A view into history helps us better understand the future. A recent Article describes this phenomenon in detail, exploring how to apply historical reasoning to the future. I have invested considerable time in understanding the Cycles of History and how they help us better understand the future. As Future Thinking becomes an increasingly bigger part of a leaders agenda, a historical perspective provides valuable input. As described in the article, the goal is to reason well, using an understanding of history to think more clearly about a range of possible futures and how probable a given outcome might be.
I just finished a book titled The Fourth Turning. I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the cycles, but given my year-long focus on the past, I thought I’d give it a go – and I’m glad I did. In my continued efforts to reimagine the future, books such as this provide a richness of historical perspective. Although history was a key aspect of the book, I was more intrigued by the focus on generations, archetypes, and the cycles of our history (which last 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.
So add another book to my Book Library. It was written in 1997 and accurately predicted some of the events that occurred in what the book refers to as a period of unraveling. If the cycle which has repeated itself six times was to do so again, we would have entered a crisis period somewhere prior to 2010 (great recession anyone). The crisis period would last one generation – moving towards a resolution that dramatically alters the social order by the late 2020s. Here is how the cycle is described by the book abstract.
As we close out 2019, the world is getting ready to gather once again in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The 2020 event is held from January 21st through the 24th. Stakeholder Capitalism is a major theme for this years event. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum describes the need for a better kind of capitalism. In this recent article describing why we need the Davos Manifesto, he describes the three models of capitalism. The current dominant model is shareholder capitalism – a model that enabled hundreds of millions of people around the world to prosper, as profit-seeking companies unlocked new markets and created new jobs. This model is embraced by most Western corporations and holds that a corporation’s primary goal should be to maximize its profits.
In a recent book, Richard Baldwin takes us on a fascinating journey to the past, and then provides a peak into the next great transformation. In The Globotics Upheaval, Mr. Baldwin describes a cycle that has played out multiple times throughout human history. The cycle of transformation, upheaval, backlash and resolution (Let’s call it TUBS) was experienced each time the world entered periods of major disruption. Mr. Baldwin introduces the Globotics Transformation as the third great economic transformation to shape our societies over the past three centuries. As he describes, the first was known as the Great Transformation started in the early 1700s, and it switched societies from agriculture to industrial and from rural to urban. The second started in the early 1970s, shifting the focus from industry to services – the Services Transformation. I take a different view of transformation in the context of Tipping Points – but the cycle is the same.
Add Singapore to the list of Nations establishing a Smart Nation agenda. In a recent Article authored by Eileen Yu, she describes the launch of Singapore’s national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy. The Singapore government aims to drive AI adoption to generate economic value and provide a global platform on which to develop and test AI applications. As future scenarios go, Smart Nations represent a complex intersection of multiple ecosystems – broader than similar complexities associated with the Smart City scenario.
I just added another fascinating book to my Book Library titled The Economist’s Hour authored by Binyamin Appelbaum. Mr. Appelbaum is the lead writer on economics and business for The New York Times Editorial Board. From 2010 to 2019, he was a Washington correspondent for the Times, covering economic policy.
I find every journey to the past instructive, and my hope is we can Learn from History. This book chronicles the role of the Economist, their foray into political waters, and their societal impact. Looking back in time can be surprising, as core beliefs are challenged. What can we learn from this look back? What do we do differently as a result? This is a fascinating journey that I highly recommend. The book abstract from Amazon is included below. The author’s conclusion?
Their fundamental belief? That government should stop trying to manage the economy. Their guiding principle? That markets would deliver steady growth, and ensure that all Americans shared in the benefits. But the Economists’ Hour failed to deliver on its promise of broad prosperity. And the single-minded embrace of markets has come at the expense of economic equality, the health of liberal democracy, and future generations.
Dr. Micah Altman – Director of Research, Center for Research in Equitable and Open Scholarship (CREOS) at MIT – recently made me aware of a Survey that probed several questions about the future of our Digital world. The survey was conducted by Elon University and the Pew Research Internet and Technology Project to imagine social and technological evolution over the next 50 years. The respondents were technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and others.