Google Calico seeks to combat the diseases associated with aging. The big tech giants are rapidly moving beyond the customer interface to address the bigger issues of humanity.
2017 is about using the inventiveness of humankind to deliver to these fundamental human needs, the need to be safe and the need to sustain humanity. Whilst our caveman tools have been replaced by technology, the end game for 2017 is the same, to feed human needs in a positive way.