Your world in 2018 Some of the UKâ€™s leading thinkers on how to prepare for the future
Published on behalf of Zurich by The Slow Journalism Company in collaboration with Launch PR. Zurich Assurance Ltd Registered in England and Wales under company number 02456671. Registered Office: The Grange, Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham, GL52 8XX. Zurich Insurance plc, a public limited company incorporated in Ireland Registration No. 13460. Registered Office: Zurich House, Ballsbridge Park, Dublin 4, Ireland. UK Branch registered in England and Wales Registration No. BR7985. UK Branch Head Office: The Zurich Centre, 3000 Parkway, Whiteley, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 7JZ
Inside Will Hutton on workforce demographics, Aleks Krotoski on online misinformation, Jonathon Porritt on population growth, Adam Rutherford on human genomics, Jonathan Dimbleby on ageing, and much more
Imagine the world in 2018… Is this the future you hoped for? It is impossible to know what the years ahead have in store. But it is possible to plan carefully and to minimise risk… In 2013, for the fifth year in a row, Zurich partnered with the World Economic Forum for the publication of the Global Risks report. It’s one way of helping our customers understand the major issues we will face over the coming years and how we can begin preparing for them. The challenges highlighted in the report are wide-ranging. They are things we face as individuals and as communities, as employers and employees, as citizens of the UK and citizens of the world. But rising to these challenges involves long-term planning, which is never easy. The Global Risks report concludes: “Within human nature there is a predisposition to focus on the here and now, rather than what may lie ahead. However, while it may be tempting to make choices about our lifestyle, finances and community involvement with only the short-term in mind, the reality is that the long-term effects of those decisions will create unsustainable conditions for society.”
Cover: Shutterstock.com, IM_photo
How can we think more about the future? One way is to borrow a technique commonly used by elite sportspeople and developed in recent years by motivational speaker Steve McDermott. Before each of his fights, Muhammad Ali pictured himself in a near-future in which he had defeated his rival, and then he worked backwards, visualising exactly what he would do to win the fight. While tackling critical global challenges is very different from out-punching an opponent in the ring, this visualisation technique can help us focus clearly on where we want to be in 2018 and what we need to do to achieve these goals. In the Future History Now project we have spoken to some of the people shaping the debate, the experts on the frontline of the challenges we face and the risks we have to manage. We have also canvassed the opinions of a broad cross-section of the public as well as risk-management and employee benefits professionals, and got them to talk us through their own future histories. We asked them about the 2018 they hope to live in and what we need to do to get there. This magazine is the result: we hope it inspires you to think about the future, and plan for your own ideal world in five years’ time...
Any views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the interviewees, not of Zurich. 3
For the Future History Now project, we captured the future histories of more than 40 people on film and spoke to some of the leading experts in their fields about how we can plan for a positive future against a backdrop of major demographic, technological and social change. Here are some of the people we spoke to…
Professor of tissue engineering, University of Nottingham “Potentially one day we could make an organ for you, using your own cells”
Technology consultant “In 2018 mobile phones will be less like rocks and more like carpets, with flexible backs and screens” P08
Gary Shaughnessy CEO, Zurich UK Life “The most important thing for me is increasing people’s confidence in their future. Our job is protecting people’s futures. That’s what we do”
Journalist, BBC presenter and author “We’re at an early stage in our relationship with the web and we’re like kids in a candy shop”
Tommy Rickard Director of systems and technology, IBM UK “Atomic-scale magnetic memory is about 100 times greater in density than the densest disk drives”
Laura Piddock Professor of microbiology, director of Antibiotic Action “We have been pushing at an open door. We achieved our five-year business plan in the first six months”
Geneticist, journalist, author and broadcaster “The tipping point is when we can sequence an entire human genome for $1,000. And it’s on the way”
Will Hutton Political economist and journalist “Britain’s workforce is dividing into three main tribes, each with rather different expectations”
Sir Jonathon Porritt Co-founder of Forum for the Future “There are major quality of life implications from having a constantly rising population”
Penny de Valk CEO of consulting firm Cedar “People want greater control of their working lives. Organisations have to offer greater flexibility”
Dame Carol Black
Head of technology and engineering, British Antarctic Survey “This was a rare time the world got together and said ‘we have a problem, we must do something’”
Advisor on work and health to the Department of Health “By 2018 we need more people working beyond the retirement age – how do we keep people fit so they can work longer?”
Director, Realise Learning “The teacher will still be the most important thing in the classroom, even if their role is primarily motivation”
Jonathan Dimbleby Writer and broadcaster “In 2018 I hope to continue to have the health to keep doing the things that I find stimulating”
Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Global Corporate “The ‘nirvana’ point of no risk is hard to imagine, but perhaps it is a world where everything is at absolute zero and in stasis”
To watch more than 40 future histories by people from all over the UK and from all walks of life, visit our website at futurehistorynow.com
The world in 2018 How will our world have changed in five years’ time? We’ve scoured predictions and plans from future-gazing institutions to bring together their best guesses
Situations vacant The fastest-growing jobs by 2018 – estimated increases from 2013
Launched in 2018 The James Webb Space Telescope, set to be launched into an orbit a million miles from Earth and work in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum to find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang to the Milky Way. 2 CleanSpace One, a Swiss spacecraft designed to clear space junk by knocking it out of orbit. 3 Solar Probe Plus, a new NASA mission, set to be the first to probe the Sun’s outer atmosphere, its “corona”. 4 India’s first homegrown aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, a 40,000 tonne warship which will become operational by 2018. 1
Sources: MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, Swiss Space Centre, NASA, The Times of India
$19,000,000,000 Predicted value of the ‘mobile smart wearable device market’ by 2018, up from $1.4 billion in 2013. This includes the likes of Google Glass, FiLIP and smart watches. Source: www.juniperresearch.com/reports/Smart_Wearable_Devices
7.56 billion Global population in 2018, up by 393 million from 2013
China +34.6 million UK +1.75 million Germany -585,000 Japan -1.2 million Source: Based on numbers from the UN
Network systems and data communications analysts
Home health aides
Source: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections of the fastest-growing careers
Spain are favourites to win the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia Spain 5/1 Brazil 11/2 Argentina 14/1 England 14/1 Wales 1000/1 Source: Odds from William Hill, November 2013
1 23 China
United States ($15.779 trillion)
London’s Crossrail, Europe’s largest engineering project, will be completed in 2018
73 miles of track 38 stations Estimated cost: £14.8bn
Sources: BBC, Crossrail.co.uk, The Daily Telegraph
Wuhan Greenland Center, China 636m (completed: 2017)
Source: Fox News
Ping An Finance Center, China 660m (completed: 2016)
Three new Star Wars films will have been released by 2018
Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates 828m (completed: 2010)
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Economic Outlook No 93 - June 2013. Based on GDP volume at 2005 PPP (USD)
Sky City, China 838m (completed: 2014)
The world’s three largest economies in 2018
Kingdom Tower, Saudi Arabia, 1,000m (completed: 2018)
The world’s tallest buildings in 2018 Sources: Burjkhalifa.ae, CNN, Forbes, The Daily Mail, Thorntontomaesetti.com
Annual capacity of London’s Heathrow airport, the world’s busiest in 2013 Source: Heathrowairport.com
Annual capacity of the world’s busiest airport, set to be completed by 2018, in Istanbul Source: MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal
Global energy capacity from solar photovoltaic cells Source: ‘Most likely scenario’ report by Lux Research (www.luxresearchinc.com/ coverage-areas/overview.html)
Zurich UK Life CEO Gary Shaughnessy
Making sense of the future Zurich UK Life CEO Gary Shaughnessy talks to Future History Now about managing risk, analysing trends and setting big goals for 2018 What do you make of the Future History technique? We all tend to think about the future from the point of today looking forward and I think being able to visualise yourself in the future and looking back does give you a different perspective. I think it also helps focus you on what really matters and it helps you support the optimistic side of your nature, so you focus on what you can choose, or what you would like to look back on rather than what might worry you.
social change, a lot of things are out of our control to some extent. Similarly, if you look at health and your ability to be able to manage and foresee things there’s a degree of control but some things will happen to you that you didn’t foresee. Given the complexity of all those variables we can just shy away from it and live in the now. I think increasingly that’s been the case with things in the financial world, where you might previously have had to think and plan for the future because you had to save up to get what you wanted, whereas now and certainly in the early part of this century, consumer credit was much more freely available and the idea of delaying or putting
Have you used it recently? I recently used the technique with one of my kids who has just gone into his second year in university. He’s not quite sure about what he wants to do and when he wants to do it so I tried to put him into a perspective of saying “imagine it’s 2020 – looking back, what would you like to have achieved?” It was very useful because it managed to separate the wheat from the chaff. Some things may feel important at the time but actually don’t matter that much while other things are key decisions you will need to make.
