Richard Worzel - Futurist - Speaker - Consultant
Articles & Books
Articles & Books

Facing the Future: The Seven Forces Revolutionizing Our Lives
Facing the Future:
The Seven Forces Revolutionizing Our Lives
(Stoddart Publishing, Toronto)

People often ask me if I study trends as a futurist. My reply is that, sure, I look at trends, but I'm really more interested in what causes a trend to happen. That's the only way you can tell when a trend is about to change. Facing the Future is a description of the seven major forces at work in the world today that are going to have the greatest effect on our futures.

Praise for Facing the Future

"This book is important to you, no matter what age you are. It's easy reading, but it has an awful lot of content that will really have you thinking. I think you need this book. It's worth every penny of the price." - Joe Easingwood, CFAX radio, Victoria, B.C.

"This is a fascinating and frightening book."
- Jeff Collins, "The Calgary Eye-Opener," CBC radio, Calgary

"This book will give you glimpse of the kind of world we're going to live in 10, 20, 30 years from now, a future you may be very impressed with and excited about, or one that terrifies you. Pick up this book - it's really fascinating." - Bill Carroll, AM640 radio, Toronto

"Richard Worzel looks into the future. He travels around the country telling people what lies ahead in everything from business, the economy, jobs, even entertainment, sports, and the arts. He has a new book on the market called 'Facing the Future' It's difficult to do this provocative book justice [in the hour we've had]." - "The World Tonight", with Philip Till and John McCombe, CKNW radio, Vancouver

"Richard Worzel has written a book called 'Facing the Future'. If you've got questions about where our economy is heading, what the world situation is going to be, pollution, the environment, et cetera, et cetera, get them ready. This is a fascinating book that really scared the, uh, you know what out of me. I think you should have a look at this book if you're concerned about not only your future, but the future of your kids and their kids." - John Majhor, "Lunch Television," CITY-TV, Toronto

Summary of Contents

The First Force: The Global Economy
  • The next recession is not likely to hit until late in the 1990s because of the lengthening of the economic cycle from approximately four years to more than eight years.

  • Canada's major governments ran out of money years ago. Unless they completely eliminate their deficits, they risk a major financial crisis through being shut out of the global capital markets.

  • There are three principal groups of industries that are going to grow faster than average: those driven by the global economy, those driven by demographics, and those driven by technology. Canada is well represented in all three groups. In manufacturing, mass production is giving way to mass customization; that is, the production of individually customized products at mass production prices.

  • Exceptional product quality will be the ante necessary to get into the game. High quality in itself won't be enough to win or retain customers. Instead, the customer's total experience with a company and its outlets, start to finish, will determine who will survive and who will fail.

  • The management styles necessary to future success are going to be more akin to the concept of the "servant leader" than the traditional authoritarian role.

  • Tomorrow's businesses will focus on niche marketing and customization. This means that small and medium-sized companies will be able to lead the globe in their market categories. This also means that, with certain exceptions, we are leaving the day of the giant multinational.

  • The Canadian banks are going to have to re-define their business, and start taking more risks on their business loan portfolios, or their are going to lose profitability, and become more vulnerable to the shocks of economic recessions.

  • In the 1950's and 1960's, a career was like a train. In the 1970's and 1980's, it was like a bus. Today it's like an all-terrain vehicle.
The Second Force: Population
  • The "baby bust" generation will continue to get the short end of the stick as baby boomers continue to occupy the jobs busters need. Accordingly, a bigger than usual percentage of this generation are going to start their own businesses, mostly in services, leading to a proliferation of new service industries.

  • Because of the aging of the baby boom, industries such as fitness and "wellness", and clothes, cosmetics, and hairdressing that flatter the middle-aged will continue to grow rapidly.

  • A new industry, "nutri-ceuticals," offering "pollution-free" foods will emerge that offer nutrients specifically geared to improving or maintaining health. Increasingly, such foods will be geared to the particular needs of the individual.

