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4 Things We Learned at Challenge Festival Keynote Night

At Keynote Night, we posed an audacious question to our speakers: What will the world look like in 2045?

The four keynote speakers, who each addressed one particular industry, offered optimistic visions of ways in which tech can augment our lives and help us do and achieve more. Here’s a glimpse into the predictions we heard:

1. Forget Silicon Valley. In the future, the developing world will drive innovation.

The evening started off with a bang as Chris Schroeder, author of Startup Rising, walked us through a world in which emerging economies start to, well, emerge at an accelerated rate. The driving force behind this? Smartphones.

Specifically, Schroeder envisions countries in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East as global innovation leaders. 

What’s more, he said, is that he doesn’t have to wait 30 years for his predictions to come true. The pace of innovation in Rwanda, Dubai, Colombia & Iran is accelerating before our very eyes.

2. Forget your frozen, microwavable meals. In the future, we’ll all 3-D print our own food.

At least, that’s what Natural Machines Cofounder & CMO Lynette Kucsma would have you believe. In her keynote address, Kucsma explained that all of our society’s processed food is basically already 3-D printed—but by 2045, we’ll be doing that from the comfort of our own kitchens. Natural Machines has built the world’s first 3-D food printers, and Kuscma says that will help people make healthier choices and will be more sustainable.

However, not everyone was so sure that Kucsma’s prediction is correct—so we’ll just have to wait 30 years to see.

3. Forget “teaching for the tests.” In the future, students will connect with other students globally.

According to D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, true disruption in education hasn’t yet happened. After all, we still organize our education system the same way we did 50, or even 100 years ago.

Will we have districts in 30 years? Will we have standardized tests? It’s hard to say, but what Henderson did predict is that barriers to truly global education will start to come down, and we’ll see greater equity within the system. As students in more countries connect to the Internet, they’ll share homework assignments, stories, and life experiences with their peers around the globe. However, barriers to reaching that future remain. One problem, she said, is the issue of connectivity and bandwidth. School networks are notoriously bad. Instead, Henderson advocated for tearing down the firewalls and setting up city-wide wifi networks so that everyone can connect.

Then, she added, if an edtech startup could solve the issue of parent engagement, that would be a huge step forward as well.

4. Forget buying mass-produced retail goods. In the future, products will come with stories.

“Do you know shit from Shinola?” This conversation predicted the rise of more companies like Shinola, in which the “do-good” mission is tangible in every product the factory produces. In other words, the future will have less “shit”—mass-produced goods—and more Shinola—products with a story to tell. The final conversation—a chat between Shinola President Jacques Panis and CRVIII CEO Jamal Simmons—also offered startups some fresh perspective on what it’s like to build a company that has seen nearly exponential growth. They’ve expanded from just 6 employees a few years ago to more than 400 workers in their Detroit factory.

Panis also shared his advice to startups—namely, that they should never lose their sense of transparency. In the future—and even now—consumers want products that have stories, and they want to feel connected to the company that manufactures them.

Melissa Steffan Headshot

Melissa Steffan

Melissa is the former assistant editor for 1776, where she worked on the media team to create compelling, idea-driven content and reporting. A Seattle native, she graduated from Seattle Pacific…