“The reality is that whether it’s something like political change, climate change or social change, a lot of things are out of our control to some extent”
Is there a problem with humans being too short-termist in their thinking? I think the difficulty is that there are so many variables that it’s quite daunting to try to think very far in advance. We all like to be in control of what we do to some extent, and unfortunately the reality is that whether it’s something like political change, climate change or
something off until you’ve saved enough money has become less consistent with the way we live our lives. I think that this saving attitude needs to come back a bit, and people are recognising that personal debt and the consequences of it create many challenges as well as enabling people to do things that they’d like to do straight away. 9
And how does all this relate to financial planning? I think it’s consistent with the big theme I’m seeing generally, which is an increase in the transfer of responsibility from the state and corporations onto individuals. Fifteen years ago in the private sector most people were in a defined benefit pension scheme, and now most new joiners go into a defined
There’s a natural resistance to this sort of shift… I think it’s a difficult thing for people to take on. And I think that as a society we probably need to be more honest about it. What we’re seeing is that as the number of people in defined contribution pension schemes increases, people are gradually starting to recognise that it’s their money and it’s also their responsibility. There’s a tipping point where enough people will have this realisation. The challenge is that if you recognise it too late and you’re only five years from retirement, it limits your options in terms of how you can improve the quality of your retirement. What are your projections for 2018? I think there is going to be a continued push from the state onto the individual. I also believe that we will see a greater role for things like personal protection and personal insurance for the individual, in the same way we’ve seen it for personal savings, and that there may also be supporting tax breaks in a similar way. So if you reduce your reliance on the state – and in the UK we are fortunate to have quite a strong state underpin, whether from the health care system or the pension system – then it makes sense to me that the state would encourage you in doing that.
“In a complex world in which you’re trying to understand potential outcomes and dealing with more personal responsibility on your shoulders, people do need more advice” contribution pension scheme. The impact of that is that the capital risk, the inflation risk, the longevity risk – all of those are now with the individual. And that means that they are putting themselves much more in control of the variables that may knock them about over the next five, ten, 15 or 20 years. 10
How does Zurich set about analysing future trends? There’s a whole raft of different places that you can get information from, particularly around things like demographic shifts, and this can tell you where things will generally move. So if I take demographics as an example, we do have an ageing population. You can see that in the consequences of the baby boomers now starting to move into retirement. And in that context one of the good places to look at is the US because you can see that the US baby boomer generation was about five to ten years ahead of us. So you can make some assumptions about what may impact the UK by looking at a lot of the things that happen in the US. Although of course you have to factor in social norms within the
country – for example, there are some very big differences in terms of levels of obesity between the UK and the US, and that will impact on health trends. We also offset the theoretical data around things like demographics with research and focus groups where you get more of a qualitative understanding of what’s driving people. How do changes in technology factor into your predictions? We’ve seen the internet making a big difference to how people shop and how people gain information. We saw it with the pharmaceutical industry: as people have been able to get more information online about illnesses, people are increasingly going to their doctor better informed about the ailments that they’ve got – although there’s the potential of being misinformed as well. We’re seeing a little bit of that in financial services too, people doing much more pre-planning than they previously would have done. Will people still need to talk with financial advisers in the future? I think advisers will always be important, even though the technology is getting more sophisticated. There’s a difference between getting information and getting advice. In a complex world in which you’re trying to understand potential outcomes and dealing with more personal responsibility on your shoulders, people do need more advice. The way people might get that advice is changing, though, so I’m seeing more advisers who use multiple media rather than coming out and visiting all their clients in their home. They’re using the workplace or they’re providing support online or on the phone. And we’re increasingly seeing a more informed relationship where people use a variety of sources to get information but still value the expert adviser being able to support them when they’re making important decisions. And what do you hope that Zurich will have achieved by 2018? There are three main things. I think that the most important thing for
me is increasing people’s confidence in their future. Our job is protecting people’s futures. That’s what we do – because we’ve got an insurance policy that will pay out for you or your family when something goes wrong, or by providing a savings vehicle that helps you to have a more comfortable retirement. I think a core part of looking back in five years for me will be whether we helped people become more confident, so they spent less time worrying about their financial position and more time focusing on things they wanted to focus on. That would be the biggest achievement.
“The most important thing for me is increasing people’s confidence in their future. Our job is protecting people’s futures. That’s what we do” What’s your second goal? The second goal is linked to the first, which is regaining trust. I think the financial services industry as a whole isn’t trusted today and my hope is that people start to see us as a core part of their solution. So if risk is being transferred onto you as an individual, what insurance companies do is they take risk, pool it across a whole range of people and spread the cost so they can make it affordable to you as an individual. That’s a really good thing to do, delivering value for the customer, and I think for us to look back in five years and for people to see us as a trusted partner would be excellent. And your final goal? The final goal if I was looking back from 2018 would be a degree of market leadership. I think we can help lead the market to a much more supportive, customer-focused future where this relationship between governments, insurance companies, advisers, regulators and the customer is a virtuous circle. That would be very powerful indeed. 11
A Google data centre in North Carolina, US
Technology in 2018 “The global risk of massive digital misinformation sits at the centre of a constellation of technological and geopolitical risks” World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Risks report
When we canvassed people about how they saw the world changing by 2018, technology was mentioned nearly every time. There’s lots of excitement around some of the emergent technologies including 3D printing which, as Professor Kevin Shakesheff tells us on p16, is set to advance into whole new territories in the coming years. The evergrowing capacity – and demand – for data storage was another area identified by interviewees as having a major impact for both businesses and individuals, as IBM’s Tommy Rickard outlines on p20. And there is a widely-held belief that technology will improve our working lives over the next five years, a theme we explore with tech expert Peter Cochrane on p14. But, as the Global Risks report makes clear, there are also threats posed by technology, particularly when it comes to the online world. The danger of the spread of ‘digital wildfires’ – misinformation broadcast instantaneously online with potentially catastrophic real world effects – was flagged up as one of three major risks. We talk with digital media expert Aleks Krotoski on p22 to get her view of the risks and rewards of a hyper-connected world, and how we might all be reacting to these in five years’ time. 13
“The office will be alive and well. We can do a lot online but we can’t reproduce real physical interactions”
How will technology change our workplaces? The pace of technological progress can be bewildering – and it’s hard for businesses and organisations to keep up. With more than 40 years of experience working in the tech sector, Peter Cochrane offers advice on how to keep your workplace ahead of the curve over the next five years
four accounts. Have some sort of cache hidden away somewhere as backup. In terms of security, the main threat isn’t malware or firewalls, it’s people. The insider threat is bigger than any of the external threats. The device is a new insider threat. When employees come to work with their own devices it changes the nature of the game. The way you configure your networks and security needs to be different. Security is becoming more about behaviour analysis than about firewalls. If an employee downloads two gigabytes and uploads a gigabyte every day and suddenly they’re downloading 40 gigabytes and uploading 20 gigabytes, what is going on?
How will technology have changed the workplace by 2018? Every piece of technology you’re going to use between now and 2018 already exists in the development lab. There will be nothing fundamentally new or surprising we don’t already know about. I think we’ll see more mobile devices without any connectors whatsoever; also mobile phones will be less like these lumps of rock we’ve been carrying. They’ll be more like carpets with flexible backs and screens. The other major change will be related to the level of intelligence that’s on the way. I recently saw a great demonstration of IBM’s Watson [the artificial intelligence computer system that won US game show Jeopardy]. IBM Deep Blue wiped out Kasparov and IBM Watson has wiped out the human race on general knowledge. It’s being rolled out into the medical profession and it will soon hit all management levels and all professions.
Has technology made our working lives easier? Well, it has made us phenomenally productive. But what’s happened is that we are now the typists too, we are the Xerox operators too; we’ve filled our lives by doing more and more. It’s not like we’re doing our job in half an hour and taking the rest of the day off. I’m doing more in a year than my father did in his lifetime. I expect my children to do more in a year than I’ve done in my lifetime. It’s on that epic scale. And technology can cause stress, especially to those who are trying to work in an old way in a new environment. Increasingly technology is bending to people rather than the other way round.
