“In 2030, you’ll own nothing — and you’ll be happy about it”

— Klaus Schwab

Supposedly from a WEF social media video from 2016 that stated eight predictions about the world in 2030, including: “You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy. What you want you’ll rent, and it’ll be delivered by drone.”

“The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world.”

— Klaus Schwab

We seem to be well along toward the “Great Reset”, also known as “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Wikipedia offers this handy definition:

“In the fourth industrial revolution the lines between ‘physical, digital and biological spheres’ have become blurred and this current revolution, which began with the digital revolution in the mid-1990s, is ‘characterized by a fusion of technologies.’ This fusion of technologies included ‘fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing.’”

The main player here is Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum (WEF), an international NGO (non-government organization). Schwab started out as a business professor at the University of Geneva in the early 1970’s. He has moved on to changing the world in some rather scary ways – to me, at least.

The WEF and Schwab seem to be getting a lot of bad press these days, some probably well-earned, such as:

“And so, we return to our poster boy for totalitarianism: Klaus Schwab. His fame has been earned through his creation and chairmanship of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Over the last half century, the WEF has grown in influence to become one of the foremost leaders in the proposition of a New World Order.”

“Professor Schwab’s video offers an idyllic state in which people can rid themselves of all the personal debt, the political upheaval and the social unrest that is now expanding so rapidly.”

“The proposed solution is that you sign over your right to own possessions on a permanent basis, in trade for a life in which there is minimal responsibility. The world government will provide you with a basic income. You will rent whatever you need – a residence, a vehicle, appliances, even your clothing.”

Sounds pretty awful, yes?

One of the things that I’ve learned along the long way is that anything really important nearly always goes far deeper than popular comments and opinions. The WEF was founded in 1971 and has since become a major world player in whatever is going on out there. That kind of staying power tells me that they are riding a huge, real, underlying trend that we should know about.

Schwab and his WEF obviously have a powerful agenda that many of us may not quite appreciate or support. The same can be said however of dozens of other major organizations. WEF’s agenda may just be their way of taking advantage of something major that is underway, happening now. What “something”?

What if this “something” is actually taking place as a result of the huge changes in world society over the past century, along with the recent COVID push into hyperdrive. What if WEF’s Klaus Schwab is simply describing what is already underway and perhaps inevitable? What if this is actually a forecast of sorts?

Some of what the WEF sees is clearly happening. More on this below. The key point is that WEF seems to have extrapolated what is happening into its particular vision of a “utopian” future. If so, their vision may in fact be a forecast of some significant validity for business leaders everywhere.

The future is always driven by agendas of the powerful

This hardly needs stating. Agendas, like them or not, are always in play. Especially when some seriously big guys are behind them. I think that there is no such thing as a big-agenda-free world. The trick for leaders is to identify what is happening underneath each of these and to apply it to their own organizations.

You may have noticed that a lot of things are changing, and have been changing approximately forever. Recently, different things have been changing – some of which seem pretty much aligned with what WEF sees and wants. Does this make WEF a bad guy, or might it indicate very clever piggybacking on some favorable (to them) underlying trends?

Think about it this way: What if WEF suddenly disappeared? Would these trends also disappear? I think not.

Trends that are changing everything despite the WEF

Agenda purveyors today have a wide range of technologies on which to attach their stories. The WEF is just one of these. Here is an interesting list:

Online publisher Medium.com has a recent piece on a particular aspect of what is changing: digitization of almost everything: “17 Digitalization Trends That Can Make You Rich”:

CRYPTO-CURRENCIES — physical money will be gone entirely and be replaced by blockchain or similar type of crypto-currencies

CLOUD TECHNOLOGIES — Cloud computing will have more use for the end-customers instead of its use for tough computing jobs. Quantum computers will make them more accessible. Office tools like Microsoft`s or Google`s will be mostly on Cloud. Memory sticks and physical storage devices will be replaced by cloud storage too.

ONLINE ASSISTANCE — lawyers will be replaced by online apps, and only complicated cases will require them. The same goes for doctors except those who deal with complicated jobs such as surgery. Virtual personal assistants will be popular too.

