Archive for February 2012

Fast Future Recruitment

February 13, 2012

Job Title – Trainee Science and Technology Foresight Researchers (x2)  [PDF Download]

Working for – Fast Future Research

Location – Working from home, but ideally based in London

Salary – £16,000 per year subject to review after 1, 3 and 6 months

Job Details

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with global corporations, governments and NGOs around the world. Our aim is to help clients understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape their environment, the economy and the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Our core activities are futures research, consulting, events, and delivery of workshops and speeches for leadership audiences around the world.

We draw on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to conduct a range of high impact strategic futures studies. These studies are designed to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world and build thought leadership positions in the marketplace. The insights generated are used to help clients define and implement innovative strategies. We are particularly interested in the future evolution of the global science and technology landscape.

Fast Future is enjoying a period of growth and has a number of exciting client research studies and internal development initiatives underway. To help deliver these projects, we are now looking for two entry level foresight researchers to join our small, close-knit and rapidly expanding team.  The roles will be full-time, and performance, personal development goals and salary will be reviewed after one, three and six months.

The primary focus of the roles will be scanning, summarising, compiling, maintaining and analysing a large database of research material on the emerging STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) landscape. This will include scanning for innovations, trends and major developments on matters such as funding initiatives, the global R&D map, science diplomacy, standards, cross-disciplinary breakthroughs, STEM  publishing and emerging  issues. Alongside this you will have the opportunity to work on a range of Fast Future’s other research projects and take on other internal development responsibilities.

Fast Future is passionate about investing in the professional and personal development of its team and there will be regular opportunities to acquire new skills, attend learning events and maximise your potential. The leave entitlement is 20 days per year and you will have the opportunity to spend a day per month working on voluntary causes of your choice.

We are looking for candidates who have a genuine interest in looking at the future in general and at the outlook for STEM in particular. The right individuals will consider themselves something of a generalist, be interested in and have broad knowledge of a variety of subjects, and be up to date on current affairs and technological advancements.

Necessary Skills and Attributes:

  • Curiosity, imagination and a desire to inspire
  • Awareness of the latest scientific and technological advances and innovations
  • Understanding of international and domestic political, economic and commercial issues and developments
  • Excellent communication skills, written and oral
  • Proven research capabilities
  • Ability to scan for and process large amounts of data in a rapid and efficient manner
  • Capacity to handle working remotely and independently
  • Ability to multitask and keep to deadlines
  • Strong attention to detail
  • A high level of computer literacy
  • Comfortable using a wide range of social media and online platforms.

Closing date for receipt of applications – 28th February 2012.

To apply please send the following information to David Saer at

  • A personal CV
  • A 500 word (max) article on a future challenge or development in the STEM field (see our FutureScape newsletter for examples of such articles)
  • Another example of something you have written previously
  • A covering letter outlining why you want to work for Fast Future, what you can bring to the role and what you hope to gain from the opportunity.

Applicants must supply all of the elements above to be considered for one of these positions.


New Video Interviews

February 10, 2012

New video interviews with Rohit for the Urban Times, on 3D printing, exo-skeletons, extreme human longevity and the future of society.

In Safe Hands – the Future of Financial Services

February 7, 2012

Summary of Long Finance Seminar

Gresham College London 25/01/12

Iva Lazarova – Foresight Researcher – Fast Future


Seminar Overview

This paper presents a summary and reflections on the Long Finance seminar to launch Gill Ringland’s report, “In Safe Hands? The Future of Financial Services[i] published in association with SAMI Consulting. This seminar was part of the Long Finance initiative[ii], a project whose goal is “to improve society’s understanding and use of finance over the long-term. In contrast to the short-termism that defines today’s economic views, the Long Finance time-frame is roughly 100 years.”  The underlying question being addressed is;

“When would we know our financial system is working?”

The impact of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis on economics and society reminds us of the significance of the financial services sector. It also highlights the need for long-term thinking that will enable us to better prepare for and respond to the challenges that the future might bring. For me, the Long Finance seminar was a valuable and intellectually stimulating experience that deepened my general understanding of the topic. The session also provoked a shift in my own focus away from a concern with the reasons for and impact of the financial crisis, towards thinking about the role which the financial services (FS) sector could play in the future and how it can cater for the changing needs of society. The key messages from the seminar and report are summarized below.


Financial Services in 2050 – Underlying Assumptions

The scenarios presented were based on what the author considers to be the best available forecasts for 2050 in terms of population, the use of technology and the organization of society. Listed below are some of the key assumptions upon which the scenarios were built:

General Assumptions and their Implications for Financial Services

1. Demographics. By 2050 the global population is estimated by the UN to be around 9 billion (range 7.5-10 billion) with the majority in Asia and Africa. Birth rates will fall, life expectancy will increase and the average age of the global population will rise over the period.

Implications. As our national populations age, the need for financial services that cater for the elderly will grow. In addition, an older population is more likely to be risk-averse and FS need to acknowledge this in the design of products and services.

 2. Power and Influence. The balance of global power and influence is shifting from the West to the East. This is likely to cause political challenges and turbulence.

