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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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:Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.
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.