CSIRO’s future world – megatrends or mega-obvious?

By Peter Roberts

I must be getting old and cynical, because when I looked up CSIRO’s latest report – Our future world, Global megatrends impacting the way we live over coming decades – my immediate reaction was ‘meh‘.

Now I have been reporting CSIRO’s work in a positive light for decades, and my normal response would be to write a straight report of CSIRO’s ‘trajectories of change that typically unfold over years or decades and have the potential for substantial and transformative impact’.

@AuManufacturing regularly reports such good news flowing of the organisation’s interaction at a grass roots level with business and the community.

But this 57 page long report, authored by seven eminent people, backed by 357 references…is really a little light on depth and impact.

The report’s avowed aim in identifying seven megatrends is ‘to guide long-term investment, strategic and policy directions across government, industry, the not-for-profit sector and the broader Australian community’.

So here are the megatrends: Adapting to climate change, Leaner, cleaner and greener, The escalating health imperative, Geopolitical shifts, Diving into digital, Increasing autonomous, and Unlocking the human dimension.

All well and good.

Delving deeper and six pages are devoted to ‘diving into digital’ transformation, though two of these are introductory, with another dominated by a large photograph.

Thirteen digital sub-trends are identified and each gets a short summary in the remaining four pages.

Industry 4.0 merits a five sentence summary, for example, one of which spruiks $6 million in investment in industry 4.0 ‘test labs’ by the federal government.

That same industry 4.0 paragraph concludes: “There are untapped opportunities for Australia to accelerate digital adoption and its associated productivity gains.”

So that leaves four other sentences on industry 4.0.

‘Diving into digital’ includes 13 similarly short sections of half a dozen sentences on e-commerce, remote working and so on.

But when it comes down to it these are short summaries, and a lot of design and layout.

Perhaps this is best illustrated by a whole page devoted in the 57 page report to the quote: ‘The future ain’t what it used to be’.

That the discussion of megatrends is like this may not be surprising – after all this is a 57 page report attempting to encapsulate the massive changes underway everywhere you look in the economy and our personal lives.

If that is the case, then what is the point of such a summary?

Is it really going to contribute to guiding our future actions?

Picture: Visit NSW

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