  • Canada is at the start of the biggest boom in savings and investment in history. This will tend to keep the average level of interest rates low, and push the stock market to ever higher peaks. Both markets will also experience unprecedented volatility, with dramatic rises and devastating crashes.

  • The baby boomers are counting on being able to sell their houses as a big part of their retirement planning. However, when it comes time for them to sell, there will be much more supply than demand, pushing housing prices down and hurting baby boomers' retirement prospects.

  • Retired and elderly women (i.e., those over 65 and 80, respectively) will face an increasingly difficult social problem: not enough men. By 2005, there will be more than twice as elderly women than men. Yet the elderly will be the healthiest, most vigourous in human history. Accordingly, their interest in, and need for, personal intimacy has led some futurists to forecast discrete polygamy and elderly lesbianism.

  • The maturing of the baby boom also means a broadening of their tastes for entertainment. This may lead to one of the greatest boom in the arts ever seen if the art is accessible and well marketed. It also means a boom for spectator sports and entertainment events of all kinds.

  • The trend towards so-called "cocooning" is actually a simple reflection of the lifestyle of a couple with children. They have less time and disposable income to go out on the town hence, they tend to stay at home. This has very little to do with a bunker mentality, as some pundits have suggested, and more to do with simple observation of what stage of life the baby boomers are in.

  • Health care will be increasingly rationed. At present in Canada rations it by standing in line. In future, it may be rationed by the kind of life-style you lead (for example, smokers may pay for medical treatment where non-smokers may not), or by your age (certain kinds of medical treatment may be denied to people over 70, for example).

  • The elderly represent the greatest threat to Canadian children because of their heavy and rapidly growing political clout, which will allow them to syphon off resources from schools, school lunch programs, day care, health care, and the needs of young parents living in poverty.

  • The assets of the Canada Pension Plan have been effectively stolen and spent by the nine provincial governments. As a result, the choices being faced for the CPP are to welch on the promises made to pensioners or force young and future taxpayers to pay more than their fair share towards the pensions of the baby boomers, on top of the higher taxes made necessary by the governmental debts piled up over the past 20 years.

  • World population is presently growing by more than a quarter of a million people a day faster than at any time in history. Of this, more than 97% will come from the poor countries of the world. We cannot afford to ignore this problem, for it will effect us eventually through things like a steadily rising drumbeat of regional wars, terrorism, and environmental damage. It will also hit us through legal and illegal immigration and tides of refugees.
The Third Force: Technology
  • Computers will be programmed by speaking to them rather than typing on a keyboard or writing on a screen. They will also start to behave in a "do what I mean, not what I say" manner that will make them much easier to use, and hence useable by many more people.

  • Computers, CD-ROM's, and networks won't quickly replace newspapers and books because people like newspapers and books. Indeed, the greatest barrier to technological change now is not what is possible, but what people are prepared to accept.

  • Communications capacity may expand enormously through optical processing of signals through optical fibre cables. This has the potential to reduce the cost of communications by hundreds of thousands of times, spelling major problems for communications companies of every kind, from telephone, to cable TV, to broadcasters.

  • There are currently three technological revolutions going on in materials science, biotechnology, and information processing. A fourth revolution in the field of nanotechnology the building of microscopic, even virus-sized machines may eclipse all three of these in future. And one expected technological revolution the exploration of space is not happening at all.

  • Concrete structures built from electroaccreted limestone may make it possible to bring fertile seawater from the ocean depths to revitalize the Atlantic fisheries far faster than would otherwise happen.

  • Canada could export electricity to developing countries such as Mexico by beaming it by satellite. This would allow us to export a high value-added product, allow Mexico to re-direct its valuable investment capital to other projects instead of building power plants, and allow us to generate low pollution energy rather than having Mexico produce high polluting electricity by burning coal or oil.
The Fourth Force: Environmentalism and the Ecology
  • The biggest problem with the environmental movement is that it has degenerated into a media circus. The issues that are fought hardest are the ones with the greatest sex appeal, and not necessarily the most important. This is leading to a gradually declining public interest in environmental issues, even though the real problems are worse than ever.

