By Chip Cutter and Laura Lorenzetti Soper
If 2017 left you breathless, exhausted by unexpected headlines, then brace yourself. The coming year may bring even more turbulent change, according to the CEOs, academics, economists and other bold thinkers we consulted for our annual peek at the year ahead.
1. You’ll take your first-ever digital detox.
Get ready to hide your phone and immerse in a few tech-free hours (or days). “We’re at an inflection point,” says Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global, adding that tech’s addictive grip on our lives will move from the fringes to the center of conversation. Bosses will start banning devices from meetings, as will restaurants during meals, predicts GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock. She calls distraction-free time the “new ultimate luxury.”
2. The economy nears its tipping point.
Eight years after the Great Recession ended, the U.S. economy is still growing, making this recovery one of the longest on record. Expect the economy “to get a lot closer to an economic tipping point, the nature and implication of which will depend on politics,” says Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic advisor at Allianz. Some of the biggest vulnerabilities to a slowdown: geopolitical shocks and policy mistakes by central bankers.
3. There won’t be a single TV show people rally behind.
It’s the golden era of TV but a fragmented one, and 2018 may be the first year when no single show dominates pop culture. For proof, pay attention to ABC's “American Idol” reboot in March. “We’re all going to have these memories of that time when ‘American Idol’ was the center of the zeitgeist,” says Daniel Fienberg, a television critic for The Hollywood Reporter and chair of the Television Critics Association. “We’re going to see that it’s suddenly become yet another niche show in a universe of niche shows, which is a little sad, but the reality that we’re in.” Don’t expect the culture-dominating series of “Game of Thrones” to help, either; its final season likely won’t come until 2019.
4. After #MeToo, watch for a new movement.
The flood of sexual harassment claims in 2017 may usher in a change in how society treats those who are wronged. “There will be a tide shift of consciousness around appropriate behavior,” says Kat Cole, COO and president of North America at FOCUS Brands, whose chains include Cinnabon and McAlister's Deli. Women will no longer shrug off inappropriate behavior; they’ll speak up, amplify each other and push for change, says Sallie Krawcheck, the CEO of investing platform Ellevest. While #MeToo may have defined 2017, Krawcheck’s throwing out a new hashtag for 2018: #OverIt.
5. The gig economy gets volatile.
As companies such as Uber and Airbnb move closer to long-awaited IPOs, they’ll be pressured to ratchet up profits. For drivers, hosts, grocery deliverers and others who depend on these platforms, that will likely mean lower pay, says former Google HR chief Laszlo Bock, now CEO of startup Humu. “The gig economy is going to get increasingly brutal,” he says. “These companies are going to need to make a profit, and that’s got to have to come from somewhere.”
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