How will cloud computing change the workplace? The real impact of the cloud is one of liberation. We moved a security company in Holland to a new building and instituted cloud computing. Now everybody there uses their own devices, there are no fixed line phones. It changes the nature of the workplace. Does cloud computing require companies to increasingly think about security? You bet it does. But the biggest risk in using the cloud is not the traditional one, it’s a few lines in the agreement with the cloud provider. If the cloud provider dies, your data dies with it. There’s no recompense. You shouldn’t have one account with a cloud supplier. Have three or
Will telecommuting be more common by 2018? Yes, but the office will be alive and well. People like to go to an office because they like to be with people. We can do a lot online but we can’t reproduce real physical interactions. I always say, if you’ve got to negotiate a deal, don’t do it online. You need to be able to see the whites of their eyes. But the 2018 office will be different, more focused on the fluidity of working and the fluidity of projects. More companies will let their employees split their time between home and the office. We have an ageing workforce and new technology can alienate older people. Is this a problem? People fall into two categories: the “I’m retiring” people and then the people like me who say “give me more”. Ultimately people who can’t use technology are illiterate. It’s like not being able to read and write. I feel that people who don’t do social networking, for example, have cut themselves off. It’s up to the individual to keep their skills honed and keep themselves capable. 15
What is the future for 3D printing in healthcare? Kevin Shakesheff, professor in tissue engineering at Nottingham University, is working on the 3D printing of human organs. The technology is at a pre-clinical stage at the moment – but by 2018 it could be starting to change our world... What will 3D printing have changed in healthcare by 2018? We are optimistic that we’d see 3D printed structures based on bone and cartilage. The one that we’re particularly interested in, because Nottingham has a clinical expertise in the area, is replacement of the entire nose. I think we’ll see that sort of structure, along with replacement of the ear and probably the jawbone, being used in the clinic in that time scale. Coming up behind, but we’re never quite sure how long it’s going to take, will be the organs, which will unlock a huge area. There’s a lot of work being done on it: somebody somewhere is having a go at printing virtually every tissue of the body.
“We print clusters of cells and materials on the scale of a tenth of a millimetre” How on earth do you set about printing out human bones and organs? It is actually very similar to printing onto plastic using a 3D printer manufactured by MakerBot, a New York company, although there are some extra technical hurdles when printing a living organ. The MakerBot system is based on a material heated to about 200 degrees centigrade which becomes liquid for a short period of time, and once it’s liquid, you can deposit it. When it comes to the biological world, 16
Milestones in 3D printing 1984 Charles Hull invents stereolithography, a process enabling 3D objects to be created from digital data. 1992 The first SLA (stereolithography apparatus) is produced; it uses a UV laser solidifying polymer. 2008 Darwin (above), the first self-replicating printer that can print the majority of its own components, is released. 2008 The first person walks on a 3D-printed prosthetic leg. 2009 DIY kits enable people to make their own 3D printers. 2011 The world’s first 3D-printed robotic aircraft is unveiled. 2012 A customised 3D-printed prosthetic lower jaw is implanted into 83-year-old woman.
we need to be down at body temperature or below, so it’s the same underlying technology, but you’ve got to improve it so that it can handle living cells and biological molecules. Instead of dropping plastic at that stage, you are be dropping cells? That’s right. We print clusters of cells and materials. And in the future we will be using lots of different types of cells. We’re all fortunate in the bone field that there is a human adult stem cell residing in all of us, which sits in your bone marrow and waits for you to have an injury and then gets activated. Certainly when it comes to bones, it’s likely that we’ll use these adult stem cells. For other tissues, we may use other cell types, including ‘pluripotent stem cells’, which can basically become any part of the body. How do you make a printable design for a human organ or a human bone? It comes down to a few different clinical situations. We’ve got people who get tumours of the nose and the surgeon has to remove the nose to get rid of the tumour. There you’ve got a patient with a nose before they remove it, and you can scan them and get the exact shape of their nose before it’s removed. That then gets fed into the printer as a three dimensional picture as you would with a MakerBot and away you go. I’m really excited about this technology. How is a printed bone, based on a scan, better than an off-the-shelf polymer bone that people would’ve had up until now? It’s better for those particular clinical applications where a definite shape is important, so in the head in particular, the shape of the bones is very important to us
Kevin Shakesheff, professor in tissue engineering at Nottingham University 17
A 3D printed ear produced at Princeton University in 2013
in terms of our identity. Particularly when it comes to things like the jaw bone – you can shape that through 3D printing so it matches exactly. But it’s not just the overall shape. It’s the internal structure. Bone needs a lot of blood vessels, and potentially, with 3D printing, you can print into the structure the motorways for the blood vessels to go through. In future, will adults get themselves pre-scanned so that if they need something in a hurry, it can be printed off using those designs? I think that’s a good idea. At present the risks of a major x-ray would probably outweigh the benefits, and the cost of MRI would probably prohibit it for most people. But these things could become cheaper and safer.
“The Holy Grail at the end of this is that potentially we could make a tissue, an organ for you, using your own cells” Will it be easier to print bones than to print organs? The major role that you would think of a bone having is structural. It has to convey force or resist force. Artificial hips are typically metal or polymer, and bone replacements don’t need to be alive or to integrate with the surrounding bone. So yes, the structural tissues of our body – bone, cartilage, muscle – would probably be the first ones that we’ll see clinically advance. I think what’s exciting, though, is if you look at a more difficult tissue, let’s say the liver, the structure is on a length scale that we can print even now. It’s in the ten micron to 50 micron range. I think that the things that are special about your liver in terms of its internal structure are attainable now by printing methods. And all of the stem cell biology is teaching us how to grow the right cells. So we’ve got this convergence where lots of things
seem to be coming together and giving us real hope that you can print something as complex as a liver in the future.
The future 2014 The patents will expire on “selective laser sintering,” believed to be the key to industrial-grade 3D printing. The increased competition will lead to a drop in price and it will be possible to buy a printer that can print metal for the house. 2014 NASA will launch a 3D printer into space (above, on a test flight) to help astronauts manufacture spare parts in zero gravity. 2016 It’s expected that the cost of enterprise-use 3D printers, those that can be used for manufacturing on a large-scale, will drop to below $2,000. 2018 Accordingly to Citigroup analysts, the 3D printing market will have tripled in size by 2018.
It feels like we have stepped very dramatically forward in a very short period of time. There are a few decades of work behind this. Although it wasn’t done on 3D printing, it’s very relevant. We’ve been growing bone tissue, liver tissue and heart tissue using other methods. I guess what my group and others are doing is trying to say, “how do we take what we’ve learned in that and apply it to 3D printing?” How could this new technology change people’s lives? There are long waiting lists for organs and many people die whilst waiting for a transplant. That problem accumulates over the years as we learn to keep people alive without a transplant. There are more and more people who are waiting. But the Holy Grail at the end of this is that potentially you could think that we could make a tissue, an organ for you, using your own cells. Under that scenario there wouldn’t be any problem with immune rejection, so you wouldn’t have to take drugs for the rest of your life that stop your body from rejecting the transplanted organ. Again, although we’re certainly not there now, you can see the pieces of the jigsaw are getting pretty advanced. There are no massive insurmountable barriers that I can see there. It’s just going to take time and money to really mature the process. How is the UK doing in comparison to other countries, in terms of investing in this technology? We’re doing extremely well in terms of government support and of course we’ve got things like the Wellcome Trust and other charities that are very good at providing medical funding. The UK decided to really put this as one of its major technology priorities. They’ve set up something called a ‘Catapult Centre’ in London, which is all about taking university research and trying to get it into the clinic. We’re punching above our weight. 19
How will a leap in data storage affect our lives?
Where will data storage be in 2018? I’m sure we’ll go even smaller. According to Moore’s Law, which dates back to around 1970, the power of computer hardware doubles every 18 months to two years, and Mr Moore has been proven very prescient. Atomic-scale magnetic memory is about 100 times greater in density than the densest disk drives currently on the market but this particular technology is still in development and it may take considerably longer than five years for it to reach consumers. I think we’ll go subatomic at some point too, although I don’t believe that will happen in the next five years either. When we reach a point where we can reliably manipulate things on an atomic scale in manufacturing quantities, that would be a dramatic change. What kind of impact will this breakthrough have on our lives? The most visible change is likely to be in mobile phones. Ten years ago they had very little storage; now you can fit hundreds of albums on them. We’re some way from the point where entire movie libraries can be stored on phones but we’re getting there. Tell us about ‘A Boy and His Atom’... The film was made by our research lab in Almaden, California, and its purpose was to show people what we’re doing in a very simple, powerful way. A lot of stuff the lab does is quite arcane and not exactly headline news so this was an imaginative 20
Data storage in numbers
1956 IBM unveil the world’s first hard drive, in computer weighing over a tonne.
1976 Shugart Associates invent the 5.25” floppy disk.
1984 IBM introduces the 3.5” floppy disk for the PC.
1985 Philips and Sony develop the CD-Rom.
1994 Iomega launches the zip drive.
1995 Philips makes the first DVD player.
2000 The first USB drives appear.
2006 Blu-Ray players are released. 2012 IBM develops data storage based on individual atoms.
way to show people a window of technological possibilities. The film had such a positive response and it went viral on social media. I don’t think anybody at Pixar will be losing sleep with the fear that we’re going to put them out of the animation business, but the film cleverly demonstrates what can be done. How does atomic-scale magnetic memory work? At a basic level it’s a bit like playing with magnets at school. We’ve got individual iron atoms which happen to be on a copper nitrogen substrate, and we’ve arranged them so each iron atom is in effect a tiny magnet. We’ve plopped them down in a two-by-two line, and this is where you need to know a little about quantum physics. Atoms on their own are not solid, coherent objects; it’s difficult to predict what the electrons and structures are doing. But when you add atoms together at some point they become a stable structure, a point at which they can reliably store magnetic information at a low temperature. That’s where the magic number 12 comes in. 12 atoms can store one bit of data by aligning their magnetic properties. How will this increased potential for data storage enable big data projects? Big data is both a big opportunity and a big challenge. In 2018 there will be many times more data than there is now, which needs to be stored reliably and securely. When you are able to track and analyse vast quantities of data you can make significant gains in terms of dealing with lots of infrastructure problems like traffic congestion or even water-metering. Similarly, if you could record the personal health information of millions of people you might be better able to correlate that information and diagnose health problems.
