The paperless office! Driverless cars! Ubiquitous mobile payments! If we looked back over trends headlines and predictions over the last few years, 2020 would be shaping up to be a pretty big year. There’s something compelling about it visually – its repetition looks good on ‘vision’ reports – but it’s now starting to feel uncomfortably close. And we’re still shuffling notebooks, waiting in line at (ground level) traffic lights, and fumbling to find change for market stalls that still won’t accept card payments.

So 2040 it is.

I can understand the reluctance of company spokespeople to make public trend forecasts and predictions. Sort of. I can see why they’d be worried to be proven wrong in a year or so, when people look back. However, I generally urge these people to have confidence in their views. They are as well placed within the industry as anyone, with their niche knowledge area and insights from customer interactions.

It’s not always the answer that’s important – just show your working.

Journalists are generally not looking to catch companies out, by tricking them into making a forecast that they can point and laugh at a year on (business revenue / profitability timelines aside, perhaps). They are looking for an informed, interesting, forward-looking answer from an expert that knows their space, competitors and industry trends inside out.

I wonder how confident the researchers at UBS are that we’ll be enjoying the delights of pilotless planes by 2040. To an extent, it doesn’t matter. Trials are underway, and 2040 is a long time away – until 2037.