Peer into the Futurezone and plan the future of your business

At this January’s launch party for Pro-retail 2012 (to be held in Telford on 24 and 25 April), many independent retailers told me how they were inspired by Palmer and Harvey’s taster event for the Futurezone, a multi site feature of this year’s exhibition.

So when I saw pre-publicity for Michio Kaku’s new book, Physics of the Future, and its promise to show what the world would be like in the year 2100, I was inspired to have a read and to report back to local retailers on what the future holds.

If you are a business person who likes new ideas this is a book for you – I was hooked from this paragraph from his introduction:

“Later, when I was in high school, I decided to follow in the footsteps of these great scientists and put some of my learning to the test. I wanted to be part of this great revolution that I knew would change the world. I decided to build an atom smasher. I asked my mother for permission to build a 2.3 million electron volt particle accelerator in the garage. She was a bit startled but gave me the okay. Then, I went to Westinghouse and Varian Associates, got 400 pounds of transformer steel, 22 miles of copper wire, and assembled a betatron accelerator in my mom’s garage.”

When he turned on the machine, he frequently blew out all of the fuses in the house. Similarly, Kaku may blow your mind with his explanation of the science that underpins the world today and how the future will look.

12 Nobel laureates and more than 200 other leading scientists are listed as sources for the ideas explored. In one version of the future, smart materials can be programmed to reshape. So instead of buying a new toy for Christmas, you would download new software to reshapes last year’s hottest toy into this year’s!

More importantly Kaku believes that by 2070, computer chips will replace bar codes, putting shoppers in control. “Going through a grocery store… you will scan the various products on display and, via the internet in your contact lens, immediately evaluate if the product is a bargain or not. The advantage shifts to the consumers, because they will instantly know everything about a product – its history, its performance record, its price relative to others, and its strengths and liabilities.”

However, in his view computers will not take over the universe because they are no good at two things – pattern recognition and common sense. Any job requiring these skills will not be made redundant by technology. For local retailers this is hugely encouraging as they are two skills that you bring to bear on the assortment that you present to shoppers.

The best thing about Mr Kaku’s book is it’s positivity in the face of huge challenges. He is an optimist and so too are shopkeepers. If I don’t see you in Telford, enjoy the book.


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