Collin Greenland, Guest Columnist
The current debates raging about how well Jamaica did as an independent nation over the last 50 years, though important and necessary, tend to be characterised by negatives - regrets, admonitions, complaints, etc. Although we could have done many things better, for a minuscule dot on the world map producing Bolt, Garvey, Marley, reggae, three Miss Worlds, to name a few, maybe we judge ourselves too harshly.
Let us utilise some of the projections of the World Future Society to carve out an impressive next 50 years and beyond.
Edward Cornish, the founder of the World Future Society and editor of its flagship publication, The Futurist Magazine, outlined the six supertrends shaping the future. These supertrends are: (1) technological progress, (2) economic growth, (3) improving health, (4) increasing mobility, (5) environmental decline, and (6) increasing deculturation.
The main document published in Jamaica that points to our destiny is the Jamaica National Development Plan, called Vision 2030 Jamaica, championed by the Planning Institute of Jamaica. Whereas this plan must be commended for its lofty ideals, it could have been further enhanced by quantifying some of the goals enunciated. The four stated national goals are "Jamaicans are empowered to achieve their fullest potential; the Jamaican society is secure, cohesive and just; Jamaica's economy is prosperous; and Jamaica has a healthy natural environment."
Our strategists should be aware that, according to the World Future Society, an important trend to note is that careers, and the college majors for preparing for them, are becoming more specialised. Instead of simply majoring in business, more students are beginning to explore niche majors such as sustainable business, strategic intelligence, and entrepreneurship. Other unusual majors that are capturing students' imagination are neuroscience, nanotechnology, computer and digital forensics.
Jamaican students pursuing business and accounting and seeking exciting, imaginative careers should know that in 2002, a US News and World Report cover story ranked forensic accounting as the number-one most secure career track. In fact, Accounting Today's 2007 survey of the top-100 accounting firms revealed that between 77 and 78 per cent cite forensic accounting growth on their radar, and that it is regarded worldwide as one of the "20 hot job tracks of the future". Job opportunities abound in law firms, financial organisations and insurance companies.
Our educators should heed the World Future Society's advice that future workers will have to retrain and retool continuously. Professional knowledge will become obsolete almost as quickly as it is acquired. An individual's professional knowledge is becoming outdated at a much faster rate than ever before. Most professions will require continuous instruction and retraining. Rapid changes in the job market and work-related technologies will necessitate job education for almost every worker. At any given moment, a substantial portion of the labour force will be in job-retraining programmes. (Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies, Trends shaping Tomorrow's World, Part Two, The Futurist, May-June 2008).
Similarly, the World Future Society regards technological progress as being the supremely important trend in human evolution for thousands of years and includes all the improvements being made in computers, medicine, transportation and other technologies. They feel that the cybernetic revolution is still racing ahead, biotechnology promises a fourth technological revolution, and there could be a fifth through nanotechnology.
The technology race between Japan and South Korea will intensify, as South Korea has mandated a robot in every home by 2020, while Japan is hoping to accomplish the same goal by 2015. (Cecily Sommers, quoted in Thinking Globally, Acting Locally, Living Personally, November-December 2007, p. 57).
increase robotics thrust
Our local schools, therefore, should emulate the robotics programme now under way at Jamaica College, which in 2011 was the only international team that participated in the US FIRST Robotics Championship tournament since its 10-year inception, and placed 12th of 64 teams in the March 2011 competition held in New York City. This year, the JC Robotics team placed third in the competition out of 72, and Jamaica's flag was the only one from a foreign country flying high among the other US entrants.
Marcus Garvey predicted, "The battle of the future, whether they be physical or mental, will be fought on scientific lines, and the race that is able to produce the highest scientific development is the race that will ultimately rule."
Our development strategists should also draw from some of the futurists' forecasts in drafting strategies to meet the stated desires. There must be national outcomes in crucial areas such as business, industry, energy, tourism and agriculture.
With the greatest respect to two of Jamaica's brightest prognosticators, Dennis Chung and Ralston Hyman, physicists could become tomorrow's leading economic forecasters. According to Future Scope (September-October 2010, p. 4), "Unlike mainstream economists, who rely on averages, econophysicists study complex systems, feedback loops, cascading effects, irrational decision making, and other destabilising influences, which may help them to foresee economic upheavals."
In fact, when we consider our export possibilities, we should consider that according to futurist Andy Hines, "China will most likely become the world's largest economy within the next three decades. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace believes China's economy will surpass that of the United States by 2035. There are debates about whether India's economic development will ultimately surpass China's, but it is clear that Asia's economies are growing. Overall, workers in Asia are becoming more skilled and educated."
This corresponds to the views of other futurists such as Peter Schiff, who was quoted in Assessing Global Trends for 2025, (July-August 2009, p. 35), warning that: "China will become the world's largest economy, based on GDP, prior to 2025. The United States will fall behind Japan and will no longer be in the top-20 countries in terms of per capita GDP. China will shift from an export economy to a consumer-driven economy, and Japan will shift most of its export trade away from the United States to China."
There is good news for one of our most lucrative industries, as futurists Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies are optimistic that tourism's future is bright, as it is expected to nearly double worldwide from 842 million international tourist arrivals in 2006 to 1.6 billion in 2020. According to them, China will be the greatest source of tourists as well as the most popular tourist destination. (Trends Shaping Tomorrow's World, Part One, March-April 2008, p. 43).
Agencies like the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Ministry of Health should also note that futurist Michael Zey, author of Ageless Nation, feels that medical tourism could be a boon for global health care, which in 2008 was already a US$40-billion business with 780 million patients. He argues that a US$400,000 bone marrow transplant in the United States would cost only $30,000 in India and "When you have international competition from more affordable hospitals in one country, it's likely to impact what hospitals in another country would charge." (Seeing the Future Through New Eyes, November-December 2008, p. 57).
In terms of competition also, the JTB would be aware that futurists such as Melchor Antuņano, director of the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, predict that commercial space tourism will grow significantly during the coming decade. He feels that by 2021, there will be 13,000 suborbital passengers annually, resulting in US$650 million in revenue, and notes that many companies are currently working to make commercial space flight a viable industry.
Although the lure of our exquisite 'sea and sand' is expected to continue, we should also note that the increase in artificial islands will continue, some as extensions of countries, while others will create new micronations. Currently, the most technologically advanced artificial island projects are found in Dubai.
In terms of our energy and environmental challenges, we may be able to run our light from the trash at Riverton. Futurists at the University of Birmingham, for example, claim that bacteria could convert trash into hydrogen fuel under certain circumstances. According to futurist Garry Golden, the 170 million tons of garbage that the United States currently incinerates or sends to landfills each year could potentially provide about 2.4 per cent of the nation's energy needs, or 93.9 billion kilowatts. (World Trends & Forecasts, January-February 2009, p. 18).
Space constraints prevent the elaboration on futuristic possibilities while we go about finalising strategies to meet the four national goals, and 15 national outcomes.
Let us consider some of the futurists' projections to carve out an impressive next 50 years of Independence and beyond, because as our first and greatest national hero Marcus Garvey said, "We have a beautiful history, and we shall create another in the future that will astonish the world."
Collin Greenland is a forensic accountant. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.