Coffee Break with Game Changers: An Innovation Explosion

On November 30th, I had the pleasure of participating in another Game Changers show. I was joined by Futurist Gerd Leonhard and SAP Innovation executive Timo Elliott. The show was expertly moderated by Bonnie D. Graham, starting with her positioning of the topic: “Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion” (Muhammad Ali). A unique clustering of inventions in the century after the U.S. Civil War improved the American and European standard of living – human well-being – more than any period before or after, with advances in everything from food and energy to health and work. Can our current innovation explosion have a similar impact despite unintended consequences? 

We explored a topic that I had written about in a recent post on Revolution and the Innovation Wheel. The show format opens with quotes from each of us, followed by a round table discussion that is based on statements that we provide in advance. Below are the quotes and statements provided. The show is available on-demand to listen at your convenience.



I refuse to recognize that there are impossibilities. I cannot discover that anyone knows enough about anything on this earth definitely to say what is and what is not possible – Henry Ford


The special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of great inventions that significantly improved our well-being. Many of the great inventions could only happen once, establishing the basic elements of our modern standard of living by 1970

Economist and advisor Jeremy Rifkin links the slowing of growth to our reliance on a second industrial revolution platform whose productivity peaked 20 years ago. Rifkin believes that 2008 – known as the year that launched the Great Recession – will also get credit for starting the long sunset of the Second Industrial Revolution – a sunset that he sees occurring over the next 30 to 40 years

Economist Robert J. Gordon sees limited growth in the next 25 years, as several headwinds like inequality, education, demographics, and government debt combine to reduce growth in median disposable income – he dismisses the techno-optimists that believe science and technology will usher in a new period of productivity growth

Techno-optimists see a return to productivity and enhanced well-being, as automation drives labor productivity and scarcity gives way to abundance. But techno-pessimists believe that modern technology has created as many problems for humanity as it has solved. The pessimist believes that seeking more technology is likely to bring about new problems and unforeseen consequences and dangers.

A simple test to decide if you are a techno-optimist, techno-pessimist, or somewhere in between:

  • Have social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, alongside communication technologies like cell phones, texting, and so on, increased our capacity to communicate, or diminished it?
  • Have we forged better relationships as a result of these technologies, or has the quality of our relationships deteriorated?
  • Do such technologies stimulate or dull our intellects?
  • Do they tend to enhance our emotional depth, or inhibit deep emotional responses?
  • Do they lead us to be more or less active, physically and socially?
  • Do they allow us to become more aware of the world around us, or less?


In dealing with the future, it is far more important to be imaginative than to be right – Alvin Toffler, Future Shock


Taken from his recent book titled Technology versus Humanity

Embrace technology but don’t become it. Radical human augmentation via technological means will be a downgrade not an upgrade. Technology is exponential  but humans are linear (and should remain so)

Whatever can be digitized, automated and virtualized, will be – and anything that cannot be digitized or automated will become extremely valuable (i.e. our uniquely human qualities). This is the future of work and jobs.

Technology does not have ethics but our society depends on them. Just because we can does not mean we should. Silicon Valley and China should not become ‘mission control for humanity‘. We need a global digital ethics counsel that transcends the agenda of investors and the military.

We are at the pivot point of exponential and combinatorial technological evolution: all around us, science fiction is becoming science fact – and the future will increasingly arrive gradually then suddenly. We need to proceed with a very wise combination of precaution and pro-action.

Efficiency should never become more important than humanity, because not everything that can be automated, should be – and happiness cannot be automated.


The real problem of humanity is that we have Paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous (E. O. Wilson)


The current innovation explosion: will it improve the global standard of living? There’s still a long way to go before we even make full use of the technologies we already had five years ago.

New technologies mean that we can tap into a much higher proportion of the world’s abilities.

The ability to start automating repeated decisions is an incredibly important leap forward for humanity.

We seem to be in a phase of exponential technology growth, where each year brings the same amount of advances as the previous several years.

Longer lifespans — advances in sanitation, disease prevention, and medicine around the world — are staggering.

Unintended consequences: will they diminish the global standard of living?

It’s much easier to imagine what technologies will be available in the future than it is to guess how they will reshape the societies of the future.

Exponential technology is very hard for the human brain to understand and keep up with.

Artificial intelligence will be a huge disruption to our societies. What will we do with people whose jobs are lost?

Exponential technology growth may bring us to the “singularity”

The global standard of living is going to going to go up. But how those gains are going to be distributed is crucial.

There’s a backlash against the type of world that is optimized for innovation.

The ethics of technology use is still in its infancy.

Cataclysms are always possible — global warming gets out of control? massive magnetic pulse knocks out power, fries electronics? asteroid? seismic event?

2 thoughts on “Coffee Break with Game Changers: An Innovation Explosion

  1. Frank
    The problem of what do we do with people who loose their jobs due to AI is humongous!
    Amazon opening its first fully operated grocery market in Seattle is a case on point!


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