This is the decade of 95/5, not 80/20. 95/5 is the sauce behind predictions #8 and #10 above: Frictionless systems run flawlessly… until suddenly they don’t work at all. Google is frictionless and free… until one day the search engine goes down for twelve hours. The electrical grid works perfectly until a substation goes up in flames – and you can’t even pump gas.
This means opportunity landscapes that were long impenetrable will suddenly, without warning, have gaping holes. This is how opportunities will present themselves in 2020-2029. Yawning crevices in the ground after a Richter-9 earthquake.
Your secret to success this decade is YOU maintaining the bandwidth, clarity, space, resources… money in savings or lines of credit… social capital and ingenuity… to innovate a solution when “frictionless” systems suddenly break.
This demands YOU not being so codependent and consumed with feeding the system that your life and career shatter when it breaks.
At least one major platform will experience a catastrophic outage. There will be opportunities only 100 billion dollar corporations can meet – yet also innumerable ten thousand dollar and million dollar opportunities, that ordinary, agile men and women can seize.
There is nothing more numbing or sense-deadening than throwing yourself into activity just because it makes you feel productive. There has never been a time when it was easier to sleepwalk… yet standing watch has never been more urgent. Sleep with one eye open.
This is the decade to think strategically about everything you do… and don’t do. This is the decade to say NO to 80% of what crosses your path… maybe 95%. Most opportunities are fool’s gold.
In 2029 when you look back… ONE thing you said yes to will have made all the difference. The only reason you were able to say YES to the prince was you said NO to 19 frogs.
2. China vs. The West.
20 years ago I would have never imagined the Great Firewall of China would prevail… but it did. China is now the world’s largest surveillance state. In 2018, Marriott employee Roy Jones liked a tweet from a pro-Tibet organization paying Marriott a compliment. Beijing threatened to shut down Marriott in China if they didn’t oust the guy… so Jones was fired.
Free speech isn’t banned just in Hong Kong and Tibet; free speech is banned in hotel chains, the NBA and Hollywood too, because those guys do business in China.
Chinese citizens get automated electronic fines for litter and jaywalking based on facial recognition and the police automatically debit the fine from your bank account. Felons are identified by cameras and apprehended at pop concerts. China issues social media scores for civic behavior, just like in Black Mirror.
When developing countries peg their currency to the Chinese Yuan and buy their electrical grid from China, they get 24/7 state-of-the-art Chinese surveillance as a bonus. This decade will witness greater unrest than just Hong Kong. Watch for a worldwide showdown of values and clash of powers in the new economic warfare.
3. Evolution 2.0 Breakthrough in Cancer / Disease.
10 years ago I predicted the crack of the Darwinian Berlin Wall. The revolution in biology is well underway. This decade, the science profession itself will split, much like the Protestant Reformation of 1517. Old School: Materialists who continue to insist all is brute physical laws. New School: Those who simply accept the obvious, despite our inability to explain it – life has a will of its own and makes up its own rules. This swing is picking up steam and has huge implications for cancer and disease.
Current cancer research is based on the obsolete version of evolution, which denies purpose in nature and dictates that cells are “dumb.” The renegades say cells are smart. Henry Heng of Wayne State University in Detroit discovered that cancer cells, when assaulted with chemo and radiation, switch on massive high speed evolution in real time, rearranging not just genes but entire chromosomes.
Paul Davies at Arizona State says cancer is an ancient cellular reaction to stress, a willful “demon in the machine.” Cancer has been mired in outdated models for 30 years. Medicine based on smart cells will pay big dividends to patients and investors. We will see major leaps treating cancer and pathogens.
4. Pendulum Swing from Secular to Spiritual.
2010 marked the zenith of the New Atheism. Its main method was to pillory all who disagreed. It was so overconfident, uncivil and obnoxious, today some of its leaders deny it existed.
To mention one’s convictions in public has been taboo for some time. Trend is headed the opposite direction. By 2027, ritual and liturgy will be downright fashionable, a refuge from the sterile, contentious digital universe.
5. Uberization of Food.
Now that you can get any imaginable manufactured item from Amazon shipped to you in two days, mass production ceases to be special. This is the decade of live edge wood furniture, gourmet food, craft cheese, organic milk and locally grown everything.
