Table of Contents
“What determines eminence is less a call to greatness but the call of character.”
FIERCELY AWARE: The Brutal Facts: 1.1.1
The Future is a Choice
The future is not a fixed point. It is ours to create. I wrote these words in 2012 with the release of a future trends publication I created with my team at a national foundation. This declaration was offered as an invitation for the leaders we worked with to transcend the understandable anxiety that accompanied discussions of the emerging VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world – a world characterized by terms like augmented biology, the internet of things, micro and gig economies, block chain and big data. The hope was to replace anxiety with agency.
Our clients and partners were well positioned to harness the potential of the trends that we were seeing, but it was difficult at times for them to see their role in shaping versus simply reacting to the emerging future. With persistent encouragement, they were able to utilize the forecast research to question their organization’s purpose, strategy, culture, objectives, and its role in the community and the world. (see more about the current futures work here)
In the years since 2012, my work has changed but the steadfast belief in our shared, creative possibilities has rarely wavered. The dynamism and complexity of our world has also remained unchanged, and if anything, has accelerated. As examples…
- The era of smart speakers began with the launch of Alexa in 2014 and today more than 47 million adults have access to this technology. It is expected that half of us will have a smart speaker in our homes in just four years. For many people, the speakers are simply a fun new gadget but the technology represents a higher potential as well. For individuals with visual and physical impairments and fueled by the strengths of curiosity and hope, these speakers offer new possibilities for navigating their environment.
- 2014 also saw the first approved permits for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Two years later, there were 3,100 approvals and it is expected by 2025, that commercial drones will contribute $82 billion to the US economy and more than 100,000 new jobs. Beyond simply delivering Amazon products to our door, the innovators behind drones such as Matternet ONE are using their strengths of creativity and love and making it possible to distribute much needed goods and medical supplies to communities in the most geographically challenging places on the planet.
- In the early 2000’s we saw the first use of the term “Sharing Economy”, which refers to peer-to-peer sharing of goods and services supported by an on-line community. It is forecasted that the total sharing economy, which includes companies such as AirBnB, Lyft, and Bikeshare systems will grow from $14 billion to $335 billion by 2025. Interestingly, the Sharing Economy is making inroads beyond consumerism. Activating the strengths of fairness and judgement, the founders of Hello Tractor are making it possible for African farmers to share much needed farm equipment.
Business and nonprofit leaders the world over are leveraging emerging technologies and new forms of communication, distribution, and organization to bring their visions to life. Not only to entertain and enlighten but also to solve our biggest challenges, such as world water and food shortages, critical to a planet expected to reach a population of 12 billion by the end of the century. It is easy to see why thought leaders such as Steven Pinker might argue as he has in his most recent book, Enlightenment Now, that things are getting much better for human beings. But of course that is only part of the story. Consider the other side of the story here.