The Implications Of Slowing Population Growth

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.

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Ecosystems Set To Redistribute $60 Trillion In Annual Revenue By 2025

In a post back in 2013, I focused on value ecosystems and how they would blur the lines between industries, making Industry constructs irrelevant in the future. At the time, I said the phenomenon would accelerate and companies would ultimately identify the relevant ecosystem(s) that enable their growth strategies. It was clear back then that ecosystems are complex, relationship-oriented, and represent future growth opportunities that are increasingly outside a company’s traditional business.

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Emerging Signals On The Future Of Work

While the world continues to navigate the challenges of a global pandemic, discussion of a post-pandemic future is ramping. The future of work is a dominant piece of that post-pandemic discussion. There are still more questions than answers, but the signals are flying. Three recent articles focused on distinct pieces of this future: Performance, Identity Economy, and Making a Hybrid Work model. The article on performance highlights the pandemic as catalyst and accelerant. The need to rethink how we view performance was clear pre-pandemic – but mostly not acted upon. The events of the last 15 months may be driving action.

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Shaping The Future: Technology And Geopolitics

At the heart of foresight work lies the analysis of domains that shape the future. It is in the convergence of these domains that the future emerges. Geopolitics is one complex area of convergence that has massive implications to an uncertain future. In a recent article, Ariel Kastner explores seven views on how technology will shape geopolitics. The World Economic Forum asked members of the Global Future on Geopolitics to offer their views on technology and its impact on geopolitics in the coming year. This specific quote from the article says it well:

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Resilience Is Top Of Mind These Days

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. That word is suddenly in everyone’s vocabulary. Whether it is individual or organizational, resilience helps us withstand adversity and bounce back. The pandemic can be credited for our heightened awareness, but it was just a matter of time before we all got here. The factors described in my Post yesterday describe why: complexity, pace, volatility, unpredictability, and the unexpected. These factors have always been there, but during specific transformative eras throughout human history, they combined in ways that challenged the existing order.

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Innovating In An Uncertain World

Two words have come up frequently in leadership dialog: Innovation and Ecosystems. Several posts have described ecosystems and the dominant role they are likely to play in future economic activity. The number of organizations pursuing ecosystem-related initiatives is growing rapidly. Innovation on the other hand has been a topic of conversation for most of our economic history. Yet, something is different. The conversation about innovation culture is intensifying and the need for an innovation mindset to permeate the organization is increasingly recognized. Why? What changed? We can attribute some of the change to uncertainty. One could argue that business has always operated in uncertain environments. I would argue that a number of factors make the uncertainty in our current environment unique, comparable only at some level to past transformative periods in history. We then must consider complexity, pace, volatility, unpredictability, and the unexpected.

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Leaving The Bay Area

Signals. How do you find them through all the noise? When you do find them, what do they tell us? Many are looking for signals that illuminate the post-pandemic world of work. Will we return to an office in large numbers? Will the future evolve towards a hybrid, more flexible model of work? What happens to real estate? In a recent article, Dan Gentile identifies companies that are Leaving the Bay Area. According to the article, there are 16.3 million square feet of office space in San Francisco currently vacant. The organization sf.citi surveyed companies in January 2021 and found that 63% of those asked plan to downsize or have already downsized their offices. The results of the survey also showed that only 14.6% of companies polled plan to have their employees return entirely to in-person work (signals).

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A Possible Future: Automation Shifts The Economic Paradigm

In exploring possible futures, we give ourselves an opportunity to shape them. With all the existing and emerging science and technology building blocks converging with domains like society, the economy, and geopolitics, predicting the future is impossible. But we can look at possibilities and what they mean to our future. One great recent example was described in an article by Tristan Greene. In looking at artificial intelligence and related automation, Mr. Greene focused on how automation could turn capitalism into socialism. This is not a political discussion, rather, it is following a thread to a logical conclusion. In this case, the impact of automation on the future of work. Mr. Greene said:

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Envisioning Possible Futures Through Storytelling

When describing possible futures, storytelling is a powerful way to make that future real. I have the benefit of being surrounded by strong storytellers, some with great narrative skills and others with strong visualization skills. All of them possess that rare gift of taking complex topics and making them simple. In a world as complex and uncertain as ours, I highly value those skills. Short videos have proven to be a strong communication vehicle – and animated videos are even better. Our YouTube Channel has several animated examples. April Harris is a visualization specialist and colleague. She has been creating short videos to amplify messages from the various Blog Posts I produce – this one below supports my thoughts on Life After Coronavirus. Thank you, April, for the creative ways in which you support storytelling. The rest of the story tellers include: Bill Quinn, Kevin Mulcahy, Bill Bosak, Kevin Benedict, David Kish, Rose Rodriguez, and Neeraj Sharma. My thanks for your support in creating a dialog around our emerging future.

China Launches Autonomous Taxis

In a recent post, I Revisited Autonomous Vehicles. The conclusion is very apparent, we have not realized what many thought we would – at least not yet. But as I mentioned in that post, these scenarios move slowly and then suddenly. In an example of that phenomenon, China just launched an Autonomous Taxi service in Beijing. In a recent article, author Matthew Crisara said the following:

Baidu’s Apollo Go Robotaxi service is the first paid autonomous vehicle service where users can hop in a taxi without a backup driver to intervene. Customers will be able to hail a ride using an app, which allows them to locate a taxi within their vicinity. If they are unable to spot the car, users can remotely honk the horn to find their ride.

Matthew Crisara

The video below describes the new autonomous service.

What Does A Recent Trend Study Tells Us About The Future?

