Paul Witkay in Smart Business: “The World is Changing and You Need to be Ready”

September 01, 2016

Like most leaders, I am fascinated with the future. So when I had the opportunity to experience Kevin Kelly discussing his new book, “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future,” I was particularly excited.

A visionary thinker who helped launch Wired magazine 25 years ago, Kelly foresaw the dramatic impact the Internet would have on our daily lives. In his latest book, he continues to help us understand how the world is changing and inspire us to think about what the future holds.

Kelly identifies 12 powerful forces that are already shaping our future every day and will inevitably result in a world that is much different than we know. The better we understand the following forces, he argues, the more we can successfully adapt.

They include:
■  Becoming – Everything today is in a state of change. Products are not static, but are constantly being upgraded and improved.

■  Cognifying – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being applied to every facet of our lives. Hyper-performance computers are able to analyze unimaginable amounts of data using algorithms that constantly improve with machine learning giving us answers to questions we never even thought to ask.

■  Flowing – The world is moving towards real-time information and communications. Decisions will no longer depend on historical data alone and information will be a constant stream.

■  Screening – Our society has transitioned from printing pages to reading screens which has tripled the amount of time people spend reading and writing. More than 80 million blog posts are created every day.

■  Accessing – We no longer need to own products, but prefer to access many products “as a service” – such as transportation by Uber and housing through Airbnb. The trend towards dematerializing and decentralizing is changing the way future generations will live, work and play.

■  Sharing – People are willing to share more personal information on Facebook and other social media sites than anyone ever imagined. Sharing has trumped privacy.

■  Filtering – The only things increasing in cost seem to be human experiences – the more unique and memorable the experience, the better. We depend upon friends and trusted sources to decide what’s right for us.

■  Remixing – Most modern technologies are combinations that have been rearranged or combined in new ways. We need only observe what’s happening in music, videos and other media.

■  Interacting – We can expect everything we touch to be embedded with technology that will interact with us to create greater value.

■  Tracking – Kelly projects there will be over 50 billion new sensors each year installed in our vehicles, homes, appliances, clothes and most everything we see or touch.

■  Questioning – Kelly observes that “the paradox of science is that every answer breeds at least two new questions.” Today’s explosion of information available is exponentially expanding our collective wisdom. However, this new knowledge has spawned more questions than ever before. As a result, the gap between our questions and our answers is growing.

The technological capabilities that are being created in fields such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning when combined with an ocean of data generated by a rapidly expanding Internet of Things will enable us to generate instant answers to most any question.

However, as these answers become easier to obtain and virtually free, we must challenge ourselves to ask better and better questions that make us think more deeply and creatively.

Kelly believes these “good questions” cannot be easily answered and should challenge existing answers, create new ways of thinking, push the envelope between what is known and unknown, and generate even more good questions

■  Beginning – Kelly believes that historians will view the beginning of the 3rd millennium as an amazing moment in time when human beings began to “link themselves together into one very large thing” by “animating inert objects with tiny bits of intelligence, weaving them into a cloud of machine intelligences and then linking billions of minds into a single supermind – the largest, most complex, and most surprising event” in history. “The scale of what we are becoming is simply hard to absorb. Already we have linked 15 billion devices into one large circuit,” he writes, adding this trend is doubling every few years.

Every day, I help CEOs “see around corners,” so I am constantly exposed to prognostications of some kind or another. Whether Kelly has accurately predicted the future or not, he has definitely identified the major trends shaping it. It bears mentioning that Kevin Kelly is an optimist and believes that the problems resulting from this world-wide convergence will be solvable. I agree, and the more we position ourselves to benefit from these changes rather than be threatened by them, the better.