Since the turn of the millenium, we have been living in a time of dynamically changing technological, economic, political and social structures. Digitisation and globalisation reinforce each other and will continue to do so in future. Our way of communicating, of working, of passing our leisure time and organising our communities but also our way of treating our own body and many other things will possibly have changed drastically 15 years from now.
Substantial changes in economic and social structures and processes are to be expected – megatrends on a large, global scale. The fundamental influence that megatrends will have on our lives until 2030 and beyond will be felt in people’s private spheres but also in all areas of industry. This will result in the shifting and dissolving of boundaries: many things that seem to be known and familiar today will change tomorrow. We will have to realign ourselves.
Get to know more about this study‘s five megatrends
The megatrend algorithmization describes the fact that computers are omnipresent in our physical environment and that they are getting smaller and more interconnected all the time. Equipped with sensors and artificial intelligence, they capture and interpret everything that is happening around them – in this way, our non-human environment learns how to react to us and how to take independent decisions. This might lead to more convenience and safety, but it can also take some of our freedom away or even render us superfluous.
Of all five megatrends, algorithmization will be the one with the most significant effects. At the same time, its consequences are the most controversial ones: will we lose our autonomy if machines start thinking and deciding for us?
The megatrend utilisation describes how we consider more and more aspects of our lives just as means to our ends, how we exploit these and turn them into social or financial capital. In this way, many activities or traits are no longer ends in themselves. The beauty of the moment is only enjoyed in case it is useful at the same time. The motivation to make one’s leisure time as pleasurable as possible is secondary to the urge to achieve measurable and comparable optimisation. On the other hand, this creates new and creative ways of earning money.
Thanks to numerous internet platforms that have specialized on any thinkable area of life, we can capitalize on every situation. Fancy selfies bring you new connections, if you go to the gym and work out regularly you can save money in health insurance fees and if you are particularly nice to the people who rent a bed in your flat, you increase your chances of getting a nice and cheap place to stay on your holidays yourself. This might all seem tempting for individuals. However, there are downsides to this trend: firstly, because the moment is robbed of its magic and every action, every event is only evaluated in view of its usability. Secondly, this – previously voluntary – self-optimisation has now turned into a type of self-exploitation that is expected by society.
The megatrend design raises the question as to whether we should or must actually do everything that we are capable of doing or that we want to do. We alter and design more and more spheres of our own lives, our own bodies and our world – and the social and ecological consequences can often not be foreseen.
Humans will not only take their fate in their own hands in the area of medicine – empowered by modern technologies we can seize more and more opportunities. On a large scale, this comprises humanity’s battle against disease or climate change. On a small scale, we control our CVs more and more consciously, we become more and more creative and possibly also more open to new things. However, there is the risk of drowning in the ocean of opportunities. If everything can be changed then there is nothing steady in life. This might result in a life in constant movement and uncertainty. Modern societies will have to engage in serious ethical debates in the near future: should everything that is possible also be permitted?
The megatrend fragmentation shows the way into an unthinkably versatile future. Due to globalisation and the internet, we are able to discover that there can be numerous societies and communities – and how we can start new ones by getting together and uniting. In many Western societies we can already see that society has been restructured to that effect.
Thanks to the internet, it becomes increasingly less complicated even for small groups to form, variety within society becomes visible. This is useful for individuals who are thus able lead lives of complete self-fulfillment. However, the ones who benefit most are the digitally savvy who can cope with the new structures particularly well. All others might not only feel excluded from this modern, colourful world but maybe even left behind. This is exactly where the populists are currently hunting for votes by reminding people of simpler times in the past. However, the process of restructuring has long begun – the future will show whether fragmentation means disintegration or primarily freedom.
The megatrend of re-localisation describes the return to and reconnection with one‘s physical environment on an economic, political and personal level. This trend enables a new evaluation of communal activities and spaces and productive synergy effects. It also enables individuals to ground themselves. On the other hand, this trend might also entail retreat and re-emerging nationalism.
In times of globalisation and digitisation, re-localisation is also a means against disconnected relationships. On the economic level, regionally produced products become more attractive to users. In the political area, local matters are getting more attention and in the private sphere, the number of citizens who participate actively in their communities is increasing – for example in traditional allotment gardens as well as in urban gardening. In this way, the reconnection with the immediate environment can bring relief and recreation – it might even offer an opportunity for romantic escape into the idyll of a simpler world.