Four Totally "Out-of-the-Box" Predictions
I pride myself on being fairly well-educated and tolerant of diversity.
Here are four completely out-of-the-ordinary ideas I've recently been exposed to. I've had a hard time wrapping my head around each of these, but I think that each is a very early indication of different trends in our modern world, and in terms of a business approach, it would be wise to consider ways to integrate these ideas into your existing business model or your marketable job skills: natural remedies, open source mentality, overall collaboration, and green extreme.
Beyond Natural Remedies
Many already know the health benefits of reducing animal, dairy, and highly processed food in our diets. However, for people who are suffering from auto-immune disorders such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and ulcerative colitis, the current available range of treatment: diet changes (switching to non-gluten, non-dairy, non-wheat, vegan), lifestyle changes (stopping smoking, reducing stress), medication (prednisone and others) or drastic intervention (such as surgery) simply do not work or are too invasive.
Two well-known treatment options are acupuncture and homeopathy, but one therapy that is growing in awareness is called "helminthic therapy."
Helminths are parasitic worms that colonize the gut, and this therapy comes out of the theory that humans, over the course of our development, have always had symbiotic relationships with intestinal parasites, bacteria, germs, and microorganisms. By playing in the dirt as children and putting our fingers in our mouths, we were able to "normalize" our immune systems through exposure to microbes and irritants. However, in today's modern, developed world of pavement, antibacterial gel, soap, sanitation, plumbing, and footwear, humans have "lost" that ability to normalize their immune system and instead get hyper-triggered by regular irritants like pollen, dirt, proteins, specific foods, and others.
Proponents believe that the parasitic relationship helps balance and normalize the body's natural immune response, so some long-term, debilitated, desperate sufferers of lupus, MS, asthma, IBD, hay fever/allergies, and the like believe that they can auto-inoculate by ingesting hookworm and whipworm eggs, which then hatch out and attach to the intestinal wall and help "normalize" the immune system and intestinal flora. Note that this therapy is currently not sanctioned by the FDA.
I predict that this kind of game-changing thinking will become more popular with those who suffer from health issues: we'll see more and more demand for therapies and for testing protocols that rely on "natural" remedies.
Beyond Open Source
As a web developer, I am intimately familiar with the open source software used to power some of the world's most complex and important websites.
You're probably familiar with Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, or CiviCRM. The idea of open source is that many hundreds of thousands, or millions of people working on a project as worldwide volunteers will be more efficient and effective than a paid team of hundreds at one company.
The open source "ethos" is moving forward in other industries. For example, in journalism, we're seeing many more community-contributed stories - where a concerned person reports on an issue or writes an editorial relevant to their specific focus. In the fundraising field, we're seeing more "kickstarter"-type projects, where many people get together to donate a small amount, instead of a company having to raise a large amount from just a few people. We're seeing pay-as-you-desire models, where a product or service is offered for a suggested amount, but if the customer chooses to pay a different amount, less than or more than the "sticker price," this is accepted by both parties. In politics, we're seeing some of the work of paid campaign workers being split up and developed through volunteer work parties organized by interest, hobby, job title, or neighborhood. With telecommunications, we're seeing Wi-Fi based phones with no monthly fees, or very low pay-per-usage plans.
I predict that in the workplace, many people coming together to collaborate on a task and share their results will be a huge trend in the future. Monetization comes from specialization or offering value-added services, but the reliance on an open source "base" model is sure to increase.Beyond Collaborative Consumption
Knowing that our current levels of consumption would require three or four Earth-sized planets to support, many have reverted back to a simpler method of buying local, sharing, swapping, bartering, and establishing a super-local marketplace. Recycling groups, underground food movements, skills sharing, babysitting coops, car-sharing, tool lending libraries, Kiva-type lending, and the like seem to be emerging as part of the "sharing economy" which is based on access to information, social capital, and knowledge, not so much on simply having money.
In times of uncertain economic future, and in a general sense of backlash against shoddily-made goods, mass production, poor quality control, and a loss of sense of "place" and safety and security in one's neighborhood, I predict that we'll see a huge rise in the following types of businesses: artisan, handmade, locally produced, higher quality durable goods, small batches, organic, recycled/upcycled, and sustainably created and packed.Beyond Going Green
We will begin to see amazing inventions in this next phase of green and sustainable modern development (or, I predict, we'll perish!) We will see leaps in the ability to harness natural powers of the sun, the wind, the waves, and in bioengineering. We'll see new food supplies, clothing, tools, and consumer goods made from items we're not normally used to consuming or using. We'll have disruptive elements in the fields of crop production including aquaponics and algae farms, personal transportation, energy consumption, water usage, communications, and monitoring/tracking/evaluating progress.
I believe that with more mobile devices, apps, and geo-locating devices, we will see a more clear interconnection between the people who run businesses within a community, and their customers. When you live and work in the same place where you do business, you are more likely to behave with a certain level of professionalism and responsibility. I predict we we will see more of this sense of "think local, act global" in the next ten to twenty years, with more "barnraising" type events, more community-funded businesses, more social enterprise ventures, and more non-profit/for-profit collaborations.
How will you prepare for the coming changes?