I have often stated that prediction is a fool’s errand. The sheer number of building blocks, the pace at which they emerge, and the combinatorial nature of innovation all conspire to complicate the art of prediction. For example, predictions about urbanization and smart cities point to 72% of the world population living in cities by 2050. This and other projected disruptors have many people believing that we will need an intuition reset.
I fully believe in the notion of a reset and the macro-level drivers that force it. But the environment is filled with so much uncertainty that confidence in each scenario is questionable. Let’s take the urbanization scenario as an example. From an estimate perspective, a large portion of the projected 2050 urban population resides in China, yet, a reverse migration is occurring. Per this article via Evelyn Cheng, millions of Chinese citizens did not go back to urban areas after the coronavirus last year. This continued a trend that began in 2020, driven partly by an inability to afford city housing and lack of access to city healthcare. The same convergence of forces that drives projections like urbanization conspire to alter their path. In this case, an ability to work remotely combined with innovations like livestreaming have made it feasible to migrate back to hometowns.
Reports from government-related agencies indicate the digital economy has grown to contribute to well over one-third of total GDP, while more than 50 million people in rural areas became internet users last year.Evelyn Cheng – Reverse migration’ is picking up in China as workers give up on big cities
It remains to be seen how this trend impacts China’s economy. The take-away however is that the winds of change keep blowing. Any projection or prediction should be taken with a grain of salt. This underscores the critical need for a constant focus on the future and those forces that are driving it.