  • A perfect example of environmentalism as media circus is the issue of global warming. The facts are that even climatologists cannot agree on whether we are experiencing global warming or not. If we are, it is not clear that such warming is due to humanity because the Earth's environment has changed radically thousands of times before the emergence of humanity. Moreover, climate is sufficiently unstable as to be unpredictable, so that humanity's actions could trigger an ice age rather than the "dessertification" of the globe. We should, age rather than the "dessertification" of the globe. We should, therefore, be cautious about spending resources to stop global warming; it may be a mis-allocation of scarce resources.

  • However, adopting a "no regrets" policy of running our industries and lives more efficiently, producing less pollution and less waste, would solve both concerns: it would make better use of scarce resources, and would be less likely to have a negative effect on the environment.

  • While it is true that developed countries such as Canada currently produce the vast majority of pollution and use the vast majority of resources, virtually all the increases in pollution will come from developing countries. Yet environmentalists seem uninterested in this, almost as if developing countries were on a different planet rather than part of the same closed ecology we inhabit.
The Fifth Force: Longer Lives
  • Since 1901, life expectancy has risen by more than four months per calendar year, and there is no indication that this trend is slowing. By 2050, average life expectancy may reach 100 years.

  • The fastest growing sector of the population in percentage terms is those over 85 and more than half of them have Alzheimers' disease.

  • Biotechnology will produce new and better ways of helping the elderly and disabled.

  • Xenotransplants the transplantation of organs from animals into humans will become more widely used for organs like hearts, livers, kidneys, and so on.

  • Genetic engineering will enable us to treat diseases and conditions that were previously untreatable. These might include things like Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers, Muscular Dystrophy, and many other conditions, including male-pattern baldness and certain kinds of obesity.

  • Through genetic research, researchers may have discovered what causes aging in humans, and have some preliminary ideas about how to stop the aging process.
The Sixth Force: The Decline of the Nation-State
  • The decline of the nation-state implies a less stable world, with people pledging their allegiances to special interests or ethnic and cultural groups in preference to a national identity. The Quebec separatists are only one example.

  • Quebec separatists either underestimate the very high costs of a separate Quebec state, or they are lying for their own selfish reasons. Regardless, a Quebec separation would severely hurt industries and agriculture in Quebec, substantially increase interest rates in both countries, and dramatically curtail the investment capital flows in both countries. A major recession would likely result in both Quebec, and the rest of Canada.

  • Just as Quebec separatists downplay the costs of separation, the rest of Canada underestimates the skill and determination of the separatists in Quebec. The result is a situation fraught with danger for all concerned like playing Russian roulette without knowing how many bullets are in the gun.
The Seventh Force: The Shattering of Society and the Isolation of the Individual
  • School children are increasingly growing up to be neglected savages as parents have less time and energy to raise them, and hence do a poorer job of it. As a result, a steadily rising number of them are prone to violence, uninterested in schooling, and exhibit disruptive behaviour. This bodes ill for Canada's economic future, for undisciplined, unteachable children grow up to be burdens on the state, and a rising proportion of them during a time of rising competition means much less prosperity for Canada as a country.

  • In part because of the decline in the authority of the nation-state, individuals are looking for reasons why they deserve special breaks and benefits at the expense of society as a whole. The result is the development of a lot of petty little interest groups seeking to grab power and money from Canadian society and destroying the society in which they live.

  • Traditional religions are being discarded as flawed superstitions. But researchers find that people feel a need for a spiritual dimension to their lives, and are not finding adequate substitutes. We are, as a result, living in spiritual poverty, and hurting as a result.
  • Despite all our problems here in Canada, we have so many advantages compared with most of the other countries of the world that if we fail, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. Ours should be a prosperous and exciting future if we have the wit and will to make it so.
© Copyright, Incremax Financial Research Corporation, Aprill 1997

Richard Worzel
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