The Path Ahead: Predictions for the Next 20 Years: Anything is Possible

A new report from KPMG, 20 Predictions for the Next 20 Years, analyzes today's emerging trends and presents a clear vision of what tomorrow might look like. The report notes that advances in science and technology are occurring at such a rapid pace that the world we live in will look profoundly different two decades from now.

"Rapid advancements in technology are making science fiction much closer to reality," says Armughan Ahmad, President and Managing Partner, Digital, KPMG in Canada. "Technology is redefining every sector and every aspect of our lives that will make us, and the planet, much healthier."

The report predicts that the next 20 years will bring a more highly connected society powered by ultra-fast networks and artificial intelligence (AI). "Data is fast-becoming more valuable than oil," says Mr. Ahmad. "Before the pandemic, companies collected data on most aspects of our lives so they could provide better and more personalized products and services. Data to inform where we go (maps), how our opinions get formed (social networks), who we love (dating apps), what movies we watch (streaming apps), what we buy (online retailers).

"The expansion of digital during the pandemic has accelerated this trend and illustrated the need and benefits, especially in healthcare. While wearables that track our heartrate and encourage us to exercise are beneficial, the next phase will see these not just on top but under our skin to give us real-time data that will alert us to emerging health issues, significantly extending our life span and improving our mental wellbeing."

As many as 78% of Canadians believe "anything is possible" in the near future, finds new KPMG in Canada poll research. Over half (54%) think it would "be awesome" if their car automatically chauffeured them around, with 45% expecting those cars to be flying by then. Over three in five (63%) support medical advances, including changes to their DNA to prevent cancer, dementia, or another illness – and 67% think that centenarians will be the norm 20 years from now. More than 90% say we need a more circular economy where nothing is wasted. As well, 83% are worried about future food supply, given extreme weather, pollution and loss of farmland. Fewer than a third (33%) are willing to eat meat created in a laboratory.

Canadian organizations have an opportunity to play a key role in shaping the future. Businesses, governments, regulators, hospitals, and schools will need to make fundamental changes to adapt to a rapidly evolving world. As many as 84% of Canadians feel the transition over the next 20 years "will prove difficult, requiring leadership, outside the box thinking, a hefty dose of common sense, and investment" and more than two-thirds (69%) are very to somewhat worried about what lies ahead in the next 20 years. Over half (54%) worry that humans will lose control to artificial intelligence and robots, and 89% hope that personal privacy and freedoms won't be sacrificed.

"With these new technologies will come an increased need to establish safeguards around the issues of data security, privacy and ethics," says KPMG's Sylvia Klasovec Kingsmill, Partner and National Digital Privacy Leader, who was recently named Global Cyber Privacy Leader. "Public support for, and trust in, these advances will require government, business, and regulators to build in stringent rules, processes and mechanisms to protect against abuse and ensure the public interest is served. The development of these safeguards will need to occur in parallel with the advances in technology."

In KPMG's recent Global CEO Outlook, Canadian CEOs – more than their peers in any other major country – see technological disruption as more of an opportunity than a threat (91% vs. 76% globally) and say they are actively disrupting their industry rather than waiting to be disrupted (86% vs. 72% globally). The latter – actively disrupting their industry – is up sharply, as much as 26 points, from a year ago.

For nearly a third (31%) of Canadian executives, achieving growth means their No. 1 priority is digitizing and connecting their enterprise (vs. 26% globally) and 68% are investing more of their capital in buying new technology (vs. 60 % globally).

For the full survey results and their implications, go to 20 predictions - KPMG Canada (