In times of significant change, society has followed two distinct paths that represent the Opposing Forces of Innovation. This subway diagram focuses on these two paths: one that enhances human development (green), and one that diminishes it (red). The station stops are the major impacted domains in either direction – but we could add several other stations based on the number of Building Blocks available to society. Click on the visual to expand it.
The possibility space in this current change cycle seems endless. New scenarios on both paths of our map emerge every day. How then does anyone make sense of all the possibilities? Our first task is to scan the horizon and understand the possibilities. There are many mechanisms we can use to do this. An example is the yearly report from the Future Today Institute. The 2022 Trends Report was released in March. There are over six hundred pages of content spanning countless domains. Here are several scenarios from the report to wet your appetite.
Combining smart eyewear technology with hyper-realistic avatars will enable virtual interactions that approach the same level of intimacy as face-to-face engagement, and potentially allow users to replicate themselves in digital form and simultaneously occupy multiple virtual environments.
NEW FORMS OF COMPUTING
Instead of constantly staring at a smartphone screen, we will free up our hands for other tasks as we take in text, audio, video, and virtually rendered content without ever having to lose sight of the world around us. By layering digital elements into our field of vision, these devices will enable a revolutionary and liberating transition from hands-on to heads-up computing.
Soon, generative algorithms will be able to match and rapidly deploy synthetic voices personalized for every consumer. In one context, a user might hear the comforting voice of a departed loved one or a playful voice from their favorite childhood cartoon.
The National Bureau of Economic Research reported that the pandemic left almost 600,000 logistics jobs unfilled just in the U.S. As companies continue to face logistics worker shortages, automation is becoming much more attractive. Retail operator Fast Retailing plans to open an automated warehouse in China by August 2022. It was able to reduce its workforce by 90% after automating one of its Japanese facilities in 2018. Across China, automation is accelerating to adjust for an aging population. By 2025, the country expects to have at least 500 smart manufacturing factories. By 2025, 52% of current workplace tasks will be automated. —DHL’s “Future of Work in Logistics” report
Adoption of drones will continue to expand over the coming years, allowing companies and Organizations of all types to access hard-to-reach areas for uses such as search and rescue, optimized and speedier delivery, increasingly efficient warehouse and agricultural operations, and climate monitoring. Korean Air has implemented the use of drone swarms to conduct inspections on aircraft. Alphabet’s drone fleet service, Wing, has reached a new milestone of completing over 100,000 deliveries, operating in Australia, the U.S., and Finland. Nebo conceptualizes using drones to create a fleet of hovering remote charging stations for electric vehicles. Israel has taken even more progressive measures by becoming the first country to allow large, high-flying drones in civilian airspace.
Australian based Skyportz is seeking partnerships with underused parking garages to build infrastructure for vertiports for these eVTOL air taxis. The city of Los Angeles is particularly interested in air taxis to assuage local transportation issues and has developed programming from the mayor’s office to develop a policy toolkit to advance such operations. As public agencies invest more time and energy in this space, this new mode of travel could have impacts on civic design and infrastructure.
AUTONOMOUS LAST MILE DELIVERY
The state of Pennsylvania has gone as far as recognizing delivery robots as pedestrians. They can weigh up to 550 pounds and drive up to 12 mph to maintain this designation. As autonomous deliveries become more commonplace, they will serve as a reliable, data-rich, and cost-effective solution for last-mile transportation. Additionally, they could create conditions that lead to autonomous vehicle systems for transporting people becoming more palatable to the general population.
Those first movers of charging infrastructure along travel routes will shift traffic patterns and create new networked economies—similar to how the interstate system created an economic boon for certain towns and hurt cities that were bypassed.
There are so many scenarios to explore from this one Futurist organization. Indeed, the possibility space is endless.