Implications. The changing balance of power will probably have an impact on the sector as a whole as well as on the role of financial centres. Will Shanghai and Hong Kong replace New York and London as the leading financial hubs? Is it possible that the rise of not only Asia, but the BRICs in general will influence the development of a new set of values on which the FS sector will be based in the future? Will a new paradigm challenge the Washington Consensus?

3. Technology.  Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will underpin much of society and commerce. The so called NBIC (nano, bio, info, cogno) convergence is playing an increasingly important role creating new materials, products and services with properties and functionality that are already changing lifestyles.

Implications. Employment in FS in mature economies is likely to continue shrinking as the impact of ICT grows. Many of the existing players could be forced to merge or be replaced by new entrants, and many aspects of insurance and retail banking will be automated. Critical question arise – firstly, how will the sector adapt to these ongoing changes, and what will the most important products and services be?

 4. Sustainability. Pressure on the environment is increasing – ecological, energy and environmental concerns will become more acute.

Implications. The environment will be a crucial factor influencing the financial sector – scarcity will increase the role of FS in trading resources.


The Four Global Scenarios

The report sets out four possible scenarios for the future of financial services. These are summarised below. Using the driving force model, the scenarios focus on two key aspects of the global society:

  1. The persistence or otherwise of the ‘Washington Consensus’ (i.e. ‘Western values’) e.g.:
  • Will our future economy and society be similar to today’s?
  • Will it implicitly follow the Washington Consensus? Or, Will there be a new paradigm?
  1. The organising principle of geography or virtuality. Particularly in relation to financial services, does geography matter in the new paradigm e.g.:
  • Will city states replace many functions of the nation state? Or
  • Will markets be global and virtual, replacing geography with other organising structures such as affinity groups?



1. Second Hand: This presents a scenario where democracy is still important, western values and institutions are still present, the Washington Consensus still prevails and capitalism is the dominant paradigm. Geography and the nation state still matter, but their significance is weaker than today. International structures decay as they don’t reflect the worldview of the powerful BRIC nations.

What could cause this scenario: This scenario is predicated on the assumption that the earth manages to provide enough food and water for its nine billion people without there being major shortages. It also assumes the rise of individualism and increased mobility of people who will seek better economic conditions.


What could prevent this scenario: A potential global crisis and/or the breakdown of the Washington Consensus.

Features of FS in 2050:

  • Ecology of FS: more diverse
  • Investment:  investors aligned with more than one region to shelter from volatility
  • Aging Society: pensions and security high on the agenda; a need for private insurance to augment state systems
  • Trading: commodity trading reduced, most commodities controlled by a single/ few companies. Equity trading declines as the there will only be a few major corporations, many of these privately owned
  • Asset classes: Mirrors today, but land based assets and permits for citizenship and reproduction may be the most highly valued
  • Leading financial centres: Singapore overtakes London and New York as a financial hub

2. Visible Hand: This scenario depicts an explicitly homogeneous global governance structure. The current political, social and economic regimes are still recognizable. The world will have evolved and taken advantage of new technological capability. It will be more educated with a ‘pervasive’ global culture.

What could cause this scenario: It will emerge if the world manages to satisfy the needs of 9 billion people and if it is able to deal with its ecological, environmental and energy problems. It assumes that the West has recovered from the financial crisis and will avoid future ones.


What could prevent this scenario: Western economies failing to recover from the financial/ economic crises and suffering further shocks.

Features of FS in 2050:

  • This scenario is not thought to be stable. A homogenised international regime is unlikely to be able to handle the volatility it creates and will suffer further financial crises. Hence this scenario is likely to evolve into either ‘Long Hand’ or ‘Many Hands’ by 2050.

3. Long Hand:  The scenario describes a world where a complete meltdown has followed the financial crisis in Western countries. Virtual connections based on ethnic and religious affinity groups will become the main global organizing structures.  Religious or ethnic communities will exercise power remotely.


What could cause this scenario: This scenario could follow a breakdown in world order after a crisis.


What could prevent this scenario: An evolution of the Washington Consensus towards more diversity in order to decrease volatility and handle potential crises.


Features of FS in 2050:

  • Ecology of FS: up to 50 or so loosely coupled trans-national systems with diverse regulatory regimes
  • Investment: discouraged outside the home affinity group
  • Banking: Retail FS transactional only. IFAs replaced by ‘Intelligent Financial Advisors’; traditional banking replaced by individual to individual lending
  • Trading: traders focused on bartering within trusted affinity groups
  • Asset classes:  the value of assets will vary across communities –   either IP and permits for reproduction, land based assets or gold will be most valuable depending on the type and structure of a community
  • Leading centres: London and New York

4. Many Hands: In this scenario, globalisation has failed, democracy is unwieldy and western value systems are inadequate. The concept of the ‘nation state’ has disappeared and has been replaced by numerous city-states. The city state communities will have very different strengths, weaknesses, wealth levels and brands. Mobility across states will be the norm.

What could cause this scenario: One of the main drivers for this scenario will be the progressive failure of globalisation to deliver its promised advantages and benefits beyond a restricted circle of countries.


