I’m continuing the celebration of the future I began with my last post. I’m taking an optimistic view here, with full knowledge that disaster, ineptitude, timidity, and reticence can scuttle the best of plans. And all advances bring unintended consequences.
My first five predictions for 2050 dealt with humans in space, humans in the ocean, new devices (including organic devices) embedded in people, investment markets for talent, and communities that provide the experience of living in the past. This time, I have five more changes to keep your eyes open for.
Hyper-Collaboration – One of the most effective ways to get the most out of human imagination, knowledge, and analytics is for diverse people to come together in a team. People inspire and challenge each other. They come up with missing puzzle pieces to solve problems and see things from different angles. If you think in terms of technologies that touch our lives, mechanisms of governance, and many cultural/artistic endeavors, such as films, these depend on people working together effectively.
Unfortunately, teams today suffer from limits. Human dynamics make it difficult to increase the size of teams without losses (due to communications) and issues of dominance and conformity can limit ideas, criticism and interactions. Social structures, such as power and rules of qualification, can shut out participation by people with a stake in decisions and by people with fresh perspectives. Some techniques (brainstorming, parliamentary procedure) can bias discussion and limit exploration of ideas. There are also barriers of language, culture, and geography that can exclude people.
Some of these limits will be difficult to overcome, but, conceptually, we should be able to build simulations that allow sharing that overcomes differences in language, traditions, communications etiquette, and learning modalities. Fresh ideas and combinations of ideas could be mined out of conversations and presented (in some cases, with a level of anonymization). Knowledge and data could be discovered, qualified, updated, and contextualized automatically – with personalized education modules available for participants who need them. People with knowledge or interest in areas of discussion could be solicited to participate. And, overall, the dynamics of collaborations could be modeled so stages of discovery, discussion, generation of options, and agreement could be regulated more effectively. (It would be nice if help were provided for necessary change management as well.)
The messy parts of collaboration sometimes provide the most value, since innovation is a social activity that involves building trust and mutual obligations, but, on balance, collaboration is not reaching its potential today. One thing that will drive better collaboration is progress in what computing systems can do. As more and more knowledge workers see their jobs automated, the rush will be on to leverage the essential value humans provide. Ironically, hyper-collaborations are likely to include artificial intelligence avatars as participants.
Opportunities – As noted above, knowledge workers will see traditional jobs going away. This will be added to a list of positions being eliminated, reducing options for financial and social advancement. In the Western world factory work provided a step up from poverty for generations, but those jobs are mostly gone. With the advent of driverless cars, we are about to see cab and truck drivers surplused. But, even as positions disappear, we have major challenges in protecting the environment, providing food and water, security, health, education, and more that need to be met by capable and motivated people. We also have opportunities opening up as technologies advance and come together in unusual ways and as the foundations of knowledge are enriched.
So, what do we (humans) want to be when we grow up? Where are we needed? What skills do we require? How can we contribute in ways that are valuable to society and engaging, meaningful, and fulfilling for us as individuals? Today, we have ineffective and inefficient ways to match people with opportunities. We prepare and qualify people in ham-handed ways, such as degrees and certifications.
Faced with having an ever-larger population of disenfranchised citizens, it is likely that more investment will be made in exploring and anticipating opportunities and providing more discrete educational experiences, automated creation of preparation pathways that build important skills, social networks, and experiences. In addition, effective mentor matching could help people better discover the best opportunities for them to develop and contribute to society. We have many of the tools needed to create such an opportunity system – including simulation and gaming, online education, data-mining, social network analysis, and AI. But today, most people are unaware of the potential, invested in older employment programs, and/or indifferent to the emerging crisis. By 2050, the full implications of automation will have become evident and, one hopes, responded to.
Doors of Perception – The brain has been called the most complex and mysterious phenomenon in nature. We are just beginning to get clues on perception, memory, analysis, decision-making, imagination, and other functions. In many cases, our simpler models and even the vocabulary we use to understand and explain the brain are proving to be inadequate. Nevertheless, progress is being made. Observations with MRI have provided new insights and raised new questions. The search for solutions for depression, dementia, autism, stroke, and cognitive disorders has provided an array of electrical, biochemical, and behavioral therapies. And our experiences have pushed the door open on the potential for enhancement of memory, attention, and creativity.
We will be able to alter, manipulate, expand, and direct brain function in new ways by 2050. Our approaches are likely to be more individuated, reversible, and targeted, reducing or eliminating addiction and other side effects of current interventions.
Subjective Reality – With the advent of faster, portable, and more natural augmented reality systems, many people will recreate their environments in distinct and individual ways. How we see and interpret shared events, such as the performance of a play, varies according to personal history, values, and perspectives today, but it will be even less of a community experience tomorrow as the elements attended to and contextualized diverge. This is likely to extend to our physical environments, where two people in the same room may choose different background music, art, and perhaps even lighting and temperature to suit their preferences.
Of course, it’s easy to see how this can create problems – just look at how people operating in different political spheres perceive, interpret, shape, and respond to events such as police shootings or controversial statements by celebrities. But there is also the potential for rich conversations, deeper understanding, and gentler adaptations to change when individuals have more control of how they experience everyday life.
Fear Management – Perhaps the biggest obstacle to positive change is fear, but we seem to lack a real focus in creating common tools and approaches to building trust, confidence, and critical thinking skills. Creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt has become a sophisticated industry for selling, manipulation, and control. The techniques are highly effective and their use seems to be ubiquitous. But the opportunity exists to expose unfounded fears, provide critiques, enable people with knowledge and context, build trust, and educate people about propaganda and illusions.
Without a doubt, fear management reduce unwarranted anxiety can be practiced on an individual level, but there is much room to expand our understanding of fear and how it is spread. We can integrate fear management into our culture in ways that make it more likely that people will question, challenge, and evaluate stories and statements that create unjustifiable fears.
NOTE: This is my final appearance at this venue, though, for the next year, some of my past entries, translated into Spanish, will be added to this site. As I stated last time, it has been a privilege to blog here for nearly five years, 130 entries and over 100,000 words. Thank you to my readers and to the Instituto de Ingenieria del Conocimiento.
My explorations into emerging technology and the impacts of inventions and discoveries on business and society will continue. You’ll find them at my new venue, an update to Innovation Passport. This will include the final installment in the Measuring Ourselves series I promised. I’ll also provide refreshed versions of the blogs that have been posted here. I hope you’ll join me.
|Escrito por Peter Andrews|
|· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·|