“Society will struggle”: 8 business gurus on the near future


Let's have a look at the predictions shared by world renowned entrepreneurs, business consultants and futurists in 2021.

American billionaire Ray Dalio, the author of the term "creative class" Richard Florida, Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, Oxford artificial intelligence specialist Nick Bostrom - these are just an incomplete list of famous people with whom RBC Pro talked in 2021. Many of the world-famous entrepreneurs, scientists and futurists talk about the changes that will take place on the planet in the near future. Not all of these changes will be for the better: social discord will increase, and the world will most likely have to revise the very modern model of capitalism in order to avoid a catastrophe.

The world after Covid

Ray Dalio

American investor Ray Dalio, who is one of the hundred richest people in the world, believes that the world order established in the second half of the 1940s is rapidly collapsing. This is due to three reasons: a huge gap in the welfare and political views of people, which provokes major internal conflicts in countries, an overabundance of the dollar mass and the growing power of China, which is beginning to overtake the United States in economic terms. The billionaire notes that modern capitalism is constantly widening the gap between the poor and the rich. "For example, a company can use new technologies that replace human labor, and this will make it more efficient. This is beneficial to the shareholders of the company, beneficial to the creators of technology, but unprofitable to people who will be fired from the company. Those who benefit from it will get richer, and those who are harmed by it will become poorer. The rich will invest in their children's education. The less well-off will not be able to do this. Thus, the gap in opportunities and well-being will increase with each generation. Sooner or later, such a society will find itself in a state of struggle between different layers of citizens, says Dalio.

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Richard Florida

Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto, the author of the term "creative class", refuted the opinion that the world is moving towards deurbanization, the resettlement of people from cities. According to him, there is no outflow of entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. "There will be no death of Silicon Valley," the expert believes. - This is one of the largest technology clusters in the world. Along with San Francisco, the Valley is still one of the main centers of attraction for venture capital in the United States. The clustering effect and the resulting attraction of people, capital, ideas and innovations to the Valley are too great to write them off. I am sure that the Valley will even benefit from the fact that smaller technological clusters similar to it will begin to appear in other parts of the country."

John Sweeney

American futurist John Sweeney believes that the world is entering the era of post-normality - a time when a lot of new and completely incomprehensible things arise at once — and the idea of normality loses its usefulness. "In my opinion, the financial crisis of 2008 was a post-normal event in the sense that the global collapse was provoked by the actions of only a dozen people. These people had access to colossal resources, created new financial instruments and became the architects of the destruction of the largest amount of wealth in the history of mankind. They were doing all this in an attempt to get more money. This indicates that there have been radical changes in the kind of power that some people and institutions have concentrated in their hands. This crisis has just shown the complexity of the global financial system, its contradictions and the potential for chaos. The question is what kind of policy is needed in such times. Governments need to change their approaches, including how to talk to citizens," the expert explains.

Robert Sapolsky

Robert Sapolsky, a professor at Stanford University, one of the most popular lecturers in the world who give lectures on neuroscience, notes the failure of Western policy towards migrants and explains its reasons: "This shows that the once generally accepted theories about how to reduce hostility between different groups are incorrect. In the 1950s, psychologists said, "You don't like such and such people. That's because you don't know them at all. Nothing, when you live together, you will see that there are more similarities than differences between you — they also love their children, are touched by puppies, etc." But several important studies have shown that the mechanism works only under certain conditions: when groups of the same size meet on neutral territory and in the same status. Without symbols — you don't wave your flags when you meet." According to Sapolski, in the current situation, all these rules are violated: "Therefore, it is not surprising that even the most progressive countries in Europe treat migrants in the same way as the most backward ones." Apparently, the migration crisis will only increase.

