Supertrends: How technology is helping fix some of society's most pressing problems
Is technology the simple answer to pressing global issues such as climate change, an aging society and labor shortages?
The digital-first world is here. While chatbots have recently grabbed the spotlight, we can expect to see an increase in artificial intelligence (AI) deployment in everything from education and construction to food services, healthcare and retail.
In our 2023 Supertrends report, Investing reimagined, we underline the significant role of technology in addressing some of the greatest global challenges faced by humankind.
How can technology help with economic crises and labor shortages?
Much of the developed world is faced with aging populations and low fertility rates, which will result in labor shortages going forward. Therefore, to maintain the levels of GDP growth experienced in prior decades, productivity needs to improve at a higher rate and technology may help to achieve that.
Furthermore, rising interest rates and inflation have put pressure on companies to reduce costs and become more efficient, which should trigger further investment in automation. According to an ABB survey, 62% of US businesses and 75% of European businesses plan investments in automation and robotics in the next three years.
The far-reaching implications of AI, and its benefits for productivity and profitability, are significant – especially for tech-forward developed countries.
Tech and climate change
As the urgency of the climate change crisis becomes clearer, we are increasingly turning to technology for help. As a result, climate-supporting innovations like plant-based protein, electric vehicles and energy-saving technologies have made it into the mainstream. And this is only the beginning.
We have been witnessing an unprecedented push for using state-of-the-art technologies in the fields of sustainable energy and farming. With growing demand for domestically produced renewable electricity and the necessity of increasing farming yields while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, technology can provide solutions.
For example, the Inflation Reduction Act, which offers generous investment and production tax credits for wind and solar energy, could encourage growth in virtual power plants (VPPs) – networks of decentralized small solar panel devices and home batteries pooled together and exported to the electricity grid. Though still nascent in scale, investments in VPPs could reach USD 110 billion between 2020 and 2025, according to research firm Wood Mackenzie.
Farmers are also increasingly turning to a range of innovative solutions, such as precision agriculture, data management and AI: Self-learning data allows better tracking and more efficient planting and harvesting; satellites, advanced sensors and drones help with land maintenance, and robotics reduce manpower costs and ensure the most efficient planting around the clock.
Demographic changes – Power to the seniors
Thanks to advancements in medicine and improvements in living standards, global life expectancy has increased by over 25 years since 1950. Therefore, seniors (age 65+) are set to be a significantly growing cohort, expanding from some 780 million today to close to 2.5 billion by 2100.
This trend means there is a growing need for innovative solutions in healthcare to monitor, diagnose and treat patients efficiently.
AI is likely to improve healthcare and make it more cost effective by supporting doctors in early diagnosis, through precision treatments and by bringing more efficiency to administrative tasks.
Technology and digitalization offer solutions to the many challenges in our everyday lives and remain a key enabler to address global problems, including an aging society and climate change.
Since its launch in 2017, the Credit Suisse Supertrends report has pointed to the transformational power of technology as a multi-year investment theme.