Futurist: No China democracy, Iran a rising power
The future is Dr. Clotaire Rapaille's business.
Rapaille is the founder of ArchetypeDiscoveries, which specializes in discovering what truly motivates consumers, and then using that knowledge to help corporate clients create designs or products that will sell. He has been called "a corporate prophet."
The French psychiatrist is now a U.S. citizen and a researcher who specializes in intense investigation to discover a market's "archetype." He gained a great deal of interest when he helped in the design of Chrysler's successful PT Cruiser.
CNBC sat with Dr. Rapaille to ask what he expects the world to look like a quarter of a century from now.
What are the big stories for the coming 25 years?
One of the big stories is going to be Africa. We don't realize, but Africa is going to be the future.
Everybody speaks about China, but what I've seen in Africa is the beginning of something. And in 25 years, it may be the New China. I know the Chinese are already there, by the way, because they have the feeling that this is where it is going to be. But I think it's going to be very interesting to see what is going to happen in Nigeria, in North Africa versus Central Africa and South Africa.
But I have another story for the coming 25 years that I think is very, very important as well: Women. If you do a lot of research around the world, and look at where are women in this culture or that culture—are they repressed? Are they trying to emerge? Cultures and nations and countries will let women contribute. They have no choice. It's biology. More than 50 percent of the population are women, and not to give this large part of the population a chance to succeed and contribute is just dumb.
"China will never be a democracy. I'm convinced of that. It's not in their DNA."
What does a culture feel like when it's going in the right direction?
If you take other cultures that have a future, for me they are very interesting. Lee Kuan Yew (the first prime minister of Singapore) in 1965 had nothing. They were rejected from the Malaysian Confederation, and he ended up with a little island with no gas, no oil, no land, nothing. I think again it is something that you might be interested in in 25 years, other countries that understand what I call the "Reptilian Brand."
The Reptilian Brand is the basic impulse of life. Not ideology, not big things like that, but the reality of life. And you start with one word. And with one word, Lee was able to create a very, very successful place. With only 6 million people. It's amazing.
It all starts with one word. And what is this word? The word is "clean."
Clean. So Lee says, "OK guys, we have nothing, we are going to start now, there is one thing that is important: clean. You have to be clean. You have to brush your teeth, wash your hands, clean your room. Clean. I want the street to be clean. I want the school to be clean, everything to be clean." So that's the core, the center.
Around clean you start getting discipline. Aha! Discipline. So even today people complain, say, "Ah, Singapore is not a democracy. You cannot chew gum. It's illegal to chew gum."
So I did a lot of work over there, and when I study with young people, I tell them when they come in, "In other parts of the world, they say that in Singapore you cannot chew gum." And younger women—18, 19—they say, "Yes, but at 2 o'clock in the morning we can walk back home and we never have a problem." So the trade-off is do you want to chew gum or to be attacked when you go back home?
Will China live up to its promise 25 years from now?
I'm not sure. I'm not sure, because part of the Chinese—you know, my work is to study the collective unconscious. The way cultures and their conscious shape the future. When you react as a Chinese, you don't react as a Japanese, and you don't react as an Indian or a Brazilian. But China will never be a democracy, I'm convinced of that.
"France, for example, is becoming a tourist garbage can. It is going to be just a museum. Why? Because if you look at the way French culture is going: People are depressed."
China will never be a democracy?
It's not a part of their DNA. No. They don't need it. They don't want it. They have leaders to tell them what to do, and they are very happy. As long as there is prosperity. The Communist Party is very aware of that.
That's contrary to the American way. We assume everyone wants to have a say in who rules them.
I'm an American by choice, and I'm very proud to be an American, but I have bad news for America. American democracy in 25 years will not be the standard way of functioning around the world. When I am in Dubai or Iran or a place like that, the people there tell me, "You guys, your American democracy, what do you mean? Pornography? Same-sex marriage? Violence all the time? And now drugs in Colorado? That's what you mean? We don't want that."
Editor's note: This feature is part of a series of articles and additional coverage that CNBC will be rolling out over the year as the network celebrates its 25th anniversary by looking ahead to the next 25 years.