Robotic PAs, enforced use of public transport and three day working weeks were just some of the radical ideas discussed at a session looking at the future of business in Cumbria.

The latest Cumbria Business Owners Forum, organised by Armstrong Watson, looked at the key changes society would face in the future and how businesses could plan for and react to them.

About 70 people attended the event at Carlisle Racecourse this morning.

The key speaker was futurist and business strategy expert Dean Van Leeuwen, who looked at how technology, institutional change, demography, environmental issues and shifting social values could affect the firms of the future.

He said we lived in a time of unprecedented potential scientific advances such as human genetic engineering and creating clean energy from nuclear fusion.

However, there were also massive challenges to overcome such as climate change.

"The greatest risk of the 21st century is that we fail to think big enough to make it work for everyone," he said.

"There are no road maps to where we are going. We have to be explorers and adventurers in this new world."

A rapidly aging population meant more and more people would live beyond 100, he said, with number of people chalking up their century growing by 400 per cent each year.

Robots would become an increasing part of life, both in terms of carrying out manual tasks and informing how we accessed information and made decisions, he said.

Business needed to think about how to embrace such issues now, or risk being overtaken and undermined.

"Kodak and Blockbuster went out of business because they weren't being curious," he said.

"They weren't looking at how these disruptive forces were changing their businesses."

Those at the event then discussed some of the key issues they thought might face business and came up with "radical ideas" to deal with them.

Ideas included giving people under 25 greater power to make decisions about the direction of the business or regularly sending people "back to school" to learn about advances in technology.

"As business owners we need to adapt and change or we are probably going to go out business," said Paul Dickson, chief executive of Armstrong Watson.

"We also need to innovate and bring innovative solutions to our clients."