The World Ahead in 2023

The World Ahead in 2023

Sean Pillot de CheneceyHead of Foresight & Strategy, Selbey Labs
The World Ahead in 2023

Contagious magazine held its annual ‘Most Contagious’ conference yesterday, which as with all their events, was intended to leave the audience feeling inspired and equipped to make better, braver work.

That intention was mirrored by a wide array of speakers at the event, the first annual conference that Contagious had held since the pandemic began. (A timeline which gives me the perfect opportunity to mention that I spoke at the last ‘Contagious Live!’ event held before the Covid lockdowns, regarding my book ‘Influencers & Revolutionaries’).

The speaker line-up this year featured dynamic figures such as Professor Felipe Thomaz from Said Business School, Mark Holden, Worldwide Planning Director at PHD, Christina Bauer-Plank, Global Brand VP at Unilever, and numerous others from leading agencies and brands.

Delegates heard about such varied subjects as ‘Cost of Living Creativity’ including why tubs of Lurpak now wear security tags, how the British Museum ‘Unfiltered History Tour’ won three Grands Prix at the Cannes Lions, why AMV BBDO and Mars believe that long term agency-client relationships lead to great results, and how Uncommon created ‘A British Original’.

But it was a powerful and emotional talk by Morten Grubak and Christine Smith from Virtue Worldwide, on the stunning project they created to ‘Backup Ukraine’ by preserving its physical culture via a virtual blueprint, that bought the room to its feet.

Elsewhere, and for a perspective on the immediate future facing us, Contagious called on Tom Standage, deputy editor of The Economist, to present their annual ‘World Ahead’ report.

As he said “in retrospect, the pandemic marked the end of a period of relative stability and predictability in geopolitics and economics. Today’s world is much more unstable, convulsed by the vicissitudes of great-power rivalry, the aftershocks of the pandemic, economic upheaval, extreme weather, and rapid social and technological change. To complicate matters further, all these things are tightly coupled, like an interlocking series of gear wheels”.

Tom outlined ten key themes and trends to watch in the year ahead:

  1. All eyes on Ukraine. (Re: how energy prices, inflation, interest rates, economic growth, and food shortages all depend on how the conflict plays out in the coming months).
  2. Recessions loom. (Re: while the US’s recession should be relatively mild; Europe’s will be more brutal).
  3. Climate silver lining. (Re: why in the medium term the Ukrainian war will accelerate the switch to renewables. Wind and solar, nuclear and hydrogen will benefit too).
  4. Peak China? (Re: with China’s population in decline, and its economy facing headwinds, expect much discussion of whether China has peaked).
  5. Divided America. (Re: while Republicans did worse than expected in the midterms, social & cultural divides continue to widen. Trump’s 2024 presidential race will add fuel to the fire).
  6. Flashpoints to watch. (Re: why the intense focus on the war in Ukraine heightens the risk of conflict elsewhere).
  7. Shifting alliances. (Re: how amid geopolitical shifts, alliances are responding e.g. NATO,  the Abraham accords, Quad, AUKUS and i2u2).
  8. Revenge tourism. (Re: post-lockdown “revenge” tourism traveller spend will almost regain its pre-Covid levels, although business travel will remain weak).
  9. Metaverse reality check. (Re: will the idea of working and playing in virtual worlds catch on beyond video games?).
  10. New year, new jargon. (Re: the new vocabulary useful to know in 2023 e.g. NIMBYS are out and YIMBYS are in; cryptocurrencies are uncool and post-quantum cryptography is hot).

Tom concluded by pointing out that, regarding the viewpoint of The Economist about the end of relative stability and predictability “there’s no getting away from it - unpredictability is the new normal".

Sean Pillot de Chenecey
Sean Pillot de Chenecey
Head of Foresight & Strategy, Selbey Labs

Sean is a strategist, author and speaker. Fascinated by the catalysts of social & cultural change, he has a deep level of knowledge re: ‘Now/Next/Why’. As a public speaker, he focuses on trust (re: his book The Post-Truth Business) and/or innovation (re: his book Influencers & Revolutionaries). His talks also link to his podcast #TheNewAbnormal.

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