Last year, IBM took nanotechnology to the next level and stored a bit of computer data on twelve atoms, a giant leap forward in data storage publicised by the film ‘A Boy & His Atom’. Tommy Rickard, IBM UK’s director of systems & technology, talks about how this may one day change our lives
Future data storage Crystal storage (above): Pros: 5D optical memory: can hold 360TB on a DVD-sized disc. Extremely long-lasting – could outlast human race. Cons: Development still in infancy – could take many years. Holographic storage: Pros: Fast transfer rates. Potential for huge storage using graphene oxide discs. Cons: Storage drives and discs curently too expensive. DNA storage: Pros: Unrivalled storage capacity: one gram of DNA can store two perabytes of data (equal to approximately 3 million CDs’ worth of data). Cons: Extremely expensive and time-consuming to develop technology. Needs investment.
IBM’s team working on ‘A Boy and His Atom’, an animated film made by moving carbon monoxide molecules
Social media timeline 1980 Compuserve launches the internetâ€™s first chat room â€“ for CB radio enthusiasts 1995 Geocities is launched, which makes it easy for anybody to build a website 1997 AOL introduces Instant Messenger 1999 Blogger and Livejournal start the blogging revolution
Aleks Krotoski, broadcaster and journalist
2002 Friendster launches â€“ 3m people sign up in first three months 2003 Professional networking site LinkedIn launches 2003 Myspace launches and soon becomes the biggest social networking site in the US 2004 Facebook launches at Harvard University 2006 Microblogging site Twitter launches 2010 Facebook becomes the busiest website in the US 2010 Photo-sharing site Instagram launches
How will we deal with a hyperconnected world? Aleks Krotoski, broadcaster, journalist and author of Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You, talks about what can be done about the spread of misinformation on social media by 2018 Will people be more cautious in 2018 when sharing information online? Possibly, although there’s what’s known as the ‘online disinhibition effect’, which refers to a loosening of the social inhibitions that would be present in normal offline interactions. As human beings we cannot conceptualise that whatever it is we’re typing into our computer or phone will be spread far and wide, and we don’t see why it might be a problem until such time as it becomes a problem. That said, situations like PRISM and what’s been going on with the NSA recently have shaken people up a little bit. The World Economic Forum named digital wildfires as one of its three key areas of risk in its 2013 Global Risks report. Why do you think we’re experiencing this phenomenon now? I’m not sure if these wildfires of misinformation are a new phenomenon or something we’re experienced already, but just greatly amplified online. What’s different about the digital world is its global reach, the speed of this global reach, and the simplicity of sharing – the huge number of eyeballs reached by retweets and likes on Facebook. Is there any possibility of international consensus on limits to legal freedoms of online speech by 2018? I went to a summit in Paris a couple of years ago called the EG8 and they somehow managed to get everybody – Eric Schmidt of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Nicolas Sarkozy. It was an
When wildfires spread You only had to look on Twitter on 8th August 2011 to see how misinformation on social media has the potential to cause panic and confusion. At the height of that day’s riots in London, unsubstantiated and untrue rumours spread on social media: rioters had broken into London Zoo and released tigers, the British army had deployed tanks near Bank station, the London Eye was on fire. The effects of these false tweets were minor and they were quickly proved false. However, when the Syrian Electronic Army hacked the Twitter account of the Associated Press on 23rd April 2013 and told its followers that Barack Obama had been injured in an attack on the White House, the Dow Jones index plunged 143 points and the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost $136.5 billion. It was a warning of how the spread of false information on social media can have serious real-world effects.
attempt at a global conversation on national security and privacy on the web, the two things on the internet governments are compelled to talk about. But every country has a different agenda and I’d be really surprised if talk can be turned into agreements in five years. A friend has been working on the media policy agenda for Europe and it’s been frustrating because when it comes to press freedom, every territory has a different approach. It’s the same when it comes to the internet. Also, there’s a thriving dark web lying beneath the surface and there are so many people out there who want to push the boundaries, to find the cracks and break stuff. It will always be extremely difficult to police the internet, and so there will always be risks and uncertainties. Why do people spread misinformation and why do others fan these flames? One thing propelling this is a desire people have to be the first with the information, the source of breaking news. And then rumours spread because we’re desperate to figure things out and find certainty in our lives. We trust others online in a way we wouldn’t necessarily trust others offline. We’d usually turn to our friends and family first and then look to leaders or people well respected in the community, but online we’re like “let’s listen to this random dude here”. Are we still immature as internet users? Will we become smarter about our filtering processes by 2018? We’re at an early stage in our relationship with the web, just 20 years, and we’re excited, we’re overwhelmed, we’re kids in a candy shop. We’re now challenging ourselves to understand what credibility is, to understand what we believe is true and false, what we believe is objective and subjective. 23
Health and environment in 2018 “For all our successes, we are never far from the edge of catastrophe, as new biological mutations will eventually overcome a prior human innovation” World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Risks report
The British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI research station
www.photo.antarctica.ac.uk, Antony Dubber
In the two decades since the birth of the web, a series of extraordinary advances have helped revolutionise health care. An increased understanding of human genomics has been a boon to preventative medicine, as Adam Rutherford tells us on p28, enormous steps have been made in the treatment of HIV, and a range of new innovations could change the way we approach surgery and transplants. But we must not get carried away. The alarming threat of antibiotic resistance is a reminder that science’s sway over nature is only ever temporary. Laura Piddock of Antibiotic Action explains how we can prepare for that challenge on p26. Nature is always finding new ways of challenging us. The Global Risks report urges us to appreciate how much we depend on space satellites to support our most critical infrastructure, and how these satellites are under threat. On p32, David Blake of the British Antarctic Survey talks about how the new Halley VI research station isn’t merely a boost to climate science – it’s part of a global effort to keep critical space infrastructure intact. 25
Laura Piddock, professor of microbiology and director of Antibiotic Action
What if we lose the use of antibiotics by 2018? Laura Piddock is professor of microbiology at the University of Birmingham and the director of campaign group Antibiotic Action. She tells us about the antibiotics crisis and what we should be doing to improve the situation by 2018
impact they have or what we can do to minimise resistance developing. Now we understand this. We undervalued antibiotics and used them all over the place; if they were introduced now they would be seen and reserved as miracle drugs.
In terms of researching and developing new antibiotics, what sort of progress do you hope we will make by 2018? Firstly, it’s important that we find different ways of treating bacterial infections, not just antibiotics, and there are lots of interesting things being done in research labs right now. The pathway for antibiotics is tried and tested but progress will be quite small in that area because there’s really nothing in the pipeline for the infections we have the most urgent need for, the gram-negative infections such as E. coli.
Why aren’t pharmaceutical companies developing new antibiotics? One reason is that there have been many mergers between companies in the past 15 years. Another is that it’s extremely difficult to develop a good compound in the lab so it becomes an effective treatment. All the easily available compounds, the lowhanging fruit, have been developed into drugs already – it’s hard to find new molecules you can translate, particularly against gram-negative bacteria. Bacteria are good at stopping drugs getting inside a cell, which is what you need to do to kill it, and good at pumping these drugs out the body.
