2022 was not a year for the faint of heart. We welcomed an easing of pandemic restrictions in many parts of the world but were quickly hit by record inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and repeated reminders that the consequences of climate change aren’t coming, they’re already here.
The past year also made clear how the global community can band together, with new commitments and pacts to protect our natural world, efforts to aid those displaced by war in Ukraine and the delivery of close to 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to areas in need across the world.
2022 showed us that, yes, our challenges grow more daunting by the day, but we can rise to them. What can we expect for the coming year?
Every December, LinkedIn editors ask our community of Top Voices and creators to share the Big Ideas they believe will define the year ahead. This year, as we face challenges along several fronts, we offer a selection of thoughts on where we go from here — at work, at home and everywhere in between.
This is by no means a complete list, and we invite you to join us! What Big Ideas do you think will emerge in 2023? Share your thoughts in the comments or publish a post, article or video on LinkedIn with #BigIdeas2023. — Scott Olster
- Hybrid work will be here to stay
The great return to office debate will rage on in 2023, with select CEOs demanding workers get back to their desks. But the hybrid approach will reign triumphant.
A LinkedIn Economic Graph analysis found that remote job postings are dipping. Just one of seven postings on LinkedIn in the U.S. offered remote work as an option in October — but those postings attracted more than half of all job applications. Workers are continuing to prioritize the flexibility and work-life balance afforded by the pandemic’s shift to telework even as the economic outlook darkens, argues Rand Ghayad, head of economics and global labour markets at LinkedIn.
Hybrid allows for that flexibility, while still making room for occasional in-person mentoring and socializing, which Stanford economist Nick Bloom considers the key reasons for in-office collaboration. Look for hybrid arrangements to become more formalized next year, with colleagues coordinating which days to head into the office in advance. “There’s no point in coming in just to shout at Zoom all day,” Bloom said.
Hybrid work boosts short-term productivity, but it can also diminish long-term community and creativity, according to research from Microsoft (LinkedIn’s parent company). Companies will need to adapt to their employees’ needs, according to Bloom, whether that’s creating a single schedule for the whole company or letting teams decide. — Taylor Borden
- Companies will say farewell to expansive, sprawling headquarters
Monday through Wednesday, work from home. Thursday and Friday, head into the office. Or maybe not? As companies and employees grow accustomed to hybrid and remote work arrangements, the large, prestigious corporate office will soon become a rarity.
Tech companies like Meta, Lyft and Salesforce, known for their sprawling and expansive office spaces, are already beginning to downsize. Amazon hit pause on its construction plans in Nashville to reconsider how to successfully design a space suited for hybrid workers. And as lease renewal dates loom, companies will opt for smaller offices, choosing to sublet the extra vacant space.
Such changes will leave a dent in the commercial real estate market, and for cities that depend on the in-person jobs and tax revenue that commercial buildings often bring. As remote work continues to stay in favour, researchers predict that the value of office real estate will decline significantly, by as much as $450 billion. Even cities like New York, the largest office market in the United States, will not be immune from the “great downsizing.” — Felicia Hou and Anja Willner
- AI will gain multiple “senses”
Over the past few years, artificial intelligence has transformed from an academic curiosity to a form of technology that is redefining how people work and businesses operate across industries. Nurses are using AI to keep tabs on patients whose health is likely to deteriorate, and investors are using it to adjust investment portfolios. It even played a critical role in the development of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.
What’s next? AI will grow more intuitive and increasingly use multiple “senses” at once. Multi-modal AI applications will allow AI systems to process audio, visual and language data in combination with and in relation to each other. A tool like DALL-E, which can generate original art based on text prompts, is just an early example of this approach.
Expect multi-modal AI to take off in new applications in the coming years, allowing AI systems to analyze data and the environment in highly sophisticated, nuanced ways. In medicine, multi-modal AI could examine a combination of patient imaging and histories, and data from biosensors to craft diagnoses and treatment recommendations.
The transition to multi-modal systems will also give AI even more creative power than it has today. “It’s like Netflix creating a whole new film based on your preferences, versus just surfacing recommendations,” according to Madrona Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain. — Tanya Dua and Scott Olster
- The age of the tech CEO hero will come to an end
Somewhere between the late aughts and early 2010s, Silicon Valley founders began to acquire a demigod-like status. Tech founder-CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Uber’s Travis Kalanick and WeWork’s Adam Neumann rose to prominence on the exuberant backing of investors — and people readily followed.
Young graduates entering the economy in the aftermath of the 2008 recession found promise in the paths of college dropouts like Zuckerberg. Those young billionaires became heroes, lionized in film, TV and business school case studies.
As our trust in government and media eroded, the clout of the tech CEO only grew. They were connecting the world to the internet, espousing liberal values, backing gay marriage and defending democracy. Their stock kept climbing and their companies’ headcounts swelled.
Now, as the economy roils, the illusion that tech companies (and their founders) will save us has shattered. Zuckerberg may stand by his convictions about the metaverse, but he laid off 11,000 Meta employees this fall in the company’s first massive downsizing. Elon Musk swears he knows how to fix Twitter, but he cut half the staff the week that he became CEO and thousands more subsequently resigned. His erratic business moves have put a question mark on Twitter’s very existence.
Silicon Valley’s chiefs appear out of touch. Today, Edelman’s Trust Barometer reveals that people still look up to business leaders, but they are largely disappointed with their leadership.
- A global recession is likely — but it won’t last long
The global economy is at a tipping point.
The three largest economies — the U.S., China and the euro area — are “slowing sharply,” warns the World Bank. “The picture for 2023 has darkened,” concedes the World Trade Organization. “The worst is yet to come,” declares the International Monetary Fund. Business leaders across the globe agree, with 86% of CEOs detecting a recession on the 12-month horizon.
But whether due to dogged optimism at the tail end of a pandemic or persistent faith that central banks will release their restrictive grip on borrowing costs, the downturn in the offing is not likely to be an economic tailspin. In the same CEO survey, 58% of global business leaders said they expect an impending recession to be mild and short. In other words: This isn’t 2008.
