BravoSolution conference – David Smith (no, not that one) looks into the future

(Here's Claire Herbert's take on the keynote speaker at last week's BravoSolution event...)

Last week David Smith, Chief Executive at Global Futures and Foresight, spoke at the 2013 BravoSolution customer conference in the Radisson Blu hotel, Heathrow. As a “leading strategic futurist”, he told us about the future of the world and procurement, and very thought-provoking it was too.

His presentation revolved around the undeniable fact that the world is constantly changing, and how we, as a population and procurers, can adapt to such change.

The first aspect of change which he spoke about was infrastructure, predicting that air passenger traffic will double by 2030 and that air freight could easily triple in the near future. Clearly a wise area to invest in, he proceeded to discuss the future of infrastructure in the UK, saying that we are supposedly hindering ourselves by not building airports because of this massive opportunity that will be missed.

Smith then went on to talk about the future of the world economy and the emerging markets. He used a quote from HSBC, “the size of the world economy will triple over the next four decades as emerging market economies wield increasing power” which is a very interesting point, as there is great speculation about the developing economies becoming dominant in the future. I agree with the likelihood of this happening, but the size of the world economy tripling so soon? I’m somewhat sceptical.

My doubt about his predictions continued as he went on to talk about the future of the human population. In his presentation, Smith said that in the UK, by 2031 50% of us will be over the age of 50. This I can believe, but apparently “human life expectancies have the potential to reach 500, or possibly 1000” and the “disease of ageing” will be cured in the next two to four decades. A bit farfetched for my liking - and the expert he quoted is a very divisive figure in medical cycles!

Moving on, bringing the future and his predictions closer back to Earth, Smith had a lot to say about technology. He called this the “era of the supercomputer”, predicting that by 2049 a £500 computer will exceed the computational power of the entire human population. A frightening thought, but still plausible considering the exponential advances we’ve been making in technology over the last decade. And he says that we’re also going to become far better connected, with a new era of mass communication. By 2025, he predicts that the internet will have 5 billion users, twice as many as we have today.

Mobile devices are also apparently going to help bring us all together, as connection speeds increase ten-fold. He also briefly spoke about the potential for mobile devices to monitor us more, to help gather more data and create more accurate predictions about the future. However with the recent scandals of the NSA and protests about privacy, this may not occur as soon as he’d first predicted.

He then went on to talk about the integration of the physical and virtual world, discussing ideas such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and automation. All of these could seriously affect the future of procurement, and you’ll be able to read about them in part 2 here shortly .

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