England’s chief medical officer Sally Davies has spoken about the urgent need to stem the spread of antibioticresistant bacteria. How can we do this? Sally picked up on the issues raised by the World Economic Forum report, which I contributed to, and she’s been a fantastic advocate. We need to stop spreading bacteria whether it’s resistant or not because we still have a problem with treatable infections. We want people to stop getting infections. We also must preserve the antibiotics we’ve got for as long as possible and use them carefully. It’s a two-pronged solution – prevent the spread, preserve what we’ve got. How did we reach this point? A lack of understanding. If we discovered antibiotics now rather than 70 or 80 years ago we wouldn’t use them in the same way. We didn’t understand how resistant bacteria emerge, how they spread, the
Antimicrobial resistance facts ‘Antibiotic resistance’ is used to describe bacteria that aren’t killed by an antibiotic that they previously would have been killed by. Antibiotic resistance develops when organisms mutate and develop resistance to the actions of antimicrobial drugs. It’s an example of natural selection. In 2011, there were an estimated 630,000 cases of MDR-TB – a strand of tuberculosis that is resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin, the most powerful TB drugs. There are an estimated 12 million cases of TB globally. The first case of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea was found in Japan in 2011. HO41 is resistant to all known antibiotics and has been placed in the superbug category. The estimated cost to the US healthcare system of antibiotic resistant infections is between $21bn and $34bn per year.
How can we incentivise pharma companies to invest in this research? There are high-level discussions going on. Antibiotics are taken for days or weeks so they’re not as profitable as drugs people take for life but there are models in development so that companies don’t take on all the financial risk. You need to incentivise everyone on the chain starting with academia or research institutes. Many drugs that get picked up by big pharma for development come from small companies. How receptive has the public been to Antibiotic Action’s message? We have been pushing at an open door. We achieved our five-year business plan in the first six months. The challenge for us now is resources in terms of people. How do we mobilise and get the word out? Awareness is rapidly increasing but we must also have action and action requires money – and that’s the big challenge. 27
How will personal genomics change medical care? Geneticist, broadcaster and journalist Adam Rutherford talks about how the arrival of affordable genome testing will and won’t change healthcare by 2018 “It’s pretty commonplace already,” says Adam Rutherford when asked whether personal genome sequencing will be more prevalent by 2018. Host of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Inside Science’, author of ‘Creation: The Origin of Life’ and a geneticist by trade, Rutherford has keenly followed the extraordinary journey we’ve been on in the field of personal genomics ever since the completion of the Human Genome Project ten years ago. Back then, the cost of sequencing an individual’s whole genome was in the order of billions of dollars. Now it can be done for just a few thousand. “The tipping point is when we can sequence an entire human genome for $1,000,” he says. “And the $1,000 genome is on the way.” If we can hit this magic number by 2018 – which looks extremely likely – then it will put whole genome testing within the reach of a huge number of people. The Human Genome Project was formally completed in 2003 [a working draft was ready in 2001] when scientists successfully recorded one entire human DNA sequence, approximately three billion letters of genetic code. But what have we learned since then? “There was an assumption, at least in the press, that once we sequenced the human genome all the secrets of disease and behaviour would be revealed to us,” says Rutherford. “But the big discovery of the project was that we didn’t really seem to have enough genes to explain our complexity. It revealed the landscape we had to explore and it’s enormous. When you analyse the genetics involved in diseases such as heart disease 28
The human genome in numbers
Number of base pairs in the human genome
Distance to which the base pairs of DNA would extend if spread out a millimetre apart
$2.7 billion The approximate cost of the Human Genome Project
20,000-25,000 The number of genes that were estimated to be in the human genome by the Human Genome Project
99% Amount of human DNA which is identical to that of chimpanzees
or schizophrenia or Parkinson’s, or behavioural traits such as intelligence or sexual preferences, what you find is inscrutably complex genetic interactions. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we’ve turned unknown unknowns into known unknowns. This is going be a journey without easy answers.” The thing he believes will go a long way to helping us find the answers we’re looking for is to have as many people as possible getting their entire genomes sequenced and the results catalogued. “From a scientific point of view, the increased availability of genome sequencing is wonderful,” says Rutherford. “I believe that the only way we will be able to understand the complexities of humankind encoded in our genomes is by sequencing many more people’s genomes. We have to sequence as many people as possible.” When we have vast quantities of data available, it may be possible to learn enough about DNA to transform our understanding of what causes diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s – and to revolutionise our approach to preventative medicine. Rutherford is heartened by the news that large scale projects to collect this data are beginning to take shape. The scientists behind the UK Personal Genome Project are looking for 100,000 volunteers to have their DNA sequenced and the results made freely available online. It would be a big step forward in terms of understanding human genetics, but it comes with a warning for would-be volunteers – their anonymity is not guaranteed and the long-term consequences of releasing your data are still unknown. “This technology opens up many societal issues,” says Rutherford. “If your ultimate identity is encoded in your DNA and your DNA is available in a public database, then there’s potential for things
“There are very few times you can say ‘this is the gene for this’ – it simply doesn’t work that way”
Research technicians prepare DNA samples to be sequenced at the New York Genome Center
to happen. It’s not impossible that I could synthesise a stretch of DNA which is unique to you, plant it at a crime scene, and a DNA forensics expert would identify you as somebody present at the scene of the crime. That’s a rather extreme example, but there are other concerns. If your lifespan was likely to be ten years shorter than mine due to a predisposition to a certain disease, it might affect your ability to take out insurance.” Rutherford is concerned that since the genomics business is still in its infancy, there are opportunities for businesses to take advantage of layman consumers with pseudoscience and offer far more than they can possibly deliver. “My contention is that in most cases where you send off $300 or whatever and you get back a bit of your DNA sequence with a bit of analysis, the results you’ll get will be somewhere between mildly interesting and meaningless. I’ve been writing a chapter of my new book called ‘What Sport Should My Children Play?’ and I’ve found various companies offering genetic diagnosis on whether your children are more predisposed to ice hockey or weightlifting or some other sport. The reality is that almost all characteristics we have are not explained by single genes. There are very few times you can say ‘this is the gene for this’ – it simply doesn’t work that way.” To date, only a few thousand people have had their entire genomes sequenced, although hundreds of thousands more have had parts of their genome sequenced. When actor Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy in April 2013 following a genetic test which revealed she carried a mutation in her BRCA1 gene, meaning she had a high risk of getting breast cancer, it was widely seen as a breakthrough in the public’s understanding of what personal genomics can offer when it comes to preventative care. “I thought it was incredibly brave of her,” says Rutherford. “Anybody who comes out in public and says ‘I’ve had a pre-emptive double mastectomy’ deserves support and I think if more people get tested it’s a good thing, as long as the testing comes with good education. My anxiety about easy access to genome
Cost of genome sequencing $100,000,000
At the start of the Human Genome project in 2001 the cost of sequencing one genome was around $100,000,000 – the cost is expected to be less than $1,000 by 2018
sequencing is that it’s not supported by a framework which explains what you’re being told. You’re being told probabilistic risks, probabilistic associations with particular conditions. That’s why I have a job to do. It’s important people understand what these things really mean.” The results of a gene test, or even the data from having your entire genome sequenced, cannot tell you with absolute certainty whether you will suffer from a particular disease. It’s an indicator, sometimes a very strong indicator, of probability. “When you sequence someone’s genome, there is a line you can draw, above which you can say these things are medically actionable. But the number of things that are medically actionable that are identifiable through personal genomics is relatively low; that number will increase as we sequence more and more genomes and understand the risk factors involved. When people talk about having BRCA1 or BRCA2, what’s really important to understand is that it doesn’t give an individual a specific predisposition towards getting a specific disease. What it does is reflect is a population-wide probability that is associated with those particular diseases. It’s a relatively complex idea but the bottom line is that people paying for gene testing want to know if they’re going to get a particular disease and in almost all cases the answer is that we can’t tell you with any degree of certainty.” Those who have been hoping for the arrival of the $1,000 genome to usher in a new dawn of preventative, personalised medicine may have to wait a bit longer. Making whole genome sequencing affordable to the masses will certainly be a significant step towards what we need – big data. DNA information on vast numbers of people will give us increased potential to understand the subtle genetic differences between us. “We know masses more than we did ten years ago,” says Rutherford. “But I’m not sure if there’s ever going to be a time when we master the subject, or at least, it’s still decades down the line because what we discovered is that we’re incredibly complex. I don’t know why this was a surprise to anybody.” 31
David Blake, head of technology and engineering at the British Antarctic Survey, talks about living in extreme environments and how the revolutionary Halley VI research station will advance climate science by 2018 “It’s awful outside, of course,” says David Blake, who has become used to living and working in the harsh environment of the Antarctic wilderness. “But inside Halley VI it’s quite warm, about plus 18 or 19, even in winter when you get 110 days of darkness and it’s inhospitable and pretty cold.” Pretty cold is an understatement – at the Halley VI’s location on the Brunt ice shelf, 100mph winds and -50°C temperatures are not uncommon. The first four Halley stations run by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on the Brunt ice shelf – number one opened in 1956 – were overwhelmed by snow, while Halley V was demolished, removed and recycled. But the latest Halley is different. Halley VI has ski-fitted hydraulic legs which will enable it to stay above rising snow and move when necessary. Designed by London-based Hugh Broughton Architects at a cost of approximately £26 million, the Halley VI doesn’t merely offer BAS greater capacity to study the effects of climate change and observe the Earth’s magnetic field – it’s also a work of art that won the RIBA International Award 2013, a major architectural prize. “Halley VI is special because it was designed specifically for science,” says Blake. “In the past we’ve designed the building and added science on afterwards. It’s on a floating ice shelf which moves towards the sea at about 400-500 metres a year, so if we hadn’t created something relocatable it would have ended up in the sea and we’d have had to rebuild it.” 32
Antarctica in numbers
- 89.2 °C
Coldest temperature recorded on Earth at Vostok Station, July 1983
The number of British Antarctic Survey bases now buried beneath the snow.