Standing between current conditions and a repeat of history’s worst recessions is a group of possibly the most influential people today: central bankers. As they combat raging inflation with aggressively large and rapid interest-rate hikes, every word delivered by U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and their global peers is analyzed by investors with a fine-tooth comb. That won’t change for the duration of 2023, says billionaire investor David Rubenstein, who hired Powell 25 years ago at his investment firm.
“Because interest rates are being jacked up so much, the inevitable result is to slow economic growth,” Rubenstein told LinkedIn News. “We basically are looking at a recession some time in the reasonable future.” — Devin Banerjee
- In-person and online retail will tie the knot
In 2023, brick-and-mortar retail will finally enter the goldilocks zone: Having the right amount of physical store space to meet consumer demand.
The past three decades have been agonizing for retail real estate. As a result of overbuilding and the rise of e-commerce, hundreds of retail chains went bankrupt and acres of storefront sat empty. Many analysts thought the pandemic would accelerate that decline. Instead, consumers emerged from lockdowns with a new appreciation for physical stores and trying before buying.
Retailers opened more than 4,200 stores in the U.S. in the first five months of the year, putting 2022 on track to be the first year with more store openings than closings since 2016. Next year won’t see a boom in new retail construction, but rather a rise in developers renovating and reimagining existing, outdated properties.
Meanwhile, e-commerce growth has flatlined, levelling off at 21% of core retail sales, down from 23% in 2020. To boost sales, market research firm Forrester predicts online-only brands will look to make a physical connection with customers. They might follow Warby Parker and Casper and add in-person stores, or forge wholesale partnerships, like Allbirds’ alliance with Nordstrom.
In this new omnichannel era, we’ll no longer talk about competition between online and in-person retail, but rather the blending of the two. Look at e-commerce giant Shopify, which has launched its own point-of-sale system for physical stores. “The future of retail,” says Shopify president Harley Finkelstein, “is retail everywhere.” — Jessy Bains
- Cities will feed themselves
An estimated 6.5 billion people will be living in urban spaces by the middle of this century. A new crop of indoor farms now taking root in cities around the world could help feed this booming population. In the first half of 2022, investors pumped more than $800 million into so-called vertical farms — warehouses converted into growing spaces for crops ranging from leafy greens to herbs and strawberries. By 2030, this indoor ag business could be worth $33 billion.
Climate-controlled indoor farms have key advantages over traditional farms, proponents argue. They can grow year-round, produce more food on less land because plantings can be stacked, and aren’t as vulnerable to pests or extreme weather. Bringing the farm closer to consumers also reduces the need for transportation and refrigeration. The industry is “creating a food source that is available, affordable and accessible,” says Nona Yehia of Vertical Harvest Farms.
New vertical farms are sprouting every month. AeroFarms recently opened a 150,000-square-foot facility in Danville, Va. And Brooklyn-based Gotham Greens is on track to build several farms in 2023. “We are in a very aggressive growth mode right now,” says CEO Viraj Puri.
Meanwhile, Plenty Unlimited is planning to construct the world’s largest vertical farming campus on 120 acres outside Richmond, Va. Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai says he expects “to see the evolution of indoor ag as an asset class,” as investors seek to fuel the farms that will feed future cities. — Josh M. Carney.
- Crypto, facing a trust crisis, will confront its biggest hurdle: widespread adoption
Despite significant setbacks, crypto adoption has gained momentum in recent years. Over 10% of global Internet users owned cryptocurrency, a recent global survey found. But crypto has a long way to go before seeing widespread adoption.
To go mainstream, cryptocurrencies will need to grow up, evolving from speculative ventures into stable, trusted currencies. Dramatic failures like November’s collapse of crypto exchange FTX, security flaws that have led to breaches and quasi-ponzi schemes that drive speculation in a cryptocurrency – and ultimately its collapse – set adoption back.
Enhanced security, user experience, reliability, and scalability would make adoption more likely, as would sensible regulation that doesn’t stifle innovation.
Given the current economic climate, companies with solid business models will not make risky bets on crypto – but they will slowly lay the groundwork for crypto adoption. You’re likely to see more businesses accept crypto payment, clearing and settlement; investment in sophisticated recurring payments and subscription billing capabilities that clear the way for the sale of digital assets; frictionless identity and authentication for crypto transactions; and crypto-optimized offerings for small businesses (e.g., crypto wallet acceptance).
After 2022’s crypto failures, why would companies be willing to dip their toes into these waters? Because if — or when — crypto does grow up, having such capabilities in place won’t just be good for crypto enthusiasts. It will be good for business as well. — Guido Sacchi, chief information officer at Global Payments, Inc.
- The healthcare worker shortage will grow, and we’ll turn to tech for help
The world is running low on doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers. Even with the healthcare workforce expected to grow three times faster than the population, we’ll still need an additional 10 million clinicians by 2030, according to Jim Campbell, WHO’s director of health workforce.
In 2023, expect hospitals, tech firms and government agencies across the globe to band together to address this shortage in two key ways: by sharing the limited staffing resources on hand and by embracing new tech to provide for patients and train new healthcare workers.
“We’ve seen a lot of movement into virtual care, remote monitoring and hospital at home to try and offset some of that need,” says Rowland Illing, chief medical officer for international public sector health at Amazon Web Services. “There’s also a need for training the health workforce of the future, and we’re seeing a lot of products focusing on new ways of digital health education.”
AWS is providing funding to startups like Seattle-based Hurone AI, which is testing an app in Rwanda that will help the country’s less than two dozen oncologists treat patients across the 13 million-person nation. And the American College of Cardiology is partnering with Osso VR, a virtual reality surgical training company, to create a global curriculum for specific cardiac procedures – knowledge that tends to live only in academic medical centres.
Tech alone won’t solve this problem. One solution has been to recruit workers from abroad. Yet as concerns about health equity mount, expect a renewed focus on efforts to reduce the healthcare “brain drain” from low-income regions through a combination of education, recruitment and financial incentives, according to the WHO. — Beth Kutscher
- We’ll focus on when — just as much as where — we work
Increased attention around the four-day workweek in 2022 encouraged workers and managers alike to rethink how we work. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Employees will continue to push for more flexibility in 2023, ultimately breaking free from the 9-to-5 workday altogether.
