Happy New Year all! As we enter the next decade, an expression that is now popular rings true: Change Has Never Been This Fast – It Will Never Be This Slow Again. It is not just the speed of change – which many attribute to Exponential Progression driven in part by the Convergence of Science and Technology – but the sheer number of Dots Connecting in what is a very complex system. As is customary this time of year, there is no shortage of content focused on the year or decade ahead.
The world is about to enter a pivotal decade. This decade is likely to be remembered as the launching pad to a very different future. The next ten years are marked by uncertainty, complexity, and an inability to predict how an overwhelming number of Dots Connect to shape the decade. In a 2018 post, I looked at some work by Karen Harris and others that focused on some of the Macro Trends that drive the decade. In the supporting insights report, the authors see volatility emerging from the Collision of Demographics, Automation, and Inequality. These three factors drive a very Turbulent 2020s and Beyond.
I found a very refreshing Article today describing Japan’s vision for the fifth iteration of society. Our hunter-gatherer days represent the first iteration, with agriculture coming in as number two and the industrial and information revolutions rounding out the next two. I’ve written about the Tipping Points in human history – and this vision of a future society is aligned with my point of view on the next tipping point. With each tip, we have experienced Unintended Consequences. Big visions such as these would be wise to ensure a balancing of the Opposing forces of Innovation.
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.
One of the paradigm shifts on the future scenarios curve is healthy life extension. When I mention to an audience that the first person to live to 200 has already been born – it gets quite the reaction. Extending our healthy lives has many implications to very long held beliefs. These challenges to our belief systems are the reason I believe humanity is heading towards another Tipping Point – that moment in time where intuitions and beliefs built over long periods experience a considerable shift. It is the reason I titled my presentation “A Journey through the Looking Glass”.
Through the looking glass is a metaphorical expression. It means: on the strange side, in the twilight zone, in a strange parallel world. It comes from the idea of Lewis Carol’s novel: “Through the Looking–Glass“, and the strange and mysterious world Alice finds when she steps through a mirror. I firmly believe we are stepping through the looking glass.
Healthy life extension is a great example of a scenario on the curve upending long standing institutions. As visualized below, multiple building blocks converge to deliver this scenario.
In this last segment from the Health Summit in D.C., I responded to a question regarding loneliness, isolation and the policies that might help address this societal issue. Is it strictly a policy question? Like everything else in this exponential world, are building blocks emerging to address such issues in different ways? Like say, social robots?
At the Health Summit in D.C. last week, I used this emerging future visual to describe the combination of building blocks that enable our healthy life extension – one of many emerging future scenarios. This two minute video captures that portion of our panel discussion.
One of the key issues that emerged during our panel dialog was the acceleration of aging and death associated with isolation and loneliness. Could robotic companions solve this problem? Do these advances – many that feel like science fiction – combine to solve the challenges that likely emerge as we live longer? Can Sophia be a robotic companion?