Four Super Trends (and Digitalisation Ain’t One)

What or who decides how our world develops? Many factors and many individuals of course. But some factors are more equal than others. Climate change, globalisation, urbanisation and demography, I would argue are the most important (or most equal). Let’s call them super trends. Some would add digitalisation, but let’s get back to that.

All of these trends are consequences of human behaviour, but on a scale that is far beyond each individual’s decision. Climate change will not stop because you switch to a hybrid car, but you may hope to influence others and pave for political decisions and multi-lateral agreements that can help. Globalisation is accelerated by digitalisation, but depends on things like air travel and long distance naval shipping. Urbanisation may also be accelerated by digitalisation, but it is in many ways a basic trait of human civilisation: moving to a bigger city has often been the answer to finding a job or other opportunity throughout history. And last but not least, as economies develop, fewer children are born, populations age. Technology enables or accelerates these trends, but can also develop as an answer to them – like the hybrid cars mentioned.

Now, while each one of these trends are outside the scope of our individual influence, we employ many strategies to deal with them. Climate change is the focus of many investment projects, research endeavours and international agreements. Globalisation is addressed through trade agreements and cooperation between government authorities. Urbanisation by more efficient commuting and of course construction. When urbanisation happens too fast, governments create incentives to attract people to smaller communities or distant regions. And of course many financial and health policies have been developed to tackle the aging population. So we make all these efforts to support the good sides of the super trends and try to avoid the worst. And while digitalisation may or may not be one of the super trends, should we not have a similar strategy for that? Rather than say any democratic involvement will break the internet? That does not look like a very smart strategy next to the others.