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Use foresight to realise your best future, institute says

Use foresight to realise your best future, institute says

Those who don't plan for the future will be victims of it, says Sean Ness, the business development director of the Institute for the Future, which urges governments and businesses to use foresight when planning ahead.

Speaking at the Thailand Management Association's "Future Thinking" forum, Mr Ness advocated a more forwarding-thinking approach to development.

For example, innovations in self-driving cars may lead to less car ownership, with riders instead opting to use fleets of autonomous cars driving on the road 24 hours a day. This potential future should be considered by governments when zoning for parking lots, as such lots could sit empty in 20 years.

"The future is not just about technology, it is about cultural trends," Mr Ness said. "You need to understand what society wants and then build that."

With regard to Thailand, Mr Ness said the country should concentrate on what it does best: spend time finding out what suits the particular skills and demands of the people, then invest in and enlarge that sector.

"Thailand can't be the next Silicon Valley," he said. "No one can."

Instead of focusing solely on technological advancement, Thailand could capitalise on future trends in agriculture to feed the large nations surrounding it.

One of the most disruptive future trends will likely be automation taking jobs away from humans, Mr Ness said. Workers can protect themselves against automation by focusing on areas that humans can do better than machines.

Empathy, negotiation and being a boss are all qualities that artificial intelligence, no matter how advanced, is incapable of.

The Institute for the Future was founded 50 years ago, and according to Mr Ness has been about 70% correct in forecasting future trends.

For instance, the institute predicted the rise of social media about 15 years ago.

The institute's sweet spot for prognostication is 3-12 years in the future. Anything after three years lets companies open up more to cooperation, as their specific business strategies usually only extend for the next two years or so. Any period after 12 years is too unpredictable to guess.

"No one can predict the future," Mr Ness said. "But we can make a broad analysis of future trends."

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