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Macro trends reshaping the 2020s and beyond

The world is changing in strange and unprecedented ways. While there are many ways to make sense of it, I’ve found it most helpful to observe the changes through the lens of these five macro forces:

  • Climate change and sustainability
  • The ascendancy of China
  • Increased inequality
  • Aging population
  • Digital disruption

These forces have been quietly brewing over the last two decades, and they are beginning to reshape the tectonic plates that we stand on today. COVID is proving to be an accelerant compelling these forces to pick up even more speed. When you mix them all together, what are the trends and themes that arise? Let’s take a peek into the crystal ball…

  1. As China weens off its dependency on the rest of the world by focusing on domestic demand and shoring up its critical industries, the rest of the world will also attempt to decouple from China— building up domestic manufacturing capabilities and setting up more diversified supply chains— which in turn will drive up demand for industrial robots and benefit the other manufacturing powerhouses like Germany, Korea, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.
  2. China vs. US and the rest of the world will also play out in tech in the form of investment restrictions, information walls, surveillance, and censorship. The rest of the world becomes a battleground of the Chinese and US tech giants, and most will be forced to pick a side.
  3. Governments will continue seeing Big Tech as a threat, and rein them in under the guise of consumer protection against antitrust, fraud, and privacy violations.
  4. As the world becomes more digital, the surface area for online attacks grows larger. There will be heightened focus (and paranoia) to combat security and privacy threats against individuals, companies, and governments.
  5. The world will continue to digitize regardless. Just as software has eaten media, retail, leisure, and transportation, the next verticals ripe for digital disruption will be finance, education, healthcare, and government.
  6. Digitization will redefine work and reorient labor in a new economic world order that has influencers and creators at the top, digital nomads and remote workers in the middle, and gig workers at the bottom.
  7. This virtual economy will also blur the lines between entertainment, social, education, and work, giving rise to an open metaverse that cuts across these siloes.
  8. This emergent metaverse will generate demand for higher-fidelity virtual shared spaces enabled by mixed reality devices and metaverse applications, which are in turn powered by game engines, cloud computing, and high-speed connectivity.
  9. Wearables and IoT will give rise to the bionic self that blends man and machine, augmenting our abilities and giving us a fuller understanding of our immediate environments and internal physical state. In spite of this, smartphones will continue to be the digital control center for most people.
  10. As tech dominates our lives, there will also be rising demand for digital wellness and digital detox that address tech fatigue.
  11. Crypto will come to the fore, finally finding nails for the hammer it has created - digital government, digital economy, and the increased importance of privacy, security, ownership, and censorship resistance.
  12. The wider adoption of crypto will fuel the financialization and gamification of everything — offering an alternative world order to those who choose to ‘opt out’ of the traditional real world.
  13. The hardware underpinning this entire digital and crypto revolution — chips, screens, data centers, and communication infrastructure — will only grow in importance and thus trigger geopolitical tugs-of-war, especially between the US and China.
  14. Financialization and digitization lead to a winner-take-most economy akin to a rainforest, with the thriving giant trees at the top, the surviving shrubs at the bottom, and a squeezed-out middle.
  15. The public will grow increasingly frustrated at the inequality gap, start shunning the gigantic corporate ‘rent-seekers’, and directly reward individual influencers and community-driven initiatives who side with the underdogs.
  16. Inequality and aging will also put a strain in the social security systems of countries, and force governments to consider a recalibration of immigration policies, experiments around universal basic income, and incentives to prop up elderly-focused services.
  17. As the world ages and healthcare costs shoot up, biotech will come of age. COVID vaccines forced mRNA technology to grow up fast; it will continue pulling money and talent into the space and usher in a biotech renaissance.
  18. Climate change will cast its shadow across all human activities. Every government and company will need to have a sustainability gameplan.
  19. The focus on sustainability will place electric transportation, renewable energy, batteries, clean materials, alternative meat, and decarbonization technology at the heart of the global economy.
  20. The fixation on climate change will also rekindle interest in space exploration — driven by the belief that we cannot put all our eggs in one basket and we eventually need a Plan B.




Surfacing and synethisizing stories on the interplay between humanity and consumer technology

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