Ray Hammond is a world-renowned futurologist, technology analyst and writer whose books have been published in 44 countries in 23 languages. For 35 years he has been studying the major trends that will shape the world and here, in the first of two parts, Ray takes questions from the Speakers Corner team on that nebulous realm - the future - and what it may hold for us.
Do you think DNA testing will become an accepted life choice in the near future – rather like choosing to donate organs or blood? Finding this DNA stuff quite spooky – do you or don’t you?
DNA testing does seem quite spooky at first – like something from CSI, Crime watch or the Jeremy Kyle Show – but as we learn more and more about which bits of DNA cause which illnesses, so having a DNA test will become increasingly useful and people will see it as being less spooky.
When the DNA in the human genome was first fully analysed in 2001, researchers expected that miracle cures would follow quickly. That didn’t happen because researchers discovered that the interaction between DNA and our health is far more complex than first imagined.
But “genomics” is finally making progress. Today all children born at Boston General Hospital have their DNA tested before they are born (from a simple blood test provided by the mother) which offers parents and doctors an insight into the future health of the child (parents can opt out of this, if they wish).
Today, some people are still so scared of having their genome analysed that “DNA” might as well stand for “Do Not Ask!”, but as progress in medical research speeds up, treatments and cures based on DNA are becoming available for conditions that were once difficult or impossible to treat. As a result, people are starting to understand the benefits of DNA decoding
I’ve had my own DNA analysed and I learned that I’m at higher risk of contracting Type II diabetes and colon cancer than most people, but it seems I also have a lower risk of contracting Alzheimer’s and one or two other nasty conditions. Knowing this has allowed me to adapt my lifestyle. However, DNA analysis is not a certain guide to your future health; it is merely an indication. Many factors other than DNA affect our health and well-being.
But perhaps it will be the impact of DNA analysis on our responses to specific medical drugs that will be of most use in the short term. Knowing which drugs will work on me – and which won’t – would become extremely useful were I to become ill.
Importantly, cancer tumours have their own DNA profile and cancers are now being referred to by the DNA type, rather than their location in the body. Cancer will finally be beaten through DNA analysis and DNA-tailored treatments. As the general public realises the enormous power for saving lives this science has to offer, DNA may well come to stand for “Definitely Needs Analysing”.
Within 20 years I think it likely that knowing your own DNA will have become an accepted life choice.
Picture courtesy of Mookitty, Flickr: The legendary Jack Klugman as medical investigator Quincy. Pre DNA old school CSI.
Will the banking system as we know it destruct in our lifetime; or indeed ever?
Banking is a brilliant way of multiplying wealth in our society and – despite the obscene excesses of investment banking in the last decade (so called casino banking) – mainstream wholesale and retail banking will continue to play THE major role in the development of our global economy.
Banking has done more to create our modern society in the last three hundred years than any other virtual technology.
The nature of banks may well change as peer-to-peer lending and crowd-sourcing increases in popularity, but time-shifting credit and debt to boost productivity (the very essence of banking) will continue to grow as banking spreads to the three billion people on the planet who are currently without banking facilities.
Having said all that, it is possible that major sovereign indebtedness (e.g. America’s debt to China) may become unsustainable and a default could occur. Were that to happen, in the worst case scenario major war could follow.
However, even if such a catastrophe were to occur, the concept of banking itself would survive and new banks would develop to finance rebuilding after conflict.
Along with the invention of alphabetic writing, mathematics, money and navigation, banking is one of humanity’s greatest virtual innovations.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia: A poster for the 1896 Broadway melodrama The War of Wealth depicts a 19th-century bank run in the U.S.
What specific topics are you most asked to speak about today and how have these changed from 10 years ago?
Today I am often asked about specific futures for particular industries and sectors. For example: the future of travel, the future of the sharing economy, the future of digital disruption, the future of education, the future of medicine, the internet of things, the future of transport, the future of banking, and so on.
Ten years ago there was much more emphasis on the environment and climate change. Nobody is suggesting that the issue of climate change has gone away, but it has slipped down the agenda since 2008 (although I now sense it is creeping back up).
The role of social media – and its future development – is a topic that is also requested more often than it was ten years ago. In essence, “digital” is even bigger today than it was in the 1990s when people first started to understand how important digital technologies would become.
One general constant request over the years has been for keynote speeches on “the future of business” and this topic allows me to explore the seven key trends that are likely to shape our world – and our business landscape – over the next ten, twenty years and beyond.
Businesses first started to map the landscape of the likely future in the 1950s and 1960s– most famously Shell Oil and the Rand Corporation – and today all large companies understand that “scenario planning” is a vital exercise.
Every senior business leader has to be an amateur futurologist because their role is to plan for the future of their enterprise. The professional futurologist’s job is to provide business executives with the tools and the language with which to think meaningfully about the future and, if possible, to teach them how to see the present as if it were in hindsight.
Picture courtesy of Flickr: Clive Darra city road | old street | silicon roundabout - Transformed by J.Smith