Nonlinear workdays, a trend accelerated by the rise of remote work, will give employees more freedom to choose their own hours. Although it will require employers to relinquish some control, the benefits of asynchronous work are promising: Flexible schedules can boost employee productivity by nearly 30%, according to research published by Future Forum.
“Asynchronous work allows employees to be time unconstrained,” says London School of Economics professor Laura Giurge. “It helps us move away from focusing on inputs as a measure of performance to focusing on quality.”
The concept of nonlinear workdays is already gaining steam among tech startups with distributed teams, and it will be key to retaining talent next year. Building a successful model will call for a complete cultural shift, in which employers welcome input from employees, lead with trust and respect work-life boundaries.
“People are humans with needs and different drivers of productivity,” says Giurge. “You need to understand that diversity and cater to it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all model anymore.” — Gianna Prudente
- The school-to-work path will be turned on its head
For decades, teenagers and young adults have followed the well-trod course from high school to college to career. Since the 1980s, what the U.S. government calls the “immediate college enrollment rate” has been steadily rising.
But over the last two years, higher education has lost nearly 1.4 million students. And community colleges—long seen as the fastest educational pathway into the workforce—have welcomed many fewer high-school graduates in the last decade.
Colleges aren’t just competing with each other for students, says Georgia Lorenz, president of Seminole State College in Florida. They’re competing with Amazon, Walmart and even employers that have long required a college degree.
Over the last year, the state of Maryland and Delta Airlines have dropped degree requirements for some jobs. Other companies are providing education benefits as part of the job; in other words, work first, then get the degree.
This shift isn’t just a response to today’s tight labour market. The skills needed to keep up in any job are churning at a faster pace. In the U.S., 37% of the top 20 skills considered necessary for the average job have changed since 2016. Colleges are struggling to keep up, and confidence in higher education has dropped sharply.
Working has long been seen as the side gig while students earn a degree, said Matt Sigelman, president of the Burning Glass Institute. Maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe “working is core,” he said, “and maybe the learning is a side gig.” —Jeff Selingo, higher education strategist at Arizona State University, co-host of the podcast Future U., and author of “Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions.”
- We’ll turn to the sea to power our electronics
There is no clean energy revolution without minerals — specifically the cobalt, nickel and manganese used in many electric vehicle batteries. And we face a global shortage of these precious commodities.
One potential solution rests three miles beneath the surface of the Pacific. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone, a 1.7-million-square-mile swath of seabed between Hawaii and Mexico, is littered with potato-size nuggets known as polymetallic nodules. Those rocks, formed over millions of years, may contain enough metals to produce some 4.8 billion EV batteries.
The Metals Company is leading the push to mine this resource. The Vancouver-based firm, which is sponsored by the island nation of Nauru, recently completed its first-full scale mining trial, using a tank-like robot to rake and vacuum more than 3,000 tons of nodules from the ocean floor. Metals Co. CEO Gerard Barron expects to file for an exploitation license with the UN’s International Seabed Authority next summer.
But conservationists warn that disturbing this pristine ecosystem could prove catastrophic. The deep ocean teems with microbial life and is a crucial carbon sink, storing matter that would otherwise heat our planet. “Opening up a whole new stressor on the ocean is really not a good idea,” says Matthew Gianni, co-founder of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. Barron says his company is working to minimize any impacts and notes the high costs of existing land-based mining: rain forests levelled by nickel miners in Indonesia, children forced to dig for cobalt in the Congo. “There is no perfect solution” in the hunt for clean-tech minerals, he says. —Theunis Bates
- Lab-based meat will hit more plates
There’s been a lot of hype around lab-grown meat, with its potential to address the environmental and ethical challenges of animal farming. But despite billions of venture capital dollars pouring into the field, we have yet to see cell-cultured cutlets in grocery aisles. In 2023, lab-grown meat will gain momentum across the world.
Singapore was the first to the lab-meat table when it approved a cultivated chicken product for human consumption in 2020. Earlier this year, China released a five-year agriculture plan that addresses cultivated meats. And, in November, the U.S Food and Drug Administration signed off on a similar product by California’s UPSIDE Foods, as governments come to see the “bioeconomy” as critical to economic prosperity and food security.
Meat innovators aren’t standing idle. Tim Noakesmith, co-founder of Australian cell-ag company Vow, recently announced that his startup’s first cell-based meat product will be available by the end of 2022 in Singapore restaurants as the sector gears up for a significant growth moment.
“We’ll see a small handful of players selling a number of different cultured products in regulated markets,” Noakesmith predicts. “We’ll continue to see an influx of new companies starting up and joining the industry, and we may also see a few better-known players acquired.”
But as for a supermarket product? Not just yet. “We’re seeing phenomenal activity with new facilities being built to grow a lot more cultured meat,” Noakesmith tells LinkedIn News, “but none yet at the [production] scale of supplying national distribution in a supermarket.” — Marty McCarthy
- The U.S. will become a nation of renters and landlords
Even as home-buying demand sharply declines, inventory won’t rise nearly as much as it did in the last housing correction. That’s because no one outside of builders and home flippers will feel compelled to sell. Most homeowners, loath to give up a mortgage refinanced at a 3% rate, will stay in their homes for decades.
New property-management services and rental marketplaces are making it easy to rent your home out. Twenty-four months of low mortgage rates, in 2020 and 2021, will end up limiting the number of homes for sale in America for the next 24 years. And more people will rent single-family homes than ever before. It’s not just the rich who will get richer, but also the elderly, who will opt to rent — rather than sell — their homes to the young. — Glenn Kelman, CEO at Redfin
- Philanthropists will demand less – and trust more
“We learned decades ago that micromanagement doesn’t work in philanthropy,” says Ann Mei Chang. She’s chief executive of Candid, the leading repository of data on U.S. foundations and other non-profits. Yet, to Chang’s chagrin, so much of the process around grant-making remains tied up in drawn-out reviews and overly intricate business processes. The result: leaders in the social sector find that getting funded can be the most exhausting part of their jobs
But change is coming, Chang says, in the form of “trust-based philanthropy.” In this new model, donors do more of the homework themselves, without insisting on elaborate grant applications that can run 80 pages or more. (A notable case in point is the giving being done by MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.)
