Societal change is a critical area of convergence that is likely to play a major role in shaping the future. Three building blocks provide an example: declining fertility rates, an aging population, and a fall in working age population. This article connects those dots visually. In looking at the global decline in fertility rates, the article illuminates the impact to global stability, as a given area needs an overall total fertility rate of 2.1 to keep a stable population. But why are women having fewer children? According to Dr. Max Roser, the founder of Our World in Data, most of the literature boils down to three main factors:Continue reading
Immigration continues to be a hot button issue in our polarized society. I shared a book back in 2020 that explored the reasons for this polarization. The book identified several societal changes that contribute to this alarming trend. A recent article provides a glimpse into the societal challenge of immigration, providing this visual that identifies the immigration make-up of countries. The article states that there were 272 million immigrants in 2020, amounting to 3.5% of the global population.Continue reading
By 2050 it’s predicted that 68% of the world’s population will live in a major city — that’s 2 in 3 people. According to this recent article, less than 10% of people lived in urban areas in 1800. Today, more than 4.3 billion people or 55% of the world’s population live in urban settings.
This macro-level societal force will converge with forces from other domains to shape an uncertain future. One such domain is technology, where the rise of smart cities will coincide with the rise of megacities. What is a megacity?Continue reading
RethinkX just launched a report on climate change, and I have added it to my research library. Sustainability is a growing topic and focus area for leaders around the world. RethinkX concludes that technologies to address the climate change challenge already exist, but they are subject to societal choices. The abstract points to the importance of this report for all leaders.Continue reading
Convergence is a big part of how the future reveals itself. I have written often about convergence across geopolitics, science and technology, and other domains. Even a domain like philosophy is converging in ways that help shape our future. Macro-level forces illuminate possible futures, and forces in the societal domain play a major role in determining that future. This article on population provides a great example.Continue reading
I have often stated that prediction is a fool’s errand. The sheer number of building blocks, the pace at which they emerge, and the combinatorial nature of innovation all conspire to complicate the art of prediction. For example, predictions about urbanization and smart cities point to 72% of the world population living in cities by 2050. This and other projected disruptors have many people believing that we will need an intuition reset.Continue reading
The power lies at the intersections. When I first started using the term “Combinatorial”, people thought I was making words up. Although I would like to take credit for the word, I first came across it when reading The Second Machine Age, a fascinating book by Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson. In a post from 2015, I explored several possible combinations that represented disruptive power. A visual from that post attempted to show how science and technology spawned a number of several scenarios, using two curved lines, one for science and technology, and the other for scenarios. As the building blocks combined across the curves, the world would transform.Continue reading
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
Colleague Kevin Benedict recently started researching the future of information and influence. It should be readily apparent that misinformation and its associated erosion of trust is a big societal challenge. Some of us are more susceptible to misinformation than others. In a new Blog Post where he describes his research, Kevin points to a recent study:Continue reading
The news cycle these days makes it hard to catch our breath. More importantly, our focus is increasingly on short-term dynamics versus long-term trends. By long-term, I mean a little beyond what is right in front of us. I captured this thought in a Post last year: When someone says to me: “I’m not worried about five years from now”, my reaction is always the same. What looks to be five years out is likely only 18 months away: A phenomenon I describe in this piece on Acceleration.Continue reading
Human development has advanced considerably since the start of the industrial revolution. Economist Robert J. Gordon describes this Human Development Journey and concludes that, as far as standard of living is concerned, we have journeyed as far as we can. While thinking about that assessment, I set out to consider this new age of great invention and its impact on human development. The result was the development of this innovation wheel (click to enlarge).
I have added a new book by Ezra Klein to my Library. The book titled “Why We’re Polarized” takes us on a fascinating journey to the past, helping us see that for all our problems, we have been a worse and uglier country at almost every other point in our history. Having said that, our current polarization has made it impossible to govern. I found his historical perspectives on the framing of our current political system very timely, and the notion that what works in one era fails in the next. The institutions, frameworks, and beliefs born in a vastly different era, struggle to keep pace in an era that looks very different.
