Long-Term Does Not Mean What It Used To

The news cycle these days makes it hard to catch our breath. More importantly, our focus is increasingly on short-term dynamics versus long-term trends. By long-term, I mean a little beyond what is right in front of us. I captured this thought in a Post last year: When someone says to me: “I’m not worried about five years from now”, my reaction is always the same. What looks to be five years out is likely only 18 months away: A phenomenon I describe in this piece on Acceleration.

Looking beyond what is right in front of us introduces uncertainty, and an extraordinary amount of it. Therefore, one could be forgiven for staying focused on the present. In the past week alone, I focused on the Future of Jobs, Next Generation Farming, and the Acceleration of Automation. Every day that passes, more transformative scenarios emerge. While robots are Constructing Dams in Japan, their economy could be moving towards another downturn. This one foreshadows our next global economic threat: old age. In this recent Article, author Noah Smith describes a growing global phenomenon. Here is what he concludes:

“Societies like Japan are therefore on the front lines of what will eventually be a global challenge. The human species has never before dealt with prolonged and continuous aging. Countries need to continue to aggressively search for solutions — especially technological fixes like automation — to ease this unprecedented transition.”

This is a big challenge for society – and yet the news cycle is dominated by so much noise. An aging society phenomenon intersects with so many others. For instance, the article states that aging might have a corrosive effect on productivity, an area where we have for some time searched for a Next Generation of global gains. Aging works against us, if countries like Japan promote people by seniority and create as the author describes “a deficit of dynamic, fresh-thinking young people.” This in turn makes organizations less nimble and less open to new ideas. Another intersection point is immigration. For example, a strategy for growth is to take in young working-age immigrants; that’s how Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Germany have all grown faster than Japan, and it’s why Japan itself has been ramping up immigration.

Yes, long-term is not what it used to be. We are already on the verge of Autonomous Driving, we are facing a growing array of Geopolitical Complexities, our military is increasingly Automated, the Flying Car is drawing nearer, and our virtual and physical worlds are Blurring. These are all Canaries in the coal mine, that is, strong indicators of what lies ahead. Paying attention to these “Long-Term” canaries is extremely important.

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