Love, money and robots

Jan-Martin Levendahl

Jan-Martin Levendahl, Special Vice president of research at the consulting company Gartner, believes that in the next 5-10 years we will be surrounded by virtual personal assistants who will serve us by making decisions based on data. "An important goal of technological development is human—centricity. We are waiting for a "behavioral Internet" - AI will monitor how people behave and help us use this information," the expert explains. Automation makes it even more important to pay attention to a person, an employee of the company. "We used to use people as machines. Now that we even have thinking machines, we need motivated people. At the beginning of the twentieth century, efficient companies were often bureaucratic structures, but this happened only because most employees at that time did not have the skills and knowledge that they have now. That's why leadership and the ability to influence others are so important to us now," Levendahl comments.

Nick Bostrom

Oxford University professor Nick Bostrom, founder and director of the Institute of the Future, believes that the role of robots will be even more radical. "As soon as we have machines that not only know how to memorize billions of facts or operate with multi-digit numbers, but do everything we can, but only faster and better, technological progress will depend mainly on machines, not on people. And science will develop at a "machine" speed… Computer intelligence is as if our brain has grown many times, and the number of connections between its different parts has increased by an order of magnitude. Now any human activity, whether it's politics, economics or art, has a bottleneck — the limited abilities of our brain." Bostrom believes that the emergence of AI that surpasses human abilities will allow us to develop technologies that humanity would have spent centuries on without the help of algorithms. "There are many things that are theoretically possible, such as colonies on other planets or medicines for all diseases. But our mental abilities cannot yet point the way to them. It may take whole epochs before we reach them. If a superintelligence appears, it will give us all this within, say, four years. The world will magically change in a matter of years," the speaker predicts.

Chen Qufan

Unlike Ray Dalio, Chinese futurist and writer Chen Qufan believes that artificial intelligence will bring more equality. Commenting on the release of the book "AI 2041: Ten Images of our future", co-authored with the founder of the venture fund Sinovation Ventures Li Kaifu, Chen says: "Now we live in a digital environment, every day we create a huge mass of data. All this data will be used by algorithms, and machines will know us better than we know ourselves. They will be able to give everyone "smart" recommendations, help in developing strategies, making decisions. So people will be able to live like the emperors of the past, with the appropriate lifestyle and service, and these technologies will be almost free. Everyone will have equal opportunities for self-development, education and entertainment too. Thanks to AI, we will have more time for self-realization." At the same time, Chen Qufan defends the Chinese social scoring system, arguing that it can become the new norm for the whole world: "You will gain points for each of your actions, but this will not necessarily affect your social status or income, but will be reflected, for example, on your recognition in society, on your identity."

Retail apocalypse is canceled

Doug Stevens

Doug Stevens, a business consultant on the future of retail, believes that the pandemic will change retail irrevocably. "The digital world will be very similar to today's physical one. There will be more and more things that we buy unconsciously — as once in physical stores. We will receive food, personal hygiene items and household goods by subscription, paying bills at the end of the month. There will remain things that we will need to buy more consciously, about which we need to collect information. I think this is where a lot of small players will succeed in the market, offering, for example, a more exciting shopping process… TikTok is more important for online retail than Alibaba, it plays a big role in the growth of e-commerce, because it is an entertainment, not a trading platform."

John Shoal

Well-known customer service specialist John Shoal says about the blow that the pandemic inflicted on customer service: "It gave companies an excuse to drop the service below the baseboard. The prices at Walmart are good, but the service is not good at all. And when Sam Walton created this company in 1962, everything was built around price and customer service. In 2000, when Lee Scott took over the company, they forgot about the service. I invested in nine leading service companies in May 2003 to track their performance. The $1k I invested in Walmart back then has now turned into $3.6thousand. And the $1 thousand that I invested in Amazon is about $110 thousand. Another $1 thousand invested in Home Depot brought $15-16 thousand, and $1 thousand invested in Costco - also $ 15-16 thousand. However, most companies don't want to be like Amazon, Home Depot and Costco."

Michael Zippo

Sources: Gartner, Stanford.edu

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