What could prevent this scenario: Measures to avert a food or financial crisis could possibly prevent this scenario.


Features of FS in 2050:

  • Ecology of FS: very diverse, city states offer different regulatory regimes and software systems. Very loose linkages between states
  • Aging society: a major concern, prime focus on pensions and security
  • Banking: traditional banking replaced by individual to individual lending regulated by each state
  • Trade: bilateral trade and barter will increase. The supply of fundamental resources depends increasingly on financial markets. Security of supply is a valued asset and is linked to credit supply
  • Asset classes: permits to live or operate in desirable cities will be highly valuable assets – they will be traded directly between individuals or corporations and mediated by ICT
  • Additional: insurance markets are fragmented and there is no mechanism for global risk insurance. Intelligence gathering and analysis is a key source of competitiveness
  • Leading centres: 50 city states dominate financial services, one of which is Istanbul



The role of scenario planning is to help us consider a range of plausible futures that could evolve – in this case over the period to 2050. A number of key drivers could combine either to create these scenarios, or prevent them from happening. I think that perhaps the greatest value of the four scenarios outlined in the report is to help us think about what each of them tells us about our approach to planning and decision making in the world we inhabit today. They highlight the need to think about the long term consequences of current decisions and to ensure that we are defining solutions that can evolve and adapt in a rapidly changing world.

Most people who read the report could most probably imagine the Second Hand and Visible Hand Scenarios as a plausible evolution from where we stand today. However, many may find it more difficult to conceive of a Many Hands or Long Hand world.  Human nature is such that we are uncomfortable thinking about reversals in our development, but the last two scenarios suggest that these are possible. Overall, the four scenarios suggest that we need to take a longer term, open-minded and anticipatory approach to designing our financial services infrastructure if we want to understand and respond to the complexities that could shape the future and the choices that lie ahead.



Airport 2025 – Rethinking the Passenger Experience

February 6, 2012

Interview with Rohit Talwar – CEO Fast Future Research

February 3rd 2012


Fast Future Research is conducting the global Airport 2025 study for Amadeus. In this interview for the 2012 Hamburg Aviation Conference, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future comments on the emerging findings of the research.


Fast Future – what does that mean?
We are a research and consulting firm that specialises in providing clients with fast insights into the factors and forces shaping the future. We use a range of techniques such as horizon scanning, trend analysis and scenario planning to help clients explore the future and respond in innovative ways to the emerging opportunities and challenges.

Should companies not focus on the here and now, and generating revenues and reducing cost to ensure they can survive in the tough competition?

The current economic crisis was caused by too little long term thinking – not too much. If we only focus on the short term, we miss the bigger picture and may ignore the signals of change that may provide early indications of future risks and opportunities. Big decisions like building a terminal, buying an aircraft, redesigning the current airport or changing our revenue models all require longer term thinking. This needs to be shaped by insights into the future factors that could shape tomorrow’s operating environment.

What do you think are the main challenges that travel companies face?
The industry faces a perfect storm – with traditionally low operating margins and economic uncertainty at the epicentre. Traveller expectations are changing the world over. Evolving economies are experiencing growth that is leading to a sharp rise in travellers with differing needs and expectations. Around the world, society is also ageing – creating wealthy new customer groups – again with different expectations. Rising fuel prices, climate change, environmental concerns, rapid technological change and the emergence of social media as a communications and marketing channel are all increasing the level of complexity and challenge for the travel sector. At the same time, industry innovators are creating turbulence for their competitors by experimenting with new revenue models such as aggregated buying discounts, auctions and payments for personalisation.

Hence, in the face of all these complex drivers of change, the key challenges for most travel companies are to develop agility, tolerance of uncertainty and a truly innovative and experimental mindset. Industry players have to become adept at scanning the horizon for impending change and ‘seeing round corners’ to anticipate shocks and opportunities. This future proofing mindset must be accompanied by a willingness to innovate and develop a continuous stream of new revenue models in the expectation that they will change regularly and rapidly in the decade ahead.

In what respect can customer orientation help companies?
In the new economy that is emerging, customers have a lot more power. They can reward or punish you through their comments in the social media. Customers are also demanding far higher levels of service – they have more choice and see many examples of exceptional service – they increasingly expect this from all their suppliers.

The closer we get to customers and the more trust we build, the better the relationship we can develop and the greater the likelihood of them trusting us with critical information about their needs and expectations. The more highly they rate the service provided, the more likely the customer is to provide both positive and negative feedback that can help drive continuous improvement.

San Francisco airport has just announced to open a yoga room at the airport, following a suggestion from customers. Is that where airports will be able to make the difference?
Bigger airports are becoming more like small cities – offering all of the amenities that a city can offer. Passengers want their entire journey to be an enjoyable experience – hence the growing demand for leisure services such as spa facilities, cinemas relaxation rooms, comfortable seating and yoga rooms. Passengers may not choose an airport purely based on leisure facilities, but they may well choose to spend more time at the airport prior to departure if there is an excellent array of leisure options. Passengers may also choose which airport to transit through based on the options for how they spend their stopover time.

