In an essay entitled “Reading the Future,” Hamish McRae, one of Europe’s leading futurists, argues that we can all understand the changes in the world today and get the future right. He identifies five important drivers of change in the world economy.
Hamish McRae on Drivers of Change in the World Economy
- Demography: how many more people there will be in the world, how old they will be, and where they will be located.
- Resources and the environment: whether there will be enough resources to give these additional people a decent lifestyle, the pressures this will create on the environment, and the impact on the business community.
- Globalization: how long it will continue to race onwards and how it will change its nature from emphasis on international trade to emphasis on movements of culture and talent.
- Technology: how we can see an outline of the technologies that will dominate for the next twenty-five years and how we must try to understand the broad social impact of these technological advances.
- Government and social change: why we will ask different things of government, why government will tend to retreat, and the opportunities that will be created for the private sector.
Call for Action
The five macroeconomic trends identified by Hamish present an opportunity to understand the future in a broad context. Translate these trends into microeconomic indicators and examine how they may affect your lives: your society, marketplace, industry and the economy. What opportunities do these trends present to your career, your personal and professional growth, your choice of investments, etc? How will you capitalize on these opportunities?
Example 1: In the United States, the oldest segment of the population—persons 65 years or older—is predicted to grow to 20% of the population by 2030 from about 12.4% in 2005. The aging population will increase the demand for healthcare services and preventive medicine. What investment choices can you make?
Example 2: Assume you dispense cash at a bank in a semi-urban location in India. In their relentless pursuit of productivity, banks in India will push new technologies: transactions over mobile phones and wider adaptation of ATMs and online recordkeeping, thereby shrinking the functions of bank tellers. There will be a greater demand for employees who understand customer needs, spot business opportunities and execute growth plans. How will you expand your skills and graduate into such roles?
Hamish McRae is one of Europe’s leading futurists and the principal economic commentator of ‘The Independent’ and ‘The Independent on Sunday,’ both published from the United Kingdom. He is the author of “The World in 2020: Power, Culture and Prosperity.” Hamish’s essay is part of the book “Leading Authorities in Business,” edited by Marshall Goldsmith and James Belasco. [Biography adapted from the website of the 'Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.']