Living the Change

by Dragoș Preda, Partner – RISE Consortium

Rohit Talwar, futurist, strategic advisor, author and editor of “Fast Future, Accelerating innovation”, and a personal acquaintance in whose opinion I put great stock, used to say: “The next 5-10 years could bring about a greater level of change for individuals, society, business and government than the last fifty”. Robert M. Goldman, World Chairman of the International Medical Commission, among others, also advanced a similar vision by saying that: “Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years”.

The times, they are a-changing

Science and technology will play a critical role worldwide in this transformation. Disruptive forces will include rapid technological evolution, as well as the shift from the information age to an era of life sciences, the mapping and uploading of the human brain and the emergence of new materials. These developments, combined with economic, political, environmental and socio-demographic shifts will drive fundamental change across society. Nowadays, we can no longer talk about science, innovation, economy, security and politics as standalone concepts. All of them are more interconnected than we are currently aware of.

Companies and governments are developing future strategies, drawing on practical case examples of how smart companies, cities and states are using foresight to respond to emerging drivers of change and creating their own futures. Yet, in Romania we are still responding to old stimuli.

Sectors such as ICT, financial services, education, transport, airports, industrial materials, retail, tourism and professional services will mark the future of urban areas – developing an integrated and sustainable economic, social and environmental model.

A range of emerging and evolving models are being adopted to fund corporate assets and finance innovation in a fast-changing market environment.

Time will shift from a traditional one, according to the calendar, to a project based one. The rethinking of the institutional model is already happening. Last year, just the day before the US elections, I participated in a debate on the elections; not even knowing the results, the US advisors launched the idea of a fundamental shift that would take place, in the future, in the electoral systems. Organizations will be built so that they can drive innovation in a fast-changing world.

Current innovations, best practices and future developments will also have an impact on the training and development of enterprise personnel.

Time will alter the perspective of well-being and provide ways of enhancing the development and success rate of innovative start-ups in the new economy, some of which already exist.

The future of venture capital will definitely jump to innovation financing, and it will face the challenge of crowdfunding, which is transforming access to capital and distributing the risk of the venture capital process.

Brave New World 

This organic evolution was also advanced by “The Blue Economy: 10 years – 100 innovations – 100 million jobs”, a book by Gunter Pauli. The book expresses the ultimate aim of a Blue Economy, which is for its business model to shift society from scarcity to abundance “with what is locally available”, by tackling issues that cause environmental and related problems in new ways [i].

Human Enhancement will also be an issue to be taken into consideration. Debates on the human, legal, moral, ethical, social and commercial implications, choices and challenges presented by the potential for significant augmentation of human capability are already on the agenda.

Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, wearable technology and body implants, brain uploading, touchable holograms and genetic computing will play a major role in drawing the new markets, shifting demographics and not least, activating the post-contemporaneous geopolitics. Will the states find a way forward in a more decentralized smart-city-state environment?

Taking into consideration the recent article of Robert Goldman, “Future Predictions”, and a recent discussion I had with an African state high ranked diplomat and with a World Bank expert, the future of professional services will definitely be responding to change and industry evolution through strategic, structural, technological and cultural transformations.

These global forces and industry drivers will be reshaping the legal framework. A very relevant example is the transformative role of IT in various industries over the next decade and beyond. “70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time” (R.G. – Future Predictions) … and where will such a workforce be employed after such displacement? The only answer I can give at the moment is that the least resilient ones will migrate to the countries that have a slower pace of evolution.

Transformational forces

On a longer-term vision, for future generations, new strategies, models and approaches for primary, higher and adult education will further shape the 21st century. The cultural and national identity will shift to a different model of distinctiveness, as we know less and less calligraphy and how to write cursively.

On a longer-term vision, for future generations, new strategies, models and approaches for primary, higher and adult education will further shape the 21st century.

The cultural and national identity will shift to a different model of distinctiveness, as we know less and less calligraphy and how to write cursively.

Robert Goldman started his analysis with the phrase: “In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt”.

Identifying these critical developments and transformational forces shaping key industries will mean shaping the market of research correspondingly in social sciences as well as economy.

The wealthiest person alive invested in a company called TerraPower, a nuclear reactor design company that develops a class of nuclear fast reactors called the traveling wave reactor (TWR) [ii]. TerraPower notes that the US hosts 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium and that 8 metric tons could power 2.5 million homes for a year [iii].

So, these disruptive innovations could, and will, transform the energy economy. Radical environmental and energy innovations will, or could have significant economic and ecological impact.

Likewise, the low carbon innovations will be emerging in the rethinking of global travel, tourism and aviation.

Of tortoises and hares

As already mentioned, countries are preparing and anticipating the new wave. It is worth making reference to Finland’s’ “100 opportunities for Finland and the world, Radical Technology Inquirer (RTI) for anticipation/ evaluation of technological breakthroughs”. The study is already being analyzed to be adapted to a European vision. So where is Romania’s place? We, the Romanians, praise the intelligence and potential of our youth but, as of yet, we have no systemic vision for path to achievement.

Thus far, the world is running on two speeds: the innovation era and the old security threat era; even if they are intrinsically linked, they represent two different worlds. Which will conquer or neutralize the other?

Trump’s election in the US and his decisions of great international impact generated an anxious uncertainty: is America really changing its optics or just reformatting its negotiation toolkit?

I will end this inquiry recalling the Yale Historian Timothy Snyder and his “20 Lessons from the 20th Century About How to Defend Democracy from Authoritarianism”:

1. Do not obey in advance. 2. Defend an institution. 3. Recall professional ethics. 4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. 5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. 6. Be kind to our language. 7. Stand out. Someone has to. 8. Believe in truth. 9. Investigate. 10. Practice corporeal politics. 11. Make eye contact and small talk. 12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. 13. Hinder the one-party state. 14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. 15. Establish a private life. 16. Learn from others in other countries. 17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. 18. Be reflective if you must be armed. 19. Be as courageous as you can. 20. Be a patriot.

[i] The book highlights the potential benefits in connecting and combining seemingly disparate environmental problems with open-source scientific solutions based upon physical processes common in the natural world, to create solutions that are both environmentally beneficial and which have financial and wider social benefits.

[ii] Unlike standard light water reactors such as PWRs or BWRs that operate by using enriched uranium as fuel, TWR uses depleted uranium instead, with an estimated operation period from 40 to 60 years. The byproduct of the Uranium-235 fission can be re-used for other TWR reactors. By using depleted uranium as fuel, the new reactor type could reduce stockpiles from uranium enrichment.

[iii] Some reports claim that the high fuel efficiency of TWRs, combined with the ability to use uranium recovered from river or sea water, means enough fuel is available to generate electricity for 10 billion people at US per capita consumption levels for million-year time-scales.

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