Do you think that travel partners are well equipped to meet future challenges?
I think there are some firms that are well equipped managerially, financially and operationally to deliver exceptional service, respond to emerging trends, continue to exceed expectations and delight their customers. There are others who are clearly struggling to innovate and evolve and many will simply fade from the scene in the next decade.

A key future test will be the ability to cope with chaos and complexity – made worse by a massive array of choice, the diversity of computer systems involved and the avalanche of data being thrown off by a wide range of applications across the travel value chain.  Hence, collaboration will be a core competence as diverse providers are forced to work together and share data in order to enhance the passenger experience. Customers are increasingly demanding an integrated information flow. So, the imperative is for agents, airlines, airports and travel retailers to share information and consolidate what they provide to the customer – rather than all bombarding the passenger with communications and offers.

What is your recommendation to travel partners to tackle as the highest priority?

Travel partners must develop a tolerance uncertainty and prepare for a range of different possible future scenarios. They must build a management that is truly innovative, forward thinking and willing to act fast to respond to emerging opportunities and threats. To survive and thrive in the decade of turbulence ahead, we must create organisations that have good anticipatory skills, flexibility and an unwavering commitment to exceptional customer service.



Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and award winning speaker who focuses on the future of the aviation, travel, tourism and leisure sectors. He leads Fast Future Research providing advice to industry leaders around the world on the ideas, trends and forces that could shape future strategies and business models. He is currently running a major study on the Future Airport Passenger Experience with Amadeus. Rohit has worked and spoken in over 50 countries on six continents. His clients include 3M, Aeroports de Paris, Amadeus, Blackberry, EADS, Intel, Microsoft, Mumbai Airport, Nokia, Panasonic, Sabre, SAP, Schiphol Airport, Siemens Airport Services, Tata, Travelport and a range of government and city agencies around the world.

Futurescape 26 – A Year of Growth and Transformation

February 6, 2012

Futurescape 26

A Year of Growth and Transformation

February 1st 2012

Welcome to our first Futurescape newsletter of the New Year. We trust you had a fantastic festive season and are well prepared for the challenges in the year ahead. Special greetings and wishes to our clients and partners in Asia who have recently celebrated Chinese New Year. For Fast Future, 2012 represents a year of growth and transformation as we expand the scope of our services and the size and capability of our team. I’m delighted to say that Fast Future continues to grow, and we welcome Louise Carver to the team – she joined as a foresight researcher at the start of January. Louise has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and a Masters degree in Science, Society and Development from the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University. She is also the founder of a successful leisure business. We know she will add a lot to the team and are very pleased to have her join us alongside Iva Lazarova and Alexa du Plessis who we introduced in our December newsletter.

Whilst we expect the wider economic outlook to remain turbulent for some time to come, I am delighted to say that the year has started on a very positive note for us. Tim Hancock, David Saer and I have just returned from Washington DC where we launched a major new research and consulting project for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) – the largest multi-disciplinary science association in the world. The project involves scanning the future science landscape, scenario planning and development of the AAAS long rang strategy.

For our first newsletter of 2012 we are focusing on introducing our team. We have asked member to share their ideas on a trend or driving force that could have a significant bearing on our lives over the next decade or more. The team have just completed an intensive week of foresight training in Oxford and are keen to share some of the drivers of change that we explored during the course.

The final set of our 100 predictions for 2012 will be shared in the next issue. Our previous four predictions can be found  here:

Inevitable Surprises

Big Conversations

The Winds of Change

Copies of a number of our recent and past presentations and reports can be found here

In this edition we cover the following: 

1.    Key Trends and Drivers

2.    Rohit on the Road

3.    About Fast Future

As always we welcome your feedback and contributions to future newsletters. Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here

Rohit Talwar


Fast Future Research

Tel: +44 (0)20 8830 0766

Mob +44 (0)7973 405145

Twitter – emerging futures –
Twitter – future of travel and tourism –!/FutureofTravel

Twitter – future of airlines and airports –!/FutureAviation

Presentations and Reports
Sign up for our newsletters / Download past editions at  
Watch a short video of Rohit’s keynote speech on global trends  here


1.    Key Trends and Drivers

Louise Carver

Ardent communicator, surprised luxury tents hire business owner, and reluctant early morning outdoor swimmer

What interests me:

Food waste bio-fuels for shipping

Why I chose it:

The emergence of next generation food waste bio-fuels for the commercial shipping industry is an exciting development that offers the promise of much improved sustainability in global supply chains.

There is currently no binding legislation limiting Green House Gas emissions in the shipping sector. Hence the arrival of a commercially viable ship design that uses bio-fuels derived from food waste may become an attractive proposition for companies seeking to protect themselves from volatile oil prices. This would have the spin off benefit of improving predictability on long term freight costs.
The first available ships powered by bio-methane derived from the anaerobic digestion of food waste are now available. They are being used to supplement wind powered mechanical sails in the case of insufficient wind power, See for example those developed at the B9 Energy Group.  Since this use of bio-fuels is hybrid – combined with wind along a 60/40 split – and used as a backup, this means it delivers a much higher energy efficiency than using it in aviation or motoring for example.

