Revisiting Next Generation Automation

Back in 2014, the thought of advancements in automation was picking up steam. I wrote about a Next Generation Automation and focused on five primary drivers of advanced automation: the automation of knowledge work, advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, and the mobile Internet. A McKinsey report from that period sized five disruptive technologies that could have an economic impact between $14 and $30 trillion. How much have we accomplished exactly seven years since that Blog post was written?

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The Changing World Order

I believe that the times ahead will be radically different from the times we have experienced so far in our lifetimes, though similar to many other times in history.

Ray Dalio – The Changing World Order

The cycles of history tell an interesting story. That story was told brilliantly in a book titled The Fourth Turning. The authors equate the cycles of our history with the length of a long human life. What intrigued me as a Futurist is the claim by the books authors that our past can indeed predict our future – it’s a compelling argument when viewed through the lens of these historical cycles. That brings me to the quote above. Ray Dalio is the Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates. In a LinkedIn Post from 2020, he describes the importance of understanding history and the cycles that repeat throughout it. Each cycle had swings between happy and prosperous times, and miserable periods that followed. He mentions the most recent analogous time was the period from 1930 to 1945, he follows that with: “This was very concerning to me.”

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Reimagining A Post-Pandemic Future

Exactly four years ago I had the pleasure of participating in a OpenSAP thought leadership course titled: Reimagining the Future – A Journey Through the Looking Glass. That course is still available and can be taken Here. The program director for that course recently reached out to pick up the conversation. Robert Nichols produces a Podcast titled OpenSAP Invites. We had a great conversation that this time included colleague Kevin Benedict. You can read the abstract and listen to the podcast below . A full transcript and more detail are available on the OpenSAP Invites site.


SESSION ABSTRACT

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Navigating Technology Futures

Mike Bechtel recently shared a World Economic Forum Report that introduces a framework for thinking about the future. Having read through it, I highly recommend the approach to Future Thinking described by the authors. A very powerful part of their work is the use of Storytelling. Several scenarios are explored to showcase the framework’s ability to identify probable and possible futures, while the stories help us imagine and feel those scenarios. The stories are very impactful, placing us in these various futures in a way that helps us understand the world that is emerging. My compliments to the authors and gratitude to Mike for sharing it.

Is The Digital Era Over?

I had a discussion last week that focused on a post-digital world. It was an open question about the state of digital and the related transformation journey. Although the digital maturity of organizations is not where I envisioned it – and Covid-19 underscored the point – digital should be a foundational piece of a bigger story. The continued digital discussion ignores the bigger contributions of science and the boardroom conversations around purpose and innovation. A recent article goes one step further in declaring that the digital era is over, and we are in a New Era of Innovation. In it, Greg Satell makes the exact argument I made above.

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What Does 250 Years of Innovation History Say About Our Future?

“Without good stories to help us envision something very different from the present, we humans are easily stuck in our conventional mental programming.”

Per Espen Stoknes

That quote captures a phenomenon that has plagued humans throughout history. In a recent article, Per Espen Stoknes looks at 250 Years of Innovation and what it reveals about the future. History is indeed very revealing, a fact that explains why Futurists spend so much time in the past. Whether it is the Uncanny Similarities to the 1920’s or other Lessons from History, applying history is very instructive. That quote speaks to a status quo bias that has existed in every age. As the article’s author describes, we have a strong emotional bias that prefers the current state of affairs over change. That bias now hampers our response to an ecologically destructive future. The article views the topic through this lens.

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From Sage On The Stage To Co-Creator Of Learning

20th century education was based on the assumption that the teachers have the answers and that their job is to impart those answers to the students, as the “sage on the stage.”

By contrast, 21st century education is, or should be, based on the assumption that the answers are already available in the digital world. The purpose of education should be to inspire the students to ask the right questions and discover those answers for themselves and start applying the answers in their own lives

Steve Denning

That quote says it all and this short video captures the thinking from an earlier post on an Education Revolution. A number of interviews with educators can be found at the Reimagining the Future YouTube Channel.

A New Post K-12 World and A Future Capability Profile

Education is a common thread that flows through posts like this one on Poker and an earlier one on Robot Artists. Steve Denning said it well when he said: “There could hardly be anything more important for the future of the country than the strength of its education system.” This short video clip looks at aspects of an emerging Education Revolution.

The Future Of Poker

When exploring how evolving technology will affect different aspects of our lives and society more broadly, one of the most interesting things we tend to find is that consequences are not wholly positive or negative.

This is perhaps clearest in the constant debates about what technology will do to job markets. Common logic dictates (to many at least) that increasing automation and new tech will eliminate opportunities and bring about massive net losses in employment. On the other hand, there are more and more arguments suggesting that automation and AI will also create new jobs. One particularly optimistic piece on The Washington Post in 2018 even predicted that machines would create 58 million more jobs than they would displace over a four-year span!

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Robot Artists And Musicians

I’ve asked this question before: Is Creativity the Sole Domain of Humans? As each day passes, the answer becomes clearer. One of the most impactful videos I use captures a conversation between Sophia the robot and Jimmy Fallon. As you watch their interaction, you quickly lose sight of the fact that Sophia is a robot. It’s easy for humans to be threatened by a robot that seems to encroach upon the characteristics that make us distinctly human. However, the other side of this discussion represents the potential for a positive human outcome. One example is the introduction of Companion Robots that help deal with the challenges of loneliness and isolation. Another is the role of robots in healthcare and elderly care.

