Autodesk and Aspen Digital ask “What are possible futures the world may face in the next 20 years?”

Scott Sheppard


What are possible futures the world may face in the next 20 years? To help steer Autodesk and our customers to preferable futures, Autodesk tapped into a network of global thinkers and doers from science, design, diplomacy, and more, as Autodesk catalyzed the formation of Aspen Digital’s Foresight Group. The results were some forward-focused insights that are summarized in a new report, along with the present-day trends that point in their direction. Autodesk is proud to be a collaborator in this work. We hope you will give it a read! Check it out here.

The Strategic Foresight team at Autodesk (part of Autodesk Research) informs long-term decision-making by anticipating what might happen so the company and its customers can navigate change, seize opportunities, and mitigate risk. The goal of foresight is to anticipate and prepare for change while examining how current factors might signal what’s to come. The Strategic Foresight team takes a comprehensive view, exploring forces of change in a STEEP framework (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political) and looking across near-term and long-term horizons. Through a comprehensive portfolio of projects, the team draws from a wider range of perspectives to deepen the company’s understanding of what’s changing in the macroenvironment and what it might mean for Autodesk strategy. Members of the Strategic Foresight team as well as our CEO, Andrew Anagnost, and VP of Autodesk Research, Mike Haley, participated in the Aspen sessions.

The key trends identified in the report have the potential to impact Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Operation; Product Design and Manufacturing; and Media and Entertainment:

  • Energy production is moving away from fossil fuels.
  • Digital identities and biometrics are becoming more widespread.
  • Private actors are becoming more indistinguishable from states.
  • AI models are enabling new ways of interacting with information.
  • Reactionary immigration policies are shutting out migrants,
  • People exposed to global news are experiencing crisis fatigue.
  • People are living and working longer.
  • AI tools are dehumanizing conflict.

At Autodesk, we are inspired by the prospect of a better world designed and made for all. Our mission is to empower innovators with design and make technology based on data, algorithms, and AI so they can achieve the new possible. To do that, we deliver customers technology that provides automation and insight for their design-and-make processes, enabling them to achieve better outcomes for their products, their businesses, and the world. Better is a broad umbrella that includes a better user experience (e.g., more powerful capabilities, more intelligence, easier to use, more secure, more rapid iteration) and better project outcomes (lower cost, less time, improved results, less negative impact). Doing that requires preparing for a wide range of possible futures through the practice of strategic foresight via as wide a network as possible.

Scott Sheppard is a Program Manager on the Strategic Foresight team at Autodesk Research.

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