Future shocks: Killer robots, hyperaging, space tourism, intelligent cars, resource wars

The Washington Post Outlook section (4 January 2009) is full of articles under the label “future shocks.” A sampling:

The world won’t be aging gracefully. “For the world’s wealthy nations, the 2020s are set to be a decade of hyperaging and population decline. Many countries will experience fiscal crisis, economic stagnation and ugly political battles over entitlements and immigration. Meanwhile, poor countries will be buffeted by their own demographic storms. Some will be overwhelmed by massive age waves that they can’t afford, while others will be whipsawed by new explosions of youth whose aspirations they cannot satisfy. The risk of social and political upheaval and military aggression will grow throughout the developing world — even as the developed world’s capacity to deal with these threats weakens. The rich countries have been aging for decades, due to falling birthrates and rising life spans. But in the 2020s, this aging will get an extra kick as large postwar baby boom generations move into retirement.” — Neil Howe and Richard Jackson are researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and co-authors of “The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century.”

Coming to the battlefield: Stone-cold robot killers.Armed robots will all be snipers. Stone-cold killers, every one of them. They will aim with inhuman precision and fire without human hesitation. They will not need bonuses to enlist or housing for their families or expensive training ranges or retirement payments.” — John Pike is the director of the military information Web site GlobalSecurity.org.

The next big things:

  • Space tourism in 2012 (+/- 2 years) >>>>

    Spaceship for space tourism
    Spaceship for space tourism
  • Intelligent cars in 2014 (+/- 4 years)
  • Telemedicine in 2015 (+/- 4 years)
  • Thought power (brain signals controlling systems) in 2020 (+/- 9 years)
  • Artificial intelligence in 2021 (+/- 7 years)
  • Smart robots in 2022 (+/- 7 years)
  • Alternative energy in 2022 (+/- 9 years)
  • Cancer cure in 2024 (+/- 8 years)

William E. Halal, president of TechCast LLC

Global warming could lead to warfare over scarce resources (e.g., arable land and fresh water); mass migrations; and territorial disputes over newly available energy resources (e.g. Arctic oil). — James R. Lee runs American University’s Inventory of Conflict and Environment project. He’s at work on a book on climate change and conflict.

————
Related:

Top HR challenges (hint: they include acquiring, retaining and grooming key talent)

Ranked list of the top HR challenges (in North American business)

  1. Acquiring key talent/lack of available talent
  2. Building leadership capability
  3. Driving cultural and behavioral change in the organization
  4. Retaining key talent
  5. Increasing line manager capability to handle people-management responsibilities
  6. Succession planning
  7. Constraints on headcount (“making do with less”)
  8. Increasing workforce productivity
  9. Lack of consensus about the organization’s strategy/direction
  10. Encouraging organizational innovation
  11. Resourcing and managing HR issues in “new geographies” for the company
  12. Managing human capital during and after an acquisition or merger
  13. Implementing people changes resulting from changes due to operational performance
  14. Workforce planning
  15. Measuring the contribution of human capital to business performance
  16. Reducing overall human capital costs
  17. Coping with an aging workforce

———
Base: Survey of 154 senior HR professionals in the U.S. and Canada
Source: “The State of HR Transformation,” North America, Mercer Human Resource Consulting, 2006
Discovered via Workforce Management (10 September 2007)

Pharmacist group plots strategies for dealing with future workforce challenges

Here’s an association — the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists — that’s making a serious effort to take a long-term view of challenges its profession faces in the future. Bravo! The association has come up with a long-range “vision” document covering the following critical issues:

  • Credentialing
  • Residency training
  • Teamwork within the pharmacy function and the entire patient care process
  • Role and credentials of pharmacy technicians
  • Experiential learning requirements
  • Expanded and specialized areas of pharmacy practice
  • Role of automation and technology

And a second task force, on “pharmacy’s changing demographics,” made long-term recommendations for coping with workforce trends such as a shortage of pharmacists and demands for better work-life balance, as well as “generational differences, a changing gender mix, and ethnic and racial diversity.” (Notably, “the task force was composed of a diverse group that included health-system pharmacists, a nurse, a physician as well as a futurist and a sociologist.”)

Can we manage a world of superslums?

A United Nations report on urban population trends makes for powerful, moving, often-depressing, sometimes-hopeful reading. The chief conclusion:

In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of world population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. This number is expected to swell to almost 5 billion by 2030. In Africa and Asia, the urban population will double between 2000 and 2030. Many of these new urbanites will be poor. Their future, the future of cities in developing countries, the future of humanity itself, all depend very much on decisions made now.

Continue reading “Can we manage a world of superslums?”

‘Alpha-earning moms’ and stay-at-home dads may change household purchasing habits

If current demographic shifts continue, within a generation women may be the primary breadwinners in half of America’s households, notes Social Technologies LLC futurist John Cashman. These “alpha-earning moms” — along with the increasing number of stay-at-home dads — are growing market segments that will merit business attention, Cashman says.

  • Household duties will continue to realign. More men will carry primary responsibility for purchasing food, clothing, and other household items.
  • Men will be more involved in childcare and in purchasing products and services for their children.
  • As they explore these new gender roles, men’s preferences will be expressed in the types of products they buy. These could include more gadgetry and high-tech appliances for the home.

———-
Related: “Stay-at-Home Dads Forge New Identities, Roles,” The Washington Post, 17 June 2007