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At the start of any new decade, it’s customary to look forward to what the future might bring, and often this exploration is done through a largely optimistic lens.
By: Adi Gaskell
Alas, with fires burning across Australia and spreading concern about the climate, we bring in 2020 with as much trepidation as we do excitement.
This concern is nicely encapsulated by the annual Global Risks Report produced by the World Economic Forum. Their 2020 edition was recently published in advance of the annual get together in Davos, and highlights some of the biggest challenges facing the world in the year ahead.
These include risks to economic stability and social cohesion, a growing digital fragmentation and health systems under continued pressure from changing societal, demographic and technological patterns. By far the most prominent risks highlighted revolved around environmental concerns that include biodiversity loss and water crises as well as the all too evident climate emergency.
Sadly, these risks are present not only in an age where debt levels are high, trade is decreasing globally and political populism is prompting countries to look inwards rather than adopt the kind of cooperative approaches so often needed to tackle what are largely global issues.
“The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,” says Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.
At the risk of descending into a Malthusian funk, it’s important that we also appreciate the very real progress that has been made. For despite these all too evident risks and challenges, there is also much about our current time that we can be positive about. As Nicholas Kristoff highlights in the New York Times, 2019 was the year in which “children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases.”
He chronicles how roughly 325,000 people get access to electricity for the first time each day, or how over 200,000 gain access to fresh water per day. Digital transformation also continues apace, with around 650,000 people going online for the first time per day. In a notable nod to Swedish statistician Hans Rosling, he regales us with statistic after statistic detailing how the world is actually doing alright.
Over the coming months, this blog will aim to dip into both pools of thought, examining some of the biggest challenges facing humanity while also exploring some of the ways in which those challenges are being met, and the organizations that are striving to meet them.
We will cover areas such as the future of aging and what impact this will have on healthcare, the workplace and the way we learn. We will explore how mobility is changing, especially as more of us live in cities and wish to get around in a clean yet convenient way. We will also dive into education and the world of work, exploring how delivery models of education are changing alongside the skills we need to stay relevant in the labor market. We will also explore how democracy is changing in a world of fake news, social media and participatory democracy.
Each theme will contain essays that provide a deep dive into crucial aspects of that topic, before providing an overview of some of the startups that are making a real impact in that domain. Through this, we aim not only to highlight some of the challenges we face as a species, but also some of the innovative ways those challenges are being addressed.
We will kick the series off with a topic that encompasses the social, political and technological changes that are affecting the world today. Whether it’s the role of new technologies, the introduction of new ways of working, or the disruption to the traditional stages of life, the way we work is undergoing profound transformation. Over the next month, each of these topics will be put into focus, while we will also explore some of the startups driving changes in the space.
Over the coming year, we plan not only to cover the positive and negative sides of technology, but rather to apply a critical and balanced lens to the solutions that we’re seeing emerge today from around the world. We very much accept the tremendous challenges mankind faces, whether they’re environmental, social or economic, but we’re also heartened by the fantastic work being done by innovators and entrepreneurs around the world. We very much look forward to bringing you some of their stories over the coming year, and hope we can help to drive lasting and sustainable change together.
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