A Growing Number Of Building Blocks Make Prediction Impossible

I have been of the opinion that the number of building blocks across multiple domains makes prediction impossible. As a result, understanding the future is about rehearsing it versus predicting it. That ambiguity makes many uncomfortable. Humans like certainty, but we live in a world that is very uncertain. Many will argue that this has always been the case. But it should be increasingly clear that periods like this emerging phase transition have only occurred a handful of times in human history. We want to rely on methods that have proven effective in the past. We find comfort in applying those methods to drive a degree of certainty. One need only look at these building blocks to see rehearsal is the only way to identify possible futures.

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Everyday Robots

A recent article via Evan Ackerman takes a look at Alphabet’s Everyday Robots. Several videos are provided via the article (a couple are included below). He provides an entertaining analysis of each video and some perspective as well.

I’m a little bit torn on this whole thing. A fleet of 100 mobile manipulators is amazing. Pouring money and people into solving hard robotics problems is also amazing. I’m just not sure that the vision of an “Everyday Robot” that we’re being asked to buy into is necessarily a realistic one.

Evan Ackerman – Years Later, Alphabet’s Everyday Robots Have Made Some Progress
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The Age Of AI: And Our Human Future

This shift is neither inherently threatening nor inherently redemptive. Yet it is sufficiently different that it very likely will alter the trajectories of societies and the course of history. Few eras have faced a strategic and technological challenge so complex and with so little consensus about either the nature of the challenge or even the vocabulary necessary for discussing it.

The Age of AI: And Our Human Future – Henry A Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher
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Leadership Advice From Futurist Kevin Benedict

Sharing this short video on leadership via colleague and Futurist Kevin Benedict.

RethinkX: An Action Plan For Humanity

In this eighth and final installment of the RethinkX rethinking humanity series, Tony Seba and James Arbib provide an action plan for humanity. The plan focuses on three things we must do: rethink, enable, and bridge. To do so, we must allow ourselves to think differently (rethink), through awareness, take action (enable), and guide humanity through the transition (bridge). The video series is based on the book Rethinking Humanity. I’d like to thank Tony SebaJames Arbib and RethinkX for providing us all with the awareness required to think differently and to act.

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RethinkX: Crashing Up, Crashing Down – Two Dystopias 

In this seventh installment of the RethinkX rethinking humanity series, Tony Seba and James Arbib describe the choices that lie ahead, as convergence across five foundational sectors drive a phase change: energy, transport, information, food, and materials. With this convergence, the old industrial system could collapse before the new production system emerges. One need only look at existing timing issues as the energy sector transitions. Supply of fossil fuel drops along with investment, while demand increases and clean sources of energy cannot meet demand. In a shift so profound, it may be impossible to imagine what it looks like. The power of this storytelling lies in its ability to illuminate possibilities and drive awareness – and with it, the hope for human action. Similar brilliant storytelling can be found in the new book AI 2041.

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The Future Of Work In The Creation Age

I had the pleasure of opening the Creatio Accelerate event with a presentation on the future of work in the creation age. This macro-level view of societal change attempts to connect these changes to the future of work. The notion of a creation age is explored in detail by RethinkX and captured in a series of videos.

RethinkX: Humanity’s Choice – The Age Of Freedom

In this sixth installment of the RethinkX rethinking humanity series, Tony Seba and James Arbib describe a brand new possibility space fueled by convergence across five foundational sectors: energy, transport, information, food, and materials. This convergence enables reimagination in areas like feeding and powering society. In this emerging age of creation, global design converges with local production and is unconstrained by industrial age limitations. As abundance satisfies our needs at near zero marginal cost, the world moves towards unheard of prosperity. But our subway map tells us that every constructive path is accompanied by a destructive one. In a shift so profound, it may be impossible to imagine what it looks like. The power of this storytelling lies in its ability to illuminate possibilities and drive awareness – and with it, the hope for human action. Similar brilliant storytelling can be found in the new book AI 2041.

