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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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.

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.

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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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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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.

Sustainability: Not Just Talk Anymore

Sustainability is not a new topic. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have been in place since 2015 and were adopted by 193 countries. At the heart of these goals lies our desire to advance our Human Development. We may be in a better position to do so now then we have in quite some time. In fact, History tells us that the last time we experienced a period of great human development spanned the century from 1870 to 1970. While there have been notable efforts to realize these U.N. goals, progress has been slow. Let’s take energy as an example. It is a big part of the sustainability story and the Future of Energy has been discussed for years. However, progress towards that future has been slow. That could all change in the next decade. Several forces are Converging to accelerate the path of energy. One of those forces is a shift in orientation to purpose:

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As We Accelerate In The Short Term – Horizons Move Closer

While COVID-19 is an acknowledged accelerant, we are accelerating towards a known destination. Remote learning and working should have evolved sooner; the digital foundation should have been a priority earlier; eCommerce should have exploded by now; and last-mile delivery is only just beginning. Although we may arrive at this destination sooner, acceleration now draws scenarios that are further out closer. Those that may have been reluctant to order online overcame their fears. The elderly on zoom calls is now a thing. With broader societal adoption comes an ability to more aggressively pursue innovative ideas that may have been further out. When combined with learning that comes from broader adoption, acceleration becomes a virtuous cycle.

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Transforming The Energy Paradigm

Yesterday, I Wrote about the speed at which change is likely to occur this century. Paradigm shifts will happen regularly, in stark contrast to the past, where paradigms had a long shelf life. From health and education to energy and transport, paradigms will shift. The energy transition is big discussion topic today, and rightfully so. The most transformative periods in history have been tied to energy transitions. While renewable energy dominates the dialog, rapid increase in energy demand can negate those gains. This short video captures parts of this dialog. Visit this YouTube Channel to join the discussion.

How Fast Will The World Change In Ten Years?

“Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world” – Lauren Bacall

By now, it should surprise no one that the world is changing very rapidly, but just how fast is an open question. Michael Simmons explores that question in a recent Article. When looking at the future back in 1930, the big concern was how to use the leisure time enabled by technology. Instead, a quote from the article describes the world that actually emerged:

“Rather than being bored to death, our actual challenge is to avoid anxiety attacks, psychotic breakdowns, heart attacks, and strokes resulting from being accelerated to death.”

Geoffrey West
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We Live In A New Era – Our Institutions Need To Catch Up

The world is in a state of transition and has been for a while. Across multiple domains from society and geopolitics to the economy, the future looks very different. Driven in part by societal shifts and rapid advances in science and technology, the foundation of society is changing. However, the institutions that support that society are not evolving or changing fast enough. I call this phenomenon Institution 2.0 and track it as a future scenario.

One of those institutions is Education. Learning – and the role it played throughout history – is key to managing through periods of transition. This YouTube Channel contains a series of interviews that we conducted on the topic. This video teaser describes the role of education in this emerging era.

COVID-19 And The New Great Depression

In a new book by James Rickards, the author explores both the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact. A prolific writer, Economist, and adviser, Mr. Rickards predicts years of economic turbulence ahead. In The New Great Depression, Mr. Rickards sees the pandemic through an historical lens, where crisis presents a gateway between one world and the next. With an eye towards history, he concludes that the Keynes practical definition of a depression fits, and we are now in a new depression that is more far reaching than a mere technical recession. Along the way, the author wades into controversial topics such as China’s role in spreading the virus and the lockdown that ensued (which he calls the biggest policy blunder ever).

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Transforming The Energy Paradigm

The most transformative periods in history are linked to eras of energy transition. The most impactful was the emergence of fossil fuels. What does that say about what lies ahead? Have we entered a period of energy transition, and if so, are we on the cusp of another highly transformative period? Energy is just one piece of a very disruptive decade ahead – but it is perhaps the biggest piece. As we Accelerate Towards a new energy paradigm, what can we expect? One thing is certain: there are societal and geopolitical implications to consider.

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Global Technology Governance

Strawberries. Simple enough for farmers to grow, but can they do better? That is a question that a smart Agriculture Competition in China attempted to answer. Four technology teams competed with farmers over four months to grow strawberries. This Article by Victoria Masterson describes what happened next: data scientists produced 196% more strawberries by weight on average compared with traditional farmers. It is not surprising, given that vertical farming using intelligent sensors and AI have shown the possibilities. As we witness this rapid pace of innovation, we see the potential for human development (in this case food abundance), but also the likely unintended consequences. These Two Paths have historical precedent, as every great period of invention has followed both paths. After all, fire provided light, warmth, and food, but also burned down villages.

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Are Big Cities In Trouble?

The remote work discussion will not go away. There are no shortages of predictions or perspectives regarding the world of work post-pandemic. I continue to believe that prediction is a fools errand, especially in a world dominated by rapid innovation, uncertainty, and a level of Convergence unseen since the end of World War Two. While we may not predict the future, we can continually look for signals – both weak and strong. The future of both work and cities is intertwined. If remote work becomes the standard practice, it has big implications for cities. A recent Article written by Derek Thompson explores this dynamic. This quote from the article represents a signal:

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Guarding Against Future Crises In Business

In the early days of 2021, there is still an uneasy feeling involved in any search for a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, it may be that this will always remain the case. And yet, without disregarding or minimizing the tragedy that the pandemic has inflicted all across the globe, there are certain potential positives coming to light.

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Companion Robots: An Example Of The Accelerating Power Of COVID-19

Hanson Robotics wants to help those craving company during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those not familiar with Sophia, it is a human-like robot from Hanson Robotics. For those not familiar, check out the video below. Sophia appears between the 2:10 and 5:30 marks of the 8-minute segment. In discussing the roll of companion robots, CEO David Hanson told Reuters that “Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like, that can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.” His company, Hanson Robotics, plans to roll out thousands of these robots in 2021. They aim to roll out four models — including Sophia — in the first half of 2021.

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