A Futurist's prediction: Tech and the post corovanirus world
How will our work life look like in a post coronavirus world? What are the tech trends that will disrupt the business world? What is the future of fixed based offices? These are a few questions being frequently discussed during the lockdown, which is has been recently extended in many countries, increasing the uncertainty.
To help answer these questions, Empiric spoke with Rob Gear, Professional Futurist and expert on emerging trends, technologies and innovation with over 24 years of experience in the field.
What do you think our work life could look like in a post coronavirus world?
Like any good futurist I would answer this by saying “it depends”. Whilst we remain at the height of the crisis with so much still in play, the best way to answer this question would be through a comprehensive scenario planning exercise to sketch out the possible, probable and preferred scenarios to characterise the post coronavirus future, and drivers and impacts of each. I would hope that this is what many businesses and governments are doing to assist in their planning for the post corona-world. We must never lose sight of the fact that the future will be created by actions that are taken today.
Certain types of work will be impacted more than others. Hospitality and arts for example are likely to hit particularly hard by a need to continue social distancing until the pandemic can be brought fully under control. There will also be justified expectation that workers should be adequately protected in the workplace, and I would also expect to see an increase in litigation against landlords, businesses, and governments who fail to protect workers.
Many businesses will also be taking a big look at travel. Although some business travel will still be seen as highly valuable or even essential, there are many other interactions that will have been shown to be just as effective when carried out remotely.
What do you think will be the biggest tech trend that is set to disrupt/change the business world in the next few years?
Although it is already a disruptive tech trend, I would expect to see AI and Automation to continue to transform the business world in the next few years. The Coronavirus crisis has already provided an imperative for business to seek to improve their resilience through greater process automation, and the importance of AI is more important than ever in both modelling, logistics and the process of drug discovery.
This area could also accelerate as new technologies such as quantum computing unlock new algorithmic approaches to both address existing problems faster, and new problems whose characteristics place them outside the scope of traditional computing solutions. Robots are unaffected by the virus and I would also expect to see the current pandemic act as a driver for increasing use of robots in many sectors and businesses.
Coronavirus could also drive progress in Human Computer Interaction and interfaces with voice and gesture-based interactions gaining currency in a world where touch screens may continue to provide a vector for disease transmission until COVID 19 is brought under control or eradicated.
- Is a technology roadmap more important now than ever before? How can businesses benefit from this?
Technology roadmaps have always had an important part to play for businesses seeking to innovate with technology, but they are just one tool among many that will be needed for successful innovation. I believe that solid processes for strategic foresight will be essential to success - scenario planning to understand the complex interplay between technology and other major driving forces; and horizon scanning to keep an eye on innovation at the “messy edges” which has the potential to be missed by traditional technology roadmapping. Technology roadmaps will always have a place for helping to understand the dependencies between different technologies and subsystems for unlocking future innovation possibilities.
- It is estimated that in 20 years’ time, 1 in 3 jobs will exist that don’t exist today. What do you believe will be the jobs of the future within the tech sphere?
20 years is a long time in technology terms, and it can be hard to anticipate future jobs in terms of the technologies of today. In 20 years, I would expect AI and Automation to have had a significant impact across economies and workforces and for many jobs to demand the kinds of human skills - creativity, empathy, etc, that are hard for machines to replicate.
After the quarantine is over, what do you think will be the future of fixed based offices?
For many workers and organisations, the crisis has prompted a rapid and dramatic shift to home working, and this will create both challenges and opportunities. Some businesses may see an opportunity to move further down this road to reduce fixed costs such as real estate and utilities expenditure, whilst others may come to recognise the importance to their business of face-to-face interaction and collaboration. There is no “one size fits all” answer and businesses will need to give their working options careful consideration after the immediate crisis is over.
I also expect the pandemic crisis to spur a major burst of innovation in technologies for remote work and drive developments in immersive telepresence, remote haptics, as well as virtual and augmented reality working environments.
Businesses with unused or under-utilised physical capacity may also rethink how they use it, for example by renting or subletting to other businesses on an ad-hoc basis or innovating to create new business streams to better use the physical spaces they have.
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