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RethinkX: Humanity Today – The Great Transformation

In this fifth installment of the RethinkX rethinking humanity series, Tony Seba and James Arbib describe humanity transformed by convergence across five foundational sectors: energy, transport, information, food, and materials. This convergence creates new possibility spaces representing both opportunity and disruption. I like to think of these spaces as a subway map that takes us in multiple directions. The green and red paths highlight the need for society to manage the path towards constructive outcomes. The warning signs are clear: our centralized ways of managing society are outdated.

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AI 2041: Ten Visions For Our Future

In a recent post on quantum computing, I referenced a new book (published in September 2021) that I recently added to my library. The book titled AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future was authored by Kai-Fu Lee  and Chen Qiufan. The authors use highly effective approach that combined fiction with expert analysis to help the reader imagine possible futures. The storytelling was brilliant (my compliments Chen Qiufan), and Kai-Fu Lee provides analysis after each story, showcasing his grasp of AI and its possible applications.

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RethinkX: The Growth and Collapse of Industrial Civilization

In this fourth installment of the RethinkX rethinking humanity series, Tony Seba and James Arbib describe a civilization that now stands at the precipice. We lose sight of the fact that we invented the political and economic systems of our time. When the organizing system is no longer suited for a new era, we have the power to reinvent. Reinvention however requires a willingness to look beyond our current beliefs, institutions, and mental models. If we view this phase transition through our traditional lens, our solutions will fall short. The power of this video series lies in its ability to illuminate the size of the challenge. This is not a story of disruption, this is nothing short of a phase transition between eras.

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RethinkX: Repeating The Patterns Of History

In a brilliant third installment of an eight part series, RethinkX explores the lessons of history. In analyzing the patterns from the age of extraction, the video zeros in on the cycles of history and the warning signals that should be flashing bright red. History is very instructive – but if we do not learn from it, we are destined to make the same mistakes. Consider for example the eerie similarities between the 1920s and our current day:

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The Great Discovery – Rethinking Humanity: Episode 2

It was late 2020 prior to the pandemic when I first came across RethinkX and their perspectives on humanity and the coming decade. I echo their thoughts that a pivotal decade lies ahead. They have launched an eight-part video series, with the first one provided here. Here is the second video in the series. Here is the video abstract:

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Quantum Computing

Recently, an audience question about the timing of quantum computing (QC) was answered by an expert in the following way: the timeline for the realization of QC is accelerating, with some milestones being realized as early as 2025. Much remains to be seen, but any acceleration of QC brings an acceleration of many world altering scenarios. In a recent article, Daphne Leprince-Ringuet identifies eight ways that quantum computing will change our world. Those eight are:

  • Discovering new drugs
  • Creating better batteries
  • Predicting the weather
  • Picking stocks
  • Processing language
  • Helping solve the traveling salesman problem
  • Reducing congestion
  • Protecting sensitive data

You can read about each in detail via the article. While that’s an impressive list, the true power of quantum computing lies in its problem solving potential. When realized, QC will likely help with climate change, chronic disease, and other long-standing problems that have been impossible to solve. As with every emerging innovation, it also has the potential for destruction. Quantum computing is explored in a fascinating new book titled AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future. Authors Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan take us on a fascinating journey to 2041. They use the power of story-telling to effectively help us understand where artificial intelligence (AI) is taking us. I will write a separate post on the book, but in the meantime, I have added it to my book library. The power of AI is amplified and accelerated with the realization of a new QC compute paradigm. However, after telling a story about quantum computing in 2041, Kai-Fu Lee states that he believes QC has an 80-percent chance of working by that date. He goes on to describe the challenges that quantum computing faces, and that considering those challenges, most experts believe it will take ten to thirty years to get a useful QC.

