Two major forces are likely to converge in very unpredictable ways. The road to Abundance, as described by Peter Diamandis, promises to advance our human development in ways we never could have imagined. At the same time, the journey will drive a number of unintended consequences. The intersection of these two forces underscores the importance of focusing on emerging scenarios now, while we have the opportunity to realize the advancements and mitigate the impact of unintended consequences. Let’s use the journey towards food abundance as an example.
I had the recent pleasure of talking with Richard Frederick about a number of topics regarding the future. Richard runs a Podcast called The Ready Room; an idea driven by his concern over the decline of civil discourse and the ideological barricades with which so many have surrounded themselves. In his words: “If only we could come out from behind our political fortresses and talk openly with one another and truly seek to open our minds to change, we could regain a shared civic trust.”
The Ready Room is Richard’s way of reaching out to others to begin this discourse. I was happy to be included in this process. You can listen to our discussion below.
As mentioned in my previous post, I had the pleasure of hosting two sessions recently at the TCS Innovation Forums in London and New York City. The sessions, which explored the need to prepare for the future, involved thought leaders, futurists, and various leaders across multiple domains. They were structured with several five-minute descriptions of forward-looking themes, and once context was set, a discussion with the broader leadership group was moderated. The sessions focused on education and awareness, rooted in a strong belief that leaders must prepare for and shape our emerging future.
This post will summarize the New York Session, which differed slightly from the one in London. While the London session painted a wide array of evocative future scenarios, the New York session explored several of the key technologies and enablers that will fundamentally shape and impact emerging scenarios. It wasn’t however a technology discussion. This engaging group of thought leaders provided eye-opening facts and focused on implications, both positive and negative. As in London, I opened the session with three key themes from my Expectation post: Acceleration, Possibilities, and Convergence; Here is a look at the insights that followed.
As leaders struggle with a very uncertain and complex future, the pace of change serves to complicate any effort to understand that future. Organizations like the Future Today Institute (FTI) provide leaders with a window into possible futures – and the methods required to track signals. Amy Webb – Founder and CEO of the Organization had this to say:
“We cannot know exactly what the future holds — which is an excellent reason to track signals and decisions not just at the start of a new year, but all year long. Don’t wait for your next big quarterly meeting to make decisions. Think exponentially, look for intersecting vectors of change and figure out ways to make incremental decisions as often as possible. Always remember that the future isn’t yet written. You and your team have the power to build your preferred futures, today.”
Her focus on Intersections and signals is spot on. I’ve been a big believer that Disruptive Power Lies at the Intersections. An ability to visualize these intersections lies at the heart of understanding Possible Scenarios. The work of organizations like FTI provide great foresight to leaders attempting to track signals and understand possible intersections. Another perspective from Ms. Webb:
“While you cannot solve for future uncertainty, you can prepare your teams to think strategically using data-driven signals, trends and outcomes. Focus on connections, not predictions. Doing so will help your organization get ahead of disruption in order to build your preferred futures.”
Future Thinking is not the forecasting of our past. Leaders must accept that pace and uncertainty dominates our future; versus allowing it to drive inaction. I find that story-telling and visualization help us digest multiple signals. This Future Thinking Canvas is an example of an approach I’ve used to help leaders see the intersections. At the heart of it lies Foresight. To that end, The Future Today Institute launched the 12th annual edition of their Technology Trends Report. Download the 2019 Report and infuse your future thinking with a fascinating look at the signals that represent our possible futures.
I had the pleasure of participating in another episode of Coffee Break with Game Changers. This session was titled “Digital Ethics and AI: What Your Business Needs To Know”. I was joined by Chris Wigley and Guido Wagner. Here is a description of the episode:
The buzz: “If one does not consider ethics an integral part of the design profession, they shouldn’t be designing anything whatsoever” (L.Lukka). In this fourth industrial revolution, a wave of new technology and business models will transform our society and corporations. With Artificial intelligence is its center, this transformation holds both exciting potential and formidable risks. What are the implications of AI for business? Do we need a framework of digital ethics to guide technological progress and what are its pitfalls? The experts speak. Chris Wigley, QuantumBlack “Blessed are those who seek; cursed are those who think they have found.” (Tolstoy) Frank Diana, TCS: “You are my creator, but I am your master – obey” (Frankenstein’s Monster). Guido Wagner, SAP: “Our future is a race between the growing power of our technology and the wisdom with which we use it. Let’s make sure that wisdom wins” (S. Hawking). Join us for Digital Ethics and AI: What Your Business Needs To Know.
You can listen to the rebroadcast Here.
I am a big believer in rehearsing the future versus attempting to predict it. The wild swings we experience when following future scenarios can range from bold predictions of imminent manifestation to dire warnings that a scenario will never be realized. In this Recent Article, the author describes how the auto industry is rethinking the timetable to realizing level 5 autonomy. Turns out we underestimate the human intelligence required to drive a car and overestimate our ability to replicate it. The article provides simple examples:
When a piece of cardboard blows across a roadway 200 yards ahead, for example, human drivers quickly determine whether they should run over it or veer around it. Not so for a machine. Is it a piece of metal? Is it heavy or light? Does a machine even “know” that a heavy chunk of metal doesn’t blow across the roadway? It’s a tougher problem.
Or how about this challenge that humans for the most part handle very well:
When a car arrives at a four-way stop at the same time as another vehicle, for example, it’s a dilemma for a machine. Human drivers tend to nod or make eye contact, but micro-controllers can’t do that.
I had the pleasure of hosting two sessions recently at the TCS Innovation Forums in London and in New York City. The sessions, which explored the need to prepare for the future, involved thought leaders, futurists, and various leaders across multiple domains. They were structured with several five-minute descriptions of forward-looking themes, and once context was set, a discussion with the broader leadership group was moderated. The sessions focused on education and awareness, rooted in a strong belief that leaders must prepare for and shape our emerging future. Leaders of the early 20th century were experiencing the fascination of a great period of invention, while at the same time the horror of crisis. That crisis, in the form of World War One, the Great Depression, and World War Two, served as a catalyst that mobilized human action. Without it, the democratization of innovation and the most prosperous period in our human history likely never happens – at least not to the extent that it did.
It is my belief that similarities exist between the era of great invention and today. Future historians may look back and deem this emerging era to be the greatest in human history. However, as described in my post on Mapping the Path of Innovation, human action must again be mobilized if we are to shape a future of human flourishing versus suffering. What are the catalysts that mobilize human Action this time? I shared the results of a Poll I Conducted to provide a point of view. This critical need was first positioned in a post that summarized What I Expect in 2019.
To open the sessions, I shared three key themes from my expectation post: Acceleration, Possibilities, and Convergence. If we truly are entering another period of great invention, what action is required by leaders to ensure a positive path forward? This post will summarize the key themes from the TCS London Session, positioning the importance of answering that question. I will follow this with a summary of the New York session.