Quick thoughts about 2021 and moving forward

Like many, I left 2021 with a lot of thoughts but I’ll try to summarise. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the main things that keeps me awake at night. I don’t think that AI is going to reach the intelligence level of humans yet, but at the current level of development, it certainly has the potential to replace a lot of people in their jobs. 


Many organisations employ roles that involve retrieving, processing and sending information. Any processes that involve digital data, are at risk of being replaced by AI. At the moment, some of the latest startups are able to take on work that used to be done by a much larger company. 


As company structures become leaner, some say that the gap between the top management and the workers will become greater. On the other hand, I think it’s going to be closer. I think that the coming period will be very testing for top management. This will be especially so for management that thrived on the old management models.


The availability of AI tools, freely available knowledge on the web and a workforce that’s more educated than ever before, will equalise the playing field. The coming generation will be drastically different from the earlier generation. I’ve already witnessed children as young as five years old, doing simple computer programming, producing videos, discussing in detail about the human body’s anatomy and its functions, etc. Imagine what they can achieve in the future.


The workers of the next generation will increasingly challenge their seniors and supervisors, believing themselves to be equal if not better. Leaders will no longer be able to rely adequately on past experiences or knowledge to secure their positions. The younger generation, with the help of AI tools and internet hive mind, will only measure success according to current results. 


I’m guessing that in the mid to longer term, different types of company structures might become popular. One possibility could be in the form of cooperatives. Cooperatives are formed on the principle of participatory governance, and its structure encourages the sharing of resources among members and a democratic style of management. This form of enterprise might become more popular when more power shifts towards content creators, professional service providers and original thinkers. 


Chasing after money is outdated. The trend right now is for money to chase after original contents. Copycats will be second class to original thinkers. In the increasingly digital age, it’s only going to be easier to sieve out the original thinkers from the copycats and blockchain technology could be a huge part of that movement. If you remembered, BMW wasn’t a top car maker until it decided on the strategy to be original and cutting-edge. The same will apply to companies and maybe even countries. Money will chase after the original thinkers. 


Places that rely on immigrants to grow their economies will experience immense pressures. Incentives to work overseas will diminish when work-from-anywhere arrangement becomes common. Cryptocurrency might make it worse.  If any one of the cryptocurrencies becomes the common standard for global transactions, then why the need for the British Pounds or the US Dollars? The concept of growing the economy with immigrants will become outdated.  


Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) trends will also destabilise many companies, to the point that some might no longer be able to carry on with their businesses. The same fate will fall on some of the companies in both developed and developing countries. Sustainability of business will depend on the willingness to drive operational and contractual transformation. 


All these trends, together with the development of blockchain technology might affect the relevancy of today’s government models. The current government models are already facing immense pressure of being relevant in the face of a changing landscape. Reinvention for relevancy is needed more than ever. Creativity plus vision for the future is critical to charting pathways. 


Anyway, I think it’s going to be very exciting in the future. I can’t wait to witness how the technology of the future will shape the next episodes. I think that the future is going to be exciting for problem-solvers.

Copyright © 2022 Zeng Han-Jun. All Rights Reserved.

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