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:Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.”
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.
Last 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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
I recently added a fascinating book titled Technology Trap to my Book Library. Author Carl Benedikt Frey has done some important work in partnership with Michael A. Osborne evaluating the impact of automation on the Future of Work. In this new work of applied history, Frey draws on past revolutions to look at possible corollaries. It was Winston Churchill that said: The further Backward you Look, the Further Forward you can See. That quote has stuck with me, prompting my Looking back to see Ahead. Here is the book abstract:
Story telling is the most effective way to communicate – and in times of complexity, uncertainty, and rapid pace, it becomes even more critical. Telling stories about the future requires a broad view of an increasing number of building blocks. The visual I use attempts to look at these building blocks and the various ways they combine to enable future scenarios. The scenarios themselves are combinatorial – converging on one and other in ways that transform how we think about the future. A deeper explanation of the visual can be found Here.
In looking at transformative periods throughout history, it is apparent that Convergence was a critical driver of change. While I am still hopeful of the ultimate convergence across societal, political, environmental, philosophic, economic, and business domains, it is clear that convergence is already occurring in the science and technology domains. This synergistic relationship where advances in one domain fuels rapid advances in the other is the force behind our rapid pace. As we saw in the Poll that looked at the catalysts that drive convergence, it is this rapid pace of innovation that many believe will ultimately drive it. This initial convergence is altering long-held Beliefs and Intuitions – eventually forcing convergence across the other domains.
On June 19th, I participated in a VoiceAmerica Talk Radio program focused on digital ethics. VoiceAmerica is the leading producer, distributor, and online broadcaster of original live and on demand talk radio programming worldwide. Joining me on the program were Gray Scott, Jack Shannon, and Dan Wellers. The show was hosted by Bonnie D. Graham.
Issues like digital ethics must come to the forefront – and awareness is key to achieving that. Shows like this are a great vehicle for driving awareness. You can listen to the rebroadcast Here. A description of the episode follows.
I had the recent pleasure of talking with Richard Frederick about a number of topics regarding the future. Richard runs a Podcast called The Ready Room; an idea driven by his concern over the decline of civil discourse and the ideological barricades with which so many have surrounded themselves. In his words: “If only we could come out from behind our political fortresses and talk openly with one another and truly seek to open our minds to change, we could regain a shared civic trust.”
The Ready Room is Richard’s way of reaching out to others to begin this discourse. I was happy to be included in this process. You can listen to our discussion below.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- I believe the world will experience a burst of Possibilities enabled by these forces of convergence and acceleration
As I reflected on my Thoughts for 2019, three themes stood out. I’ve already written about Convergence and Acceleration, so this post will focus on possibilities. As described recently, I believe the world will experience a Burst of Possibilities enabled by the forces of convergence and acceleration. We should expect these possibilities to multiply in 2019, but realization depends upon multiple factors. One of these factors is a true focus on purpose, posing this question for humanity: how do we harness these possibilities to bring about a better world?
In arguing the case for purpose-orientation and possibilities, I created this visual that maps future advancements to our areas of well-being (click on visuals to enlarge them). I could create a different one that shows how these same advancements can be used to diminish our well-being. That’s why convergence is the most critical theme among the three. An effective way to think about purpose and possibilities is via the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These are among the best-known and most frequently cited societal challenges. I believe we are entering a period of astounding innovation – advancements that have the potential to address these goals.
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).
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.
Knowledge is the engine that drives human development – and it has been throughout history. Knowledge expanded in the hunter-gatherer days with the invention of fire. In those days, a human obtained all its food by foraging. Although the source of food did not change, fire allowed humans to cook food and consume more calories. The human brain expanded with this caloric increase, and soon we invented language – the first in a series of innovations that drove the growth of knowledge.