Once donors find causes and leadership teams that impress them, money is awarded on flexible terms. Recipients can set – and later modify, if necessary – their spending plans as they see fit. Such hands-off support, Chang says, “is the smart thing to do and it leads to better results.”
Over time, look for more major donors to include the concept of trust-based philanthropy in their charters. As a first step, these donors could start standardizing data sharing and grant documentation, in ways that lighten the burdens on potential grantees as they seek support from different potential backers. — George Anders
- The side hustle will reign supreme
The gig economy has boomed over the past year — and it shows no signs of slowing. With inflation straining household budgets, more workers will seek outside gigs to supplement main jobs that don’t pay enough or are simply unsatisfying. And thanks to entrepreneurial Gen Zers, taking on a side hustle will no longer be something you need to keep secret.
Having entered the working world amid the economic upheaval of the pandemic, members of this young generation are more likely to work multiple jobs than older peers. Some 25% of Gen Z have a side gig, according to a recent McKinsey survey, compared with 16% of all other ages. These 20-somethings are vocal about not wanting to be defined by a single professional identity, and as a money-motivated generation, they won’t rely solely on their employers for financial stability.
“Side hustles could become the main hustle for people,” Stillman explains. “The workplace needs to embrace them and be like, ‘We want to know about your side hustles. We want to help you promote your side hustles.’ That’s going to be great for employee retention.” — Gianna Prudente
- VCs will stop hunting unicorns and start searching for workhorses
When venture capitalist Aileen Lee coined the term “unicorn” in 2013 to describe start-ups that had bagged valuations upward of $1 billion, the distinction was as rare as the mythical creature itself. But somewhere in the mid-2010s, unicorns became a dime a dozen.
Driven by early gains, VCs shovelled vast amounts of cash toward founders and companies that didn’t always deserve the hype. Some unicorns — WeWork, Theranos, FTX — imploded spectacularly, erasing tens of billions of dollars of value.
But with borrowing costs rising along with economic uncertainty, Silicon Valley investors are now reluctant to place such fantastical bets. The message VCs are delivering to start-ups about the year ahead is clear: The era of excess is over, and founders should put aside their unicorn dreams and instead aspire to create sturdy workhorses that can survive troubled times.
Funding is already slowing. Only 25 unicorn companies were born in the third quarter of 2022, according to the venture capital research firm CB Insights, five times less than the same period in 2021. “We’re back to basics,” said Arif Janmohamed of Lightspeed Venture Partners. “It’s an opportunity to partner with resilient entrepreneurs who are hiring missionaries to join them to build something special over the next decade, as opposed to mercenaries who are looking to get rich in one or two years.” —Tanya Dua
- Our old clothes will become big business
Over the past two years, the fashion resale market has tripled in value to about $120 billion worldwide and now represents 3% to 5% of the overall apparel, footwear, and accessories sector. Second-hand fashion could eventually account for 40% of that global market, the Boston Consulting Group projects.
Resale platforms such as Poshmark, The RealReal, and Vestiaire Collective, and peer-to-peer players including eBay, Depop and Thredup currently dominate online second-hand fashion. But the coming year will see more fashion brands try to bring those profitable sales in-house — and earn points with sustainability-focused young shoppers — by launching their own trade-in and resale efforts.
Rather than build those ventures from the ground up, many brands will partner with the growing number of “re-commerce” firms that handle tricky back-end logistics and e-commerce integrations.
Secondhand shopping used to be a “hit-and-miss treasure hunt,” says Gayle Tait, CEO of Trove, which has designed resale programs for Lululemon, Allbirds and Levi’s. But when pre-owned items live directly on a brand’s website, shoppers typically find a greater selection of sizes and styles — and they don’t have to worry about the authenticity of the goods on sale.
Branded trade-in programs also offer an easier option for sellers who don’t have time to photograph and list their gently used apparel on a third-party marketplace. This “enables a unique loop of customer loyalty, relationship building and quality assurance,” Tait says, “all while keeping quality items in use.” — Melissa Cantor
- Cities will turn themselves into “urban reserves” to limit mass tourism
Global air travel has rebounded to nearly 75% of pre-pandemic levels, according to September data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). But expect local communities in tourist hotspots to only let their floodgates open with supervision.
Businesses and elected officials in the U.S. and Asia are vying to boost the post-pandemic recovery by drawing visitors — in October, Hong Kong announced plans to give away 500,000 free airline tickets in a bid to lure tourists. Amid fears of over-tourism, many inundated cities, particularly in Europe, will push hard to stem the tourism tide.
Barcelona has placed restrictions on tour group sizes and even the use of megaphones. And in January, Venice will cement its status as an “urban reserve,” curbing its number of day visitors and requiring tourists to purchase entry tickets when not staying overnight or risk fines of up to €300.
Even segments of the travel industry are trying to do their part. After a three-year pandemic pause, Fodor’s brought back its “No List” of destinations to give a variety of hotspots a break from the crowds.
Expect cities like New York, London, Amsterdam and Paris to tamp down even more on short-term rentals and the apps that support them. NYC officials have proposed a strict new registration system for Airbnb hosts that will take effect in January, which is only the latest conflict in the fraught relationship between the city and vacation rental platform. — Ilan Goren
- …and we’ll think twice about travelling anyway.
When France announced in April 2022 that it would ban domestic flights between destinations that could be reached in under two-and-a-half-hours by train, it was touted by the government as a significant step toward reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
Such restrictions on the travel sector have gained broad support in Europe, and France’s short-haul ban was approved by the European Commission this month. And with the U.N. estimating that tourism-related CO2 emissions will jump by 25% over the next decade, a number of governments may follow France’s lead.
An increasingly vocal sustainability movement argues that we need to stop flying — indeed, stop travelling — altogether. So, are the days of Europeans jetting off for winter sun and American backpackers jumping on a budget flight to Asia each summer coming to an end?
Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking.com, argues that would be a disaster. Tourism accounts for 10% of global GDP and is an economic lifeline for dozens of nations, from Barbados to the Maldives. COVID-19, and the travel restrictions that came with it, cost some 62 million tourism jobs. “No one wants to go back to that place,” said Fogel.
And anyway, the reasons to continue our wanderlust are not just economic. “We know tourism is also a powerful driver of cultural understanding and mutual respect in an increasingly divided world,” Fogel said. “Our aim shouldn’t be to curb the industry, but transform it.” — Orlando Crowcroft
- Social media users will turn their back on the algorithm
Turned off by the trolls and burnt out by the pressure of chasing “likes,” consumers began to reconsider their relationship with big social networks in 2022. A growing share of users will turn to smaller platforms in 2023.
Sites like Discord, Mastodon, Geneva, Substack and Patreon emphasize community building in private spaces. A search for safe spaces and nostalgia for the internet of the early 2000s — when the word “algorithm” wasn’t part of everyone’s vocabulary — has fuelled interest in these more intimate digital environments, says social media consultant Matt Navarra. “People now know the risks and dangers of algorithms,” Navarra says, “but they can’t really escape them through traditional social media platforms.”
And though some of these niche platforms imitate traditional social media in some ways, many cater to users who don’t want to spend hours scrolling: BeReal embraces ephemerality, allowing users to take one photo a day. WeAre8 gives people eight minutes of scrolling time a day. Users are taking to these ideas — BeReal’s member base increased 315% between January and April alone.
We won’t see a mass exodus from the big social players in 2023. But in 12 months’ time, the social media landscape will look very different, as users seek out safer, more welcoming communities. — Emma Hudson
- The metaverse revolution will go professional
2022 wasn’t a good year for the metaverse.
Two of the most prominent metaverse platforms — Decentraland and Sandbox, with valuations of over $1 billion respectively — were revealed to have under 1,000 daily active users. And Meta’s Horizon World was so unpopular that even staff had to be pressured to use it.
AR and VR remain in their infancy. And while a handful of people might be snapping up virtual condos, this branch of the tech world is a long way from mainstream adoption.
But metaverse enthusiasts should take heart. In 2023, we will see the metaverse take off in the professional world.
The metaverse is not just “flying around like Mario Kart listening to Ariana Grande,” says Anthony Day, a tech consultant and Web3 advocate based in Lisbon.
VR and AR are being used right now to train pilots and surgeons. And during the pandemic, automakers began to embrace this tech to design new vehicles. Expect employers, universities and training programs to jump into the metaverse in even bigger ways in the coming year. “This is happening now,” says Day. “That is a commercially-valuable, technically-viable and user experience-feasible use-case of the metaverse. But nobody talks about it.” — Orlando Crowcroft
- Luxury firms will court the VIC (very important customer)
As luxury brands expand their appeal to an ever-wider customer base, with offerings that go beyond expensive products, they face the thorny problem of how to keep their highest spenders feeling special. So in 2023, these retailers will place greater emphasis on hyper-exclusive propositions to retain the loyalty of their VICs — very important customers.
Fashion house Chanel has unveiled plans to open invite-only boutiques in Asia next year, while British luxury retailer Harrod’s already operates “Residence” private shopping suites in Shanghai and Beijing. Such ultra-exclusive stores are ideal venues for industry events and special product presentations, and they double as elite social clubs.
“These are closed spaces where brands can inject whatever cultural content they want their super spenders to know, allowing them to form very special relationships,” says Selvane Mohandas du Ménil, managing director of the International Association of Department Stores. “It’s almost engineering a whole new social sphere. If you’re an ultra-high-net-worth individual living somewhere where only 10 people are part of a club, you’ll want to be part of it, so you’ll spend more to gain access.”
Invite-only stores could soon start appearing outside Asia, Mohandas du Ménil says. After all, jet-setting VICs don’t just shop in a single country. And if they receive exclusive treatment in one location, they’ll expect the retailer to provide it wherever they are in the world. — Aaron Toumazou
- Money will rush into women’s sports
Women’s soccer scored big in 2022. The Women’s Euro Championship in July was watched by some 365 million people worldwide, more than double the 2017 viewership. Three months later, nearly 77,000 fans packed into London’s Wembley Stadium for a U.S.-England showdown — record attendance for a U.S. women’s friendly match.
With women’s soccer fans more engaged than ever, brands have rushed to sign partnerships with teams and players. Now companies are also waking up to the untapped marketing potential of other women’s sports. Sponsorship deals for women across major U.S. sports climbed 20% year-on-year in 2022 and that number is likely to climb higher in 2023.
“The opportunities are enormous,” says Jon Patricof, CEO of Athletes Unlimited, a network of women’s basketball, softball, volleyball, and lacrosse leagues. “The audience for women’s sports is very diverse, young and represents the vision many brands have for the future.”
Sponsorship can help kick off a “virtuous circle,” says Karen Carney, a veteran England women’s soccer player and broadcaster. Investment enables women athletes to train and play full-time, which lifts the quality of the sport, in turn attracting more fans and sponsors. Money poured into women’s soccer following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Carney notes. “And now, in 2022, the product has improved as a result.” With investment and audiences growing for other women’s sports, more virtuous circles are on their way. — Manas Pratap Singh
- We will extract carbon dioxide from the air by just doing what we’re doing
The concept of extracting carbon dioxide from the air isn’t new. Governments and industries around the world are planting direct carbon capture installations and algae farms to draw out and store carbon. But what if we could contribute to this goal by integrating carbon capture tech into our daily routine?
Earlier this year, Netherlands-based Eindhoven University of Technology unveiled an electric car that extracts more carbon than it emits, capturing CO2 from the air as it drives and purifying it through a special filter. Eindhoven students are now working to introduce the technology to other vehicles. “Imagine the potential: buses, planes, boats and motorcycles could be reducing our carbon footprint instead of adding to it,” says team lead Louise de Laat.
These efforts go beyond transportation. Already, solar panels and street art paintings are absorbing carbon dioxide. And with fashion brands like H&M getting in on the act, we may soon be sucking CO2 out of the air with our clothes. The added bonus: Extracted carbon can be used to make plastic, fuel for aircraft and even vodka.
In the battle against climate change, what role will carbon capture play? On its own, it won’t have enough impact, de Laat says. “But if we combine it with other solutions, like planting trees and renewable energy, it can contribute a lot.” — Melvin Captein
- Neanderthals and other ancient human relatives will change how we think about medicine
The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Svante Paabo, who retrieved Neanderthal DNA from fossils. What on Earth do Neanderthals — who went extinct 40,000 years ago — have to do with medicine today? A lot, as it turned out.
People today carry a little Neanderthal DNA, making up to a few percent of their genome. Inheriting some of these genes can have a massive impact on your health. Paabo and a colleague discovered that one Neanderthal gene dramatically raises your risk of developing severe Covid. Other researchers found that a different Neanderthal gene makes you much less likely to get severe Covid.
In 2023, expect even more medical revelations thanks to our ancient relatives. Scientists are discovering how certain genes meant the difference between life and death in ancient outbreaks—not just familiar ones, like the Black Death, but long-forgotten ones that struck people as far back as the Bronze Age or beyond. Those studies can tell us how those genes protect us today, or turn on us and give rise to immunity disorders.
Scientists are also engineering brain cells with Neanderthal genes and then growing them into tiny brain-like clusters of neurons called brain organoids. Researchers suspect that certain brain conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, autism and schizophrenia, are side effects of the evolution of the modern human brain over the past few hundred thousand years. Comparing Neanderthal brain organoids to modern human ones could pinpoint those molecular differences and provide new hints for treatments. — Carl Zimmer, New York Times columnist, speaker and author of “Life’s Edge: The Search For What It Means To Be Alive”
- We’ll witness the first ransomware war
Ransomware has always been about extorting money. But in 2023, it will add an even more ominous dimension – threatening national security.
Ransomware gangs in countries such as Russia and Iran are increasingly willing to serve their embattled governments. When Russia invaded Ukraine, one of the most damaging groups, Conti, announced its “full support of [the] Russian government” and promised to use its “full capacity to deliver retaliatory measures” against “Western warmongers.” Similarly, the Sandworm hacking group, which is linked to Russian military intelligence, launched ransomware attacks this fall against targets in Ukraine and Poland.
As Russia’s conventional forces flounder, expect it to leverage ransomware gangs in a cyber war against the U.S. and other countries arming Ukraine. Look for state-sponsored ransomware attacks on power plants, pipelines, hospitals, governmental bodies and elections, with hackers possibly seeking political objectives like the return of prisoners. The gangs may be enlisted as cyber spies, stealing corporate or national security secrets before encrypting files.
A ransomware war could interrupt energy supplies, compromise military intelligence, disrupt business and government activity and send cyber insurance premiums soaring. With information from the gangs, rival nations could anticipate U.S. foreign policy moves and blackmailing of officials. The escalation would force U.S. law enforcement to prioritize ransomware. Expect the FBI to hire a more tech-savvy workforce and take down servers and other infrastructure that enable ransomware attacks. — Renee Dudley and Daniel Golden are reporters at ProPublica and the co-authors of “The Ransomware Hunting Team”
- Taxis will take to the skies, for the wealthy
Imagine an electric-powered drone big enough to carry people that flies you to a destination autonomously. They’re known as eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing), and they are coming to a city near you.
There are about 300 eVTOL designs in development around the world, and the industry has attracted more than $6 billion in private investment in the past two years. No designs have been certified by regulators. But earlier this year, California-based Joby Aviation received one of three certifications it needs from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to begin commercial operations, which is slated for 2025. France is also testing air taxis with the aim of providing an eVTOL service during the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Global airlines are already lining up with orders. In September, United Airlines signed a conditional $15 million pre-purchase agreement with Eve Air Mobility for at least 200 aircraft.
To start, air taxis will likely be a plaything for the wealthy. “The first adopters for every major mobility revolution have always been wealthy people,” says Jack Withinshaw, co-founder of London-based Airspeeder. “We’ve seen it in the automotive industry, the aviation industry and we’re experiencing it now in … space travel.”
Other early uses could include tourism, medical transport (especially to and from remote areas), and sport. Airspeeder has partnered with Australia’s Aluada Aeronautics to build eVTOLs for an air racing league. Airspeeder will hold an official race series in 2023 using remote-piloted eVTOLs, and plans to follow that up with a piloted series in 2024. — Marty McCarthy
- Schools will go big on tutoring to make up for pandemic losses
The majority of kids are back in school. But when the National Assessment of Educational Progress issued its “report card” in October quantifying how much math and reading scores for fourth and eighth graders slipped in most U.S. states, parental panic set in.
Exactly how students will “make up” the missed school time will dominate next year’s headlines. Families and educators alike will feel the heartburn.
States and districts are flocking to high-dosage tutoring (HDT), which involves instructing students either one-on-one or in small groups at least three times a week. Studies abound about their benefits.
Cost is a challenge. Without philanthropic or federal support, schools will be hard-pressed to find more than $3,000 per student to pay for tutoring. Expect to see more virtual or quasi-virtual programs like TeachFX, Paper and Once, as well as non-profit programs such as Reading and Math. And more studies. When the kids don’t show up for sessions, no one wins.
Assessing student progress will become a challenge. Tech-savvy students have already figured out how to harness generative AI to write essays, observes Tony Wan with Reach Capital, who recently unnerved himself by teaching a bot to write just like, well, him. “Is it cheating?” he wonders, remembering the early objections to Wikipedia, now a classroom staple. “Or will it push homework and assessments to a new bar?”
It all depends on what we want students to learn, which will be hotly debated in 2023. — Betsy Corcoran, co-founder of LedeLabs and EdSurge
- Companies will hold onto workers, downturn or no
A company’s playbook for economic downturns is pretty simple: Business slows down and the company cuts costs. The area ripest for cuts is usually employees. That age-old playbook may be changing, though. Despite disconcerting news of mass layoffs in recent months, particularly in tech, companies may hang on to their top talent despite a slowdown.
This rethink is largely due to the pandemic. Mass layoffs in March 2020 left companies scrambling for workers when the economy bounced back faster than expected.
The strategy of holding on to workers despite slowing business is known as “labour hoarding” or “talent warehousing.”
Ro, who has been following labour hoarding for months, said the idea is like major sports teams paying star players while they’re injured. “You pay them because when they come back, they’re going to win you some games.”
The idea may make financial sense as well, after considering the cost of laying people off and hiring new workers when the economy recovers.
