The power lies at the intersections. When I first started using the term “Combinatorial”, people thought I was making words up. Although I would like to take credit for the word, I first came across it when reading The Second Machine Age, a fascinating book by Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson. In a post from 2015, I explored several possible combinations that represented disruptive power. A visual from that post attempted to show how science and technology spawned a number of several scenarios, using two curved lines, one for science and technology, and the other for scenarios. As the building blocks combined across the curves, the world would transform.
In the core visual, societal factors enter the picture and combine with the curved lines. The intersections illuminate the future at some level. An example of societal intersections can be found in a recent article on America’s slowing population growth.
The big picture: Fewer people means fewer workers to support an aging population, fewer innovators with new ideas, less economic growth — and more of one thing: political fights over a shrinking pie.Bryan Walsh – America’s slowing population growth puts limits on its future
Mr. Walsh provides data from the census board indicating that between 2010-2020, the U.S. population grew at its slowest rate since the Great Depression and the second-slowest rate in any decade since the country’s founding. According to data from the CDC, birth rates have fallen for the sixth straight year. Therefore, the population cannot grow based on births alone. This is a global phenomenon, as an aging society is converging with dropping fertility rates to introduce challenges in this decade – intersections. Falling population growths introduce these challenges across economic, geopolitical, and societal domains. The intersection of living longer with less workers to support the elderly is a societal challenge.
There will be excess capital sloshing around the global economy, keeping interest rates low and making it more difficult to save for retirement.Jesse Edgerton – JPMorgan senior economist
The article points to another implication of a falling population – a reduced ability to innovate. Less people generate less ideas, as described in this Article on the economics of falling populations (although ideas are not contained within the borders of a nation these days). This leads to yet another intersection – immigration. Per the article, the U.S. has this option, which China (in a similar population decline) does not. The role of immigration in U.S. population growth is clear in the numbers; the country would have 40 million less people without it. Demand to migrate to the U.S is still high – and if forced migrations due to climate change advance as expected, that demand will only increase.
The average age of immigrants is more than seven years younger than the median American, which means they’re in a demographic position to bolster the workforce for decades and have more children of their own.Bryan Walsh – America’s slowing population growth puts limits on its future
The article quotes a report from the National Immigration Forum that increasing net immigration levels by at least 37%, or approximately 370,000 additional immigrants per year, would prevent the U.S. from falling into a “demographic deficit.” What this discussion about intersections makes clear, is that we cannot view any one issue in isolation. Preconceived notions do not help solve for the challenges that these intersections drive. Said another way: beliefs about a given area could turn to obstacles when confronted with the dynamics of intersections. Allowing ourselves to think differently is of paramount importance.