Global Catalysts

Global catalysts are technological and socioeconomic forces that change the shape of the global economy, compelling companies and public entities to adapt.

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Aging Demographics + Robotics + AI = Changing Nature of Work


Declining birth rates in developed economies are leading to aging and shrinking populations for the first time since the Black Death in the 14th century, which impacts consumption patterns and service requirements, and skews social systems based on having many workers available to support each retiree. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are reaching an inflection point, which allows software and robotics to replace workers in more advanced roles than ever before. The convergence of these factors will impact all developed-world citizens, companies who employ people and sell goods, and governments at all levels. See more about work.

Mainstream Adoption of 3D Printing = Changing Shape of Global Trade


The continued development and eventual widespread adoption of additive manufacturing (3D printing) will change the shape of global trade. A significant portion of global shipping is predicated on the low-end manufacturing model, where simple items (door hinges) and subcomponents for more complex products (iPhones) are produced wherever in the world they can be made most cheaply, then shipped to an assembly facility or directly to consumer markets. Additive manufacturing will decrease the cost variance between manufacturing items locally and in developing markets, incentivizing more localized or regionalized manufacturing. This will impact shipping, logistics, job creation, and the economics of companies that manufacture goods. Importantly, it will also impact the global security dynamic and potentially remove the historical path that countries have to develop their economies and move up the value chain. See more about manufacturing.

Urbanization + Traffic and Sustainability Issues + Aging Infrastructure + New Technology-Enabled Possibilities = Smart Cities


World populations are increasingly moving to urban centers, dramatically increasing population densities in cities worldwide. This trend is a result of economic activity patterns, knowledge economy infrastructure, and agricultural automation – all of which we expect will continue to exert pressure towards continued urbanization going forward. The result of these pressures is more large cities and mega-cities worldwide, which creates a new set of transportation, sanitation, and infrastructure requirements for cities, and changes market dynamics for companies. New technologies, processes, products, and engineering solutions will be created to address the unique issues resulting from the unprecedented rate and scale of urbanization that is happening now. See more about cities.

Decreasing Cost of Wind and Solar + Increasing Density Ratios for Grid Storage Batteries = Renewable Energy that is Economically Viable


Battery technology is rapidly developing, due in part to the investments and advances companies such as Tesla have made to support electric cars. Next-generation battery technology that overcomes the constraints of current lithium-ion models will have a far-reaching impact, specifically when they scale to grid-storage capacity. The economic viability of some forms of renewable energy will be drastically increased by effective grid storage technology, which facilitates the localization of energy production and consumption. This has the potential to change the shape of energy production, storage, and consumption in developed countries. See more about power.

Machine Learning + Augmented Reality + Biotechnology + Advanced Materials = Market Shifts


There are several important technologies that are maturing after decades of development which we anticipate will have broad, system-wide impacts. Among them are genomics and biotechnology which will reframe the human life span, driving a multitude of second- and third-order effects. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will change the way most companies operate and the assets that they prioritize, regardless of industry. Augmented reality technology will incorporate information directly into people’s workflows, shifting the dynamic for skills, communications, and efficiency. Next generation materials will allow for a reimagining of physical structures and transportation systems. There are a number of other technologies that are on the cusp of reaching maturity – some exciting and others horrifying. See more about technology.


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