5 Topics That Are Shaping the Future of Every Member of Our Community

Date: Apr 02 2018

Whitney Webb, Education Advisor, Launch-Generation

Our minds are on constant information overload from article headlines, tweets, and even conspicuous eavesdropping in coffee shops and subways, often causing us to get stuck in conversations on topics that we must bluff our way through. I remember being at a family philanthropy conference several years ago and ended up in the middle of a conversation about Bitcoin. The conversation seemed relevant to many of the topics covered that weekend, but I had pushed cryptocurrency to the side as something that wouldn’t affect me. Not wanting to be totally silent, I chimed in about how “chainlink” technology was so fascinating. It took me a while to get over that cringe-worthy experience, but it did encourage me to read extensively about the actual concept (blockchain!). Due to the incredible amount of information available to us, we tend to know a little bit about a lot. For many of us, it's easy to brush over the things that seem irrelevant to our lives, but this can be detrimental to decisions we make about our businesses, investments, and even our families.

Here are 5 topics that are shaping our future and the ways they may relate to your life, identified by listening to the conversations held at conferences like SXSW, One Young World, The World Economic Forum, and the Future Festival.

1. Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology

What is it?  
A form of currency that only exists digitally and has no central issuing or regulating authority. Cryptocurrencies use the processes of blockchain and cryptography as a system to record transactions and manage the issuance of new units of currency, while also preventing counterfeit and fraudulent transactions.

How does this affect me?
Career and Business: Start-ups are already funding themselves through ICO’s (initial coin offerings), new exchanges are opening to trade cryptocurrency, and companies are having to decide whether to accept cryptocurrency as a payment method. This has the potential to affect the way all businesses raise capital and complete transactions.

Personal Lifestyle: Cryptocurrency is not unique to the U.S. It is owned and used worldwide, with more and more stores and vendors accepting it as payment. The jury is out on how widespread it will become, but you may have already seen a few bitcoin ATM’s.

Finances and Investments: There has been a significant wave of FOMO in the past months due to a drastic rise in the price of bitcoin and other crypto’s. There are many happy investors and many others wishing they had started buying bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, and others, earlier. In addition to the speculative side of investing in cryptocurrencies, blockchain has many additional applications, which can provide innovation across several industries.

2. Artificial Intelligence

What is it?
AI is the development of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, and decision-making. There are huge debates about the benefits vs dangers of this technology as businesses and industries become more efficient, while jobs for humans become redundant.

How does this affect me?
Career and Business: It would be hard to find an industry that will be unaffected by AI. Healthcare, Media, Industrial, and everything in between, has or will integrate some form of automation into their sales, operations, and even R&D and strategy. According to some forecasts, AI will outsmart humans at virtually everything in the next 45 years. As business owners and executive, ethics and the bottom line will constantly come head-to-head.

Personal Lifestyle: AI is already all around us in things like Siri on our phones and Alexa in our homes, but also in self-driving cars, messenger bots, and even apps that can detect your emotions. We can expect to see more advanced products in the coming months and years that will further automate our lives, whether we like it or not. 

Finance and Investments: The financial industry has been making significant use of machine learning algorithms, software that self-improves as it is fed more and more data. Some advancements include fraud prevention, automated trading, compliance, and customer service. The way we bank will continue to change, along with the companies and industries we invest in that use AI to maintain their competitive advantage.

3. Human Centered Design

What is it?  
Human-centered design is the idea of designing solutions, tools, and technology that fit around the way humans think and behave. This may sound like common sense, but it has reframed the way that people design products, services, and their lives. 

How does this affect me?
Career and Business: Companies like Airbnb, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Warby Parker utilize the process of human-centered design, also known as design thinking, to ensure their products meet their customer's needs, and not just their perceived needs. Learning the process will give you an insight into how companies are keeping competitive advantages, and even how you may apply it to your own business or role. 

Personal Lifestyle: Design thinking was bred in Silicon Valley, but is being applied to the realm of career transition and finding your passion. Utilizing the process of identifying the problem, creating “prototypes” of careers and lifestyles, and reiterating as necessary is being used as a tool to help people become “unstuck”. 

Finances and Investments: The rise of FinTech (Financial Technology) can be attributed to the strong focus on the humans using it. Given the personal and increasingly complex nature of managing money and investments, the online and offline processes of personal financial management have had to constantly empathize with their users, receive feedback, adapt, and repeat.  

4. Impact Investing and Gender Lens Investing

What is it?  
Investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Gender lens investing is a category of this with a specific focus on gender, usually to benefit women. 

How does this affect me?
Career and Business: Today’s rising generations generally have a much stronger interest in working for, and investing in, companies that offer a social benefit to the world. Businesses have adapted and many have created a culture and corporate initiatives that focus on more than just the bottom line. 

Personal Lifestyle: The push for impact investing, and, in turn, social responsibility within companies, can be seen in the new products and services surrounding us. Whether we agree with these messages or not, we are having an impact on the world through the businesses we choose to support. Additionally. many family philanthropic foundations choose to utilize impact investing to further leverage their money outside of grants to advance their core social and/or environmental goals while maintaining or growing their overall endowment.

Finances and Investments: A wide variety of investors have stepped up to meet the demand for impact investing including fund managers, financial institutions/banks, pension funds, insurance companies, family offices, and individual investors. According to GIIN's 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey, 66% of these investors reach market-rate financial returns along with the anticipated social impact. 

5. Empathy

What is it?  
It’s not exactly a new topic, but empathy has come to the forefront in the last few years in terms of business and leadership. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e. the capacity to place oneself in another's position.

How does this affect me?
Career and Business: Empathy has been labeled as one of the most important leadership qualities of our times. Hiring managers are constructing ways to test for empathic abilities and training programs are being implemented to further develop the way employees relate to each other and their clients. 

Personal Lifestyle: We live in a polarized world and many people do not get the opportunity to interact with those outside of their silos - geographically, socioeconomically, and politically. Developing empathy may be a link to creating an equitable and effective society.

Finances and Investments: Playing into one of the ideals of design thinking, empathy is used to create financial products and services for individuals from different geographies and socio-economic backgrounds. Microfinance, financial services for the poor, is an example of the financial industry adapting to include an underserved market. 


Whitney Webb is a presenter at the upcoming FOX Rising Gen, the first meeting of a new community of next-generation family members in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Click here to learn more the 2018 FOX Rising Gen, April 20-21 in Chicago. 

Whitney Webb
Education Advisor, Launch-Generation

Whitney Webb has been working with kids, teens, and young adults since 2012 in the areas of financial, philanthropic, and entrepreneurial education. Most recently, she was the Director of Operations at Independent Means, a private company educating and preparing families for the responsibilities and challenges of wealth transfer. She was the lead trainer with 30+ families and the director of global programs including Camp Start-Up and Fashion and Finance. Ms. Webb is the co-founder of Launch Generation, which produces unconventional summer programs for teenagers focused on entrepreneurship, leadership and financial literacy.