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Digital Exhaustion

Work life in the COVID era is still evolving after a year in which the global pandemic has altered many aspects of work. We learned about the importance of essential workers while accelerating a move to remote work. We put to rest a belief that remote work is unproductive and fully embraced all things digital. Along the way, we learned about Zoom Fatigue – a feeling like exhaustion or burnout. Mental health specialist Krystal Jagoo says that a lot of it comes down to the increased cognitive demands of video conferencing communication. Said another way, we are experiencing digital exhaustion. In a recent Article by Chris Matyszczyk, he provides insight from Microsoft – a company that most expect was ready for the virtual word. But when they explored their virtual world, what they found was in their words horrific:

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An Education Revolution

There could hardly be anything more important for the future of the country than the strength of its education system. 

Steve Denning

I read a great Article on education the other day written by leadership thinker Steve Denning. My passion for the future of education is expressed in frequent Posts on the topic – so the article struck a chord. As a leadership guru, Mr. Denning focused on the management of education and provided some fascinating statistics. For example, in 2006, only 43% of school personnel in the US were teachers, while in other countries, that percentage was 70 to 80%. Seems that this imbalance is driven by a compliance focus that has employees trying to monitor and comply with federal and state requirements. Mr. Denning believes that lost in this period of industrial-era bureaucracy is the purpose of organizations involved in education. He describes a current corporate revolution in management and leadership that he believes needs to take root in education. There are two very critical points made in the article that speak to a need to Think Differently.

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The Changing Nature Of Clothing

As we look ahead to our continued human development, it is easy to focus on things like energy, transport, health, and food. Changes in these areas grow more evident by the day. But what about clothing? We rarely think of innovation in the context of what we wear, and for good reason: clothing has not really changed (except for style) in a long time. Clothing, however, is expected to change dramatically, according to a recent Article by Jared Lindzon. Advancements in manufacturing in four primary areas are the reason. Those advancements are increased connectivity; data; computational power; analytics; machine learning; artificial intelligence; human-machine interaction; and advanced engineering.

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A Renewed Focus On Our journey

In late 2017, we produced a video as part of a leadership course that focused on seeing the future at some level and rehearsing it in ways that advance it. In the last two weeks Hassan El Bouhali (a participant in the session) shared six different segments from the video on LinkedIn. The posts attracted a great deal of attention, triggering a thought to produce a follow up video. I covered the initial video back in 2018 via a blog post titled Perspectives on the Journey. TCS CTO Ananth Krishnan participated in the original session, driving a dynamic discussion with Hassan. I’ll bring the band back together to look back on our views from 2017, and look forward to what may lie ahead. In the meantime, here is the full video that supports the various segments that Hassan shared.

Wall Street Is Going Green

Wildfires burned nearly 10.4m acres across the US last year. The most costly thunderstorm in US history caused $7.5bn in damage across Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. As the climate crisis swept the globe on a biblical scale it left in its wake a record number of billion-dollar disasters.

Dominic Rushe – Reading the writing on the wall: why Wall Street is acting on the climate crisis
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What Big Things Can We Expect In 2021?

This week’s release of the Future Today Institute 2021 Trends Report gave leaders a lot to digest. What foresight can we quickly glean from the content? A recent Article via Amrita Khalid focused on the big trends to expect this year and beyond. At a high level, artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies, 5G, and social credit scores make the list. More specifically, the article identifies six big trends for this year.

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Future Today Institute: 2021 Trends Report

Each year the Future Today Institute releases a very comprehensive trends report during SXSW. In announcing this year’s report, Founder Amy Webb had this to say:

The cataclysmic events of the past year resulted in a significant number of new signals. As a result, we’ve analyzed nearly 500 tech and science trends across multiple industry sectors. Rather than squeezing the trends into one enormous tome as we usually do, we are instead publishing 12 separate reports with trends grouped by subject. We are including what we’ve called Book Zero, which shows how we did our work. There is also an enormous, 504-page PDF with all content grouped together as one document.

Amy Webb – Future Today Institute

These reports allow us to explore weak and strong signals in a way that helps us envision possible futures. Given the high levels of uncertainty, the sheer number of building blocks, and the Convergence occurring across domains, exploration, learning, and dialog are as critical as ever. You can download the report Here. There is a lot to digest – but that is exactly the point. Thanks to Amy and her team for their continued support of this exploration process.

Less Is More

An epoch is a period of time in history or a person’s life, typically one marked by notable events or particular characteristics. Although not officially approved, a working group has proposed that the world entered a new epoch called Anthropocene, or the human epoch. The starting point is still debated, as some believe it started at the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 12,000–15,000 years ago, and others see it starting as recent as the 1960s. One proposal, based on atmospheric evidence, is to fix the start with the Industrial Revolution circa 1780, with the invention of the steam engine.

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Animating History

What if you could bring your ancestors back to life? Creepy, or fascinating to see what it would have been like to interact with them? MyHeritage is a company focused on DNA testing and helping discover their family history. They recently developed what they call Deep Nostalgia, which uses AI to animate photos of people from the past. The company encourages you to decide for yourself by creating a video and sharing it with your family and friends. This Article describes how it works, shows some amazing examples from Twitter, and encourages people to try it. Those interested can do so on the MyHeritage Website. Look at the video below to watch the animation of history.