As an added appeal, many economists believe the upcoming economic slowdown may be short-lived and not as dire as previous downturns. Morgan Stanley recently said that the U.S. may not dip into a recession while Britain and the eurozone may just tip into one. — Andrew Seaman
- Cities will turn to new – and very old – tech to beat the heat
From hurricanes in the U.S. and Cuba, to record heat waves in Europe and flooding in Pakistan, the world endured at least 29 instances of billion-dollar weather disasters by October of this year.
Earth’s thermostat is inching higher. And researchers say it’s not likely that we can keep global warming within the 1.5 degree Celsius ceiling many world leaders have focused on. With around 70% of the world population expected to live in cities by 2050, urban centres will need to double down on keeping everyone cool.
We will see cities invest in traditional techniques like public fountains, tree planting and large awnings over streets to create “cool corridors.” But expect to see cities embrace new solutions like using real-time data to identify hot spots in specific parts of cities, and solar paint technology — currently being tested in Los Angeles and Phoenix — that acts as a “sunscreen” for streets.
Seville recently went especially old school, unveiling underground canals based on Persia’s 1,000-year-old ‘qanat’ technology to lower street temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Celsius.
Upgrading our buildings is another key approach to keeping cities liveable, says Nyasha Harper-Michon, a Netherlands-based architect. She points to “cool roofing,” covering the tops of buildings with white, highly reflective paint, as an especially effective heat reducer. And green roofs — which are covered with vegetation — can keep the heat down, all while cleaning our air and reducing storm runoff. — Pieter Cranenbroek and Katarina Lukač
- The working class will head for higher ground
Working-class people are slowly leaving coastal areas. While Hurricane Ian was still raging, investors were clamouring for virtual tours of homes that my company’s agents could have reached only by boat, in neighbourhoods closed by the National Guard.
Regular homebuyers can’t afford the insurance and sometimes can’t get the loans to live in areas that flood regularly. But investors can pay cash for a home and have their own reserves to rebuild once every 15 years. Increasingly, the communities these investors own homes in will be built to withstand monster storms and priced accordingly.
Meanwhile, the rest of the population will struggle to live near the water. The inland movement, in Florida and elsewhere, among working-class people, will accelerate. In an era of rapid climate change, being largely indifferent to storms and floods may become a bizarre new status symbol. — Glenn Kelman, CEO at Redfin
- We’ll be wearing mushrooms and seaweed
According to the UN, about 60% of the material we use to make clothing is plastic, releasing around half a million tons of plastic microfibers into the ocean each year. To ease this environmental burden, designers and manufacturers are increasingly turning to plant-based solutions, making clothing out of algae, pineapple skins and mushrooms, among other novel ingredients.
Plant-based fabrics are especially appealing as leather alternatives, considering the environmental impact of livestock farming. “Fashion designers and retailers will increasingly see faux leather as a quick win in greening their credentials,” says sustainability expert and author Wayne Visser.
Danish label Ganni plans to go leather-free by 2023, turning to alternatives like VEGEA, which is made of grape skins, vegetable oil and a water-based polyurethane. Mycelium, the threadlike roots of mushrooms and other fungi, is the basis for several leather alternatives, with Hermés and Stella McCartney emerging as early adopters. Mirum, a fully plastic-free fabric made using coconut and cork, has received $85 million in funding from investors including BMW.
Many plant-based fabrics, especially the ones that are fully plastic-free, are still in their experimental phases, says sustainability consultant Sonya Parenti. In the meantime, expect to see new fabrics with a higher proportion of bio-based materials that can break down more easily. “Though it won’t solve fashion’s plastic crisis, they could be part of a mix of solutions to move away from fossil fuels altogether,” she says. — Siobhan Morrin
- Nations will sidestep U.S.-China tensions and go their own way
Countries across continents will attempt to bypass the conflict between the U.S. and China and create new alliances rooted in trade, transportation and technology development.
These nations will take their cues from India and the Gulf States, who showed the world in 2022 how to toggle between the interests of the Americans and Chinese by carving out tentatively neutral positions on the Ukraine war. A growing share of countries will feel empowered to push back against new “Buy American” regulations in the United States and an increasingly authoritarian China, putting many of its Belt & Road Initiatives on hold.
Governments will rely less on established global treaties and alliances and more on opportunistic, creative and tactical partnerships such as French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to boost European car manufacturing; the agreement between Singapore and India to jointly research and develop technologies in AI, deeptech and the Internet of Things; and the pact between Brazil, Indonesia and Congo to fund rainforest conservation. 2023 will see a lot more players moving pieces on the world’s 196-country chessboard. — Alec Ross, author of “The Raging 2020s: Companies, Countries, People – and the Fight for Our Future”
- Our finances will become boring (and that’s a good thing)
Over the past year, we saw increased volatility in equity markets fueled by inflation and economic uncertainty, coupled with consumers venturing further into riskier investments such as cryptocurrency.
We’ll likely face similar uncertainty – and volatility – in 2023. Timeless money principles will win out and more people will decide that “boring is best” when it comes to managing their finances.
Expect to see a resurgence of tried and true principles that have helped people build wealth for generations: investing for the long term; building a portfolio grounded in asset allocation and diversification; establishing an emergency fund; limiting debt; and maxing out your 401(k). And while this advice isn’t new, we’ve seen some fresh spins on it, including smashing piggy banks and envelope-stuffing challenges on TikTok.
As studies from 2022 have shown, Gen Z has become increasingly focused on their own financial independence. Trendy investment options will continue to surface, but it’s important to remember there is no “get rich quick” solution. Getting back to basics will foster strong financial foundations as we face economic headwinds in the new year. — Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president and board chair at the Charles Schwab Foundation
- We’ll learn to hang out at work, without the office
The question of how to optimize the hybrid office is still open for debate. Companies that figure out how to increase informal conversations for the purpose of learning and development will be the ones to thrive in the continued hybrid environment.
Informal conversations take the form of quick conversations in the hallway or in the backseat of a cab on the way to the airport. While most research has focused on the importance of these interactions for belonging, these interactions are also critically important for learning and development.
