The world has become less predictable. Ambiguity galore; risks many; possibilities immense.
- Sitting at the precipice of 2024, it would be good to look at some megatrends you may expect to experience this year. Most of these will touch you and me in some way or the other.
Let me pick five big trends the world is likely to take.
1: Dance of democracy and test of its survivalAbout half of the world’s adult population will go to the polling booths in 2024 in over 70 countries to choose their political bosses. Such large-scale democratic voting has never happened before. This polling exercise will happen when there is a growing sense of lack of liberalism and acute threats to democratic values.
The democratic action implications could be profound. Some of these polls will be fair, exhibiting people’s power, while many will be window-dressed to show a false sense of free will. There is every possibility that, in most countries, the parties in power would lose, and the anti-incumbency wave could prevail.
Two distinct trends could emerge from this dance of democracy.
One, most sitting political parties are expected to try and stick to power by offering various free bees. This would lead to deficit financing, leading to the printing of money, making economies inflationary.
Second, the influence of AI and deep fake videos will play a large-scale active role in many electioneering for the first time ever. This could severely disrupt human feelings, actions, and possible electoral outcomes. Free will, which is the hallmark of democratic structures, could fall apart, leading to a possible loss of faith in democratic processes in some geographies.~
2: Climate angst and uncertainties – inevitable warmer globeThe world is getting warmer, with climate uncertainties now an absolute certainty. 2023 was the warmest recorded in modern history.
The situation is so bad that even in January, Gulmarg, one of Asia’s highest ski resorts in our beautiful Kashmir, has no snow for skiing. This has never happened before in January. The local tourism industry is devastated.
The global average surface temperatures are already 1.1 deg C above pre-industrial levels. Hence, limiting the global temperature increase to below the desired level of 1.5 deg C is impossible.
Arising out of this, you may expect the following key trends in 2024:
One, climate conditions will remain uncertain. Expect sudden heavy rainfalls, floods, droughts, or uncomfortably hot summers. Agricultural activities and human lives could suffer badly.
Next, more and more investments in the renewable energy sectors, including wind, solar, and hydrogen. A lot of work will be on carbon capture technology. India is expected to invest $500 Billion (Rs 40 lakh crore) by 2030. Yes, that’s huge and could provide many economic opportunities in this sector.
3: Technology will keep posing risks and provide opportunities
The launch of generative artificial intelligence by OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 changed the perception of technology capabilities forever. It is a chatbot that responds to users’ queries and prompts. Unlike earlier technologies, generative AI is adaptive, practices speed learning, and possesses contextual understanding. While the internet has enabled us to disseminate information, AI is now helping mankind to assimilate data.
What trends can we expect in this domain?
One, many governments will bring in statutes to pre-authorize AI-related work. It may no longer remain an unfettered innovation with the potency to create havoc on human thoughts and actions.
Two, the semiconductor chip industry will work overnight to enhance the high bandwidth memory (HBM), the technology behind super-fast processing speeds and lightning-fast data transfers.
Next, 118 countries in COP28 promised to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030. Technology, for “green” hydrogen, will be the flavor. The use of electrolyzers to split hydrogen from water will grow worldwide. Globally, against an estimated 14GW capacity in 2022, investments will be made towards the 2030 requirement of 170GW of electrolyzer production capacity.
Cyber crimes are one of the most potent dangers from technology we all face. AI is trying to mitigate some of its risks. While AI can analyze attacks and malware to create automated defenses, it cannot fully mitigate the risks. Hence, another trend would involve traditional means of fraud detection, including forensic auditing, reinforcing itself.
4: Health is wealth – with a fresh paradigm
The world is aging. But the broader healthcare expenditure seems to be no longer the biggest concern of governments – unfortunately though. For instance, the OECD countries’ healthcare spending as % of GDP is flattening from about 9.5 percent in 2020 and 2021 to 9 percent in 2022. In India, government healthcare expenditure is at 2.1 percent of GDP in 2023, up from 1.6 percent in 2021.
Healthcare trends are many.
While the overall healthcare number is flattening, one sector is making waves – it is anti-obesity. World over 1 billion people, or 14 percent, are obese. For decades, weight loss drugs have been delivering disappointing results. The recent arrival of a safer solution is music to many ears.
Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly will be battling for pole position in this sector in 2024. The blockbuster drugs are Wegovy (semaglutide) and Mounjaro (tirzepatide). Over 70 other obesity treatments are in progress. The solution is mostly glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists. They work for weight loss by slowing down the rate of “gastric emptying,” keeping people fuller for longer. In 2024, more data on obesity drug health impact will be available, pushing the case for prescribing these drugs.
Another trend for this year is tremendous consumer interest in ‘nutraceuticals’. Even in weight-loss areas, a nutraceutical like konjac fibers is becoming popular as it amplifies the body’s gut-peptide systems. Chewing gums and lozenges, are getting high-tech and health-related. These health aids do many things: fight cavities, cure infections, and soothe ulcers.
And the evolution of chewing gum from a sticky-sweet into a “nutraceutical”— is driving sales. The $4 billion Indian market is growing at an unimaginable rate of 22 percent. The global market size is $150 billion, with the market growing at 8 percent every year. Essentially, huge opportunity windows are opening.~
With mental health disorders rising (4.5 percent of the global population is affected), another trend involves the large number of companies investigating how food or nutritional supplements affect the mind. Brains, the most complex and energy-demanding of the body’s organs, have specialized nutritional needs. Welcome, 2024, to the new field of ‘nutritional psychiatry’!
Many clinical trials are being carried out, especially in India, to prove the efficacy of nutraceuticals. With its galloping popularity and approvals through proof of concept, the market is multiplying manifold.
5: Middle-class aspirational upsurge
Globally, 45 percent of the population are middle-income (earnings between $11 to $110 per day), with 3.7 billion of them driving consumption of $44 trillion. As more people move out of poverty, this size will grow to 5 billion by 2030, spending $62 trillion annually. This change is simply mammoth. The world becomes richer as science, technology, and healthcare progress.
As regards India, it would drive almost one-fifth of the global growth. Here, the middle-class clan will be the focus. According to research (Financial Times, May 2023), India has about 430 million middle-class (annual household income between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 30 lakh)— about one in every three people.~
It means that India will have the upward moving ‘aspirers’ into the middle class, who would not just buy the same stuff, but also consume more premium and newer categories.
Historical evidence shows that the aspirational middle class majorly drives economies. It is stated that the upper classes are the nation’s past; the middle class is its future.
With India being the fastest-growing large economy, three-fourths of the economic growth will come from the middle-income population.
Last few words
Human habits and most economic trends do not arise abruptly. It develops over a period of time. However, a few of the trends, like continued trust in democratic processes, adverse climate change implications, risks from technology, middle-class behavioral shifts, and changes in health priorities, will redefine mankind’s domain – the earth.
Our behaviors and beliefs are imperceptibly changing, sometimes for good and many times for the worse. Such is the story of human evolution!
About the Author: Robin Banerjee is the Chairman of Nucleon Research Pvt Ltd, a global clinical research company. Earlier, he served as the Managing Director of Caprihans India Ltd. Robin has authored 3 bestselling business nonfiction books: (i) Who Cheats and How; (ii) Who Blunders and How; and (iii) Corporate Frauds: Bigger, Broader, Bolder.
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