Exploring Possible Economic Futures

In the interest of exploring possible economic futures, I have read books on Modern Monetary Theory, Zero Marginal Cost, The Job Guarantee, and several others. Add to the list the most recent book I finished, How Capitalism Ends. Viewed through the lens of property rights, wealth, and the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, author Steve Paxton uses an effective method of storytelling: start with history and then explore possible futures. The book is setup by two thesis: the development and the primacy thesis. What he describes helps us understand the “why” behind the future that is emerging.

  • Humans are sufficiently intelligent to be able to improve their material situation, and sufficiently rational to be disposed to do so, given their historical situation of scarcity
  • As technology develops, different types of economic organization suit different levels of technological development. (A slave society might be suitable for building aqueducts or keeping the Picts at bay, but it’s not particularly conducive to the invention of spreadsheets or the development of ABS braking systems.)

Paxton, Steve. How Capitalism Ends (pp. 10-11). John Hunt Publishing

According to Paxton, implications are spawned from the thesis. He lists them as follows:

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Building On Belief – For The Love Of Running

I had the pleasure of joining this One Vision podcast to discuss the future of running. As a sponsor of many marathons, TCS sees science and technology as an enhancer of the running experience, health, wellness, and performance. The podcast includes perspectives from Susanna Sullivan, a public-school teacher and competitive runner. The abstract of the session follows.


ABSTRACT

Running is about belief, determination, and community. How we get to the finish line and who joins us along the way are memories we all want to cherish. Have you ever wondered about the humans behind the marathon and the technology that brings them together? In this episode of One Vision, Theo and Bradley chat with Frank Diana, Managing Partner and Futurist at TCS, as well as Susanna Sullivan, a public-school teacher and competitive runner, and part of a group of teachers sponsored by TCS, about the upcoming TCS New York City Marathon and the tech innovation that serves to enrich the race experience. As in years past, technology will play a key role in bridging our physical and digital worlds and creating lasting memories of key moments. From the past, to the present and the future, the way we connect to each other will continue to evolve and be reinforced — from bits and bytes to true human connections — with the power of data.

Why Ecosystems? Why Now?

For at least seven years, the concept of ecosystems has been discussed and defined in various ways, while sometimes applied in a context that dilutes its eventual impact. At the highest level, an ecosystem is a network of connected stakeholders interacting in ways that create and capture value for all participants. Why has this ecosystem phenomenon emerged now and why do people expect it to drive structural change? Once again, history may provide an answer.

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Challenging The Structures Of The Current Era

With technological change comes social change and a shift in the organizing systems that oversee how our communities are governed

LYDIA KOSTOPOULOS – Emerging Domains of Conflict in the 21st Century

It has long been my belief that the structures supporting this current era have experienced diminished effectiveness and are reaching end of life. When I would share these thoughts back in 2012, I remember getting strange looks – but fast forward ten years and it’s not so strange anymore. That quote above comes from a recent article that identifies five emerging domains of conflict. Taken together with an exploding number of additional factors, it is easy to see why our organizing system is on the verge of dramatic change.

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The Journey: The Building Blocks Of The Future

My previous posts launched a series that will tell the full story of a reimagined future. Described as a journey through the looking glass, the story began with a series description and a look back in time. The series continues, with each post featuring a piece of our journey. We explored the extreme uncertainty of the future in the last post. In this post, I will now dive deeper into the building blocks of the future.

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Signals To Watch for In 2022

Understanding possible futures is all about signals – and there is no shortage of them. A dominant conversation these days is focused on how to sense these signals, derive foresight, and respond. While foresight helps us see possible futures, the next challenge is moving from a high degree of uncertainty to some level of actionable certainty. That step in the process is a combination of science and art. Signals manifest themselves through the current and emerging building blocks that shape our future – and they are coming at us from every corner of society. Since I don’t believe in prediction, I will focus my year-end post on signals to look for in 2022 across four key areas.

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A Growing Number Of Building Blocks Make Prediction Impossible

I have been of the opinion that the number of building blocks across multiple domains makes prediction impossible. As a result, understanding the future is about rehearsing it versus predicting it. That ambiguity makes many uncomfortable. Humans like certainty, but we live in a world that is very uncertain. Many will argue that this has always been the case. But it should be increasingly clear that periods like this emerging phase transition have only occurred a handful of times in human history. We want to rely on methods that have proven effective in the past. We find comfort in applying those methods to drive a degree of certainty. One need only look at these building blocks to see rehearsal is the only way to identify possible futures.

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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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Is The Digital Era Over?

I had a discussion last week that focused on a post-digital world. It was an open question about the state of digital and the related transformation journey. Although the digital maturity of organizations is not where I envisioned it – and Covid-19 underscored the point – digital should be a foundational piece of a bigger story. The continued digital discussion ignores the bigger contributions of science and the boardroom conversations around purpose and innovation. A recent article goes one step further in declaring that the digital era is over, and we are in a New Era of Innovation. In it, Greg Satell makes the exact argument I made above.

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Future Today Institute: 2021 Trends Report

Each year the Future Today Institute releases a very comprehensive trends report during SXSW. 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.