Some firms are already catching on. Hybrid management consulting firms that schedule remote 15-minute no-agenda meetings between interns and managers are more likely to retain their interns. Managers who leave five to 15 minutes at the end of hybrid meetings for open conversation end up with less misalignment between senior and junior staff and faster onboarding to projects.
In highly technical professions like data science, virtual team rooms could become a requirement. Every day, remote teams could join the same Zoom room without video. They could chat with each other throughout the day and leave recordings of themselves fixing code in real time.
Firms that will stay ahead in hybrid will be intentional about how they use the virtual office — and be sure to schedule time for informal interactions – not just for the water cooler chat but also for learning. — Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School and author of “Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life”
- The labour movement will surge, and employers will fight back
Protests, picket lines, walkouts, sit-ins—These episodic disruptions will characterize the future of work over the next year. The urgency of the pandemic encouraged workers to experiment with bold new strategies. They took advantage of the labour shortage by striking en-masse and won wage increases and life-saving workplace safety measures. This activism rippled out to benefit workers in other industries and beyond.
In 2022, labour’s surge began to yield big victories in the U.S., such as the union campaigns at Amazon and hundreds of Starbucks stores across the country. Petitions to file union elections shot up nearly 60% and public approval of unions hit its highest point in half a century.
In the coming year, corporations with footholds in the U.S. and beyond will look to reverse these gains just as workers seek to deepen them. The stage is set for an intensified post-pandemic labour conflict across the globe.
Conventional wisdom tells us that the precarious shifts in the immediate post-pandemic economy—inflation, recession, looming layoffs—might not be conducive to organizing. But the largest spike in unionism in U.S. history came during the tail of the Great Depression when instability drove workers onto picket lines
Workers’ pandemic-era momentum hasn’t burned out. Several large unions are engaged in nationwide organizing campaigns, and new, bottom-up unions are winning victories outside the traditional labour movement.
Union organizing is risky business. But over the next year, we’re likely to see more and more workers showing up for this fight. — Jamie McCallum, professor of sociology at Middlebury College and author of “Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Fight for Worker Justice”
- Menopause will become big business
Michelle Obama is talking about it. Actors Courteney Cox and Naomi Watts have been vocal about their experiences with it. That’s right, menopause is going mainstream.
The “menopause conversation,” which was long considered taboo and shameful, has been fueled, in part, by changing demographics. The global population of menopausal and postmenopausal women is projected to grow by 47 million women a year, to 1.2 billion by 2030.
With numbers like these, menopause is fast becoming very big business. Brands will capitalize on the menopause market in 2023. Femtech startups are looking to offer treatments to ease the symptoms — and delay the onset — of menopause. Naomi Watts has started a community for women to share their stories, with a product line to boot. And Ireland-based retailer Primark launched its first ever menopause clothing line, designed to ease symptoms like hot flashes.
Expect employers to also focus on menopause in new ways in 2023. Some 10% of women in the UK say they have quit their jobs because of the discomfort. Bank of Ireland announced in October that it would offer paid leave for women experiencing menopause. And Deloitte included menopause in its global diversity, equity and inclusion agenda, encouraging employers to consider how it responds to the growing risk of exodus among skilled mature-age workers. — Solange Uwimana
- Mental health checkups will become the new annual physical
Visiting a primary care physician annually is critical to physical well-being. Amid today’s mental health crisis, annual behavioural health screenings will soon become standard as well.
According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness in a given year. Yet there is an average delay of 11 years between initial symptoms and intervention. Addressing symptoms early on with a primary care doctor or mental health professional can keep problems from turning into crises.
Routine mental health screenings can make a difference, particularly for at-risk groups like young people and the BIPOC community. And screening for depression during primary care visits can help doctors get early access to patient populations that are especially at risk for under-treatment.
A collective of medical experts and American Psychological Association CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr. have called for regular anxiety screenings during physicals. And employers are upping their mental health benefits to match offerings for physical health. Expect mental health checkups to become the norm in coming years. — Shairi Turner, chief health officer at Crisis Text Line
- More nations will give animals, trees and rivers the rights of people
In 2023, as world leaders negotiate measures to protect the natural world from the climate crisis, nations will give equal rights to animals, trees and rivers. This will transform these elements of our natural world from legal objects to legal subjects, imbuing them with rights that courts can enforce.
“Instead of having laws that only limit human actions with respect to nature, which is the way environmental law works now, nature would have the right to enforce its own rights,” says Erin O’Donnell, water law and policy specialist, and fellow at the University of Melbourne.
A few nations have already led the way. New Zealand, Bolivia, Ecuador and Bangladesh have granted rights to elements of the natural world. In New Zealand, the Whanghanui river was granted personhood in 2017, meaning it can now sue those who pollute it, and in 2019 Bangladesh declared all of its rivers should be treated as people.
Such an extension of rights could have major implications for how companies and governments operate. In the U.S., the Sauk-Suiattle tribe is suing the city of Seattle through tribal court on behalf of salmon. The tribe argues the city’s plans for a new dam will block the fish from their spawning ground. The case could pave the way for future, similar cases. — Polly Dennison
- We’ll see the formation of the next wave of game-changing startups
In the spirit of Pablo Picasso, who said that “every act of creation begins with an act of destruction,” 2023 will see a new wave of world-changing start-ups take root.
Recessions and economic crises are great times to start businesses. Half of the Fortune 500 companies were founded during economic crises. Young firms Disney and United Airlines survived and even thrived after the 1929 stock market crash; Revlon and Hewlett Packard got going during the Great Depression; Apple and Microsoft emerged during a recession in the 1970s and Airbnb was born during the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
Economic downturns produce surges of creativity, of rethinking assumptions, and they force companies to grow up on lean protein diets that build stronger corporate bodies than the carbohydrate diets of markets with easier access to capital.
This crisis will have a different spin, though, with greater global distribution than ever before. Global connectivity, lower-cost cloud-enabled storage and software, a generation of digital natives entering the workforce and years of studying the lessons of Silicon Valley’s success will make entrepreneurship more accessible than any other time in human history. Expect world-changing companies to emerge out of Africa, South America and unexpected parts of Europe and Southeast Asia. — Alec Ross, author of “The Raging 2020s: Companies, Countries, People – and the Fight for Our Future”