What impact could it have in the future:

With the successful adoption of several bio-fuel ships, it is possible that a networked infrastructure system could emerge in ports around the world to support the refueling of ships with bio methane derived from the commercial food waste of that country. This usage of waste offer significant potential financial savings for companies and governments in managing food waste, and would improve the sustainability rating for two industries simultaneously.
Furthermore, the development of a globally supported network of suitable port infrastructure might parallel and strengthen the trend towards cooperation that we currently see emerging in society and business. Enormous value and utility could come from collaboration and cooperation between various fleet operators sharing the cost of new bio fuel infrastructure upgrades. After a slow initial rate of adoption of bio-fuels as an energy source, increasing take up by shipping companies could help encourage similar shifts in other sectors and offer shippers greater stability of freight costs. There is a however concern that widespread adoption of food waste bio fuels by other sectors could have an adverse impact on the security of supply and the price of food waste for the shipping industry.

Alexa du Plessis

Passionately African, an adventurer, believer in the responsibility to imagine our future and create it

What interests me:

Organic cities

Why I chose it:

The trend towards greener and more eco-friendly cities, and the integration of green living spaces into the built environment is an exciting one, creating new possibilities for housing,  transport, health, community, and a better standard of city living. For example, the High Line, an abandoned rail line turned green space in New York City has provided a creative new community and educational space for New Yorkers. Simultaneous to the greener cities trend, it is becoming possible to genetically engineer plants and trees, or shape them along predetermined lines – an approach pioneered by firms such as Pooktre.  Others such as Terraform are working in conjunction with MIT to create an architectural design for an organic house, as well as more commercially viable alternatives for growing buildings.

What impact could it have in the future:

Terraform’s design might not be a reality any time soon, and even if it gets going will take roughly 15 years to grow. However, the paradigm shift towards sustainability and creative thinking, aimed at cutting carbon and reducing the environmental costs of building is encouraging. The implications are more than encouraging: if houses and cities became more organic and there was a greater integration of the built and natural environment, we could see a massive reduction in health complications. People would have greater accessibility to spaces in which to move and exercise, potentially reducing the prospect of obesity and obesity related diseases. Similarly, cleaner air and less industrial toxins would benefit general well-being.

Organic construction approaches suggest that transport needs would change, as building materials would be grown on-site or nearby, rather than trucking or shipping in cement and bricks from industrial zones. Interconnected green paths through cities could facilitate a rise in cycling and walking as a mode of transport. Importantly, the way a house is viewed legally, financially, and through city council regulations would need to change drastically, to allow for these types of homes to become a reality (notably height restrictions!). Given these regulatory challenges, it seems likely that it will be forward thinking cities, with innovative leaders seeking new solutions, which will have to be at the forefront of sustainable organic construction innovations.

Iva Lazarova

Always interested in getting to know new cultures, languages and people. Takes pleasure in being an explorer of the future.

What interests me:

Brain machine interfaces (BMIs)

Why I chose it:

This is an interesting and controversial trend because the potential applications are at the same time exciting and frightening. It provokes us to think about technological and scientific progress, but also about the relationship between humans and machines and the future of humankind. Recent experiments that have interpreted both the images and words an individual is thinking about offer positive hope for those with neurological impairments while also raising the spectrum of big brother literally monitoring our every thought.

BMIs have traditionally been developed and used for therapeutic purposes – to heal deafness, blindness, or to help disabled people regain control of their lives. For example, in this clip, a man paralysed almost entirely from the neck down navigates through a virtual world using a brain-computer interface here.

BMIs are also used for entertainment. For example Emotiv were one of the first firms to launch a neuro-headset that allows for the exploration of virtual realities for gamers. However, the application of BMIs could be much more controversial if we use them in order to enhance human abilities and performance. This would inevitably provoke ethical concerns. For example – is brain augmentation through brain implants a positive or negative development for society? Will everybody have access to BMIs? What will the overall impacts of brain enhancing BMIs be on society?

What impact could it have in the future:

In one possible scenario, where the economic climate continues to be unstable, and inequality still prevails, BMIs might only be available to the richer strata of society. This could lead to the rise of two different classes of humans, which could replace differentiation based on demographic factors such as nationality. The ‘neuro-advanced’ humans will be those who can afford brain augmentation; the less advanced, will be those who cannot. This in turn could lead to the subjugation of less advanced humans by those with access to BMI augmentation.

An alternative scenario could depict a world in which there is a fairer distribution of wealth among people, while science and technology continue to progress rapidly.  If the nature of BMI becomes much more sophisticated, brain implants could be made of tissue, instead of metal. Early experiments in growing nanotransmitters onto brain cells suggest that this could one day be a reality. In this scenario, BMIs will be available for everybody. This could lead to a seamless union of men and machines, and if applied on a global scale, to the ‘upgrade’ of the human race! Some refer to this ultimate blurring of the brain machine boundary as the Singularity.

