(Every year, I offer this caveat: As a futurist, I don’t actually claim to make predictions about the future. Still, I know people enjoy predictions so I offer up these 10 “predictions” not because I believe they will happen exactly as I describe but rather to encourage you to think about how you, your business and the world might change in the coming year. All the predictions have links to articles which support the possibility that my “predictions” could come to fruition.)
#1: The exponential advances in artificial intelligence–specifically its ability to perform a growing number of jobs–fuels political momentum for a shorter, 4-day workweek. In October, one of the leading presidential candidates floats the idea in the final debate before Election Day.
#2: WeRide, China’s largest self-driving technology company, loses 90 percent of its value overnight after agents believed to be associated with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, hacked into the manufacturers software and made it difficult to switch off the “self-driving” mode in the company’s most popular car. The incident caused more than 250 crashes and was responsible for an estimated 20 deaths.
#3: After COP-28 announced its long-term plan to phase out fossil fuels, a Saudi-backed investment fund announces a $1 billion investment in an innovative start-up dedicated to harvesting solar power from outer space.
#4: A severe and prolonged drought in the western plains, in combination with the unregulated irrigation practices, leads a high-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to announce it will prohibit a number of farmers from tapping into the Ogallala aquifer because studies have confirmed it is being depleted much faster than it can be replenished. This has led to the realistic possibility that vast portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas may turn into desert within five decades.
#5: Toyota, which in 2023 announced that it had developed an electric vehicle battery capable of 745 miles, announces it has now doubled the range to 1,500 miles due to breakthrough research at a leading South Korean university.
#6: Due to the growing energy consumption of artificial intelligence–which is already 6X the amount of energy electric vehicles use–Microsoft, Google and Amazon all announce their intentions to build small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) as a means to meet AI’s voracious appetite for energy without contributing any CO2 to the atmosphere. The environmental community remains split over the necessity and wisdom of building SMRs.
#7: Following on the heels of Italy’s recent decision to ban alternative meats, the legislature in Wyoming, citing the threat to ranchers’ “way of life,” becomes the first state in the U.S. to ban artificial meat products. Opponents of the ban have indicated that they will seek to have the legislation overturned by the courts.
#8: A 17-year old from Manly, Iowa was arrested on charges of domestic terrorism after he used an industrial-size drone to drench fans of the opposing team with an agricultural herbicide during a local high school football game. Fans suffered only minor injuries, but the incident caught the attention of the FBI as well as the organizers of college and professional football games who are now developing comprehensive plans to ensure the safety of their fans.
#9: The convergence of 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, genomics and bioinformatics is shaking up the pharmaceutical industry as personalized drugs–drugs tailored to meet individuals’ unique health situation without any adverse side effects–are now possible. The stumbling block remains the FDA which is still trying to determine how to effectively regulate what are, for all practical purposes, one-of-a-kind drugs.
#10: Tired of old, ugly and abandoned buildings spoiling their downtowns, a growing number of cities and municipalities have taken to taxing empty buildings and storefronts. The effort is seen as a way to get delinquent landlords to either renovate their dilapidated properties or tear them down.
Jack Uldrich is a leading global futurist, popular keynote speaker, and the best-selling author of 14 books.