In many industries, we have seen the disappearance of jobs, the workplace, and the workweek. Work happens anytime and from anywhere. Yet, other businesses are comparatively unchanged. Why is this? We currently have two separate economies running in parallel – the digital and the physical.
One of my friends is now telecommuting from Malaysia to the University of Wisconsin. Another is a software developer who set up shop in Buenos Aires, simply because it features a lower cost of living and a better lifestyle.
Meanwhile, even basic language barriers are gradually disappearing. Anyone who posts a design project on CrowdSpring may get dozens of proposals from around the world. Some of the more entrepreneurial freelancers are now using online tools such as Google Translator. This enables them to communicate with buyers and do business in a way that was simply not possible five years ago.
Customer service jobs were outsourced overseas a long time ago. Over the next decade, expect more of the knowledge professions to follow. Telemedicine may mean that your family doctor is calling in from Hyderabad. Accounting is another profession that may soon find itself being relocated overseas.
While the digital economy has been going global, there are signs that the physical economy will become more localized over the coming decade.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why this might be happening:
Cost. Asian economics expert Joergen Oerstroem Moeller notes that European companies are “gradually discovering that transport costs erode the competitive advantages of outsourcing to China.”
Shipping from Asia made more sense when gasoline was cheaper than bottled water. This is no longer the case. British retailer Marks & Spencer is planning to shorten the length of its supply chain by only shipping products within its own hemisphere. The company believes this may save GBP 175 million in costs annually.
Technology. New technologies such as 3D printing and scanning have the potential to move production to the masses. Instead of shipping to the other side of the globe, some types of manufacturing may move to the desktop, just like the printing industry did two decades ago.
We are just a few years away from being able to scan simple objects (such as repair parts) and then “faxing” them to customers who can print those parts on site – effectively minimizing delivery time.
Social Preference. There has also been in increased interest in buying local artisanal goods when they are available, particularly among Generation Xers and Millenials. For example, the rising popularity of the slow food movement has given new life to many traditional family farms. The USDA now reports that there are over 7,800 farmers markets in the U.S.
So, while the digital economy happens “anytime, anywhere”, parts of physical economy may evolve more slowly. Workplaces that require the maintenance of physical facilities or equipment will continue to need people in traditional jobs, because flexible locations and hours do not work for everything.
Good business values will always remain the same – showing up on time, doing a great job, and being appreciative to customers will never go out of favor.
(Note, this article previously appeared on CSRwire.)
- About WFS
- Contact Us
- Frequently Asked Questions
- History of WFS
- Board and Council
- Press Room
- Futurist Gear
- Are You the Next CEO of the World Future Society?
- Book a WFS / Futurist Magazine Speaker
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
How will we change as technology learns to communicate with our emotions?
March 7, 2014 - The greatest challenge renewable energy providers face is achieving a sustainable continuous supply of guaranteed power delivered to consumers either through the grid or off grid. That's the single issue holding back large-scale adoption of renewables.
Yesterday my wife Deb and I had lunch at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants, and afterwards we’re given the typical fortune cookies that come with the bill. Jokingly I broke open the first one and asked, “I wonder if it’d be possible to create a real fortune sometime in the future and put it into these cookies?”
March 6, 2014 - I am finally back from Florida and once again sifting through the content my web crawlers and affiliations with social networks that provide me with the fodder I turn into 21st Century Tech blog.
Seth MacFarlane, the multitasking comedian and creator of Family Guy, and other raunchy fare, happens also to be the driving force behind the new version of Carl Sagan's classic science show COSMOS, which will appear Sunday on Fox and simultaneously on other networks, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I know a number of the writers and producers who have striven to create something stunning, vivid and updated for the 21st Century.
The crisis in Ukraine shows the continued relevance of soft power. Weak in soft power, Russia turned to less effective means to get its way.
I’ve always loved ideas and I think it stems from the fact that I’ve had so many to choose from. But it wasn’t about the sheer number of ideas I got to play with. Rather it was finding that one truly remarkable gem, the golden epiphany, hiding in amongst the others.