In the South Pole the sun sets in March and doesn’t rise until October. Six months is also the longest day.
The amount of the world’s fresh water currently held in the Antarctic ice sheet
The rate per year that the ice shifts.
In 1985, scientists working for BAS at the Halley station discovered a hole in the ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s most harmful rays. This discovery led to the Montreal Protocol and the worldwide ban of CFCs, the organic compounds that were primarily responsible for ozone depletion. BAS has been studying the ozone layer from its Antarctic bases for over 50 years and to maintain consistency the Halley VI can’t move too far from previous incarnations of the station. “The hole is still there,” says Blake, “but the Montreal Protocol was a rare time the world got together and said ‘we have a problem, we must do something’.” The key aims of Halley VI, Blake explains, are to investigate climate science, look at atmospheric chemistry, search for pollutants in the area, and research glaciology, the causes of the melting of ice. BAS is also working on a monitoring station for the Comprehensive NuclearTest-Ban Treaty. “We’re going to be the last station in a ring of stations around the Earth which monitors anybody who lets off a nuclear explosion. If, for example, Korea lets something off, we’ll be able to measure radionuclides and other emissions that get carried round the Earth.” Blake is particularly enthusiastic about the Spacecast programme, which will investigate why space storms are causing communications satellites to malfunction. He also hopes that an increased understanding of the causes of global temperature rises will lead to a shift in public and political opinion on the need to urgently tackle climate change, although he argues that climatologists must do a better job of communicating their research to people unfamiliar with the science. As for Halley VI, Blake is confident it will be around for a while. “It’s been designed to last up to 40 years. We hope Halley VII is a long way off.”
www.photo.antarctica.ac.uk, Sam Burrell
What is the future of environmental research?
“Halley VI is special because it was designed specifically for science”
The British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI research station
Society in 2018 “The impacts of ageing populations will be felt throughout society, from changing best practices in urban planning to impacting social norms around care giving” World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Risks report A significant number of the people we canvassed about their future histories talked about the impact of demographic shifts on their business and personal lives. Across the globe, people are grappling with the implications of a population which can live more healthily for longer: we’ve explored some of the potential social and environmental implications with Sir Jonathon Porritt on p40. When it comes to business, the longer healthy life expectancy has impacts on the ages at which we will retire, and the way we will expect to shape our careers. For employers, it can mean changing attitudes towards the composition of the workforce and how it is motivated and shaped, topics we’ve discussed with Will Hutton (p36) and Penny de Valk (p38). In order to prepare the future workforce for their careers, and to sustain education throughout people’s working lives, we are seeing an increasing presence of technology in classrooms: we get the lowdown from education expert Matt Britland on p42 about how this could be affecting us all by 2018.
How will the attitude of the workforce change? Will Hutton is a political economist, journalist and chair of the Big Innovation Centre, an initiative of The Work Foundation that aims to make the UK a global open innovation hub. He tells Future History Now about how he expects the needs and demands of the UK workforce will change by 2018 How do you expect the expectations of the workforce will change by 2018? Britain’s workforce is splitting into three broad tribes, each with different expectations. There are typically knowledge workers in the top three deciles of income distribution, but there are also those within any given decile that have more skills. These tend to be mobile, empowered people who are looking for work to provide at the very least a halo of reputation, if not a sense of making a difference. They demand to be treated with respect, they want to have autonomy, and they react badly to unfairness and injustice either perceived or real. Who are the other tribes? There’s the traditional salariat, who are much more insecure than they used to be: they want respect and autonomy too, but they are grateful for a job and keenly aware that the next round of cuts by the government or from global head office could cost them their job. They are unlikely to complain at being mistreated, but will get more sullen and unproductive. They would like to join a union but are frightened about the signal it might send. The third tribe are the precariat – workers with few skills who occupy low paid service sector or public sector jobs – if they’re not on zero-hour contracts they probably have very little security. They know they are disposable and are extremely cynical about their employers. What can employers do to keep staff satisfied? Each of the tribes requires differing strategies. HR departments are under immense pressure to be transactional and instrumental to all three tribes. It won’t work with any of them, least of all to the knowledge workers.
How will an ageing population and a decreased availability of skilled workers challenge employers? These challenges have existed for the past decade and will simply grow more intense. Most workplaces now have a growing proportion of over 60s – but they are solid citizens and as long as they are fit they are often the most productive workers. The skills question remains the most challenging, and will grow ever more so. Is flexible working a good idea? Knowledge workers demand it, but often requests to work from home need to be handled with care. It can be a very good strategy for hi-tech workers – and even the salariat. Are older workers undervalued? Older knowledge workers – and older workers with organisational specific capital (clients, technology, etc) are highly valued and a lot of companies try to persuade them to stay – not the case with the salariat and precariat. How can employers balance the growing trend for people to work longer with the increasing number of qualified young people struggling to find good jobs? It’s not a zero sum game. There is not a fixed amount of hours to be worked in the economy; the amount of hours depends on demand and the productivity of labour and it will rise over time. But too many companies are concerned whether they will survive the technological and business model challenges of the next few years and are simply not hiring young people. This is not the fault of old people! Has the relationship between employees and employers changed during the years of recession? Some employers are more hawkish. They don’t provide anything but minimum benefits, they downsize freely, they use more interns, they refuse to offer full time employment, and they try to avoid talking to workplace representatives. As the labour market tightens, as it will, bad employers will suffer from word of mouth effects. What are the potential consequences of high youth unemployment? It’s disastrous. All the evidence is that people without work or acquiring skills in their early twenties will still feel the consequences 20 years later.
“Most workplaces now have a growing proportion of over 60s – but as long as they are fit they are often the most productive workers”
“There’s a notion that people over 60 are past it, but older people can help and mentor younger workers”
How will the workforce change by 2018? Penny de Valk, CEO of consulting firm Cedar, explains how changing demographics will affect the UK workforce by 2018 Will there be more women in boardrooms by 2018? I think so, largely as non-executive directors. Having diversity in your governance is a good thing. The data shows that boards with more women on them outperform boards that don’t, so it’s not about political correctness, it’s about really throttling up UK PLCs’ governance performance. A key impact of having more women in senior positions is that women who are aspiring to leadership positions will have more role models. Should quotas be introduced on women on boards? I’m not a big fan of quotas. I think they drive compliance as opposed to commitment to more diverse and well-rounded governance. Ideally, of course, we would see boardrooms split evenly between men and women.
