|Driving Forces: Instructor's Viewpoint|
-- a university of arizona course on methods and approaches for studying the future
How one views the listings of "driving forces" tells you something about the person developing the list, as well as how broadly they evaluate and consider future trends. In the listing below, I grouped driving forces into six categories, but there could be several more for areas you particularly wish to follow due to specific needs (such as the subject areas of your organization). These driving forces should be read in the context of the broader paradigm shifts (or large scale patterns of change) . You can also review paradigm shifts and driving forces identified by others.
Driving forces can be thought of as "clusters of trends", so they are less subject to the short term shifts that trends might take and are less specific that trends would be (so you are not lost in detail but get the general meaning of possible changes). The following driving forces indicate my views of six primary driving forces (listed alphabetically):
Economic - Since the "economy" is so important to how society functions, it is nearly always listed as a driving force in futures studies. The larger question relates to possible changes in how the economy should be considered. Generally, the laws of supply and demand (scarcity oriented) have prevailed but we may be shifting to some things that are plentiful rather than scarce (for example, Internet information access or publication, solar energy) or some version of an underground economy. ; where an additional production unit does not cost anything, the economics change. On a global scale, world economies are increasingly interlinked, more factors are placed into the analysis (for example, societal costs and all costs for doing business), and new analytical approaches are underway (for example, life cycle costing, where the cost of operation over the product life is as important as the purchase price). Cash is becoming less important as electronic transactions become the norm. Understanding new approaches to any field helps explain some changes, including "chaotic behavior" as it applies to economic activity. Uncertainty is a key factor in trying to anticipate economic conditions more than a few years into the future, and reviewing the other driving forces and paradigm shifts is more important for this driving force as it is so interdependent on other world conditions.
Implications: Results focusing on the long term future (10-15 years) will become important indicators even though the short term indicators will continue to be important. Concepts of sustainability and the roles of globalization and interdependence will increase along with the impacts of new technologies. All of these broader considerations will have a significant effect on economic behavior and may change it from simples extrapolation of historic trends.
Political and Social (Including values and human connections) - Implications: World order has been changing and the impacts of having a single world power (U.S.) are still unclear. Some long held societal and personal values are shifting, and this will affect how we deal with people and groups compared to past ways. Demographic and economic trends, and changes in those trends, will continue to be important factors in the political and social driving forces. There seems to be a new trend of increased polarization of viewpoints, and when this happens in sufficient degree, the supporting groups increase in size and exert influence politically. This in part may be an artifact of today's information and communication technologies, that allow rapid identification of information and groups and dispersal of information focused on specific topics and perspectives. This allows what used to be small groups to become coordinated with others with the same interests, and become a strong influence through better organization, and, to have their own perspectives/biases reinforced by increased talking with others with those same general views.
Population and Demographic - The population (world and U.S.) is increasing but at a decreasing rate. Formal projections suggest a leveling of world population in mid 21st century at about 10-12 billion. Estimates on carrying capacity suggest this level could be supported. The question, therefore, about population growth is not numbers but where the numbers reside and how thy use/have available resources. Developed countries are very different (they grow much slower and have generally adequate resources) than developing countries (where rapid growth generally occurs and food and other resources are in short supply). Projected out to mid-century, the overwhelming growth is in the developing countries. This will change how things are looked at and accomplished in the world community. In many countries (developed and developing), the number of people supporting the young and old (over 65 and under 18) is decreasing, and the change is rapid beginning in 2013, as the baby boomers turn 65. Ethnic make up is changing and varies by location (for example in 2000 in the US it was 13% Hispanic/Latino and in Arizona it was 25%). This is due to both international migration and relative increases in the native population among different groups.
Implications: Population shifts will impact will cause the developing world to be the growth areas and for the "working age" people to be fewer to support the young and old in society. Immigration and diversity within their own cultures will continue to be a difficult issue for most countries to address. Changes in population affects values and other fundamental drivers of society and therefore has implications far beyond simply the "number of people."
Resources and Environment. - There are some resources that are will be in short supply relative to the demands on those resources (e.g., potable water, traditional energy sources, and food/fisheries); there are other resources that are not limited in a practical sense or have substitutes. At the same time, there are environmental trends that partly are addressed and partly are becoming less of a concern and others that are becoming a greater concern, at least in isolated cases. In some cases, energy use for example, policies that favor increased efficiency in resource use or reduced pollution through consumption or use, also are more sustainable in nature and lead to increased funds available for alternative investments. One type of resource is often overlooked - the infrastructure that allows society to operate (e.g., the water mains, bridges, roads). Thus, resources not only apply to future needs, but also replacing existing infrastructure when appropriate.
Science and Technology - Science and technology are the primary big drivers of the economies of developed and to some extent developing countries. Some technologies can be anticipated, especially those that are improvements or new uses of old technologies, but there is such rapid change in fundamentally new areas that it is hard to fully understand the implications. Examples are in biology and biotechnology (including impacts of knowing the human genome), materials (new fibers, structural materials, and nanotechnology), and information technology). For example, focusing on information technology - the term "everything is connected to everything else" has some validity. As information technologies allow individuals to connect to other individuals, the vision of networks all over begins to take form. Networking has always been around (e.g., fraternal organizations, business or sports teams, associations and clubs, friends), but in tomorrow's world it becomes so important because it is the fabric that holds everything else together. The world wide web has made these interactions and ways of connecting with people much different - the options suddenly are very large and the applications nearly unlimited. Knowing information sources, how to access and interpret them, and how to exploit them leads to power. Major changes are underway on who is able to access a great deal of new information available via Internet. How these events change the way we do things will unfold later in ways we can expect and in ways that will surprise us.
Implications: Science and technology is the defining term for our current "era", and will continue in the role for the foreseeable future. As more knowledge is gained in each aspect of science and technology, more possibilities and interactions with other technologies occur. This allows highly personalized efforts as well as more general uses. Science and technology affect all other driving forces, thus their impact is significant and hard to anticipate due to so many new possibilities continually unfolding.
Work and Workplace - The types of work and where the work is done are shifting. With the advent of electronic communication, information robots (infobots that do the work for you by searching information and taking action on it) can become a personal assistant to managers and workers. With telecommunications combined with these devices, the manager may not longer be needed on-site (or in the same country). Workers expectations will grow and companies will respond for such things as on-site day care or health/medical services (much of which can be electronically monitored or delivered). New workers will require greater cultural and language understanding on the part of employers. Increasing global trade and the variation in economic conditions of various countries makes "permanent" changes in ones workforce.
Implications: Work of all types will be affected by the changes in technology and the shifts in society. Much can be anticipated but uncertainties will be great and need to be monitored. The place of work, the type of work, and the composition of the workforce will likely all change dramatically in the next 10 -15 years. This will cause redefinition of what is the appropriate salary range of low to high level workers, safety activities and retirement/medical benefits.
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