‘Is Manchester impressive? Hell yes!’: Futurist predicts rosy times ahead for city

As the world celebrated Back to the Future day on Wednesday, many of us were looking at which predictions made in the film series actually came true.

But what about the future in another 30 years? Where will Manchester be and just how easy is it to predict what lies instore? 

The cult film was successful in predicting flat screens, video calling, tablets and drones, although some of its forecasts remain unfeasible, if not unimagined, with hoverboards and flying cars yet to make an appearance.

But whilst BTTF’s predictions were based on entertainment value, some think that such skills can be a crucial business tool, with Tom Cheesewright one futurist using statistics to advise customers on how to grow their companies and plan for the future.

Manchester has always held an influential role in the development of technology, from being at the forefront of the industrial revolution, through to recently becoming the first English city to be named the European City of Science.

And regardless of what the future holds, Cheesewright is confident that the city will continue to be influential.

“I’m not sure if there’s something in the water but there always seems to be something happening in Manchester, whether it’s in arts, politics, science, technology or industry,” he told MM.

“Is it impressive? Hell yes.

“I’m not a native Mancunian, though I’ve been here a decade now and my kids were born here. There’s a reason I chose to live here. 

“[The city’s continued success] depends on many factors.

“The continuing success of the universities on an international stage, and their engagement with business. An ability to define our own education agenda more locally. A more coherent route to financing and growing science and technology-based businesses in the city.

“But we’re going in the right direction.

“We have some great technology businesses here. Events like Thinking Digital and TMRW are bringing the spotlight to the city and creating venues for its brightest to connect and collaborate.

“It’s all positive right now.”

As a global community, Cheesewright expects the world to change considerably before 2045 – with ‘smart buildings, screens that are printable on any surface and clothes with inbuilt connectivity’ amongst his own predictions – and it is this that he feels makes his expertise so valuable.

He revealed his belief that technological progress will accelerate, meaning that ‘2045 will be much more different than today, than today is to 1985’.

Because of this, his advice to business owners is to be ‘agile’ in order to adapt to the changing face of the corporate world.

“We live in a time of great uncertainty,” he said.

“It is a time when business models might last months rather than decades, when citizens expectations are increasingly out of sync with what the state provides.

“Looking to the future gives us advance notice of the need to change.

“It enables us to make decisions while there’s time and to be more agile.

“It gets both easier and harder the further out you look into the future.

“The further you go, the more likely the possible will be made real, assuming it has some value, because economic and regulatory barriers will have shifted.

But at the same time your knowledge base – your point of reference – is becoming more and more out of date. 

Bearing that in mind, how likely is it that the world could see hoverboards – just as BTTF predicted back in 1985?

“It’s possibly,” Cheesewright admitted.

“But we need to understand gravity a little better first, and to find a way to store energy a lot more densely.

“It’s not going to be a reality for at least twenty years – at least not in the form depicted in the film.”

Dr Emmett Brown said all those years ago that ‘where we’re going, we don’t need roads’ – and if Cheesewright’s predictions prove accurate then we could end up being steered in that direction.

But regardless of how we travel there, Manchester can be confident of leading the way to a more technological future, just as it has been doing since the Industrial Revolution.

Image courtesy of Stephen RIchards and Universal Pictures, via Youtube, with thanks

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