Shutterstock.com, Rob Marmion
Do we need to rethink our attitudes to older workers? Definitely. Companies that figure out how to capture older workers’ expertise and experience are going to have an advantage. There’s a notion that people over 60 are past it, but older people can help and mentor younger workers. Organisations will need to look at flexible working so older staff can transition into retirement. People working into their seventies should be able to work part-time. Do organisations do enough to provide financial advice to employees? Individuals need to take responsibility for their own present and future but organisations – without going back to the old days of paternalism – should give access to advice so their staff can make informed choices. Should organisations encourage telecommuting? Often it’s important to meet in person for social interaction, collegiality and to spark commercial creativity, but the companies that embrace remote working will have a competitive advantage. The key is to adapt performance culture. Managers have to be equipped to manage people
virtually and still drive performance and accountability. We’re still stuck in the old management command control models of 20 years ago when everybody had to sit at desks, nine to five, Monday to Friday. What is a full-time or a part-time job in a 24/7 economy? Will telecommuting help employees achieve a better work/life balance? We don’t need people to do that brutal commuting, particularly in London, day in, day out. Just one day at home per week can help an employee reduce their stress levels – and people who are given some sense of control over their working lives know their organisation trusts them, and they’re more likely to be committed. People want more control of their working life. We have to loosen up our ideas of what part- and full-time work looks like and offer greater flexibility, so older staff can work more flexible hours, so men can take paternity leave and so on. Let’s have grown-up conversations about what works for individuals and what works for business. What will be the impact of an increasing percentage of the UK workforce being foreign-born? Even though London is considered the talent capital of the world and we have a diverse range of skills sets, we need to keep taking skilled people in from overseas because there’s a huge skills gap. The reality is that we’re still a pretty white middle-class workforce in the professional services. For organisations to get the best talent, they need to be more open-minded. We have to absorb the fact that not everything is done in English – we miss out on lots of brainpower because of an anglophone bias. Companies that capitalise on the opportunity to create a diverse workforce will make their business more competitive. It’s not about political correctness, it’s about throwing the net as widely as possible to get the best talent. Will organisations become less hierarchical? Organisational structures will keep changing. They’ve already broadened and people are much more likely to move laterally and not just vertically. Younger people are less bothered by rank; they’ll work for people whom they rate and whom they can learn from. People will move around organisations quite differently – it will be less about promotion and more about learning, building your CV, your employability and your personal brand. 39
Sir Jonathon Porritt is the co-founder of Forum for the Future, which recently published a report advising on how we should manage rapid population growth in the UK. He talks about his hopes for 2018 and beyond
UK population growth 2030*
1971 1981 1991
“2018 isn’t very far away,” says Sir Jonathon Porritt, whose new book, The World We Made, is inspired by a positive vision of the future. While this memoir from the perspective of a character writing in 2050 is fictional, it’s based on Porritt’s research on technology, economics and sustainability. The book is his own future history, the story of a planet that reversed the tide and embraced sustainable living. Porritt has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement for 40 years. He’s been the director of Friends of the Earth, chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission and chairman of the Green Party. In 1996 he co-founded Forum for the Future, a nonprofit that works with business and government to prepare for the future. The organisation’s recent report, Growing Pains, warns that the UK will face significant challenges as its population rapidly expands – it’s expected to hit 70 million before 2030. “The additional two million people between now and 2018 isn’t going to make a huge impact on people’s lives,” Porritt says. “But the impact by 2030 and then 2050 will be very clear indeed.” “It’s extremely difficult to have an intelligent, cultured debate about population; the topic seems to trigger people’s worst instincts,” Porritt adds. “I’m not denying there’s a link between population and migration but we have to be able to talk about population without automatically hedging around all the controversies surrounding immigration.
It’s astonishing that our debates about climate change, water scarcity, overheated economics and infrastructure demand so rarely include a discussion on population. There are major quality of life implications from having a constantly rising population.” The two million extra people the UK will have by 2018 are expected to increase the strain on infrastructure and the economy, public services and natural resources. But Porritt believes growth can be successfully managed. The key, he believes, is to promote sustainable living. “We can improve the environment without any net diminution in our material standard of living or quality of life,” he says. “The UK is still way behind other European countries in that regard. We have a modest record of achievement on recycling, we’re reasonably good at water consumption and efficiency, but we do badly on energy efficiency and improving the quality of housing stock.” One cause of population growth is that we’re living longer. “The percentage of people who will live to be more than 100 by 2050 is staggering,” Porritt says. “But the idea that our economies will collapse because we won’t have enough money to pay for people no longer working is a false argument. Many people will continue to work well into their seventies because we won’t just have increased life expectancy, we’ll have increased healthy life expectancy, which is the critical thing.” “Since the crash we’ve been obsessed with economic growth and we tend to overlook aspects which are more about people’s quality of life and wellbeing,” Porritt says. “I’m not a zero-growth advocate – we need low levels of economic growth to repay debt, but you don’t need more growth for people to have better lives. We have to find ways of increasing levels of prosperty and wellbeing that are generated through low levels rather than high levels of economic growth.”
Shutterstock.com, Anastasia Petrova
How do we manage rapid population growth?
What will the classroom of 2018 look like? Matt Britland, director of education consultancy firm Realise Learning and head of ICT at Kingston Grammar School, says the future of education is in the cloud... What will classrooms look like in 2018? I think all students will carry devices connected to the internet and the cloud. They will store their work and applications in the cloud rather than on a local computer. The technology used in the classroom will prepare them for the workplace – the devices and networks used in schools and offices will be the same. Which other new technologies do you expect to see in classrooms by 2018? Google Glass and augmented reality will offer new possibilities for teaching. Of course tablets also offer massive potential. They allow anywhere to become a classroom – regardless of whether you’re in the playground or the sports field, you can access your schoolwork, stored in the cloud.
Shutterstock.com, Tyler Olson
Do pupils respond in a different way to tablets than they do to blackboards and books? Yes, because lessons can be delivered in many ways using the multimedia capabilities: video, audio, images, e-textbooks. It can help bring a subject to life. That said, that might change if and when the novelty disappears. Will teachers still be educators or will they merely be facilitators of this new technology? Tablets won’t replace teachers. It may make teachers’ jobs easier but an iPad can’t make a child passionate about a subject like a teacher can. The teacher will still be the
Which MOOC? EdX Launched: May 2012 by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Partner universities: 29 including MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, McGill, Berklee College of Music, Peking University Sign up now: Jazz Appreciation (Texas), Introduction to the Music Business (Berklee), Relativity & Astrophysics (Cornell) edx.org Coursera Launched: April 2012 by Stanford University professors Partner universities: 107 including Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Edinburgh, Tokyo Sign up now: Introduction to Chemistry (Duke), Global History since 1760 (Virginia), Critical Thinking in Global Challenges (Edinburgh) coursera.org
most important thing in the classroom, even if their role is primarily motivation. Personally I love the idea of becoming a facilitator. Kids will have the freedom to access learning materials from anywhere so if they want to extend their learning and go further forward, they can. If they’re struggling they can slow down and pause the video. They can’t pause a teacher. Will cloud computing enable greater interaction between schools, even those in different countries? Absolutely. It’s exciting for kids to experience the global community. Education is becoming more social and more global. The librarian at my school arranged a Skype interview with an author in another country, which couldn’t have been done in the past. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) let anybody online sign up to university courses. Will technology give people access to education in parts of the world where it may not be available? Absolutely. It’s fantastic that anybody in the world can now participate in courses at Cambridge. It makes education available to the masses, and that includes UK citizens. Many UK students can’t access education due to financial or location reasons. How can social media work in schools? They’re brilliant for improving communication and collaboration between pupils, and between pupils and teachers. Facebook can be moderated and it’s a great way of sharing work and research. Will kids become addicted to screens? A balance is needed. We need to make sure kids get outside and put their gadgets away. Online is very social and kids talk virtually, but this needs to be balanced with actual face-to-face interactions. 43
Will we have a healthier workforce by 2018?
What should employers be doing over the next five years to create healthier workplaces? I want to see more prevention in the workplace, not just action after it’s happened. I think there will be more companies measuring their employees’ resilience or wellbeing electronically. Also, by 2018 we need to have more people working beyond the retirement age and it’s a big challenge to employers to enable older people to stay in work. How do we keep people fitter so they can work longer? Obesity is another issue and we will have a problem of people developing diseases associated with obesity which will affect their ability to work. Do employers currently give enough consideration to the health and wellbeing of staff? When I first started this work in 2006, workplace health wasn’t high on anybody’s agenda. I think it’s been easier for bigger companies to make progress because they have the resources; it’s more difficult for small and medium-sized companies. Most companies started by thinking about the physical health of their workforce – can we provide better foods in the vending machines, can we encourage people to more exercise? And more recently there’s a greater understanding that you have to worry about employees’ resilience and mental health, too. Will companies that invest in employee health and wellbeing save money? We can see that they do when it’s measured. Not all companies measure what they do because it takes time. When you look for the total cost to the country of everything related to people not being able to be in the workplace, I think we’re looking at a bit off £100 billion, which is about the same as the cost of running the health service. 44
Will we see progress in attitudes towards mental health awareness in the workplace? Some companies prefer to call it ‘resilience’ and don’t talk directly about maintaining mental health. It depends on the sector you’re coming from – construction workers may not want to talk about their mental health but will be prepared to talk about their resilience. Managerial training is very important. Many companies have invested in training their managers to communicate with people who are perhaps having problems at work. There has been a stigma around discussing mental health and there still is, but the better companies are talking much more openly about it and make it OK for an employee to say they’re going through a bad period and to get help. There’s a big campaign, Time To Change, supported by the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the mental health charity Mind, which is about trying to get rid of stigma. Around one in six of us will experience mental health issues in our lifetime. There’s nothing abnormal about it. Are employers increasingly encouraging staff to have a healthy work/life balance? I’d encourage you to call it work/home balance because, quite frankly, work is part of life. I think giving employees more flexibility, especially because we’ve got more females in the workforce, is very important. Also, there’s no evidence that working long hours achieves more. In fact, I think the evidence is to the contrary. Is the government doing enough to improve the health of the workforce and what should it do before 2018? I think it’s done a lot already because it responded positively to my first report in 2008. It supported the work of David MacLeod and Nita Clarke on engagement and now there’s a whole movement [on employee engagement], Engage For Success. It’s about to announce the service it will create nationally based on my second report on early intervention services. In many ways it’s doing lots of things – there’s the Public Health Responsibility Bill [an attempt at a collaborative approach to tackling public health challenges]. But the government is only one player. Every stakeholder, government included, needs to play a part. If employers don’t train their managers and don’t invest in the health and well-being of their staff, it won’t matter what government does.
