The building blocks of our future are numerous, and they are intersecting in ways that drive rapid shifts. I Visualized this phenomenon a while back, trying to depict the complexity of our world and the challenges it represents. It was Futurist Gerd Leonhard that gave me the idea. As someone who used my Anchor Visual in keynotes, he reflected on how impactful it might be to demonstrate the convergence that was occurring across the visual.
Given how important it is for us to see the Dots that are Connecting in a complex system, I thought I would revise the visual and share it again.
Five scenarios are identified in an effort to demonstrate the convergence that occurs across two dimensions of the visual: science and technology and the emerging futures they spawn. I will describe each one:
Healthy Life Extension: One of the paradigm shifts on the future scenarios curve is healthy life extension. In this era of genomics, precision medicine, and rejuvenation biotechnology, extending our healthy lives is not only possible, but likely. It is believed in some circles that the first person to live to 200 may have already been born. Extending our healthy lives has many implications to very long held beliefs. As visualized (click on visual to enlarge), multiple building blocks converge to deliver this scenario. Google’s head of engineering, innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil often discusses the concept of longevity escape velocity; or the point at which science can extend your life for more than a year for every year that you are alive. Kurzweil believes we are much closer than you might think. In fact, he believes we are just another 10 to 12 years away from the point that the general public will hit this longevity escape velocity. This video helps to reimagine life, health and longevity.
Autonomous Vehicles: a popular scenario that receives a lot of coverage. Autonomous vehicles will eventually impact society at a very broad level, and the intersections depicted merely scratch the surface. This specific set of intersections focuses on the expected outcomes of broad adoption: eliminating fatalities. Once this occurs, the biggest source of organ donations disappears – driving an acceleration in 3D printing of organs to fill the gap. Other advances likely accelerate as well. This Video Discussion with world renowned expert Chunka Mui explores this in detail.
Resources: while exploring the topic of disruption, it became apparent that no industry was safe. I explored this in the context of the Metals and Mining industry and found several intersections that shape their future. The Sharing, Maker, and circular economy all contribute to shifts in the industrial system. Astounding advances in science and technology fundamentally alter the resources landscape. Add to this emerging scenarios around asteroid mining and we can see yet another example of multiple building blocks converging.
Energy: the future of energy is shaping quickly, as we head towards an Energy Internet. Like most other areas of science and technology, energy is experiencing an exponential progression that likely changes the energy paradigm in the coming decade. In his book titled The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Economist Jeremy Rifkin describes how Internet technology and renewable energies are merging to create an energy Internet that changes the way power is generated and distributed in society – a paradigm shift in energy similar to what occurred in computing. A large number of building blocks combine to shape this scenario. This podcast with David Cohen, Founder, and Chairman of E7 Ventures describes this wll.
Smart City: The Smart City is Defined as a developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and a high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas; economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government. Excelling in these key areas requires strong human capital, social capital, and information and communications technology. For the first time in history, more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, and that percentage moves to 70% by 2050. The pandemic now however has some thinking that this phenomenon will Reverse. This visual effectively captures the dramatic move towards urbanization pre-pandemic. The Smart City is the a complex ecosystem which intersects with multiple other ecosystems. The intersections described by the visual captures one simple example of impact: smart cities leverage smart parking and meters to drive revenue growth. But autonomous vehicles and sharing economy mechanism combine to practically eliminate the need for parking, eliminating that revenue.
All of this describes why Systems Thinking is the Key to Thriving in a Complex Future.