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CNBC Transcript: Chris Riddell, global futurist and digital consultant

Following is the transcript of CNBC's exclusive interview with digital futurist Chris Riddell at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong. The interview was broadcast on Squawk Box on 20 March 2018.

All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview'.

Interviewed by CNBC's Bernie Lo and Akiko Fujita.

Akiko Fujita (AF): Chris Riddell is a global futurist, joining us here at the Credit Suisse Conference. I know you get this question a lot, what exactly is a global futurist?

Chris Riddell: It is the coolest job in the world. I probably spend about 85 per cent of my time traveling around the world, looking at trends and patterns that are going on across industry and fundamentally seeing how technology is changing, as is humanity. I look into the next five years to see what the big things are that are coming around the corner and then I come to incredible events like this with Credit Suisse and talk to audiences around what they need to do to get ready.

Bernie Lo (BL): It's interesting, as you come to an event like this, where you interact with real people, face-to-face, in real time. And yet the narrative is that we're kind of losing that human touch as a species, because everything is moving so fast and information moves faster than we as a, you know, we as a people can actually process. That's not the case?

Chris Riddell: We as humans love this! We love physical, offline interactions. We love this one-on-one. And I think despite the amount of technology, or in spite of the amounts of technology that surround us, we'll always love this. Technology doesn't replace this. It simply helps us to have experiences in different ways, it helps us to amplify what we're doing, and it helps us to connect to people quicker and faster.

I mean, you're talking about one of the things that you were remembering growing up around how technology was starting to change things. I remember when I was a kid in the 90s, we actually lived in Australia for a while and we used to phone home. So ET phone home. We use the phone back to England. We'd have a long distance call - there was an echo on the line. It was really expensive, it was a really bad quality line. We consider 40,000 feet now and have a FaceTime call for free down-to-the ground in full high-definition. I do that all the time and that's how technology really has helped us.

I mean, despite the fear that we have of robots taking over, technology is helping us to do things and connect with people in ways that we've never had before.

AF: So if technology is really changing and shaking things up, what are the sectors where you're seeing real transformation happening right now?

Chris Riddell: That's a really good question. Healthcare - big, big growth - massive growth because of technology. If we look at some of the underlying reasons for this, it's things like wearable devices.

We're now more future-focused on our health than we've ever been. We only used to care about our health when we're sick and then we go to the doctor, right? With wearable technology now, we have insights into how our bodies are behaving and we're really interested in that. So we're in this era of well-care not sick-care anymore.

BL: Is the technology doing the positive things that you're talk about? Is that getting ahead of our personal safety? Because as we put more out there, as we do more tele-medicine, there's more information that's floating out there, there's more stuff of ours that's going to, you know, we don't know where it is in the cloud. We kind of lose track of where we are and who sees us?

Chris Riddell: You're absolutely right. Look I think one of the big things is the horse has kind of bolted in that way, when it comes to data. But where organisations have got to focus, to re-establish trust with consumers and customers out there, is data safety.

We've seen some horrific stories with some of the biggest brands in our world over the last couple of years - not being sensible enough and safe with the data with their consumers. And it creates chaos, and it breaks trust and confidence in the market. But here's the truth: people now are more willing to share data than they've ever been before. In fact, wearable devices, those devices and businesses, people are most prepared to share data with. But we've got to see an ROI, a return on investment for individuals of this going ahead.

AF: You know, speaking of the trust that's eroding between some of these platforms and the user, I mean we have the story from Facebook, right? Talking about Cambridge Analytica - essentially harvesting 50 million user data there. Is there a sense here that some of these companies that have really been leaders in the tech space are becoming too big and is that potentially a trend that you look for? Are we going to see some type of break up? You know, are we going to see other players coming in and trying to challenge them and can they really, given the influence that they have, the capital that they have, just how big these companies are now?

Chris Riddell: I think you raise such an important point. We're in an era now of category killers, where one organisation is dominating many, many times in an industry. Facebook is the number one when it comes to not just social media, but media. They're the biggest media company in the world now and there's very little competition they've got. When it comes to search, Google is the number one when it comes to search. And this pattern is repeated over and over again in many industries. And we're going to continue to see this grow.

But what the challenge is how do these businesses re-establish trust? We're in a trust crisis at the moment. Edelman, as we know, have reported the lowest trust confidence we've ever had in history since they started reporting trusts. The finance industry actually is the least trusted of all the industries. So businesses have got to really focus on hard. How are they more transparent to rebuild trust and how can they use technology to do this. Consumers are more savvy today than they've ever been before in history. And they're not stupid. And I think we're starting to realize now the power that consumers have because of technology.

BL: Chris, you might have, we all caught the story about Toys R Us. You might have heard about them, you know, something we got, a lot of us grew up with. We assume it was going to be, was there for, you know when we were growing up was going to be there forever, was going to be there for our children, and our grandchildren. It's you know, suffered the wrath of the times and evolution and there is this notion out there that you have to be a start-up. You have to be a brand spanking new company to survive the future and that the old names or even just ten years ago or twenty years ago are going to just evaporate and disappear. That can't be true, can it?

Chris Riddell: It isn't and I think, you know what, we've heard so many stories over the last few years where people are saying 'be terrified of start-ups', people wearing hoodies, setting up businesses at three o'clock in the morning in their bedroom. The reality, is you need to be afraid of industries and business, sorry, you need to be afraid of businesses that have been established for decades because they are well-funded. And once one of your competitors, say a big bank, has worked out how to be agile and how to behave like a start-up, that is the new threat for beyond tomorrow. Businesses that are established, with heaps of cash and suddenly work out what the secret ingredient is to behave like a start-up. That's the big threat for the future, not a start-up.

AF: As we were saying earlier, it seems increasingly like we are seeing some of these big companies and the start-ups working closer together as they try to push forward on the innovation. Chris, there's so much more we can talk about, unfortunately out of time. Chris Riddell joining us here at CS.

END