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Robotic doomsday, VR shopping and the future of the workplace: Introducing the Virgin Future Visions podcast

Virgin Future Visions RB

Future Visions is a new podcast from Virgin that explores the surreal world of tomorrow through the finest minds of today. The series is presented by Natalie Campbell (Badass Woman’s Hour/A Very Good Company) and has gathered thought leaders across a number of sectors to talk about what the world will be like in 20 years’ time.

So far the Future Visions podcast has explored three different areas of the future:

  • Episode one saw futurist James Bellini ask whether human hearts really come from a 3D printer.
  • Episode two features Araceli Camargo exploring our journey towards a possible robotic doomsday.
  • Episode three had CEO and co-founder of Blockchain, Peter Smith, talking about what shopping will feel like in virtual reality.

Episode four was released this week and former ad-consultant (BBH) turned sex-tech entrepreneur (MakeLoveNotPorn) Cindy Gallop asks: Is the future female?

Listen to episode four of the Future Visions podcast and subscribe to the series on iTunes.

Cindy has had a celebrated career in advertising, marketing, branding and future thinking. Her continuous pursuit to challenge and disrupt the status quo has seen her become a voice and contributor to many big debates around hard, topical and challenging subjects.

This episode lays out her forthright vision of the future and it includes some interesting talking points:

  • The concepts of ‘online’ and ‘offline’ will no longer exist in 2037, while the term ‘digital’ will sound as redundant as saying “pass me the electric-powered hairdryer”.
  • Less screen time. Through advances in technology, such as voice searches, fewer and fewer web browsing sessions will be done using a screen.
  • The concept of gendered work will have disappeared, while your personal and professional identity will be one and the same.
  • The word ‘work’ will be completely outmoded. We will live what we work and work what we live, based on what we believe in, are passionate about and good at.

In the future of Cindy’s creation, she would like to see women and people of diverse backgrounds being given the same opportunities as straight white men. But how can we undo years of inbuilt bias in the world around us?

One statistic presented in the podcast suggests that only 19% of startup founders are female, a number which is far too low. One company bucking this trend is not-for-profit startup loans company Virgin StartUp, which through a strong base of female mentors and business advisers, has a founder base which is 40% female and 60% male – it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Cindy Future Visions
Cindy Gallop

Below, Cindy Gallop explains in her own words what the workplace might look like in 20 years’ time. To learn more, make sure you check out episode four of the Future Visions podcast.

There is no future that happens without deliberate human intervention. The future of work is the future that you, I and all the rest of us make happen. This means it’s important to state that my vision for the future of work is not an objective observational: “I think this is what it will be like.”

Instead it’s a subjective, proactive: “This is what I’m going to make it, based on what I want to see happen, the world of work I want to operate in and my knowledge of the facts, trends and technologies I can leverage to make it happen.”

In 2037, the word ‘work’ will be outmoded, and work as we think about it today will no longer exist. That’s because our lives will no longer be divided on the basis Tim Ferriss pre-supposes in his book The Four Hour Workweek: that there is the nasty bit, ‘work’, which our aim has to be to reduce as much as possible, versus the nice bit, ‘everything else’, which our aim has to be to expand as much as possible.

Online v offline

The concepts of ‘online’ and ‘offline’ will no longer exist in 2037. The term ‘digital’ is already redundant, saying digital anything is a bit like saying, “switch on the electric-powered kettle” or “pass me the electric-powered hairdryer”.

The huge mistake that many in the marketing and advertising industry make is to be seduced by shiny new object syndrome and think “oh we should be using Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and virtual reality … now, what can we do with it?”. Whereas they should be thinking: “Here are our business objectives, our strategy for achieving them, now, what technology can we best and most creatively leverage to service that?”

2037 belongs to the brands and marketers who set a clear vision, develop an innovative and distinctive strategy to achieve it, and then capitalise on the accelerated pace of digital and technological change to execute in the most creatively compelling way possible, with no distinction between online and offline.

The future is not ad units, but ad products. Brands and marketers creating things of utility and value that delight consumers in their application, and that are able therefore to engage, compel and transact simultaneously.

For example, the development of AI means that by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen (according to Gartner Research) and 50% of all searches will be voice searches (so says Comscore). Just look at the impact of Amazon’s Echo Show.

Advertising takes on a whole new form in this context.

The next evolution of data insight

The future of effective marketing and advertising depends on access to usable data, at a time when consumers are more aware than ever before of how much data can be gathered on them. They’re becoming increasingly more worried and angry about this than ever before.

The next evolution of data insight is critical: to humanise big data, and the collection of data. Big data is not statistics. Big data is people. And the solution to effective data collection and access is a very human one.

I explain it like this. Think about how, in life and at work, you regularly meet someone of whom you think: “I like you – I’d like to be friends”. Perhaps it’s a new colleague you look forward to working with, or someone you feel attracted to and would like to date. You want to find out more about this person, so you begin opening up to them and sharing information about yourself in order to get them to open up to you and share more about themselves. As you open up to each other more and more, you build a relationship of trust, respect, liking and affection, until you’re at the point where the other person is thinking: “I want you to know me.”

That is exactly how brands need to operate when it comes to data. Open up yourself to get consumers to want to open up to you. Be open, authentic, and transparent. Share yourself; build a relationship of trust, respect, liking, and affection to the point where your consumer wants you to know them because they see the benefit sharing their data with you delivers to them.

The disappearance of gendered work

So, in 2037, your workplace will be whatever and wherever you choose it to be. Remote working and working in virtual reality will demand high-trust company cultures and work environments. Your work will come out of who you are and will be focused on what you uniquely have to offer matched with the companies, audiences and markets who most value it and pay for it, versus requiring you to fit yourself into someone else’s concept of a ‘job’. ‘Company’ will mean just that – a choice of who you want to work with and keep company with based on shared values and fulfilling collaborative output. The concept of gendered work will have disappeared, and your personal and professional identity will be one and the same – because you can be yourself throughout.

To quote Alan Kay: “In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.” This isn’t about anticipating what might be coming, this is about deciding what kind of future you want to live in, work in and make it happen. Because if you don’t, somebody else will, and it may not be the future you want. There has never been a better time to decide how you want to work in the future, and then to start making it happen.

This vision of the future will be made possible through six key trends; anger at the inequality of opportunity, redesigning business models, the re-envisioning of what constitutes ‘where you work’, AI, Universal Basic Income and the blockchain.

AI will change everything, this is a point you’ll struggle to find anyone to disagree with. Similarly, there is broad acknowledgement that the concept of open, distributed ledgers – presented by the blockchain – can be used to underpin and inform new ways of doing business and working.

While Universal Basic Income is currently being debated in many countries and tested with pilot studies in Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Kenya and the US.

How do we prepare for this change?

  1. Identify every area in your business that is all-male, or male-dominated, and change it. Women challenge the status quo because they are never it.
  2. Work out how your brand will humanise the sharing and collecting of data, make it a conversation your customers are happy to have – not one which makes you feel awkward and them disgruntled.
  3. What is the sound of your brand? Increased voice searching means that less time will be spent consuming content via screens. How do you fit into this new reality?

You can read more about Cindy’s vision here:

And also download/subscribe to the Future Visions podcast here: Acast and iTunes