This report examines how the activities traditionally associated with commerce are being disrupted and transformed by innovations that will redefine how we produce, distribute, market, and consume products and services.
Our analysis points to a redefinition and upgrade of commerce practices around rapid technological, operational, and societal shifts that are already disrupting how we experience reality as well as what and whom we trust.
From fake news to disinformation and the collapse of institutional trust, businesses and governments are waking up to a changed world. While leaders formulate strategies to deal with massive structural changes, the signals are pointing to an even larger wave of cultural shifts that will have longstanding implications for the future of commerce and your business.
These shifts are brought on by a number of factors: the growing capabilities of technology to manipulate reality, the increase in both volume and intimacy of the data we generate, and operational innovations that radically improve the ability of organizations (productive and malignant) to adapt and respond to contextual input.
The very exponential pace of technological development — a defining factor of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — provides the backdrop to the transformation of commerce. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is seen as a new stage of human development, one defined by “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres,” according to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman at the World Economic Forum.
Part of that development is the merging of our biology with our physical and digital contexts — and if that sounds like science fiction, think again.
Commerce is being transformed through the intersection of physical, digital, and biological data. From wearables to implantables, it’s innovations such as an ultrathin nanomesh electric “skin” that can read and display the wearer’s heartbeat that are bringing technology closer to us than ever before. The close proximity of technology to the human is creating an increasingly intimate set of new data verticals that are opening the door to hyper-personalization.
These new data verticals include inputs from our devices, smart homes, and even future smart cities — measuring everything from the steps you take (or don’t), to the quality of your sleep, preferences for personal items and life partners, to understanding your emotions before, perhaps, even you do, through the growing accuracy of emotion recognition algorithms. In addition, genomic data in which your DNA plays a starring role (such as Helix’s DNA kit) can be applied to anything from health to entertainment and fine dining.
The blending of physical, digital and biological data is in tandem with the fast-moving and growing sophistication of media and technologies that are able to manipulate and bend reality. The convergence of these cultural forces radically increases the need for initiatives that focus on facts and truth. In addition, this landscape calls for organizational policies and behaviors that provide a new set of guarantees to the public by mitigating the risks and impact of this fragmentation of reality.
The cultural shifts identified in this report are the result of an analysis of signals at the edges of culture, including thousands of articles, search terms, research papers, social listening, and quantitative studies, conducted by sparks & honey via its cultural intelligence system Q™.
The project team augmented the initial findings through qualitative research by conducting in-depth interviews with leading experts in relevant fields including public policy, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, systems thinking, retail, and more.
Our approach is centered on strategic foresight practices that aim to provide a broad landscape of vectors (i.e., macro factors, trends, shifts in public opinion, scientific research, and others) influencing an industry, practice, audience, or in this case, the activities of producing, marketing, selling, and buying at scale -- commerce.
Rather than predicting the future, our intent is to highlight patterns among these vectors as a platform to discuss our choices in the here and now. How we deal with these patterns of change and the possibilities they create is what makes a tangible difference between probable and preferable futures.
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