Tim Hancock

Nomad, triathlete, interested in the journey as well as the destination

What interests me:

3D Printing.

Why I chose it:

The world’s systems, from the environment to the economy are strained and the growth model we have long taken for granted is coming under increasing pressure. Whilst there are no silver bullets, there are emerging technologies that could both drive and benefit from socio-economic and cultural change. They offer the potential to reshape the capitalist model to be more equitable and work for the betterment of more people. As a key exemplar of the next technological frontier, 3D printing offers the potential to help usher in a new form of localized independent capitalism, ‘…based on creating new value, not trading old value.’

What impact could it have in the future:

Clearly the technology as it stands is not yet a sufficient replacement for large scale manufacturing, global supply chains, or the large commercial forces that control them. Rather, as a transitional technology, 3D printing could help spur more ‘manufacturing’ based entrepreneurship and artisanship. The move to a ‘hyper local environment’ holds great promise for sustainability, both environmental and economic, as well as potentially reinvigorating people’s willingness to participate in the system itself. The Wohlers Report, an annual in-depth study of the advances in additive manufacturing technologies and applications, estimates 3D printing will grow to become a $5.2 billion industry by 2020, up from $1.3 billion in 2010.

Technologies that we now consider prosaic and take for granted – like the networked personal computer, for example – were once far more expensive and of less utility. Often the potential of these tools are only realised when the cost falls sufficiently. Gartner predicts that the price for professional 3D printers that now sell for $15,000 will decline to about $2,500 by 2020 and will deliver better performance and more features.

There may come a point where batch production cost for 3D printing falls sufficiently such that we see a reversal in the economics of scale that are currently driving the offshoring of manufacturing to locations in the evolving world. Other trends, such as the increasing desire for personalisation and ‘authenticity’ may further strengthen the move towards more production runs with lower volumes per run. In this scenario, manufacturing one off or even multiple items may not be a capital investment but just a marginal one.

David Saer

Thinker, dreamer, broad conversationalist, navigator of the realms possible and potential.

What interests me:

Lab-grown meat

Why I chose it:

In an attempt to revolutionise the world’s diet, efforts are currently underway, spurred by a million dollar prize offered by PETA, to produce the world’s first commercially viable lab-grown meat fit for human consumption.  If successful and accepted by global consumers, lab-grown meat could potentially have a vast impact in helping to reduce both humanity’s environmental impact and animal suffering. This innovation could also help feed a rapidly rising global population, with emerging markets increasingly developing a Western taste for larger quantities of meat in their diet.

Cultured meat, also known as ‘in vitro meat’, extracts stem cells from an animal such as a cow or pig, and then converts them to muscle cells.  These are then cultured on a scaffold with nutrients and essential vitamins, and grown to the desired level.  The muscle cells are ‘exercised’ through mechanical or electrical means, giving the cells the ideal structure, texture and strength.  The end result can then be shaped into familiar meat products such as sausages, hamburgers and steaks.

What impact could it have in the future:

Demonstrable success of this new technology could occur soon, with scientists such asMark Post, head of the department of vascular physiology at Maastricht University, declaring his intent to produce a synthetic hamburger in 2012 which he hopes will be eaten by a famous vegetarian celebrity. The technology remains in its infancy, with the cost of a single synthetic hamburger estimated at £250,000, and initial trials have produced a meat lacking a desirable taste or texture.  However, as the technology improves, we could reach a stage where we could engineer the meat to taste like any animal or other flavour we desire.

If in-vitro meat is widely accepted by consumers, it could have a large impact on how we produce and consume food.  Currently, the process of farming animals for food is wasteful in terms of the amount of land and resources used, and harmful to the environment, with livestock production estimated to generate nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases.  In future, areas of woodland previously cut down for agricultural use could be replanted with trees to act as carbon sinks.  Meat could be grown en-masse in urban areas, utilising a lot less space and cutting down the need for a costly and polluting supply chain.  Eventually consumers could even be able to grow meat in their own homes.

Rohit Talwar

Fervent Chelsea fan, traveller, passionate about creating the future – not waiting for it.

What Interests me:

The Living Dead

Why I chose it:

The business environment is now characterised by complexity, uncertainty and rapid change. In this environment, new and remarkable brands rise to prominence with increasing speed and regularity. At the same, the spotlight is falling on those large older firms that seem incapable of adapting to new business thinking, adopting new ways of working or experimenting with new financing and revenue models. Some of these giants of the past are lumbering along believing they are ‘too big to fail’. The reality for many is that they are probably ‘too bad to survive’ and time is running out for many of these ‘dead firms walking’.

This phenomenon is particularly visible in the major airline sector. The players in the sector are strung out across spectrum of service, performance and – most importantly – management mindset that could take decades for the poorest performers to traverse. We see some clear archetypes emerging. At one end we find the truly exceptional performers such as Korean Air and Etihad whose philosophy is manifested through attention to detail across every aspect of the organisation from sales to baggage handling. Close behind are the excellent carriers such as Air Canada, Jet and Emirates who are on course for exceptional. In the middle are a number who oscillate between good and mediocre. Then come a group of unjustifiably arrogant carriers who have fallen a long way behind the pack but are still conceited enough to believe that everything they do is right.