Shutterstock.com, Maksim Shmeljov
Dame Carol Black is the principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, and an advisor on work and health at the Department of Health. This year she published a major report on work and health in Britain. She tells us about the progress being made...
Our future histories Companies offer 24/7 customer support Dementia and Alzheimerâ€™s are treated preventatively Disabled people play a greater role in society Education embraces technology and schoolchildren spend more time learning from home Employees value pensions far more highly Employers are implementing more wellbeing strategies in the workplace Financial education is taught in schools Financial services are more customer focused Flexible working is the norm Free education is available for every child in the world Gay marriage is accepted as normal Governments and charities do more work together Healthcare providers make use of 3D printing technology Individuals and governments are more aware of the dangers of debt Insurance firms are better at helping people in natural disasters Life insurance is available to many more people London is a greener and safer place Many more graduates are finding jobs Many people are getting their whole genome mapped Micro-insurance is helping people in emerging markets More older people transition into retirement with flexible hours More people accept that climate change is a problem More young people are entering apprenticeship schemes New antibiotics are being researched and developed Older people live more fulfilling lives Organisations do more to assist staff with pensions Organisations understand the importance of the health of their staff Pension auto-enrollment is a great success People are more involved in their local communities 46
We asked dozens of people – including the experts interviewed in this magazine – to visualise the world in 2018 and tell us what they hoped to see and achieve. We then collated everything they told us and picked out the most popular dreams and ambitions: here’s our Future History Top 50 Economy Education Health & technology Society Work
People are saving a higher portion of their income People are volunteering more than ever before People work more from home and have a better work/life balance Perceptions of older people in ? the workplace have changed The five Students get a better most mentioned deal and tuition costs less personal goals Tablets are commonplace in school classrooms Completing a There are fewer class postgraduate degree distinctions in society There are more Going to the 2016 women in boardrooms Olympics in Rio There’s a greater Becoming a focus on sustainable company director growth There’s a worldwide ban on Reducing golf animal testing There’s handicap no distinction between disabled and able-bodied Running people The UK is more a marathon self-sufficient in terms of energy supply Unemployment is at its lowest level ever We have matured as internet users We understand why space satellites malfunction Workplaces are better equipped for physically disabled people 47
â€œThe plethora and enormity of global risks from macroeconomic, environmental, social and technological areas is enough to make anyone stick their head in the sandâ€?
How does global risk impact the individual? John Scott, chief risk officer of Zurich Global Corporate, tells us how risk can be tackled in the coming years Is risk inherent in everything we do? There is no reward without risk. The ‘nirvana’ point of no risk is hard to imagine, but perhaps it is a world where everything is at absolute zero and in stasis. In the real world where everything is in flux there are decisions to be taken and these almost always entail accepting some level of risk. So risk is not a bad thing at all, but rather a fact of life. Learning to accept, mitigate or transfer risk is something we all learn from an early age. To what extent can the future be known? It is impossible to know what the future has in store, but we can attempt to understand what some of the drivers of change are, especially on a global scale, and relate those to our own circumstances. Megatrends such as geopolitics, sustainability, mobility, society, technology, health and demographics are interacting and transforming the world in a way that is different from other more well-understood drivers of change. It is in this context that we can begin to look at global risks and try to understand their impacts on organisations, nation states, regions and at a systemic level… and of course in all of this, the individual is impacted too. What basic steps can individuals take to optimise their exposure to risk over the next five years? The plethora and enormity of global risks from macroeconomic, environmental, social and technological areas is enough to make anyone stick their head in the sand. It is true that global risks are often difficult to understand, intractable in their very nature and wideranging in their impacts. However there are some simple lessons to take at an individual level. First of all the adage “don’t panic!” is a good one. Most global scale risks are long-term in their nature and it is an abiding characteristic of human beings that we are fundamentally not very good at understanding probability. We still like to have a flutter on the lottery, even though we know its more likely we will get hit by lightning than win the ‘big one’.
Even major risks such as macroeconomic imbalances, fiscal crises and currency wars that impact financial markets can have profound outcomes at the individual level. The decision for an individual to invest in certain financial products should take these risks into account. Taking advice from a trusted advisor or financial partner who understands and manages these risks in their own portfolio is one approach. The global risks that relate to cyber attacks, critical information infrastructure, state failure, organised crime and terrorism have an expression in some simple practices around your own personal data privacy and security. You wouldn’t go out of your house without locking the doors and windows, so the same is true with your personal data. This doesn’t mean this is a purely technical issue of keeping all your devices updated with anti-virus software, but simple precautions in the workplace about clear desk policies, care in sharing passwords and being alert to the social engineering of ‘phishing’ email attacks. And what about health and the environment? Hubris on human health reflects our relaxed views that modern medicine can solve all ills. The prevalence of chronic conditions, such as obesity, cancer and heart disease in the indebted Western economies are all often related to lifestyle choices. So living a healthy lifestyle and creating financial provision for our own healthcare is a smart risk-reducing action. Especially in a fiscal environment where governments are increasingly wishing to transfer the burden for financial provision of healthcare and old age provision to the individual. We often take it for granted that energy, food and water are ‘common goods’ along with the climate, but they are intimately interlinked on a global scale and changing. Whilst there is not much individuals can do, other than through collective behaviour, there are certain approaches to both mitigation and adaptation. Encouraging the use of low carbon technologies or local sourcing of food is one approach. Adaptation to extreme weather is another, for example simple flood defences, or better insulation of our homes. Whilst it is true that decarbonisation of power generation and transport is something driven more by big industry and government policy, short of ‘living off the grid’, we can all reduce our risks to energy price spikes by taking simple actions to reduce water, electricity and energy consumption. 49
My 2018 by Jonathan Dimbleby Broadcaster, writer and political commentator Jonathan Dimbleby talks about his past, his present, and his plans for the next five years...
The year 2018 seems just round the corner to me. We’ll be there very soon and I hope that I’ll still be doing what I’m doing now. I’ve been lucky that people have hired me to do all sorts of things here, there and all over the place in my career. I suppose my broadest ambition for 2018 must
“It’s a paradox that we have this extraordinary wealth of resources, but our understanding of the world is getting no greater” be to continue to have the health to keep doing the things that I find stimulating. I hate being described as ‘sprightly’, a word people sometimes use as you approach the age of 70. It’s very irritating. I don’t like the fact that I’m reaching the point when I have to resubmit the test for a driving license. 50
My greatest fear is falling victim to dementia. That would be the closing of the curtains of life. I know my faculties will fail, so I have an awareness of my mortality. But I also know I have been very fortunate. I have a young family and grandchildren and I have certainly had a very enriching career. Over the next five years I’d really like to write more. I’m currently writing a book about the Battle of the Atlantic, the campaign that lasted right through the Second World War in which German U-boats attempted to throttle the supplies coming from the United States and the rest of the world to Britain, and later to Russia. To understand where we are and where we’re going, you need to be grounded in an understanding of what came before us. I’d also love to make a series on China and how it works. It’s fascinating to look at what its past has given its present and what its future holds with its rapid growth, its extraordinary diversity of places and people, and its challenges of resources – food, energy, water etc. I’d love to travel right across the whole of China. I’ve been presenting Any Questions on BBC radio for 26 years and I have no immediate urge to stop making it. Like everybody else in journalism and broadcasting, we are wrestling with the consequences of digital media: what is citizen journalism? How do we, if at all, limit the rights of people to express themselves freely online? How many newspapers will be around in 2018? How many books will still be read in hardcover? Will the Kindle replace the paperback? All these questions are still being explored and we’re unsure what impact the digital revolution will have in commercial terms and what impact it will have on our lives. When I was young you would watch TV and there would be one or two channels to choose from. Now you turn on and you have over a hundred channels to watch. We’re going to see even more fragmentation and it worries me that this will coincide with the dilution of resources for high-quality journalism. It’s a paradox that we have this extraordinary wealth of resources, but our understanding of the world is getting no greater. You could perhaps argue that we’re getting more parochial as we have access to more information. It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out.
Your world in 2018 Some of the UKâ€™s leading thinkers on how to prepare for the future
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Inside Will Hutton on workforce demographics, Aleks Krotoski on online misinformation, Jonathon Porritt on population growth, Adam Rutherford on human genomics, Jonathan Dimbleby on ageing, and much more