We have become accustomed in recent years to seeing warnings about the impact machines could have on humanity. There have been numerous dystopian visions about how our lives could change as a range of new technologies are developed.

Yet looking back over recent decades, a clear picture emerges of the positive impact that machines can have on our lives. Washing machines that have eliminated hours of domestic drudgery, advances in health that have helped extend life expectancy by decades and smartphones that have brought a world of knowledge into the palm of our hands. Harnessed correctly, rapid advances in technology have the potential to help people to lead safer, more productive, and happier lives.

That is true in the economy, where technology can help to free time and effort for people to become increasingly productive – doing more in less time. That may mean people liberated from labour and having more leisure time – reminiscent of John Maynard Keynes’s vision, in 1930, of a future of fiteen hour work weeks. It may also mean that people can achieve things we cannot imagine, their hard work and inspiration going further than ever before.

It is true in health, where there is the potential to use large-scale data analysis to tackle diseases and improve wellbeing – from something as simple as an app helping us to keep fit to rapid advances in our ability to develop cures for diseases. It can also enable medical services to reach isolated and disadvantaged communities. All over the world, medical services are becoming more efficient and accessible through innovations such as 3D printing and highly targeted nanontechnologies.

Finally, it is also true of our leisure hours. In the last 100 years, radio, television and the internet have transformed how we spend our spare time. In the next hundred years, we can look forward to exciting new experiences as augemented and virtual reality take us to new realms of possibility. We can also look forward to new technologies that connect friends and family from across the world.

Of course, realising these opportunities requires investment. The potential they contain can only be unleashed with sizeable, long term, patient capital – whether that is from private funds, capital markets, government, sovereign wealth funds or, more likely, a mix of all of them.

From the 23rd to the 25th of October 2018, all eyes are set to fall on Riyadh once again and these issues are set to be at the heart of the debate.


‘Advancing human potential’ is one of three central themes in the Future Investment Initiative 2018, which aims to help cultivate that investment by bringing together a wide range of global leaders, investors and innovators.