Finally there are those such as United who have simply lost the plot. The malaise in such firms seems to run through their every action, and the attitude at the point of customer contact can vary from aggression through indifference to resignation. Years of risk averse and flat footed management decisions, a failure to respond to signs of change and poor attempts to imitate their competitors have left these firms looking weak and vulnerable. Successive rounds of management come in with brave new world strategies that are at best inept and more often than not appear like deliberate self harm to the outsider looking in.

What impact could it have in the future:

From a pure economic standpoint one might argue that the investment made in these firms is a sunk cost and we should focus now on how best to use any new money that might be available. From an investor perspective, would the money be better spent investing a new start up with no baggage or sunk into these giants of yesteryear that still have networks and assets such as landing rights that may be value? From a human standpoint the idea of closing down such entities is a tough one to countenance. In the case of United, the website tells us that there are over 80,000 employees – who would be made redundant if the company were to close.

For government the challenge lies in developing a policy that will probably be tested time and time again over the next few years as these titans teeter on the brink. Should governments let the market operate freely and hope the labour market will generate new opportunities for the hundreds of thousands that could be laid off across multiple sectors? Alternatively, if the government were to intervene, who should be supported, to what level and for how long? Some would point to the successful recovery of General Motors following the recent US government bailout of the auto industry. Others would argue that protection of many banks and the banking system in 2008-09 may simply have made matters worse and increased the eventual pain when the problem gets too big to fix.

There is no simple solution and we know that investment in new sectors may not create jobs at the pace or with the skill profile to absorb those who could be made redundant. What we do know from economic protests around the world over the last two years is that the populace will expect action and be willing to take to the streets to drive home their point.


 2. Rohit on the RoadIn the coming months Rohit will be in Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Vancouver, Orlando, Washington DC, Barcelona, Oslo, and Frankfurt. Please contact him directly at if you would like to arrange a meeting or a presentation for your organisation during one of these trips.

3. About Fast Future

Fast Future is a research and consulting firm that works with clients around the world to help them understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. We draw on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insight into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them.
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‘The Shape of Jobs to Come’

February 6, 2012

Interview with Rohit Talwar – CEO Fast Future Research

January 29th 2012


In 2010 Fast Future Research published ‘The Shape of Jobs to Come’ – a foresight report for the UK government. The study explored a future timeline of science and technology developments over the period to 2030 and highlighted the new science and technology roles that could emerge or become more prominent. In this interview for the Finnish Science magazine Tiede, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future comments on the findings of the research.

1)    There is a claim that young adults of today will need to shift careers (learn another occupation) 6-7 times in their working future. Is this estimation true?

This suggestion is driven by a combination of factors. Firstly people are living longer. Average life expectancy estimates in developed economies are rising by 40-50 days per year. The over-80’s are the fastest growing age groups in most of these countries. Some demographic forecasters are projecting there is a 90% chance that those under 50 years old today could live 100 years or more and that there’s a 90% chance that our children could live to 120. This means people must work into their 70,s 80’s and even 90’s if they are to support themselves. Hence we are talking about a working life of 50-70 years in length. This is essential as we know current pensions systems cannot cope – typically they were designed for people to retire at 65 and live on for maybe 5-10 years. These pension systems simply cannot afford to pay out benefits for 20-40 years past retirement.

At the same time, advances in science and technology are transforming industries, jobs are being replaced e.g. check-in clerks, and new fields of science and technology, new industries and new professions are emerging. When you add all of these factors together, it is reasonable to suggest that in the future a career or job may last 7-10 years before you have to switch to a new one. Hence in a 50-70 year timeframe it is easy to see that an individual may need to think about having 6-7 careers.

2)    What kind of skills would you say people now in their twenties would be smart to learn and master – in order to improve their chances of being employable in 20-30 years’ time?

I think this is not just about learning particular professional skills although this is important. For example learning a particular programming language like Java or C++ may be important today but those programming approaches will have been replaced many times over by 2030. Equally, learning the latest biochemistry research methods is important today but scientific research methods will go through many transformations in the next 20 years.

Hence, we also need to make sure that people are learning the higher level skills that will enable them to continue to acquire new knowledge and take on different future roles and careers. This means learning how to learn, mastering things like accelerated learning techniques, creative problem solving, learning to cope with or ‘manage’ complexity, decision making under uncertainty, team working and managing our own health. These skills are something we should be encouraging and developing in people in their 50’s right through to children who are just entering the school system. Lifelong learning is essential if we are to lead a very long life.

Perhaps the most important skills will be teaching everyone to scan the horizon, analyse the emerging trends, ideas and signals of what might change in the future and use these insights to plan and manage our own personal futures. Everyone needs to become a futurist to manage themselves.


3)    Is there any trend you are worried about among young people’s current favourite learning choices (when considering their future) – or any that you are happy about?

