The future is a funny thing: It's impossible to predict.

Or is it?

Chief executives at some the world's most well-known companies recently gathered at the Clinton Global Initiative and discussed where they see the business world headed. Their predictions follow.

IBM: Big data becomes a natural resource
Ginni Rometty, the chairman and CEO of IBM, thinks there is a "promise of a breakthrough" that will impact many industries, including the social sector: big data. "It'll be the world's next big natural resource," she said.

But the information will only be helpful if you do something with it, such as predicting future consumer behavior.

"This is not about data running your life," said Rometty. "It's about being informed."

Alibaba: Data technology will overtake information technology
"The world is going to change from IT technology to data technology," said Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba who helped lead the company to the biggest initial public offering in history.

"IT technology is for me, myself--I can manage my company better," he added. "Data technology is to make other people better. Then you will be successful. Only when others are successful can you be successful."

General Motors: Tech changes... everything
"There is tremendous change happening in the auto industry," said Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors. "I think it'll change more in the next 5 to 10 years than it has in the last 30 to 40."

How, exactly, will the sector morph?

"There's so much we can do with technologies, when we look at where it's going, whether it's electrification, internal combustion engines, connectivity," said Barra. "That'll change the way that we can attack safety, congestion and fuel economy."

Alibaba: Corporate social responsibility becomes the norm
Known simply as CSR programs, corporate social responsibility initiatives can be found in most major companies--and more are expected to adopt them. That's according to Ma, at least, who advocates using some corporate good to assist young entrepreneurs and small businesses as they try to scale to the next level.

"I strongly believe we should bury social responsibility into our business model," said Ma, who helped start Alibaba 15 years ago in a one-bedroom apartment. "Help small guys because small guys will be big."

What trend do you see playing a bigger part of the future in the world of business? Tweet @Neil_S_Parmar.