As William Gibson wrote in his seminal future/innovation ode: “Pattern Recognition” in 2003 – “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. The front of the distribution curve tends to emerge in larger cities, and among certain types of people. Tech forward, creative types, generally younger people. What gets adopted by these few today will permeate our culture and eventually become a norm used by many.
Is it just me, or does it seem like more things are changing more often these days? It’s not just me. In his new book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, characterises emerging changes to the way we live, work, relate to one another and see ourselves as revolutionary. You don’t need to be an internationally renowned economist to feel the jarred by these shifts are fundamentally changing the society.
A favourite part of the book is a reprinting of “A Deep Shift – Technology Tipping Points and Social Impact survey (originally published in late 2015)”. It’s the most processable model I’ve come across for organising the blurry future simultaneously rushing toward us and materialising around us (depending where you sit on that curve we started with).
The Deep Shift model was developed for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society report, conducted with 800 executives to gauge their views on game-changing technologies.
Each shift is charted with its tipping point, its market penetration by the year 2025, impacts both positive and negative, unknowns (intersecting dependencies) and the shift in action.
While it’s jarring that there’s a lot changing quickly all around us and that for all intents and purposes we’re living through an experiment and our societies are the lab rats, there are two things we need to remind ourselves:
- There is order in the chaos
- We’ll have a better chance of shaping our future if we try to understand where we’re going
To those ends, here are nine shifts of 21 that currently have my attention:
- Implantable Technologies
- Vision as the New Interface
- Ubiquitous Computing
- The Internet of and for Things
- The Connected Home
- Smart Cities
- Bitcoin and Blockchain
- The Sharing Economy
- Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making
To take a look at the table of contents and the introduction: