Back to the Future: “Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads”

By Prof. Shlomo Maital

Marty McFly: Doc, we better back up. We don’t have enough road to get up to 88 (mph).
Dr. Emmett Brown: Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

back_to_the_futureIn the hit movie Back to the Future (1985), Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes back to the future with Doc and sees flying taxis, 3D ads (a shark), and many other inventions. Some have come true. Some have not. President Ronald Reagan adopted Doc Brown’s statement about roads.

At the annual event of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel, titled Back to the Future 2015, held May 5, several farsighted experts gave their vision of the near-term future. Here are excerpts of what they said:

The first speaker was Zeev Efrat, CEO, Frost & Sullivan (Israel branch), a global business consulting firm. He identified four key megatrends that experts defined a decade ago, in 2000: Emerging China; the Internet explosion; Information Revolution; and Outsourcing. All powerfully affected the decade 2000-2009. The megatrends that will dominate the near-term future, according to Efrat, are:

* Urbanization: A megacity is a city with over 10 million people; a mega-region has over 15 million people; By 2025, half of all megacities will be in developing countries. Life in cities will be dominated by an integration of smart+energy+plan. Smart: ICT will be everywhere in cities, making them ‘smart’ (traffic management, power management, etc.).  Energy will be green. And planning will be highly sophisticated. Some 40 global megacities will be “smart”, in this sense, by 2020; over half of them will be in Europe and in North America.

* Convergence: In the late 1970’s, MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte identified three converging industries: entertainment, publishing, and computers. Now Efrat identifies another three converging industries: Energy, IT and automation. This convergence will lead to a wave of mergers, as companies seek to build competencies in all three disparate technologies.

* Social trends: Gen Y. There will be growing personalization of all goods and services. Generation Y, the dominant generation, will seek goods that cater to values, beliefs, interest and lifestyle. This generation, aged 15-34, will dominate – there will be 2.56 billion people in this age bracket, out of a total global population of 7.56 billion people by 2020, and 61 percent, six of every ten, will be from Asia! The middle class will also dominate. By 2020 52 percent of the global 7.56 billion population will be defined as ‘middle class.’

Some other trends Efrat identified, in only 20 minutes!:

* Technology: some 900 satellites will be launched in 2011-20.

* World War III will be an information cyberwar; it has already begun.

* 2020 will be a virtual world, where reality and virtual unite; this will feature in shopping, surgery (practice), entertainment, business conferences, and others. The interface between real and virtual will be highly fluid.

* Innovation to zero: There will be zero waste, with 100% recycling, and no emissions, in cars, factories, homes.

* E-mobility: 40 million electric vehicles will be sold worldwide in 2020 (in one year), 30 million cars and 10 million two-wheelers. The related industry will have new components: new OEM’s, along with utilities, integrators, charging stations, government and battery manufacturers. Commercial vehicles will also become E-mobile, with 300,000 such vehicles by 2020.

* From illness to wellness: Focus shifts from curing illness to preserving wellness. Without this trend, health costs will soar by 2050 to 20-30 percent of GDP (13 percent already in the U.S.). The theme becomes: Live well, stay healthy. From fat to fit.

Innovators, identify the megatrend that excites and energizes you. Then, identify a micro need (a well-defined group with an unmet need) within this megatrend. Finally, build your innovation around it.

This article was originally published in Prof. Shlomo Maital’s Innovation Blog: