Welcome to the latest issue of FutureScape – the newsletter of Fast Future Research. First off we wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who responded to our previous newsletter. The themes of human enhancement and the shadow economy really struck a chord with our readers – with a number wanting us to go further and deeper on both themes. We received the most positive response to any topics we’ve ever covered and they generated a wide range of fascinating feedback. We thank everyone who asked to republish content and circulate the newsletter to their own contacts and networks.
In this issue we start with a series of key event announcements and special offers for our readers. We then focus on two topics – emerging ICT and technology mediated social developments and a return to the theme of human enhancement with an interview with Dmitry Itskov – the founder of the global futures 2045 initiative for human enhancement and life extension. As a number of readers did not receive our April 24th newsletter due to some problems with the mailing list server, we have reprinted the main articles from it at the bottom of this mail.
Please feel free to forward the newsletter to your contacts and networks. As always we welcome your feedback and suggestions for future topics.
Tel +44 (0)7973 405145
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Watch a short video of Rohit at http://www.travelmole.tv/watch_vdo.php?id=14300
100 Drivers of Change for Business Presented by Rohit Talwar
Hosted by ACCA – London June 6th 2013 09.30 -11.30 (invitation only) and Repeated at 13.30-15.30 (open session)
I will be delivering two presentations and facilitating panel discussion sessions on the findings of our recent ACCA study on 100 Drivers of Change for Business and the Accountancy Profession. The topics to be explored will include:
· Transformational forces shaping business in the decade ahead
· Leveraging technology and the next generation of the internet effectively
· Shortening and accelerating business cycles
· Evolution of globalisation and the resulting talent challenge.
From 09.30-11.30 we have an invitation only session aimed at CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s and executive management of medium to large commercial businesses operating on an international basis. Fast Future has secured a few places for our readers who meet ACCA’s invite criteria. If you’d like to attend please email email@example.com
From 13.30-15.30 we will be repeating the session and this will be open to anyone who is interested in attending. To reserve your place on this session please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)20 7059 5812.
There is no charge for attending either session.
If you are interested in organising a similar session for your organisation please contact email@example.com
Copies of the report can be found here:
Descriptions of the 100 drivers: http://www.slideshare.net/fastrohit/acca-drivers-of-change-appendix-100-drivers
Save the Date – Fast Future Workshop – Human Enhancement, the Future of Technology and the Technology of the Future -June 7th 2013 – London – Venue TBC
We are taking advantage of the fact that the eminent futurist José Luis Cordeiro (http://www.cordeiro.org/) will be in London. We will be running a joint workshop with José to explore how a range of emerging technologies could shape the future and drive human enhancement. José is a fantastic speaker and one of the leading authorities on emerging technology, human enhancement and the singularity. He lectures on these themes around the world and is on the faculty of Singularity University (http://www.singularityu.org/). We will be setting an attractive price for the workshop to encourage participation of people from as wide a range of perspectives and backgrounds as possible. Full details, pricing and booking arrangements will be included in our next newsletter.
Reader Discount and Free Entry Prize Draw – Global Futures 2045 – International Congress
Lincoln Center, New York City – June 15th-16th 2013 http://www.gf2045.com/
The GF2045 congress is “…premised on the notion that the world stands on the brink of global change. In order for civilization to move to a higher stage of development, humanity vitally needs a scientific revolution and significant spiritual changes that will be inseparably linked, supporting and supplementing each other.” The speakers are a genuinely impressive array of visionaries and world-class practitioners in science, technology and ethics will join educators, futurists, philosophers and spiritual leaders to explore a number of critical themes.
Key topics to be addressed will include Project Avatar, Android robotics, Anthropomorphic telepresence, Neuroscience, Mind theory, Neuroengineering, Brain-Computer Interfaces, Neuroprosthetics, Neurotransplantation, Long-range forecasting, Future evolution strategy, Evolutionary transhumanism, Ethics, Bionic prostheses, Cybernetic life-extension, Mid-century Singularity, Neo-humanity, Meta-intelligence, Cybernetic immortality, Consciousness, Spiritual development, Science and Spirituality.. The world’s most lifelike robot is to be unveiled at the event. Further down this newsletter you can see an interview with Dmitry Itskov – founder of the GF2045 initiative and event.
The organisers have kindly extended a special discount of 20.45% to our readers who wish to attend the event – giving a new General Admission price of $596 instead of $750. The discount offer is valid until midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday May 15th. To claim the discount register here and enter discount code 45WDFF1: https://www.thinkreg.com/coral/register.do?formId=NF1C3MU86KR6
We will be attending and hope to see you there.
We also have one complimentary place to give away via a prize draw. To enter, please visit the website http://www.gf2045.com/ and then email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answers to the following questions about the event:
· What are three of the main congress themes for GF2045?
· Who is the creator of the world’s most lifelike android to be unveiled at the event?
· Who is talking about the idea of ‘extending ourselves beyond our brains’?
The winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries received by midnight pacific time on Monday May 13th. The winner will be notified on May 14th. The winner will be responsible for their own travel, accommodation and all related expenses.
If you are unable to attend but would like a briefing for your organisation on the key ideas, themes and issues arising from the event please contact email@example.com
Reader Discount – World Future Studies Federation (WFSF) Conference – Global Research and Social Innovation – Transforming Futures – Bucharest, Romania – June 26th-28th 2013 http://www.wfsfconference.org/
This conference will explore a range of futures themes including education, learning and childcare, economics & alternative currencies. culture & society, consciousness & the arts, health & wellbeing, mental health & active aging, youth, activism & social entrepreneurship, health of ecosystems & sustainable futures, social media & human-centred technologies, slow living & voluntary simplicity, leadership, governance & geopolitics and complex, integrative and holistic futures.
The organisers have kindly offered our readers a discount – enabling non-WFSF members to attend at the member rate of 300 Euros against a non-member rate of 350 Euros. To express interest in attending and claim the reduced rate for attendance please email the conference director Rakesh Kapoor, with the following subject heading: WFSF Conference Code: “Fast Future Discount Registration”
London Futurists Evening Seminar – ‘The future is not what it used to be’ – with José Luis Cordeiro –
June 6th 19.00 – 21.00 – Birkbeck College London – Cost £4 in advance/ £5 on the door
Key Topics for this Issue
1. Emerging ICT and Technology Mediated Social Developments
We recently worked with our good friend and fellow futurist Gerd Leonhard http://www.futuristgerd.com/ to pull together a summary of what we see as some of the key emerging Information and Communications Technology (ICT) trends and technology mediated developments that will have an impact for individuals, communities, countries and businesses in the near term future – with many already very visible. We hope you find them of interest.
My digital bubble – Evolution of our personal mobile ecosystems: The growth of personal mobile technology is ushering in a new era of customer centric services and products. Mobile also offers organisations in every sector the opportunity to drive down their fixed asset costs by making use of a portable infrastructure that the customer is bringing with them. The end user is increasingly configuring and personalizing their digital operating environment or ‘bubble’ with a combination of devices, apps and cloud based services. Firms are redesigning their offerings to match demand.
Ovum predicts that by 2016 the global smartphone sector could control 40% of the overall global mobile business – doubling in size and shipping 653 million units [i]. GSMA estimates that mobile connected devices are expected to increase globally from 6 billion in 2012 to 12 billion by 2020 [ii]. Canalys [iii] reports that in the fourth quarter of 2011 smartphone sales surpassed PC sales for the first time with an estimated 158.5 million smartphones sold compared with 120.2 million PCs – which includes 26.5 million pads or tablets – a segment that is estimated to have grown 274% over the previous 12 months. Ericsson estimates that in 2011, up to 85% of the Earth’s population had mobile coverage and 1 billion had broadband access. Ericsson also predicts that by 2016 there could be 5 billion mobile broadband users worldwide [iv].
Connecting communities – Location based social media provides a platform to enhance the citizen and customer experience and extend the relationship:
Social media is transforming industries and reshaping the whole citizen and consumer experience. For example in media, social networks are becoming next generation broadcasters, and social media is rapidly becoming the prime media channel for many active content consumers. An effective social media strategy is now seen as essential component of the customer engagement strategy. In particular, location based social media offers major opportunities for engagement, service delivery, customer feedback and revenue generation. Global Internet access is projected to reach almost 5 billion users by 2020 [v]. Social networks are expected to be a key driver of usage as they penetrate every aspect of our lives.
Near Field Communications (NFC): This is a telephone communication standard that allows information to be exchanged between devices in close proximity to each other with mobile payments and travel check in among the most commonly adopted applications today. Nearly 80% of the world’s top 50 airlines say they plan to be providing NFC services by 2014 [vi].
Augmented Reality: This is the enhancement of physical world experiences by overlaying them with digitally generated content such as maps, sounds and video – with the information displayed on a mobile device or – in future- the user’s glasses or contact lenses. For example in 2011, Copenhagen was the first airport to incorporate WiFi enabled augmented reality into its smartphone apps for the iPhone and Android platforms [vii]. The augmented reality app provides wayfinding information that guides the user to their choice of gate, retail outlet or restaurant (see case study)[viii].
Markets and Markets predict that the augmented reality market will experience exponential revenue growth, rising from $181 million in 2011 to $5.2 billion by 2016 [ix]. The recent launch by Google of its Project Glass initiative to provide augmented reality glasses has given a major uplift to market interest. Google anticipates that over time, users of their augmented reality glasses will be able to see information such as weather forecasts, follow live walking directions, reply to instant messages and engage in video calls.
Ambient / Embedded intelligence – enabling the internet of things: “The smartest thing in the room could be the room itself.” Tomorrow’s buildings, transport systems and public spaces will become data rich environments populated by a range of embedded devices that enable us to interact with literally every object present. Already an increasing number of objects in our world are being equipped with miniature intelligent electronic identification devices such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. As web-connected objects themselves become elements of a larger network of information systems, with the ability to capture, compute, communicate, and collaborate around information, the ‘Internet of Things,’ will evolve.
The possible scale of this vast sensor network is as yet hard to estimate – Ericsson predicts that by 2020 there could be 50 billion connected devices [x], while the GSMA [xi] offers a lower estimate of 22 billion [xii]. Either way, in a world where literally every object is a sensor communicating wirelessly via the Internet, the service opportunities and commercial potential are immense.
Embedded with sensors, actuators, and communications capabilities, web-connected objects will be able to transmit and receive information on a massive scale and potentially adapt and react automatically to changes in the environment. Cisco [xiii] (2011) suggests that this ‘…represents the next evolution of the Internet, taking a huge leap in its ability to gather, analyze, and distribute data that we can turn into information, knowledge, and, ultimately, wisdom.’ From passenger and asset tracking, through to environment monitoring and stock control – the scale of the opportunity and the resulting data management challenge is immense. This will require the rethinking of a wide range of business processes and ICT infrastructure choices.
Interestingly, the growth of cloud computing means that we will not necessarily need to invest in the physical infrastructure to manage and analyse this vast explosion of data. IDC estimates that by 2020, more than a third of all the information in the Digital Universe will be hosted on or pass through cloud based systems [xiv]‘. Hence whilst our built environment becomes ever more responsive, we may need less physical infrastructure on site to host it.
Radio frequency identification (RFID): This involves the transfer of data via radio waves from an electronic tag attached to an object for the purpose of identifying and tracking the object. IDTechEx forecast that the global RFID market will grow from $5.6 billion in 2010 to be worth $21.9 billion by 2020, with the number of tags in circulation estimated to rise from 2.4 billion to 125 billion over the period [xv].
Biometrics: This involves the use of advanced sensors to recognize and identify an individual through physiological characteristics such as their voice, facial recognition, DNA or hand print and behavioural traits such as gait. Technologies are also under development to identify individuals via the unique pattern of their heartbeats – your biometric or biodynamic signature. A recent survey has indicated that 72% of US citizens are willing to provide personal data to increase security in the airport environment, whilst 91% of UK citizens and 68% of Australians said they would provide biometric data to increase flight security[xvi].
Genetic profiling: This is the mapping of an individual’s unique personal genome, showing their DNA make-up. The test provides insights into factors such as disease risk, which diseases you might be a carrier of, your potential response to a range of medications and your likely status on a variety of traits ranging from lactose intolerance to longevity. This profile can then be utilised for tailored medicine and healthcare, as well as for identification. Private companies such as www.23andMe.com have pioneered retail genomics, offering services for as little as $99 to map an individual’s genome.
Biomimicry: This is the imitation of nature’s designs, systems and processes in human engineering, such as the design of a solar cell modelled upon leaf structures. Airbus cite the use of biomimicry principles in the design of their aircraft, such as the water-resistant lotus leaf inspiring coatings for cabin-fittings and the wings of the Steppe Eagle influencing the design of the A380’s wings [xvii]. Applications will include integrated transportation options, optimising logistics and designing greener and more economical buildings.
Natural user interfaces (language, touch, gesture): Natural user interfaces recognise and act on commands from a person’s gestures, touch or voice. Devices such as the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinnect and Apple’s voice recognition driven virtual assistant Siri are key examples of this next generation of user interfaces. There is a clear expectation that an increasing number of devices will be controlled by gesture, sound and even thought control. The global market for voice recognition systems and software alone has been predicted to reach $69.4 billion by 2015 [xviii]. Airports such as Changi and Dubai are already using touch-screens for airport navigation and passenger entertainment with games and media[xix]. Applications could include interactive surfaces deployed for information provision and recreational use throughout public spaces, shopping centres and transport hubs and the display of personalised information, 3D entertainment and special offers.
Big Data: There is a growing interest in how organisations can improve service, increase performance and enhance revenues by exploiting ‘big data’ – the massively expanding databases of citizen, customer and transactional information being generated through daily activities. The challenge is to create new toolsets that enable us to manage and manipulate these large datasets and generate powerful predictive insights about future customer behaviour. As a result of the emergence of the Internet of Things, HP predicts the global volume of data could rise from around 0.8 zettabytes of data in 2009 to 50 zettabytes of data being created every year by 2020 [xx].
The data being gathered is in multiple forms – structured (e.g. customer databases), semi-structured (e.g. email) and unstructured (e.g. video) through multiple sources such as customer enquiries and transactions. Once captured and stored it can then be used for a range of applications such as performance analysis and improvement.
Predictive analytics: As organisations amass ever larger volumes of data, the challenge is how to interpret it to create business value. Predictive analytics combines data mining with statistical techniques, artificial intelligence, machine learning and even game theory to analyse historic and current data in order to draw inferences and make predictions about future events. The aim is to spot possible opportunities, predict likely customer behaviour, and minimise risk by spotting potential future shocks, issues and challenges before they happen. Predictive methods are being used to identify potential future stock market behaviour based on analysis of social media dialogues on platforms such as Twitter.
The people formerly known as consumers: A totally networked and always-on society is participating creatively in curation and filtering, thereby creating valuable meta-content and, overturning outmoded orthodoxies of media models.
“Telemedia Ecosystems”: Telecoms, ISPs and mobile operators are moving quickly into media and advertising, especially in developing countries such as India. The convergence of telecommunications and media raises many questions over what this means for the incumbent television, film and broadcasting industries.
Copyright and IPR: The future of what used to be called copyright in a digital society is being thrown into question as access increasingly replaces ownership, and the cloud replaces the store. At the same time legal and regulatory frameworks may continue to struggle to enforce current standards without disrupting the functioning of many large actors.
People of the screen: The millennial generation, mirroring a move towards access over ownership, is increasingly demanding total and unfettered control over when and how they use their media. They also want to determine who they share with, and how they interact with different platforms and channels using mobile, social and interconnected devices.
Going from copy to access: Rather than waiting to copy, ‘own’ or download anything, there is a move towards having content anytime, anywhere and on the best screen available. This will offer potentially lucrative opportunities for content creators and the industries involved in making this new ecosystem work.
Shifting centres of production and the rise of the hyper-local: Content production is increasingly shifting away from traditional centres towards the East and South of the planet, as well as developing a ‘hyper local’ nature reconfiguring the roles of traditional producers and the H(B)(N)ollywoods. Hyper local media reflects a shift from global to local, with an increasing demand for local news, deals, adverts and services, creating an opportunity and challenge for media companies.
Search becomes media too: Search companies are becoming ‘media 2.0’ companies in the sense that they are guiding consumers through an active curation process. Google and Facebook could now be considered media companies, even if neither one produces content on a significant scale at present.
OTT Media: Over The Top media is gaining momentum as web players increasingly provide compelling content, further pushing decentralisation, fragmentation and aggregation.
Fragmentation and personalization: The increasing number and fragmentation of consumers points to the need to satisfy their simultaneously numerous and diverse needs which may well differ by geography.
The reinvention of advertising and marketing: There is a clear trend towards marketing being conducted by those that love what you do and are yearning to tell others about it. This crowd based ‘with-tising’ rather than @vertising, marks a shift from interruption to conversation and engagement. Advertising trends and the reinvention of advertising as content in digital media could lead to $1 Trillion of the global ad budget shifting to digital within 5 years. For example, advertising spend on Twitter is projected to triple by 2015.
Money 2.0: In parallel to the future factors described above, notions of money and currencies are evolving, with an expectation that people will gradually reduce the use of cards and banks, and switch to mobile money and virtual currencies.
Virtual worlds and virtual currencies: Virtual worlds could become an important media channel accompanied by a growth in the purchase of virtual goods through media integration e.g. buying goods and services within a TV show or virtual media broadcast.
Convergence: The boundaries between virtual and physical are blurring with developments such as augmented reality enabling us to overlay a digital skin on our physical world experiences. The convergence of online and offline offers powerful commercial potential such as paying virtually for the goods you try and collect in-store and tweeting a new dress from a store to get your friends’ reactions on platforms such as tweetmirror.
What do you see as the major ICT trends and technology mediated developments that could shape the landscape in the next three years?
2. Interview with Russian Entrepreneur and life Extension Pioneer Dmitry Itskov – founder of the 2045 initiative and congress.
This is the first part of a fascinating interview with the founder of one of the most ambitious, challenging and potentially life-redefining projects on the planet today.
What is your personal and professional background?
I co-founded a successful internet start-up in 1999 and then evolved it into a diversified online media company, New Media Stars. In 2005, I decided to dedicate my time and effort to a major social project and in parallel, I began developing an interest in life-extension technologies. In 2009 I met with scientists and spiritual leaders and formed the idea of founding a public science project devoted to furthering human evolution: a social movement and online social network focused on popularizing the idea and accelerating the realization of cybernetic immortality. I decided to make this my life’s mission.
How did the 2045 Initiative and the Global Future 2045 congress come about?
I commissioned a survey in 2010 of scientists and spiritual leaders on the topic of creating an artificial human body and transferring human consciousness to it. With the assistance of leading Russian specialists in neural interfaces, artificial organs and cybernetic systems, I then formulated my Avatar Project (see below), which later, in March 2012, received the support of HH the Dalai Lama. In 2011, I launched the non-profit organizationRussia 2045 and then expanded the organization to the international 2045 Initiative and organized, in February of 2012, the first international Global Future 2045 congress in Moscow as a vehicle to articulate our goal, which is to enable everyone to become a better human being by means of radically longer health spans. I understand my self-appointed mission as very challenging, but achievable. I think of it as the ‘American Dream’ in action: if you put all your energy and time into something, you can make it a reality.
What are the goals and mission of the 2045 Initiative?
The main goals of the 2045 Initiative are the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimal conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: higher spirituality, higher culture, higher ethics, higher science and higher technologies. The main science megaproject of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of an individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity’s development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.
What is the Avatar Project?
The Avatar Project is a four stage research project where each stage should result in the creation of the following specific technologies:
Avatar A — An anthropomorphic robot controlled through a brain-computer interface (BCI). ‘… similar to what we saw in Avatar, but using a telepresence robot that looks exactly like yourself…’. The telepresence androids we are developing are high-fidelity humanoid robots, which are remotely-controlled by a state-of-the-art brain-computer interface (BCI). The quality of the telepresence will be so high that you will feel as if you were there. Our goal is to achieve this over the next 10 years and to make these sophisticated avatars affordable for all citizens of this planet by 2020.
Avatar B — A system for maintaining the vital functions of the brain. A brain-carrying avatar with a built-in, self-contained, autonomous, mobile life-support system so that the human brain can survive without – and outside – its original body. When your original body wears out, your brain would be transplanted to a prosthetic body that will be at least as good—and probably even better—than your original body. Our plan is to achieve this by 2020 and hopefully sooner. We hope to introduce a commercial product to world markets 5 years after the first successful experiment, i.e. in 2025.
Avatar C — An artificial carrier for one’s personality and consciousness. This would be an avatar with an artificial brain. This non-biological brain would contain the mind and consciousness of an originally biological human mind which migrated there by one of two possible ways. One possible way consists in the gradual, piecemeal, transfer of the complete personality, mind or consciousness of a human being. ‘… using nanotechnology we would very carefully and very gradually over an extended period of time …replace each element of a human brain piecemeal with an equal or better-performing artificial or synthetic replacement part’. Today we call such a procedure ‘neural prosthesis’. The other way is based on the conviction of some scientists that the nature of consciousness is quantum. In this approach a consciousness would relocate to an artificial carrier capable of quantum computation. This would work by means of quantum teleportation, and would most likely be instantaneous. Our research tells us that we should be able to achieve one or both of these two approaches by 2035. We will try very hard to achieve it sooner though.
Avatar D — A body of light similar to a hologram. The first scientist who proposed this idea was the great Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He described the ultimate evolution of the human body from a biological, material state to a state of energy, resulting in an energy-based ‘radiant humanity’ embodiment. In my spiritual quest I also found spiritual texts which mention that humans can evolve up to a body of light. I found this spiritual paradigm strikingly similar to Tsiolkovsky’s scientific paradigm. Inspired by both of these visions, we conceived Avatar D for our Avatar roadmap. I do realize that when Avatar D is summarized like this there are some people to whom it can sound fantastical and even vaguely metaphysical. It however actually involves a great deal of highly advanced technology including holography and optical or photonic computing. When the Avatar D technology will have fully matured, this avatar will be able to manifest itself anywhere in the physical world in holographic form. Human beings will then truly have become beings of light. We expect to achieve this level of avatar technology by 2045 or earlier.
What is the personal inspiration driving you to do this project?
I am most inspired by a spiritual quest: my wish to fathom the nature of my own self, the search for the meaning of life, and my place in the universe. So this is not just an interest in technology, it is an entire philosophy. The core of my motivation lies in the fact that I believe that people should have the right to choose to live as long as they want to. Life is too short. Given the choice, people do not want to die. If they are given the option of greatly extending their healthspan, people prefer to continue living. So we want to make biological death optional and provide the ability to forestall death indefinitely. Because, for all the diversity of opportunities life provides us, there is too little time to achieve meaningful results of consequence.
Avatar technologies will give people the opportunity not to suffer from serious diseases, and not to have to mourn for the death of loved ones. Additionally, this is a chance to change the world for the better, to bring new technologies to the world: android robots to replace people in factories; avatars who are controlled by thought, making bodily presence possible in any part of the world, and thus eliminating the need for travel; mobile means of communications controlled by thought, implanted in the body or grafted into the skin, and many other things.
What are your reactions to Dmitry Itskov’s goals and initiative?
What could the impact be of life extension on society?
What might a world look like when populated by Avatars A, B, C and D – what roles (if any) would humans play?
The second part of this interview will appear in our next newsletter.
2. Rohit on the Road
In the next few months Rohit will be delivering speeches in Bangkok, Denver, Frankfurt, Las Vegas, Leeds, London, Oman, Reykjavik, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Sydney, Warsaw and Vilnius. Topics to be covered include human enhancement, the shadow economy, the future of professional services, the future of HR, transformational forces in business, global drivers of change, how smart businesses create the future, the future technology timeline, the future of travel and tourism, the future of airlines and airports and the future of education. If you would like to arrange a meeting with Rohit in one of these cities or are interested in arranging a presentation or workshop for your organisation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The articles below are reprinted from our newsletter of April 24th 2013 and included for the benefit of those who didn’t receive it the first time around.
Human Enhancement Science – The Beginning of the End of Natural Evolution?
Human Enhancement / Human Augmentation is perhaps the most intriguing, contentious and thought provoking theme in our current research and speaking activity. Human Enhancement is the augmentation of human mental and physical abilities through the application of chemical, biological, nanotechnology, mechanical or technological interventions. There is also growing evidence that a variety of more natural ‘mind body control’ techniques can yield significant performance gains. However, what most people want to hear about is the possibility that within 20-50 years we might see the end of natural evolutionary processes. Instead, proponents suggest we could select from a range of planned enhancements encompassing higher mental functions, cognitive performance and capacity, physical speed and endurance, disease resistance, nervous system sensitivity and reflexes, senses such as hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch, replacement body parts and augmentations to enhance skeletal and muscular strength, flexibility and agility.
Although the science is still in its infancy and the true potential and impact may be some way off, a range of developments are already occurring that give some insight into what the future may hold. For example
- Smart Drugs – A range of legal pharmaceuticals are already being used ‘off label’ to enhance human concentration and mental sharpness – some researchers now suggest that up to 90% of US students admit to boosting their concentration by using drugs such as Ritalin, Modafinil and Adderall which are intended to treat conditions such as attention deficit to treat hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
- Brain Stimulation – A range of trans-cranial electronic and magnetic stimulus techniques have been shown to have potentially significant impacts on the processing power of our brains and memory capacity and in the treatment of conditions suchas depression.
- Genetic Manipulation – The long term potential of genetic engineering and species manipulation has been discussed for some time. In the nearer term, advances in genetic science and the results of initial tests on mice hold out the potential to control conditions such as anger, stress and obesity.
- Physical Enhancement – Bio-engineered body parts, exoskeletons and wearable robots are already enabling significant increases in human strength, speed and agility.
- Brain Extension – A range of well-funded initiatives are being undertaken to understand the relationship between structure and function in the brain and the associated physical processes involved in human sensation, memory, awareness and higher level mental functions such as planning and problem solving. Some see this leading to possibility of connecting us to an exocortex – an artificial memory storage and data processing system that interacts with our biological brains and extends their effective processing power. Some would say that our smartphones and tablet computers already act as a ‘proto-exocortex’. The notion of ‘mind uploading’ goes further and suggests that at some point, once brain functionality is fully decoded, we may be able to upload human brains to non-biological devices such as computers – effectively eliminating the brain-machine boundary.
Whilst there is clearly a lot of R&D effort required to make some of these a reality and in some cases we could be looking at 50+ years for the concepts to be realised, the sheer scale, impact and range of issue raised are immense. Clearly, with much of the science in its infancy, we know little as yet about the sustainability of the benefits, the long term implications or potential side effects of the various interventions.
The topic always raises intense interest and generates heated and passionate debate. Reactions range from those who are positively horrified by the concept through to firms looking to invest in the sector and help conmmercialise the applications and individuals seeking to test the enhancements for themselves. Clearly there are massive associated issues, concerns and challenges such as the potential impact on national and organisational culture, working relationships, rewards, the management and leadership capabilities required to manage an enhanced workforce and issues of morality, ethics and fair competition.
What are the most interesting developments you have come across in the field of human enhancement?
What are your reactions to the concept?
What enhancement would you choose if the potential side effects and long term implications were well understood?
The Prospects for Human Extinction
The debate on human enhancement often raises the issue of whether the science is progressing at such a rate that we could be sowing the seeds of our own destruction. This topic of what might bring about the end of humanity as we know it us the subject of a new research paper from Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute. The paper ‘Existential Risk as a Global Priority’ presents the findings of a team of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers that has explored what they believe to be the biggest dangers to humanity. They argue that the potential for artificially generated ‘extinction level events’ and species-obliterating risks is an issue that demands the attention of international policymakers – highlighting that last year there were more academic papers published on snowboarding than human extinction.
The researchers argue that historical evidence suggests the odds are in our favour for humanity surviving pandemics and natural disasters – although they could cause large scale destruction. Their bigger concern is that the scale of investment in areas such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology and machine intelligence could be driving us into the territory of the unintended and unpredictable with the potential for species level extinction.
What do you see as the greatest risks to humanity? What are the implications of these concerns for the management of science and technology research? How do raise such issues for public debate without generating hysteria or ridicule?
The Shadow Economy – The Next Big Crisis?
The Shadow Economy or ‘System D’ is one of the big ‘undiscussable issues’ that generates considerable interest – and some discomfort – when raised in our speeches, research and consulting for governments and business leaders around the world. What’s clear is that this is not just a developing economy problem. The continued fallout from the global financial crisis is believed to have driven a dramatic rise in this so called ‘informal’ – and by definition unreported and untaxed – sector in the mature economies since 2008. The expanding scope and true scale of those operating outside the system are by their nature hard to quantify. Estimates suggest that the total value of the shadow economy could be as high as US$10Tn annually – making it the second biggest global economy after the USA (US$14Tn).
The range of shadow economy activities encompasses everything from ‘cash in hand’ payments to construction workers and domestic cleaners through to illicit trade in everything from narcotics and people to pharmaceuticals and machine parts. The OECD estimates that in 2009 more than half of the global working population –1.8 Bn people – were effectively working ‘off grid’ in the shadow economy and that this could rise to two thirds of all those considered ‘in work’ by 2020. Some estimates suggest that within 20 years, if the shadow sector continues to evolve in scope and complexity, it could represent 75% or more of all economic activity in some countries. The situation is clearly complex – some argue that money from the shadow economy does eventually make its way back into the formal economy through multiple routes. Others highlight that many countries and formal sector businesses rely on visitors from neighbouring economies spending the proceeds of their shadow economy activity – largely in cash transactions at hotels, restaurants and shops.
The longer term implications are clearly immense – for example there is the straightforward issue of how governments will fund critical services and infrastructure investment if a growing proportion of activity goes untaxed. In economies where the shadow economy dominates, this raises issues of what the best careers advice is for our children when most employment sits outside the formal economy. How should firms react when the majority of the potential labour force has gained its qualifications from unrecognised, unregistered institutions but that also have the best faculty? In recent informal conversations we’ve had with business leaders in some countries, they suggest that the ‘formal’ version of their industry could all but disappear in their economy because of the growth of the informal sector. Should countries start to include an assessment of the shadow economy’s contribution when reporting on national economic statistics.
How is the Shadow Economy playing out where you live, what impact is it having or expected to have on your sector and what are the most effective strategies you’ve seen to tackle or accommodate the shadow sector’s development?
One of the most interesting developments unfolding around us is the growth of crowd funding mechanisms for financing new product development and raising debt and equity finance. Whilst the latter are very much in their infancy, platforms like Kickstarter are now a well researched phenomenon in the innovation financing space, with many examples of innovators raising the necessary money required to bring a product or service to market. In some cases the promoters have raised sums of $1m-$10m within the 30 day window in which the platforms typically enable you to promote your offering.
The use of such platforms to finance consumer products, software games and creative productions such as films is now well established. The next stage of evolution has seen innovators seeking to raise funding for developments as diverse as military technology, satellites, conferences and art exhibits. The long term role of such platforms in the funding ecosystem is as yet unproven. However, they have the potential to transform the prospects of those whose ideas might never make it past the initial search for seed capital or loan finance. They place the consumer in control of what comes to market and enables innovators to present their ideas at no risk and see if there is a market for them. By pre-determining market demand in this way we also create the potential to reduce the amount of investment in initiatives that gets wasted because the product or service never succeeds in establishing a market foothold – which is surely a more sustainable long term option.
Two examples that have caught our eye and attracted our contributions recently are:
Co-Curate the Future of Art – An interesting idea trying to open new avenues for artists to gain visibility and enable audiences to select the type of art they want to see: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1519386868/co-curate-the-future-of-art?ref=email
Write the Future – A micro-conference presenting a series of creative short presentations and panels themed around the transformative power of science, technology, communication and the human imagination. This demonstrated how to take the risk out of launching a new event in a heavily crowded market space. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tomhunter/write-the-future?ref=email
What is the most innovative or successful crowd funding initiative you have seen to date? What are the limits to crowd funding – is the idea crowd funding of city infrastructure taking the concept a step too far?
Fast Future Keynote Speaking Portfolio
Readers often ask about the themes we are being asked to address most frequently, the six most commonly requested topics are summarised below – in many cases clients ask us to combine two or more of the concepts as part of a speech or workshop:
From Muscle to Magic – A strategic approach to developing future strategy, drawing on practical case examples of how smart companies are using foresight to respond to emerging drivers of change and creating their own futures.
Emerging Market Strategies – A case study driven examination of how countries, cities and industry sectors can drive sustainable long-term development. Covering sectors such as ICT, financial services, education, transport, airports, white goods, industrial materials, retail, tourism and professional services. Delivered in countries as diverse as Chile, Estonia, Finland Holland, India, Lithuania, Nigeria, Norway, the UAE, UK, USA and Turkey.
Humanity 2.0 – Human Enhancement – An exploration of the range of applications and potential impact of human enhancement, an overview of the current state of enhancement science and how it might evolve. Discussion of the human, legal, moral, ethical, social and commercial implications, choices and challenges presented by the potential for significant augmentation of human capability.
The Shadow Economy – Exploring the potential scale of the informal economy, how it might evolve over the next 20 years, impact on government, business and society, the implications for critical sectors and practical strategies for addressing and accommodating the informal sector.
Tomorrow’s Business Models – Introducing a range of emerging and evolving models being adopted to fund corporate assets, finance innovation and charge for goods and services. Highlighting new business model ideas for particular sectors and outlining practical approaches for developing tomorrow’s business models in a fast changing market environment.
The Future of Professional Services – Drawing on a major global research survey to examine how international professional services firms are responding to global change and industry evolution through strategic, structural, technological and cultural transformations.
If you’d like to know more about any of these topics please contact Rohit@fastfuture.com
Sources for ICT Article
[iv] Source: Vision for connected future stats by Hans Vestberg, CEO Ericsson at World Mobile Congress, 2012.
[x] Source: Vision for connected future stats by Hans Vestberg, CEO Ericsson at World Mobile Congress, 2012.