Imagine a world where you can point your smart phone at someone and instantly find out where to order the clothes they are wearing. Or one where almost 50% of workers do their jobs from home.

Thomas Frey, executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google's top-rated futurist speaker, shared those predictions with attendees at the recent FPA Retreat in Bonita Springs, Fla. Here are some of his observations and predictions.

The Untethered Marketplace
Shazam is a mobile application that allows your phone to "listen" to prerecorded music and identify the song that's playing. Among other things, Google allows you to use a handheld device to "see" a city landscape and to identify what places you are looking at. The "future of retailing" will be one in which people buy clothes instantly online after pointing their smart phone at another person's outfit that they like. Technology will "turn our handheld devices into wallets," says Frey.

Why The Romans Were Not Great At Math

Roman numerals were equations in themselves so they prevented an entire civilization from doing higher math, Frey said. He then challenged attendees to think of what is holding our civilization back. He gave inches, quarts, days in a month and even our tax code as examples.

"Is our current financial planning system the equivalent to Roman numerals?"  He then answered his own question saying, "Yes, it will be outdated."  He shared something Max Planck, a Nobel-prize winning physicist, said: "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

Hyper Individuality
"We now have over 100 million products in the marketplace, and each one is looking for its own niche customer base," said Frey. "We can have a billion products as they can be hyper individualized.  There is an explosion of data.  Categories and groupings are far too limited."  

"Physical products have physical limits," he noted. "Digital products don't have the physical limits."

He was not sure who would win out in the Google vs. Facebook war, but leaned a bit toward Facebook.  Frey says "every personality trait can be stored mathematically."

Population Changes
United Nations global population charts show a huge rise from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6.4 billion in 2000, Frey said.  Factors like filtering the water supply, which started in the 1800s, had a dramatic effect on increasing population.  Penicillin and cures to some diseases were other significant factors, he said.

The 2100 world population projection ranges between 5 billion and 16 billion, he says, population may actually start to decline, as it already has in many countries. "2.1 kids per family are needed to keep the population flat, but it is just a matter of time before birth control makes it to Africa," Frey says. Additionally, he cited that "2005 was the first year in the U.S. when over 50% of women reported being single."  He pointed out that the number of people living alone has undergone a 50% increase in the last 20 years.  All more continued downward pressure on population growth, although the average life expectancy is increasing 3 years every decade.

Empire Of One

The need for "proximity" in the work environment is decreasing and it will continue to decrease.  Almost half of jobs might be able to be done from home, and that will result in the skyrocketing of telecommuting, Frey said.

The labor force will develop into working on micro jobs, like freelancers do, supported with improved technology. "Business colonies" will become a norm, he said, similar to how a lot of workers are pulled together to work on a movie, just until it is completed.  Then they go to the next project.

Future Of Advice
"There are lots of ways we can go," said Frey. The average person receives 100,500 words a day, with that number increasing 2.6% a year.  He pointed out that "11.8 hours a day we are consuming information."

A search for information used to take 10 hours in a library.  Now it is only a 10-minute interface.  Frey predicts this will go down to 10 seconds.  Because of this, Frey believes, "We will just need to teach the why and how."  

"How different will it be when your clients know as much information as you do?" he questioned. "As things get more complex, it works in your favor.  To a point."

Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting to provide consulting services to help advisors become even more successful.  His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas.  Read more at