Amy Webb – Future Today Institute

These reports allow us to explore weak and strong signals in a way that helps us envision possible futures. Given the high levels of uncertainty, the sheer number of building blocks, and the Convergence occurring across domains, exploration, learning, and dialog are as critical as ever. You can download the report Here. There is a lot to digest – but that is exactly the point. Thanks to Amy and her team for their continued support of this exploration process.

The Exponential Era

Much of what is driving our emerging future is the exponential pace of science and technology. When combined with the Convergence of building blocks that span multiple domains, it becomes easy to see why the world seems to be moving so quickly. In a recent book titled “The Exponential Era”, authors David Espindola and Michael Wright explore this phenomenon and present an approach for surviving in a future that is moving so fast. This story is about an overwhelming number of building blocks and the rate at which they are converging. As this happens, long-standing beliefs and institutions are rendered obsolete. I had the honor of providing a quote for the book jacket:

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Global Technology Governance

Strawberries. Simple enough for farmers to grow, but can they do better? That is a question that a smart Agriculture Competition in China attempted to answer. Four technology teams competed with farmers over four months to grow strawberries. This Article by Victoria Masterson describes what happened next: data scientists produced 196% more strawberries by weight on average compared with traditional farmers. It is not surprising, given that vertical farming using intelligent sensors and AI have shown the possibilities. As we witness this rapid pace of innovation, we see the potential for human development (in this case food abundance), but also the likely unintended consequences. These Two Paths have historical precedent, as every great period of invention has followed both paths. After all, fire provided light, warmth, and food, but also burned down villages.

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Can Technology Address The Racism Problem?

I recently received a note from one of my readers regarding racism. As someone who has leveraged my anchor visual, he recognized racism as a societal issue in the middle of it. As depicted, societal issues create tension that drives the progression of two curves: the science and technology foundation, and the future scenarios spawned by convergence across the visual. This tension happens in both directions, as the curves also impact the path of society. This individual explored one of those tensions, namely, the use of technology to address systemic racism.  In his words: “I find the problem to be one of the most difficult to solve through just laws and politics. I really think that technology can help.”

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The Technologies And trends Accelerated By COVID-19

In this recent Article, author Paul Gillin provides insight on trends and technologies that are likely to be forever transformed by the events of recent months. SiliconAngle asked several technology executives for their thoughts on the topic. Here are the technologies and trends identified.

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The Future Today Institute – 2020 Tech Trends Report

2020 FTI Tect Trends ReportLast year I was introduced to the Future Today Institute Tech Trends Report. The free report provided a great view into 315 different trends. The 2020 Version was just released, tracking 406 strategic technology trends. As their website describes, a broad view of these trends is the best way to see around corners and spot emerging disruption. Amy Webb and her team provide one of the best reports of its kind. The link above provides access and the download page provides the following additional highlights:

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The Future is Faster than you Think

In a recent Interview, Peter Diamandis talks about the rapid pace of innovation and how it is about to get a lot quicker. Diamandis has always had a positive outlook on the path of innovation – and although I share his optimism, there is no disputing societies need to map that Path. His ability to explore possible futures is very instructive, as leaders everywhere must understand the potential to advance our human development.

Mr. Diamandis believes we will see more change in the coming decade than we have in the last 100 years. He speaks of the Convergence of building blocks in the science and technology domains which contribute to the quickening pace. I’ve explored this notion of intersections in the past, but with a broadened focus. Convergence is occurring across multiple domains, not just science and technology. That additional convergence across society, economy, geopolitics, environment, philosophy, and business introduces a set of additional accelerants – but they also create obstacles.

In looking at possible futures, here are some of his predictions:

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Life in 2030 could be Unrecognizable

Predictions for the new year are a normal phenomenon as the current one draws to a close – but the close of a decade is different. As we approach a new decade, predictions focus on the broad arc of the coming decade – and this Article does just that. Author Eric Mack seems to view the 2020s through the same lens that I have – a society-altering decade may lie in wait. As the author notes; life in 2030 could be unrecognizable if some of what he describes is realized. Take a read to explore these possibilities:

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More Scenarios Added to our Emerging Future

I periodically add more future scenarios to this visual that attempts to describe all the dots that are connecting to create our future. This future is complex, emerging from the combination of new and existing building blocks – a dynamic that enables the rapid pace that society is experiencing. The visual is described in detail Here.

Our Emerging Future

I have added two new Future Scenarios to the visual: Society 5.0 and Smart Nations. I have written about both recently. Each scenario is individually impactful – but the combinatorial effect is massively transformative. Tracking scenarios in an effort to See their path is the only hope in understanding their impact.

The Five most Important Job Skills of the Future

In a recent Article, author Bernard Marr describes the five most important job skills of the future. A conversation that is tightly linked to the role of education, and a topic I have explored in Several Posts. Mr. Marr states that the pace of change is being driven by several factors. He paints a picture of an interconnected world that allows us to work remotely and with people from different cultures as easily as if they were in the office next door. The Healthy Extension of Life allows us to work longer, creating an age-diverse workforce. Combined with science fiction becoming reality, machines suddenly augment our skills and free us up to focus on higher-level activities.

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A Deep Dive with Kevin Benedict

RegalixTv - Deep DiveI had the pleasure of joining Kevin Benedict on RegalixTv for a conversation about the Future. This 20 minute conversation focused on making sense of this fast changing world of ours, identifying those things that require our attention today, rehearsing the future, and more. Click the visual to view this short video discussion.