Bottom line: it’s still anyone’s guess regarding the timing of quantum computing. Current signals have some believing that the timeline to realization is accelerating, and Kai-Fu Lee indicates that some optimists see it happening in five to ten years – consistent with the views shared during that audience interaction I mentioned. Regardless of timeline, QC is just another example of a future innovation with massive implications.

Institutions And The Exponential Gap

Our current linear structures do not translate well to the exponential world in which we live. This will force governments and businesses to address the structural challenges that lie ahead. How these challenges are addressed will either serve as an accelerant for emerging future scenarios, slow them down, or derail them. 

That quote from a post on future structures back in 2015 would find a more receptive audience in 2021. Back then however, it was a position that mostly drew stares. Those structural challenges refer to the institutions that represent the lasting norms that define how we live. These norms are established over time and are so engrained in how society behaves, that it usually takes major catastrophes to change the status quo. In transformative periods, institutions struggle as society transitions from one phase to another. These moments of radical change represent a phase transition. The post-world-war two era represents one such transition. How society handles the transition is crucial, and the next decade is tied closely to the evolution of those Institutions. The challenge is large and best described in this passage from a recent book titled The Exponential Age, written by Azeem Azhar.

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Short Video Describing This Transformative Decade

It was late 2020 prior to the pandemic when I first came across RethinkX and their perspectives on humanity and the coming decade. I echo their thoughts that a pivotal decade lies ahead. They have launched an eight-part video series, with the first one provided below. It is a short two minutes and fifty seconds and well worth a view. Here is an abstract describing the series.

ABSTRACT

Blind to the deeper process of change, humanity has no idea it’s on the brink of epic, existential transformation. Episode 1 of the Rethinking Humanity series by @RethinkX explores how humanity is failing to see its immediate future: a decade of existential transformation, triggered by technologies converging deep in the foundations of our global civilization. We all feel the tremors, but we’re blind to the deeper process of change. Before it’s too late, we must all see the mind-blowing possibility space of the next decade, as well as its catastrophic risks. This is the first of an eight-part series. The Rethinking Humanity video series is based on the book, Rethinking Humanity: Five Foundational Sector Disruptions, the Lifecycle of Civilizations, and the Coming Age of Freedom by James Arbib and Tony Seba, published by RethinkX.

Building Blocks Of The Future Explode In Number

Is it any wonder that leaders are overwhelmed? It’s not just the pace of change, extreme events, or challenges to existing mental models. It is the sheer number of building blocks that currently exist, and those that are emerging. Factor in convergence occurring across these building blocks, and you have a recipe for uncertainty, unpredictability and an overwhelming number of possibilities. It was the book titled The Second Machine Age written by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, where the point was underscored.

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A Different Work Future Requires New Models

A recent article via Linda Lacina is very impactful in these days of uncertainty. A focus on the future is ramping across all sectors, and one of the hottest topics is the future of work. The work discussion is focused on two different time horizons. One is the nearer term implications of the pandemic, labor shortages, automation, an aging society, etc. The other is a longer-term view of what work becomes. In both those conversations, a focus on our human traits and an urgent need to transform education is appropriate. That’s why this article resonated with me.

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Therapeutic Agents That Target Cancer Cells Directly

Two scenarios in our emerging future are healthy life extension and radical life extension. The former extends are healthy lives and the latter pursues immortality. At the heart of both scenarios lies astounding and rapid advances in science and technology. A recent article provides a great example while exploring the possibility of cancerous tumors eliminating themselves. Per the article, a new technology developed by University of Zurich (UZH) researchers enables the body to produce therapeutic agents on demand at the exact location where they are needed.

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Radical Life Extension

At the furthest point of the future scenario curve sits radical life extension. I use this emerging future visual to depict the exploding number of building blocks that combine to shape the future, challenging our ability to track its complexity. Convergence across aspects of science, technology, economic forces, politics, society, our environment, and a growing conversation around ethics, is creating a highly uncertain world. At the heart of the pace dynamic is the exponential progression of science and technology – reflected in the first curve on the visual.

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