ROBOTICS — we will see more robots helping people and even replacing ordinary jobs

SHOPPING — shopping will be mostly online through the web

ELECTRIC ENGINES AND CARS — petroleum-based engines will be replaced by electric engines and emerging fusion technologies

ELECTRONICS AND INTERCONNECTIVITY — all devices, computers, and equipment will be connected with each other, and human integration will be the next step

LEARNING — Online learning and education will become more popular

RENTAL SERVICES — Renting will become more popular versus owning in an economically turbulent period, especially with more people from the Y and Z generation asking for more freedom and mobility. There will be less need for offices, cars, hotels, homes, and even furniture, equipment, etc.

MENTORING — Increasing mobility will require more coaching and mentoring and/or perhaps consulting. That will mostly be online

SPIRITUAL AID — Spiritual coaching will become more prevalent in a world full of people losing their meaning despite the material riches surrounding them

3D PRINTING — will enable ‘print&use’ technologies not only for basic parts but also for body organs. You will have to select the design and print it either at home or the closest print-house

WARS — Even wars will go online, such as hacking wars, economic fights, trade battles, etc.

TELECOMMUNICATION — Physical communication will be replaced more by online communication

TRAVEL AND TOURISM — Augmented virtual reality will enable more realty than you can imagine at the comfort of your home, and thus, people will cut travel

TALENT MANAGEMENT — It is easier than ever to find and develop talent without being limited to where you live. Online tools will enable more people to work remote and grow a career even without visiting the headquarters.

GLOBAL INTERNET — Worldwide access to the internet is crucial to make everything above happen”

A related Medium.com article looks more broadly at the WEF and its agenda: “In 2030, You’ll Own Nothing And Be Happy About It”:

“Incredible predictions from the World Economic Forum’s mastermind about life in 2030. The headline to this story is from Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. He is the mastermind behind the World Economic Forum that organizes the well-known Davos Summit.”

“The headline is a prediction of this gentleman from 2016 about the world of 2030. In a period when we all global feel the pains and challenges of an accelerated change at a massive scale in every aspect of our lives, such a prediction will surely relieve your anxious mind — especially when it comes from such a prestigious individual.”

You will own nothing – just like me today?

It was more than a little distressing to realize in this context that I have not bought – owned – software for many years. All of my software today is on an annual subscription – effectively rented. If I stop renewing, I can keep the software but lose essential updates and security fixes. That will pretty much keep me on board as long as I continue to use the software.

Am I happy yet? Not really – just roughly okay with this rental arrangement. Would I go back to buying and owning software? Probably not.

After too many years as a multiple money-pit homeowner, I have turned to renting living space. This has a lot of hassles but overall seems to be a real blessing. The horror show of selling our last home and downsizing hugely to apartment living was something I never want to go through again. Moving now is a small-truck mover and a one-day exercise, assuming we don’t move out of the area.

Am I happy yet? Yes, I think that this part works for us. We should have made the move to not-owning housing many years ago. Klaus will be pleased.

Owning a car in the city is a costly hassle. Today we have Uber and its cousins, good public transportation, and we can rent a nearly-new car for longer trips. We are in fact getting very close to going car-less. Another step closer to the hypothesized WEF “forecast” that we will soon own (almost) nothing and be happy?

Agenda purveyors need to use simple, grabbing statements like “You will own nothing and be happy about it.”. The real story here is that we are going to “rent”, not own, more and more as time goes on. Think cars. Think vacation places and Airbnb. No matter what the WEF says or does, we are going to own less and less. Maybe not own nothing but a whole bunch less owning than in past.

The WEF agenda has quite a bit of good stuff despite its scary parts

Check out the WEF website. Apart from the very troubling “Great Reset” stuff, there is a surprising (to me anyway) number of decent ideas and objectives. Please keep in mind that I am using the WEF here as an example or poster-child. There are many more out there pretty much like them.

Would-be rulers have been wrapping their less attractive agenda aspects in a well-designed set of decent, worthwhile ideas almost forever. This is a well-proven approach to tyranny . There is an old proverb that captures the problem: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

It is quite conceivable that the majority of these world-changing agendas are driven by many very well-intentioned folks. Such people are believers rather than hard-headed leaders who carefully examine plans to assess their likely results. Not their hoped-for results.