Remember when most American beers tasted like urine? The surge of microbrews changed all that. Same is gonna happen to food.
I interviewed alternate farming expert Joel Salatin and discovered that stifling US food regulations are based on 1906 technology. If you own a cow or goat, you can go to jail for selling milk to your next door neighbor. (Just as Uber and AirBnB were illegal in most cities.) The Uberization of food will spawn new industries and artisanal careers. Watch for the resurgence of local craftsmanship and agriculture. Farming is cool once again.
6. Sorry Ray, No Singularity.
In his 1999 book “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” Ray Kurzweil predicted that by 2029, personal computers would exceed the intelligence of a human being:
He says the “Singularity” will come, where the future becomes impossible to predict because technological advancement moves at such speed. In Kurzweil’s technological rapture story, we upload ourselves onto the internet and live forever in the cloud.
Not only will there be NO singularity this decade, AI will continue to be dumber than a goldfish. No immortality and no spiritual machines. By 2029, Siri will still not be able to convince a 6 year old that she’s homo sapien for more than two minutes. Kurzweil has already kicked the 2029 date down the road to 2045. The can will get kicked again.
Pronouncements about the internet “waking up” and AI becoming self-aware are a brilliant diversion from the fact that every one of these technologies is owned by people who are responsible for what their platforms do.
Garbage In Garbage Out… meanwhile, the painstaking discipline of teaching machines to do our work will remain a well-paid, roll-up-your-sleeves, secure, manual-labor job.
7. 2X More Innovations This Decade.
On January 1, 2010, none of these existed: iPad, Instagram, Snapchat, Apple Maps, GoFundMe, Apple Watch, Facebook Messenger, Candy Crush, WeWork, WeChat, Tinder, Twitch, Siri, Square, Stripe, Slack. In the next decade we’ll see 2X more new apps and technologies as the last.
8. Platforms Catastrophically Break.
One of the Big Four – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google – will crash. Imagine Gmail going dark for two days. Someone hacks Apple and spews photos to your 400 closest friends. Ukrainians steal 150 million credit card numbers from Amazon.
That’s the day the world wakes up and realizes entire economies are subject to single points of absolute failure with no backups.
This will feed a rising backlash against the “Big Four.” Right now it’s at low simmer… but in this decade it’s gonna boil.
I have a client whose entire category was banned by Amazon – with zero recourse. Financially devastating. Outrage over “Shoot first, ask questions later” has been festering under the radar but this decade it will enter the mainstream. With congressional hearings and dreadful PR black-eyes for lumbering digital bureaucracies.
Memo to Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon: You meet the same people on the way down that you met on the way up.
9. Resurgence of The Trades.
Wanna make 13 bucks an hour at Starbucks? An anthropology diploma at any institute of higher education will win you a barista job. Wanna make 20-40 bucks an hour? Apprentice with a stone mason, bricklayer, electrician, remodeler, concrete finisher or welder. You’ll pull down high 5-figures within the year.
This decade signals the shift from “the smart ones went to college” to “the smart ones skipped college.” If you’re really talented, you’ll make $100,000+ a year in the trades. You’ll get a better education listening to audiobooks and hanging drywall than you’ll get from most humanities departments anyway.
10. Occupy Sallie Mae. A charismatic college grad drenched in debt will stand up and shout: “I’m NOT paying back my student loans. You can repossess my car, evict me from my house, revoke my diploma, throw me in debtors prison… but I’m not paying. EVER. Who’s with me?” When the Mall in Washington DC is jammed with Millennials standing together in solidarity, the dominoes of higher education will fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put Humpty together again.
The art of manipulating 18 year olds into non-dischargeable loans leading to dead-end careers has driven tuition into the stratosphere. Schools and banks are guaranteed their dinero, even if the student never lands a job, even if the degree is in Elizabethan poetry… and not even bankruptcy gets you out of hock.This runaway train WILL crash. The bubble WILL pop… this decade. (Kudos to Ian Utile and Tom Meloche for this.)
A blistering chain of events will follow: 1) Destabilize the US banking system 2) Schools lacking large endowments or state backing will file for bankruptcy 3) Massive real estate buyout opportunity for anyone with cash – and a use for hundreds of acres of land with cavernous buildings.
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