Seven future trends to be aware of
4. Three-dimensional printing
In the future Frey says 3D printing is going to be used in “just about everything”.
On the drawing board at the moment is printing clothing with 3D printers, which Frey says will be a “really hot industry”.
“If you can imagine going into a retail store and going into this device and having your body scanned in, then they have perfect measurements of your body and you could actually print out perfectly fitting clothing that will fit you instantly in whatever fabric or whatever colours you want,” he says.
3D printing will also apply to shoes as you can scan in your feet and print out shoes that perfectly conform to all the nuances of your insoles and the bottom of your feet.
Looking at biomedicine, it is already possible to print replacement skins, so if somebody gets really burned you can print new skin for somebody and they can heal much quicker that way.
“If they get severely injured, they're actually going to be able to print replacement bones,” Frey says.
“There's talk about being able to print organs and actually the potential is for really crazy areas.”
The University of Southern California has developed a 3D printer that works with concrete, so you can print cement and the goal is to be able to print an entire house, which Frey says is “very close”.
“I'm actually predicting that someone is going to print the first house sometime within the next year, just to kind of get their names in the history books,” he says.
From there Frey says the technology will advance considerably and architects will be in their element as walls don't have to be flat any more.
“You can create all these freeform structures that rise up into the sky and these don't have to be structurally sound, they don't have to last for the next 100 years,” he says.
“If you get tired of your house you can actually grind it all up and reprint it into another shape.”
Frey says some universities are playing around with food printers right now. MIT and Cornell are doing a lot with confectionary.
They’re printing desserts and working with chocolates and confectionary creams and the speculation is that sometime in the future you will be able to put different cartridges into a machine and print out your entire dinner.
“If you can imagine sending your spouse off to the store to get a kiwi cartridge or an eggplant cartridge because you're going to print dinner tonight, it's that type of thinking,” Frey says.
He predicts 3D printing of food will cut down on waste as currently many of the apples that fall off an apple tree never get used because they're damaged and bruised.
“If you could take the same apple stock and somehow reformulate it and print it into a perfect apple every time, not only will you have a perfect apple but you can eat the stem and the leaf as well because it's all made out of the same thing,” he says.
5. Driverless cars
In the automotive industry Frey says there is a “big move” towards creating a driverless car, which he predicts will be a “huge disruptor”.
Mercedes is rumoured to have a model out next year that has a driverless feature so if someone hits a button that’ll enable the car to drive itself under 25 miles an hour, roughly 35 kilometres per hour in the city.
Google has also been working on driverless cars and has driven a fleet of seven driverless cars over 450,000 kilometres around the country.
“The reason Google is trying to push the whole driverless car industry is they want to create the operating system for all the cars,” says Frey.
“If you think about cars suddenly being able to drive themselves, that opens up the door for driverless delivery vehicles that can deliver your groceries or food or pizza or your mail or whatever, that's all right around the corner.”
The technology will be very disruptive as it potentially eliminates all driving roles in society.
“There's millions and millions of people who earn all their income from being a driver, and so that radically changes everything,” Frey says.
He also predicts automation will extend to things like robotic vacuum cleaners, robotic lawn mowers and robotic mass transit.
6. Retail experiences
Frey says the future of retail is “a complicated topic” as people like to be entertained, so stores existing just as warehouse or inventories don’t work anymore as consumers can just go online and make a purchase and have it delivered to their home for far less effort.
He predicts a lot of retail stores will disappear and be replaced by different forms of retail that involve experiences.
“So if they can add an entertainment component to it, if they can add something that's unique and different that people can make an afternoon out of, going to this place so it becomes an experience,” Frey says.
“The challenge is that they've kind of overbuilt the retail space, and my guess is that in Australia, much like the United States, you have a lot of giant retail spaces that are empty right now.
“I view that as a huge opportunity for somebody that can actually figure out what to do with these giant buildings that are in prime locations and major intersections that are sitting idle now.”
7. Teacherless education
The final trend that Frey highlights is a trend towards teacherless education.
“This again is going to be quite disruptive as we figure out more and more ways to transport education around the world without requiring students to be in a particular room at a particular time to listen to an instructor,” says Frey.
Earlier this year Frey was giving a talk in Istanbul about teacherless education. He says an executive from Google came up to him afterwards and said, “We're really interested in teacherless education because we want to educate Africa and teachers don't want to go to Africa.”
Frey describes this as “a revealing moment”, as he says there are a lot of situations in developing countries that don't make it ideal for people to go there.
“The fact of the matter is we're going to have to be continually learning and rebooting our skills in a lot of different areas,” he says.
“So if we have to insert a teacher between us and what we want to learn, that's going to be a major impediment for us in the future.”
Currently there are around 8 million teachers short in the world but 23% of all kids growing up today are not being educated in any way around the world.
“Being able to educate all these young people as they're growing up, could dramatically change this world,” Frey says.
He says it will change our perspective on the world and change the way terrorist organisations are structured.
“So I think it benefits all of humanity to figure out ways to push education to even the remotest areas of the world,” Frey says.
Thomas Frey was one of over 40 innovators, thinkers and business leaders presenting at Ci2012 - the Creative Innovation 2012 - Asia Pacific on 28-30 November 2012 in Melbourne. The theme for Ci2012 was “Wicked Problems! Leadership and courage for volatile times”
This article first appeared on October 9th, 2012.