Catalyst Poll Results

Updated results: April 9th, 2019. The response has been great, but I’d like to capture more voices. Please consider taking this very short Poll.

In a recent post on What to Expect in 2019, I launched three focus areas for the coming year. This focus attempts to identify the key drivers of change and the outcomes they enable. The three areas are:

  1. Convergence is one of the key dynamics I expect/hope to see more of this year. A century ago, convergence across multiple domains ushered in unprecedented advancements in human development. Multiple forces will drive a similar level of convergence in the coming decade.
  2. The pace of innovation and change is often cited as a key difference between the next revolution and prior ones. This is one of the key catalysts driving change, and I expect it to Accelerate.
  3. I believe the world will experience a burst of Possibilities enabled by these forces of convergence and acceleration

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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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The Great Reset

We face the task of understanding and governing 21st-century technologies with a 20th-century mindset and 19th-century institutions – Klaus Schwab: Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In a video titled “The Great Reset”, economist Tyler Cowen uses a great metaphor of canaries in coal mines to describe the warning signals that seem like local events – but actually represent greater and broader stress. He uses several recent examples to highlight the growing stress in the system and the potential for a great reset in the future. Regardless of your belief system – it is hard to argue with the underlying logic. Whether we view this as the Fourth Age in human history, a third major Tipping Point, or a Great Reset, structural change is inevitable. This short seven minute video drives this point home.

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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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.