In 50 years, we will have automation at a level where nearly no one will have to touch anything. If I have to mass produce a smart phone or a T-shirt, humans won’t do the work. That said, the individualization of [machine-made] products that we are seeing will, to some degree, go in another direction. Now some people say, “I need this super individual shoe.” I don’t think it’s feasible to continue [one-off production that sucks up resources] with issues like climate change.
Recycling will become more important over time, and we will have to think more in terms of the complete life cycle of the product, from design to production and beyond.
We will need to develop more highly educated people. Knowledge is changing so fast. Math, physics and languages will still be foundational, but it will also be more and more important to learn how to approach new things and new technology and learn over the course of your entire life. People will be confronted with far more new things way more often.
Generation Z and the millennials are the first generations raised with advanced technology, and they are much better able to handle all the information coming at them at the same time. I’ve seen it with my son, who is 22. While I think many older people are overwhelmed with all of the information and data coming at them, he’s grown up with all of it and seems better able to judge information and settle on what’s important to take away from it.
With all the accelerated amount of disruption to all industries getting faster each day, leaders will have to constantly learn like their workers. By 2100, many predictions say the world will have 11 billion people, and it will be a much more diverse place as well. Leaders will have to trust and listen to a diverse group of people to think of the big ideas that will support us as things move ahead. They will need to understand leadership as a way to empower people—to help them to get to the next level, not to have power over them.
Denise Ebenhoech is regional head of Advanced Robotics Applications, Kuka Robotics.