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We asked some of the boldest thinkers what the world will be like in 50 years. Here’s what their answers tell us about the future.

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Cal Henderson

Cal Henderson

Co-founder and chief technology officer, Slack

Cal Henderson is the co-founder and CTO of Slack. He oversees Slack's engineering team and sets the technical vision for the company. He previously built and led the engineering team at Flickr and authored the best-selling O’Reilly book “Building Scalable Websites."

  • What kinds of companies will be the most important?

    • Today’s business environment is more dynamic, competitive, and volatile than ever. We live in an increasingly global, always-on world, where disruption happens overnight and technology will continue to speed up the pace of change. 

      The businesses that will be successful and most important in the future are those that can respond quickly and effectively to this change—they need to be organizationally agile. The cornerstone for achieving agility within any organization is alignment. True alignment is a state where everybody understands priorities, among individuals, teams and across entire organizations. The biggest source of potential upside for any business is establishing alignment among the people who work there and improving the way they work together. It’s true today and will be even more so in 50 years.

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    • How will we communicate with each other?

      • In recent years, we’ve seen a massive increase in geographically-distributed teams and remote working. I predict we’ll continue to see this trend grow, as new technology helps to reduce the gap between being in the same room and being on the other side of the world. Whether that’s through holograms, spatial computing or (more likely) a new technology that is yet to be imagined, people will create ways to connect and communicate with each other across distances as technology enables friends, families, and coworkers to be better connected.

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      • How will we get information?

        • We’re already seeing the increase of personalized, tailored news feeds leveraging machine learning algorithms to serve up content we’ll be most interested in. I predict you’ll see that bleed over into the workplace, with AI-powered software learning more about our daily tasks and projects to serve up relevant, pertinent information before we ever go searching for it.

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      • What technology will bring about the biggest change in society?

        • Other than new technology that we don’t know about yet, I think that as breakthroughs in health sciences are extending our lifespans, the population demographics are going to continue to change. What does the world look like with more and more people living into their seventies and beyond?

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        • What’s your best prediction for the world in 50 years?

          • I know I’m expected to make a technology prediction here, but that is very hard. Twenty years ago, the internet was just getting started and very few people could have predicted the massive change that followed.

            I think that what’s obvious is that technology will continue to help automate rote and repetitive tasks, which would free people up to do the kind of work that humans do best—creative, innovative, interpersonal work. That kind of human-differentiated activity will become more and more important.

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