30 years ago Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis wrote a renowned outlook for the future of American societal and technological trends. In their synoptic screenplay “Back to The Future 2” they, along with production designer Rick Carter, accurately predicted widespread use of video conferencing, wearable and handheld technologies; flat-screen TVs in every room, on street corners and even on dustbins; automated technologies (although the restaurant and media industries aren’t yet dominated by robot waiters and drone reporters); biometric identity recognition; and even anticipated urban regeneration trends, the film industry’s obsession with monetising sequels, and a preference for shoes with no need to tie laces (although “Crocs” are the more popular value alternative to novelty “Nike Mag Airs”). Optimistically however they expected hoverboards instead of “Segways” and thankfully were grossly inaccurate with their prediction of fashion trends. Also flying cars fuelled by waste are not a thing, though self-driving electric ones are.
Today, 21st October 2015, is the exact day that Messrs Gale and Mr Zemeckis imagined as they scripted protagonist Marty McFly’s journey into the future. What is intriguing is just how many of their farcical imaginings have become a reality at least in part. This ongoing technological revolution has changed the world and our lifestyles to a similar degree just as the industrial one that preceded it; perhaps more so in a number of unquantifiable ways. Yet with technology companies outsizing industrials at the top of market-cap rankings and the diversification and acquisitions amongst the tech giants it is clear that this innovation is expected to continue.
Indeed the outlook for growth and productivity amongst developed countries is reliant on technological innovation driving total factor productivity. No one knows where leaps or stalls in tech might occur but the conditions that act as a catalyst or a hindrance are fairly obvious. A disenfranchised public with a heavily indebted and disliked government along with uncompetitive taxes are exactly the impasse that drives entrepreneurs and companies elsewhere. We believe this detractor continues to be underestimated in the growth predictions of a number of debtor nations.
Conversely the potential for technological innovation in countries other than the US often seem to be ignored. The entrepreneurial drive and the conditions for encouraging innovative companies is just as ripe in many creditor nations whose governments can afford to incentivise venture capitalism. Likewise the “American Dream” and “Protestant work ethic” are clearly not exclusive to their namesake subcultures with the drive of eastern and less advanced populations most apparent in global education statistics. Yet these well-known stats are disparate to common perceptions of those same people after they leave education and enter the business world.
China is a great example of this misrepresentation, where although popular news is incessant about concerns over their declining industry sector very little is uttered on the increasing dominance of some major Chinese technological sector companies (as well as the budding service sector). In the west public opinion is ignorant to the magnitude of Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, Foxconn (Hon Hai) and the many smaller and medium-sized companies who have taken huge risks and are garnering ever more global market share.
30 years from now many would agree that the heart of growth, wealth and power will have shifted both eastwards and towards creditor nations. Although shorter term concerns continue to require careful consideration we objectify that the fundamentals in the regions we focus on are much stronger than public opinion would have you believe and with equanimity one can find superior value and quality.