I just finished a new book titled “Trade Wars are Class Wars”. The book has been added to my Book Library. Authors Matthew C. Klein and Michael Pettis explore how our economic linkages have both benefits, and an ability to transmit problems from one society to another. The thesis of this book is that rising inequality within countries heightens trade conflicts between them. A very insightful journey through history helps us to understand this phenomenon. One fascinating observation made by the book:
A global conflict between economic classes within countries is being misinterpreted as a series of conflicts between countries with competing interests. The danger is a repetition of the 1930s, when a breakdown of the international economic and financial order undermined democracy and encouraged virulent nationalism.
I have been amazed at the similarities to the 1930s as I explored in a recent post on a Post-Pandemic Society. Tariff wars were a part of the 1920s as they are today. Yet, as the authors indicate, tariffs and nationalist rhetoric will not resolve China’s imbalances, but they will likely reinforce the mistaken belief—on both sides—that China and the United States have incompatible economic interests. Rising inequality is another challenge faced back in the 1920s. The book explores how this distorts the global economy. It also opens the door to societal unrest – something that becomes more evident by the day. I highly recommend the book.
Per a recent Article via Bonnie Burton, MIT and Mozilla embarked on an initiative to help us better understand the disturbing power of deepfake videos in a new project called “In Event of Moon Disaster.” The resulting video below combines actual footage from the Apollo 11 mission with the delivery of a speech that Richard Nixon was prepared to deliver if the mission failed. The disturbingly real video used artificial intelligence to make Nixon’s voice and facial movements convincing. The contingency speech (which can be found in National Archives) was read aloud by an actor.
Societal factors are one area of Convergence that is shaping our future. The accelerating progression of science and technology gets a lot of attention, but our various societal issues are a major part of the story. For example, there have been various projections for global population growth during this century. Early projections had the globe exceeding 11 billion people by the close of the century (the world is currently at about 7.8 billion people). The number of people on earth – and where those people live – will have profound implications.
I recently received a note from one of my readers regarding racism. As someone who has leveraged my anchor visual, he recognized racism as a societal issue in the middle of it. As depicted, societal issues create tension that drives the progression of two curves: the science and technology foundation, and the future scenarios spawned by convergence across the visual. This tension happens in both directions, as the curves also impact the path of society. This individual explored one of those tensions, namely, the use of technology to address systemic racism. In his words: “I find the problem to be one of the most difficult to solve through just laws and politics. I really think that technology can help.”
The Fast Future team continues to provide foresight in various areas. In this recent Article they explore what family life may look like in 2025. The possible future they describe is built on a foundation of multi-sensory immersive experiences, while distance is eliminated. We will no longer miss family celebrations and story-telling rises to new levels. Imagine a grandparent telling stories from their past, brought to life in ways that stimulate our emotional sensations.
A changing of the guard has been in motion for some time. In 2020, Millennials will be the dominant workforce on the planet. The five generations in our workforce introduce a leadership challenge, alongside disruptive forces swirling around society. The truth is that millennials are likely the generation tasked with solving this broad set of societal challenges. This recent Forbes Article says it well. The challenges likely facing this generation include: technologies like AI, shifting business models, the implications of near zero marginal cost, the resources of the planet, the nature of house ownership, transportation, healthcare, work, education and families.
Fundamental questions about Why and how we Educate will have to be addressed for the first time since the introduction of high school. Additionally, this generation will have to deal with an Aging Society. As Michael Gale – the author of the above article – describes, one in four millennials are already directly managing a parents’ ill health on a daily basis. The added burden of college debt could create additional obstacles to success.
There has been a negative stigma associated with this generation. However, they are not the problem but part of the solution. As 72% of the Global 2000 continue their digital transformation journey, millennials offer a perspective that helps realize intended outcomes. The Forbes Article describes five things that you can do to enable this – take a look.
We spend so much time focused on disruption driven by advancement in science and technology – that we can lose sight of the massive amount of societal factors to be considered. When looking at the interplay between an exponential progression of innovation and those factors that impact society, we can see that the impacts run in Both Directions.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek recently posted an article describing the Global Fertility Crisis. As we look at the forces likely to shape our future, we spend a lot of time and media cycles analyzing the exponential progression of science and technology. This powerful force is having a profound impact on society. But the opposite is also true: society is influencing the path of innovation. Societal Factors play as big a role in establishing the path of our emerging future. I placed societal factors in the middle of the visual I use to connect an overwhelming number of dots. The two curves that surround them are the science and technology foundation; and the future scenarios that it spawns. Societal tension happens in both directions; out towards the curves, and in from the curves.