Klaus Schwab, WEF

Non-owning – i.e., renting or subscription – is the underlying trend

For businesses of almost every kind, this is a critically important trend. Are your products and services designed for ownership or for renting-subscribing? WEF and its fellow travelers won’t matter (at least I hope they won’t). This fundamental trend will affect your business at some point, possibly hugely. Is this trend built into your planning? If so, you’ll be happy.

Bottom line:

While “You will own nothing and be happy about it” sounds pretty awful – very much like a scary totalitarian vision of the future, it may not be. What if something like this is actually taking place as a result of the huge changes in world society over the past century and the recent COVID push into hyperdrive. What if WEF’s Klaus Schwab is simply describing what is already under way and perhaps inevitable? My sense is that the WEF is simply riding its agenda upon the back of major changes that are underway now, with or without the WEF. Do you know what this means for your business? Seems important.

Related Reading

The WEF has it’s own take on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”:

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.”

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

“There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”

“Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game—any of these can now be done remotely.”

Wikipedia describes how the WEF’s “Great Reset” ties into the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”:

“Klaus Schwab used the phrase ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ in a 2015 article published by Foreign Affairs, and in 2016, the theme of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, was ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. In his 2015 article, Schwab said that the first industrial revolution was powered by ‘water and steam’ to “mechanize production”. Through electrical power, the second industrial mass production was introduced. Electronics and information technologies automated the production process in the third industrial revolution. In the fourth industrial revolution the lines between ‘physical, digital and biological spheres’ have become blurred and this current revolution, which began with the digital revolution in the mid-1990s, is ‘characterized by a fusion of technologies.’ This fusion of technologies included ‘fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing.’”

“Just before the 2016 annual WEF meeting of the Global Future Councils, Ida Auken—a Danish MP, who was also a young global leader and a member of the Council on Cities and Urbanization, uploaded a blog post that was later published by Forbes imagining how technology could improve our lives by 2030 if the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDG) were realized through this fusion of technologies. Auken imagined how digitized communication, then transportation, accommodation and food, would result in greater access and decreased cost. Since everything was free, including clean energy, there was no need to own products or real estate. In her imagined scenario, many of the crises of the early 21st century — ‘lifestyle diseases, climate change, the refugee crisis, environmental degradation, completely congested cities, water pollution, air pollution, social unrest and unemployment’ — were resolved through new technologies. The article has been criticized as portraying a utopia at the price of a loss of privacy. In response, Auken said that it was intended to ‘start a discussion about some of the pros and cons of the current technological development.’”

“While the ‘interest in Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies’ had ‘spiked’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer than 9% of companies were using machine learning, robotics, touch screens and other advanced technologies. An October 21, 2020, WEF-virtual-panel discussed how organizations could harness fourth revolution technologies. On January 28, 2021, Davos Agenda virtual panel discussed how artificial intelligence (AI) will ‘fundamentally change the world’. 63% of CEOs believe that ‘AI will have a larger impact than the Internet.’”

“During 2020, the Great Reset Dialogues resulted in multi-year projects, such as the digital transformation programme where cross-industry stakeholders investigate how the 2020 ‘dislocative shock’ had increased and ‘accelerated digital transformations’. Their report said that, while ‘digital ecosystems will represent more than $60 trillion in revenue by 2025’, ‘only 9% of executives [in July 2020] say their leaders have the right digital skills.’”

“The WEF is chaired by founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab and is guided by a board of trustees that is made up of leaders from business, politics, academia and civil society.”

“The World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Cologny, Geneva Canton, Switzerland, is an international NGO, founded on 24 January 1971 by Klaus Schwab. The foundation, which is mostly funded by its 1,000 member companies as well as public subsidies, views its own mission as “improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.”

“The WEF was founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, a business professor at the University of Geneva. First named the European Management Forum, it changed its name to the World Economic Forum in 1987 and sought to broaden its vision to include providing a platform for resolving international conflicts.”