Each year the Future Today Institute releases a very comprehensive trend study during SXSW. I just finished getting through this very comprehensive installment. In announcing this year’s report, Founder Amy Webb had this to say:

The cataclysmic events of the past year resulted in a significant number of new signals. As a result, we’ve analyzed nearly 500 tech and science trends across multiple industry sectors. Rather than squeezing the trends into one enormous tome as we usually do, we are instead publishing 12 separate reports with trends grouped by subject. We are including what we’ve called Book Zero, which shows how we did our work. There is also an enormous, 504-page PDF with all content grouped together as one document.

Well, Amy was not kidding, there is quite a bit to digest. The 12 separate reports referenced can be downloaded Here. As I do with each look into the future, I captured some highlights from this year’s trend study. I will start however with an important observation that Amy made in the opening of the report.

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The Future Of Information Ecosystems

Fellow Futurist and TCS colleague Kevin Benedict has been exploring the topic of information and the ecosystems that support it. In this wide ranging series, he looked at things like social engineering, device dependence, and behavioral science. In a world where information is weaponized, this is an important discussion. Below is a summary of the series in Kevin’s words, followed by a link to each article.


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Revisiting Experiences

So far, I have revisited Automation, Digital Transformation, and Autonomous Vehicles. This reflection on the past continues with a look at experiences. Back in 2013, as part of a series on digital transformation, I focused on what at the time I referred to as Next Generation Experiences. Back then, the issues of customer experience, customer-centricity, and customer intimacy were top-of-mind and dominated many executive discussions and conference agendas. I envisioned a next generation experience anchored in how customers think about it, not the way functional silos do. Those experiences would be delivered by the stakeholder ecosystem, requiring experience strategies to include all stakeholders whether internal or external.

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Revisiting Autonomous Vehicles

In reflecting on thoughts from the previous decade, I looked back at Automation and Digital Transformation. Today I will focus on autonomous vehicles. I first wrote about them in 2014 when I looked at their Disruptive Potential. At the time, the compelling case for moving to full autonomy was truly clear. From the post:

In a recent book titled: The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups, the authors (Chunka Mui and Paul Carroll) dig deeper into this topic. About 5.5 million U.S car accidents occurred in 2009 involving 9.5 million vehicles; the accidents killed 33,808 people and injured 2.2 million others. The total accident related costs in the U.S. are estimated to be roughly $450 billion.

Autonomous vehicles: a disruption case study

The focus was to shift to preventing crashes versus previous efforts to ensure accidents were survivable. Automobile makers would rethink the design and construction of cars from built to survive a crash, to built to avoid them. A report titled Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles predicted mass market adoption of autonomous vehicles between 2022 and 2025. My post mentioned announcements by Nissan and Volvo of their intentions to have commercially viable autonomous-driving capabilities by 2020. In their view back then, it would take an additional five years for prices to drop to allow for some degree of mass-market penetration.

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The Future Of Gas Stations

The electric vehicle drumbeat is intensifying as we hear more pronouncements about the end of gas-fueled vehicles. Practical realities will likely have their say on timing, but nonetheless, we must envision a future where electric vehicles rule the road. In that future, what becomes of gas stations? Here is a quick video that explores that question.

Revisiting Digital Transformation

Many have drawn the conclusion that those organizations that invested in digital fared much better during the pandemic. When I think back to my early digital transformation content, the forcing functions that I felt would drive organizations to transform seemed clear. So why has the pandemic identified winners and losers? This question had me thinking about a discussion I had recently with colleague Hassan El Bouhali, where we reflected on the past several years in the context of what we expected and what actually happened. We specifically focused on a 2017 Video that Hassan, TCS CTO Ananth Krishnan, and I, did for an online course exploring the future. We decided to produce another video in the near term that reflects on our thoughts from four years ago. In the meantime, I started to revisit my older posts with reflection in mind, starting with my Thoughts on Automation from 2014, and then thinking about the digital discussion going on today.

In 2018, I explored what I felt was At the Heart of Digital Transformation. What strikes me from that post is how often I hear the word resilience today, and how infrequently I heard it back then. In 2015, I had a fascinating discussion with Futurist Gerd Leonhard that I captured in a post titled the Digital Transformation of Business and Society. To this day, that continues to be my most viewed post. It was a wide ranging conversation that covered topics like automation, society, digital governance, and technological unemployment. Gerd spoke of things like, instead of AI, we should refer to it as IA – or intelligent assistant. The key take away from that session was this:

The future is exponential, combinatorial, and interdependent: the sooner we can adjust our thinking (lateral) the better we will be at designing our future.

Digital Transformation of Business and Society
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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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The Changing World Order

I believe that the times ahead will be radically different from the times we have experienced so far in our lifetimes, though similar to many other times in history.

Ray Dalio – The Changing World Order

The cycles of history tell an interesting story. That story was told brilliantly in a book titled The Fourth Turning. The authors equate the cycles of our history with 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. That brings me to the quote above. Ray Dalio is the Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates. In a LinkedIn Post from 2020, he describes the importance of understanding history and the cycles that repeat throughout it. Each cycle had swings between happy and prosperous times, and miserable periods that followed. He mentions the most recent analogous time was the period from 1930 to 1945, he follows that with: “This was very concerning to me.”

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Reimagining A Post-Pandemic Future

Exactly four years ago I had the pleasure of participating in a OpenSAP thought leadership course titled: Reimagining the Future – A Journey Through the Looking Glass. That course is still available and can be taken Here. The program director for that course recently reached out to pick up the conversation. Robert Nichols produces a Podcast titled OpenSAP Invites. We had a great conversation that this time included colleague Kevin Benedict. You can read the abstract and listen to the podcast below . A full transcript and more detail are available on the OpenSAP Invites site.


SESSION ABSTRACT

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