I spent time over the Christmas holiday reading a book titled Anticipating 2025. Forward looking analysis that connects leaders with disruptive scenarios and their implications are invaluable, and books like this provide tremendous support. In my next series of Blog posts, I will summarize the salient points from a number of futurists who authored this work. As described in the books opening, futurists are concerned with highlighting a whole range of possible futures, not necessarily pinpointing exactly when something will happen. From the book:
“Futurists seek to draw people’s attention to forthcoming threats, before these threats become too damaging, and to forthcoming opportunities, before these opportunities slip outside of our collective grasp due to inaction on our part”
The book is divided into five sections:
- Setting the scene
- Re-designing medicine and healthcare
- Re-designing artificial intelligence
- Re-designing society
- Redesigning humanity
Part one of this Blog series will set the scene. In the book’s first section, the authors focus on driving forces, big shifts, and roadblocks. It is believed that if developed and deployed wisely, technology could provide a great future of unprecedented abundance, health, and vitality. But there is much uncertainty and a number of obstacles to overcome. In setting the scene, twenty technology areas where wide-ranging developments are 50% likely between now and 2025 are identified:
I couldn’t do these areas justice in a short post, but there’s some fascinating work happening in each of them. For example, here is one description:
“Cryonic suspension involves the low-temperature preservation of the brain (and sometimes also the attached body) of someone who has clinically died, with the thought that the brain can be restarted (and if need be, re-embodied) by some future engineering prowess. This eventual reanimation depends on technology that can only be dimly glimpsed today, which would also involve repairing any disease which was the cause of the person’s death. What’s possible by 2025 is that the credibility of such future developments may significantly increase, leading many more people to sign up for cryonics, with implications for the funeral business, the operation of wills and inheritance taxes, and other social changes”
In setting the scene, David Wood (The Chair of London futurists and one of the authors of this section) talked about the impact of Moore’s Law to date and its anticipated impact into the future. Some have given Moore’s Law 15 more years of life, while others are confident that it will extend through continued modifications. But Mr. Wood also describes how technological progress can be undermined by five categories of obstacles:
- The underlying core engineering
- Design and integration
- The surrounding networking infrastructure and business environment
- The legislative and regulatory framework
Core engineering in this context refers to both technology and culture. As mindset is viewed as the biggest challenge, Mr. Wood believes that culture engineering is equally as important as technology engineering, and requires a set of skills that can change the prevailing ideas concerning the desirability of particular technological enhancements. Through their work, the goal of these Futurists is to maximize the chance of success through scenario analysis that is clear, credible, and comprehensive. I maintain that this same focus on scenario analysis is a necessary core capability for leaders everywhere.
The book suggests that the major obstacle to shaping a brighter future is arguably our institutions. These institutions were born in a different era, and are determined to maintain long-held practices and philosophies that, as the authors say, are increasingly archaic, and appear intractable. This same obstacle in my opinion undermines the viability of traditional companies. Our institutions and companies need to embrace new ways of thinking, and if there is one thing that our history teaches us, it’s that major technology revolutions like the one coming drive institutional change. The book offers a perspective on changing the institutions of healthcare, energy, education, government, commerce, and the environment. Some sound bites:
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Technology has enabled a shift in thinking about traditional institutions, captured very nicely by this quote: “We, as individuals and communities are, increasingly, the institutions”. Indeed, the connectedness of our world enables both the individual and communities to collectively replace traditional institutions. The first section closes with a focus on driving forces, global challenges, potential disruptions, and scenarios. The authors of this section focus on three possible scenarios:
- The end of life as we know it
- The dawning of a new age
- A manifesto for the reframing of society, governance and business
This portion is narrated as if we are living in 2025, painting a picture of the world that exists a decade from now. The authors describe scenarios such as these:
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The authors provide one hundred driving forces reshaping the path to 2025 (the table below summarizes those forces) and take a shot at describing how these forces might come together to shape the purpose, strategies and operating models of the business enterprise of 2025. They identify three operating scenarios for the enterprise: global corporations, community ventures, and network enterprises. In the global corporation scenario, the main organizational design drivers are: Customer focus, flexibility, speed of response, leanness, and internal simplicity. There are only a small core of key employees, with the remaining day to day operations and workforce being outsourced. The business by design enables fast and powerful responses to a rapidly changing and complex reality. The dominant leadership and management competencies include navigating complexity, decision making under uncertainty, seeing around corners, and scenario thinking.
The second operating scenario is the community venture. These are socially oriented businesses that seek to operate at the highest social, environmental, and ethical standards while also making a profit. The last scenario is the network enterprise, which is a highly flexible business that seeks to leverage technology and virtual working to resource up and down according to client need.
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That wraps up part one of this look at 2025 based on the book Anticipating 2025. Part Two will focus on re-designing medicine and healthcare.
Futurist contributing to the book include: David Wood, Mark Stevenson, Rohit Talwar, Calum Chace, David Pearce, Sonia Contera, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg, Ben McLeish, Amon Twyman, Iva Lazorova, Maneesh Juneja, Peter Morgan, Martin Dinov, Elias Rut, Zolton Istvan, David Levy, Andrew Vladimirov, Michael Nuschke, Alex Zhavoronkov, by Riva-Melissa Tez, Victor Anderson, Jerome Glenn