Convergence


As I described in my Thoughts on 2019 post, convergence is one of the key dynamics I expect/hope to see more of this year. A century ago, a convergence across domains ushered in unprecedented advancements in human development. As Robert J. Gordon describes, the special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of what Mr. Gordon calls the great inventions. The great inventions of the second industrial revolution significantly improved our well-being. In his view, the economic revolution of 1870-1970 was unique in human history, unrepeatable because many of its achievements could only happen once. What makes this century so special, is that these inventions altered what until then, was a life lived in misery. I captured the advancements made during that period using an Innovation Wheel to map them to our areas of well-being (click on visuals in this post to open in a separate window).

Second Revolution Innovation Wheel

A look at history is very instructive, as several dynamics from that period have the potential to emerge once again – the biggest being the opportunity for convergence. In this context, convergence refers to a virtuous cycle where events in one domain spur action in another. The great inventions (electricity, telephone, and internal combustion engine) were clustered together at the end of the 19th century, forming a virtuous cycle that drove a period of astounding innovation. This innovation cycle continued well into the 20th century – a dynamic that could be emerging again. Yet, science and technology are simply two domains that converged during the special century. The others were the economy, business, politics, and a broader set of societal issues. What enabled this convergence and created the most dramatic improvement in human development? There were several key catalysts.

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Visualizing Our Emerging Future – Revised


As our emerging future shifts continuously, our challenge is to shift with it. The number of building blocks that combine continues to explode, challenging our ability to track its complexity. I’ve used a visual representation of this challenge – and I see older versions floating around – so I am updating it via this post. When I use the visual in presentations, I build towards it to avoid its overwhelming nature (which I believe accurately reflects the overwhelming nature of the challenge). I will replicate the approach here by building towards the full visual.

Convergence across aspects of science, technology, economic forces, politics, society, our environment, and a growing conversation around ethics, is creating a highly uncertain world. At the heart of the pace dynamic is the exponential progression of science and technology – reflected in the first piece of the visual.

Science and Technology Curve

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The Turbulent 2020s and what it Means for 2030 and Beyond


In a recent insights report, authors Karen Harris, Austin Kimson and Andrew Schwedel look at macroeconomic forces and their impact on labor in 2030. The Collision of Demographics, Automation and Inequality will shape the 2020s – a collision that is already in motion. By 2030, the authors see a global economy wrestling with a major transformation, dominated by an unusual level of volatility. Here’s a summary of these three forces:

AN AGING WORKFORCE

As the global workforce ages rapidly, our authors forecast a slowing of U.S. labor force growth to 0.4% per year in the 2020s, thereby bringing an end to the abundance of labor that has fueled economic growth since the 1970s. Even as longer, healthier lives allow us to work into our sixties and beyond, it is not likely to offset the negative effects of aging populations. This labor force stagnation will slow economic growth, with negative side effects including surging healthcare costs, old-age pensions and high debt levels. On the positive side, supply and demand dynamics could benefit lagging wages for mid-to-lower skilled workers in advanced economies through the simple economics of greater demand and lesser supply – but that leads to their second major force: automation.

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Can Society Adapt to an Accelerating Pace of Change?


Updated December 15, 2017

Thanks to Parthasarathi V for his thought provoking comment on LinkedIn, and a link to a relevant article from Clay Shirky on the Collapse of Complex Business Models. His comment:

“We are having super abundance of everything – capital, talent, resources. The previously known scarce resources (e.g physical world scarcity, natural resources) are also abundant now thanks to technology. With every abundance there will be new scarcity that will be the point of friction. With every node of regulation we remove to promote innovation, new set of problems will emerge that needs to be regulated otherwise system will collapse.”

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An Uncertain Future


I have used this Emerging Future visual to demonstrate the overwhelming number of combinations that will conspire to create our future. The science and technology foundation converges with societal, political, economic, and environmental forces to build towards a very uncertain future. A future that I believe represents the third massive tipping point in human history.

This very short animated video describes the visual.

What are your thoughts about the Future?


I had the pleasure of developing an online thought leadership course focused on our emerging future back in May of this year. I had the added pleasure of working with futurists Gerd Leonhard, Gray Scott, and Chunka Mui, along with several industry leaders. The free Thought Leadership Course is available through May of next year. The course has been invaluable to me, as it provided a platform for dialog about our emerging future. I was thrilled with the thought provoking dialog that occurred through our moderated forum. For all those that participated thank you.

During the two week course, several poll questions were positioned to help us understand how the community is feeling about critical topics like ethics, our economy, and the likely transformative period that lies ahead. Here are the questions and their responses. There is plenty of time to take the course and add your voice to the conversation.

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The Timing of Future Scenarios


Timing. It’s one of the most difficult facets to consider when thinking about the future. We know that convergence across societal, political, economic, science and technological forces is creating many future scenarios. We also know that enablement is happening at an exponential pace. Some believe (present company included) that the coming macro-level tipping point is likely to impact humanity on a scale only experienced twice in human history (hunter-gatherer to agriculture and agriculture to industrial). There will be many micro-level tipping points on the journey towards an automated society – and the timing of those tipping points is impossible to predict.

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