What is to happen in the years to come? The Future Laboratory is betting on The Paralysis Paradox: a world shaped by radical transformation and solutions in light of the current dilemmas facing the world at large, driven by brands that are willing to put purpose before profit. Humility, direct action, and decisiveness will replace traditional business structures, moving away from ego-driven and capitalist-minded strategies. Citing writer Mark Wells’ prediction of the Roaring Twenties of Deep Tech, The Future Laboratory believes we will see an immense restructuring of society, culture, corporations, and technology over the next two decades.
Amidst economic unrest, global burnout, and polarized populations, or “a world where uncertainty is the only certainty,” the C-suite will become the new civic leadership, with inclusive, environment-benefiting organizational structures being a way of future-proofing businesses—something we are already seeing ring true with the rise in B Corp certification.
It is certainly a vital move to the future of humankind, as a Pew Research Center study revealed that 68% of Americans believe their children will not be better off than they are now. This sense of pessimism has led to embracing a false comfort of nostalgia, or nostalgia fetishization. To counteract this, companies will need to operate on the four Ls—leadership, liability, legitimacy, and legacy—led by “C-Suite saviors” that are stepping in where governments are failing and reconsidering the true value proposition. Two examples include Apple donating $2.5 billion to combat the housing crisis in California and Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard’s recent decision to transfer company ownership into the hands of the Holdfast Collective and Patagonia Purpose Trust. Faith in Nature recently legally appointed nature to its board of directors, emphasizing the importance of business decisions that put the environment first. With ESG assets set to hit $53 trillion by 2025, businesses and entrepreneurs alike will begin safeguarding our future.
As for how these values can speak to consumers, The Future Laboratory predicts that “age and attitude” approaches will be replaced with mindset focuses. They referenced a study by Pew Research Center that showed that 65% of 18- to 29-year-olds in Sweden care about the impact of climate change, versus only 25% of those above the age of 65, indicating that a more universal approach, rather than demographics-driven marketing, is the way forward.
Part of that universal attitude includes a higher level of trust in science and expertise from the consumer side, with the need for an intelligible and relatable translation of scientific and category-specific know-how. Chameleon cosmetics that react in real time to body temperature and chemistry, like those by The Unseen, echo this sentiment on a product level. Further familiarizing the inner workings of corporations will be neo-collective companies and increasing data transparency, operating on DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) and DASO (decentralized autonomous stakeholder organization) structures, thereby turning consumers into creators—think initiatives like NYX’s GORJS or Rook Perfume’s Scent the Metaverse. As for businesses with more traditional structures, they will need to work backwards from their desired ideal future to ensure their future brand vision won’t be hindered by present-day limitations.
Data utilization will also advance, with predictive insights and live data offering better future-facing strategy development. The German Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy is creating a digital twin of the country to prospectively plan how to deal with infrastructural issues. In terms of channeling those tools, organizations such as Black Girls Code are encouraging citizens to take a hands-on approach in creating positive industry disruption, while climate activist Greta Thunberg recently launched a campaign with the slogan “If we don’t care who will?" prompting individuals to take an active role in crafting a more positive future. Cross-sector opportunities, deep tech collaborations, and product hybrids will be key tools in creating change, with speed of development becoming a new marker of success.
The most influential changemakers demographically speaking will be Gen Zalpha, those currently aged between 9 and 14. Speaking to this generation means redirecting marketing efforts in a bid to counteract overconsumption. As for the hotly debated metaverse, The Future Laboratory has renamed it the betterverse, or a space to create better equity than we have in the current online and offline space. Fueling this betterment and inclusivity are figures like A.M. Darke, who created the Open Source Afro Hair Library for use in the metaverse, and Kami, the first virtual influencer with Down syndrome.
On a personal level, curative, rather than preventative, health ownership will come to the fore as self-care shifts from a branded and capitalist movement to something more intuitive. There will also be further room for vulnerability as the world of beauty and mental well-being come closer, with one recent release being Byredo’s line of liquid lipsticks which were marketed to also be worn on the inner corners of the eye to replicate crying. Salon and spa spaces are being harnessed as places of healing, or beauty therapy. The need for such physical spaces will override the convenience factor of online shopping with the rise of hyperphysical retail outlets, such as the Dior flagship store in Paris which fuses a shopping experience with an art gallery, gardens, restaurant, and private apartments.
The Future Laboratory also used the occasion to bestow the inaugural Futures 100 Innovators Award to Dr. Catherine Nakalembe, whose work utilizes machine learning and satellites to future-proof African agriculture against negative climate-change–induced impacts. The runner-up was entrepreneur Harsha L’Acqua, the founder of Saira Hospitality, an academy and nonprofit platform that works with hospitality companies to equip marginalized people with the tools needed for their future career development. Last but not least, female- and nonbinary-focused financial wellness app and community Your Juno, created by Alexia and Margot de Broglie, received the special merit runner-up award.
Based on The Future Laboratory’s predictions, the current economic, social, and political turmoil we find ourselves in will actually be the very seeds which sow a more profitable future, with an emphasis on profit not being financial, but rather philanthropic, enabled in a space where humanity and technology meet. So while we may currently find ourselves in a place of paralysis, forward movement is imminent.