I think we have to recognise that the way people learn will continue to evolve and so will our understanding of the brain and the factors and approaches that enhance or hinder learning performance. For some, social media may be a powerful tool to help them assimilate new knowledge and methods. For others more experiential ‘live learning’ approaches may be more effective. We have to recognise that we have multiple learning intelligences and enable students to personalise their learning journey. I think that – when used properly – tools like simulations and some accelerated learning techniques can speed up the rate at which we acquire critical knowledge and know how.

However, I do worry that people’s attention spans are shortening and everyone seems to be in a rush. Faster doesn’t always mean better. We have to ensure that the new techniques adopted deliver the same or better depth and quality of learning and know how transfer. Ultimately, we all want the reassurance that the engineers who built the plane didn’t do all their training via Twitter. Equally, I want to know that the doctor performing my open heart surgery has spent a lot of time reading, practicing on virtual models and cadavers before taking the scalpel to my chest!

4) Any comment/post scriptum you would like to add to the Final report two years ago?

The aim of the report was to generate awareness and interest and encourage people to think about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There was a lot of initial interest and the research continues to be referenced two years later. The study has over 100,000 mentions on the web and we continue to receive requests to comment on it from all around the world.

I think the topic has become even more relevant in the face of growing economic uncertainty. An increasing number of countries are looking to science and technology to create the new industries and jobs that will drive future growth. They recognise they must evolve or transform their economies to more socially, financially and environmentally sustainable models and ways of working. Science and technology lie at the heart of that agenda.


Rohit Talwar is the CEO of Fast Future Research. He is a global futurist, strategic advisor to Fortune 500 companies and governments and an award winning speaker.  Fast Future is a global foresight research and consulting firm that helps clients understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Fast Future’s work draws on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insights into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them.

Staffing the Hotel of the Future

February 6, 2012

Rohit Talwar – CEO Fast Future Research

January 12th 2012

In this interview, global futurist and project director of the Hotels 2020 report Rohit Talwar outlines some of the drivers of future hotels and the implications for staffing and recruitment.


Opinion seems to be divided … are the hotels of the (not too distant) future going to be all things to all people, or will they specialise, i.e. a MICE destination, or family hotel, or trendy? What do you think?

In our Hotels 2020 research 78% agreed or strongly agreed that by 2020 global hotel groups will increasingly seek to cover the full spectrum from budget through to luxury and heritage properties.


You will have the full spectrum that we have today. You will also have a growth in specialist hotels e.g. ones dedicated to hosting business events. You will also see a growth in women only hotels, single religion hotels and hotels dedicated to particular leisure pursuits. So for example you might find a high tech hotel where you have the opportunity to try all the latest gadgets and gizmos before they hit the market. You may also find a growth in branded hotels whether this be luxury brands like Gucci, technology brands like Apple or celebrity brands like Beyonce and Beckham. 79% agreed or strongly agreed that by 2020 a new category of co-branded and co-designed ‘signature’ properties will emerge within hotel chain portfolios, providing differentiation and opening up ancillary revenue stream options. You may also see the emergence of invitation only hotels.

Either way owners seem to be putting increasing pressure on management teams to appeal to as wide a customer base as possible. Is this feasible in your opinion and how will/do hotels do it?

You have to know the kinds of customers you want to attract for the price point you are setting and the level of services and amenities you offer. Luxury customers may not be so happy paying $1000 per night knowing there are people two floors below paying $200. Equally it can be hard to mix business a family leisure in the same facility and match the expectations of both groups.

Targeting and profiling become very important as will social media commendations – you need to make sure those you target understand exactly what’s on offer so their expectations are set from the start and then you avoid the risk of bad reviews on Trip Advisor. Hotels will also need to be careful what they wish for and will have to be very strategic in their targeting. Our Hotels 2020 research found that 97% agree or strongly agreed that ‘Hotels will increasingly consider factors such as cost of servicing, level of spend and average length of stay when targeting potential customers in different geographic markets’.

Personalisation is the key here – 92% agreed or strongly agreed that Hotel guests will expect their stay to be personalized around a set of choices they make at the time of booking or prior to arrival.

How will this affect recruitment of staff in the future, and the training of them? What sort of people will the hospitality industry need to survive, grow, differentiate? How will they get them? How will they train them?

Tomorrow’s personalised service environment will require hotels to maintain a very high level of investment in training and developing staff that have strong technology understanding, are adaptable and responsive to rapidly changing guest expectations. The research found that 92% strongly agreed or agreed that highly trained staff backed up by technology will be key to delivering personalized service and experiences.

As well as recruiting staff from the hospitality schools, you will see an increasing number come in from other fields such as business, technology firms, retail and financial services. The contraction of the public sector in many countries could also create a new pool of people willing to be retrained to work in the hotel industry.



Rohit Talwar is the CEO of Fast Future Research and he led the Hotels 2020 research programme. Fast Future is a global foresight research and consulting firm that helps clients understand, anticipate and respond to the trends, forces and ideas that could shape the competitive landscape over the next 5-20 years. Fast Future’s work draws on a range of proven foresight, strategy and creative processes to help clients develop deep insights into a changing world. These insights are used to help clients define innovative strategies and practical actions to implement them.