The rapid pace of technological change and pandemic crisis is accelerating trends; making risk forecasting more challenging

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published a Technology Futures report, in collaboration with Deloitte, to provide data analysis tools to help scenario plan and forecast future technology trends.

“The rapid pace of technological change, alongside the global crisis caused by COVID-19, means that leaders today need new tools to understand challenges and develop strategies in the face of an increasingly uncertain future,” said Ruth Hickin, Strategy and Impact lead, Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum. ”This report provides three new analytical tools for business leaders to think about the future in a dynamic environment.”

The report provides a framework for leaders to assign probability to trends and forecast risks, and uses speculative fiction to bring these to life. It also offers a model to help leaders with scenario planning exercises.

The new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud and robotics, are changing the way we live, learn and work at a rapid pace, with some trends further accelerated by the global pandemic.

This seismic shift is playing out in a world characterised by unreliable political landscapes and increasing environmental instability, notes WEF.

Scenario planning in this environment can be very difficult for businesses, affecting their ability to plan for the future, and properly assess the risks and opportunities that may present themselves.

“We [need] to take a disciplined look into the future, particularly as we emerge from a world-altering event, like COVID-19,” said Mike Bechtel, managing director and chief futurist, US Consulting, Deloitte, and lead author of the report.

“We hope that by providing a clearer picture of how today’s nascent technologies will impact our future, we can play a meaningful part in driving innovation, collaboration and economic growth that improves life for all people.”

The report breaks down future trends into four categories for business leaders and provides some examples of what is likely to remain constant in the years ahead.

  • Information: With the volume of accessible data exploding and more of our personal lives lived online, the report projects the probable implications for remote learning, remote working and healthcare.
  • Locality: Since the onset of COVID-19, even more of our interpersonal interaction is virtual and physical experiences have dwindled. The report projects more niche, readily available virtual experiences available to consumers.
  • Economy: The report forecasts a growing likelihood that flexible and clean energy production will continue rising.
  • Education: Personalised education will likely grow, along with the availability of digitised and virtualised content.

In addition to strategic modelling, the report gives leaders a baseline history of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution has progressed. It highlights just how fast technology is evolving and outlines one way risk management could evolve to better address and adapt to it.