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The Megashifts Reshaping Our World

The Megashifts Reshaping Our World

Welcome to the latest issue of FutureScapes! In today’s edition, Technology vs. Humanity author Gerd Leonhard goes beyond paradigm shifts to discuss the coming Megashifts – forces that “radically reconfigure the age-old relationship between our past, present and future.” Then, in “Governing in the age of Uber, AI and Zero Hours Contracts,” Rohit Talwar focuses on the very recent UK court rulings concerning Uber employees as a case example of what our future economy may look like, and how governments need to be much more forward looking to better legislate our future. Finally, find out how you can contribute to our newest book, The Future of AI in Business.

In this issue:

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The Megashifts Reshaping Our World

By Gerd Leonhard, Futurist and Author of Technology vs. Humanity

Science fiction is increasingly becoming science fact and exponential technological changes are rapidly changing our culture, business and society.

Much of it is extremely promising and indeed has the potential to solve our biggest challenges, such as energy, water, diseases and global warming. But at the same time we are facing a myriad of unintended consequences such as the likelihood of widespread technological unemployment, a near-total loss of privacy and an overall dramatic dependency on technology.

The most powerful companies are no longer the oil and gas companies or the banks – they are the big data / big Internet companies and platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu and Tencent. These players are propelled to supremely dominant positions by what I call the Megashifts; a dozen or so drivers that are unfolding exponentially as well as combinatorially – amplifying each other and reaching unprecedented magnitudes.

Any organization looking to understand exponential thinking and to achieve future-readiness must have a clear picture of what these shifts mean, and what opportunities or threats may arise from them.

Megashifts are much more than mere paradigm shifts, which usually affect only one sphere of human activity. They arrive suddenly to transform the basis and framework of entire industries and societies. Megashifts do not replace the status quo with a new normal – they unleash dynamic forces which reshape life as we know it. Megashifts radically reconfigure the age-old relationship between our past, present and future.

Here are some Megashifts I expect us to see in the next few years:

Digitization: everything that can will become digital. Information and media were the first, now it’s banking and financial services, transportation and mobility, health and government, and soon, energy. Digitization always creates abundance (witness the near-zero cost of a song on Spotify vs iTunes or CDs) which means much lower costs for consumers yet also a mad scramble for new business models because distribution or access is no longer an issue.

Mobilization: computing is no longer at the desk – everything is becoming mobile, and soon wearable or ‘hearable’. Computing is becoming ‘like air’, invisible, omnipresent – utterly indispensable.

Screenification is very much related to the previous two Megashifts: everything that used to be physical (or printed) is now available on screens. This also means that things are becoming increasingly medialized; what used to be between people (such as conversations in foreign languages) can soon be done via a screen using free translation apps such as SayHi, Google Translate, or soon, Waverly Labs’ Pilot prototype. A true #hellven challenge – is this heaven or is it hell?

Disintermediation: many incumbent middlemen are suffering because technology increasingly makes it feasible to go direct, or indeed via new middlemen such as social media platforms or telecoms and mobile operators (such as mpesa in Africa which is competing directly with banks). Examples include record labels (musicians now launch their careers via YouTube), publishers and advertising (brands can increasingly tell their stories via digital / social media i.e. without mass-media TV or print), and consumer banking where millennials increasingly use mobile platforms and apps to make payments and organize their finances.

Datafication: much of what used to happen face to face i.e. things that were not recorded or mediated, is now being turned into data, e.g. electronic medical records vs. talking to the doctor – the connected hiking boot that tells the store it needs new shoelaces, or the grocery delivery service that tracks all its products.

Intelligization or Cognification (as Kevin Kelly terms it): everything that used to be dumb is now becoming connected and intelligent, such as gas pipelines, farms, cars, shipping containers, traffic lights etc. This connectivity allows for intelligence to be derived from the aggregate output of hundreds of millions of sensors and devices – once artificial intelligence learns from this flood of data we will have a vastly different way of reading, seeing and directing the world.

Automation: the result of smart machines will be widespread technological unemployment. Everything that can be automated will be – including science and engineering. I believe this is actually a huge opportunity rather than a threat, but we are currently ill-prepared for it.

Virtualization: we no longer rely only on physical things in some room or location but on an instance in the cloud, e.g. software defined networking instead of local routers, virtual friends such as Hello Barbie etc.

Augmentation: humans can increasingly use technology to augment themselves i.e. to be omniscient, omnipotent, superhuman. Examples include my smart watch, smart Goggles, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Intelligent Digital Assistants and (sooner or later) Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) and implants.

Anticipation: software (IA/AI) can now anticipate and predict our behavior; thus changing the way maps, email and online collaboration work.

Robotization: even many white-collar jobs will soon be done by robots. Robots are leaving their industrial cages and entering our daily lives and homes.

De-humanization: taking humans out of the equation by cutting a complex human task to its bare bones and giving it to machines.

Yet the most important Megashift might soon be Re-humanization: finally we are just about to realize that our customers don’t buy technology – they buy relationships? Maybe this is the driving force behind the recent Partnership on AI to benefit people and society, initiated by FAMIG (Facebook/Amazon/Microsoft/IBM/Google).

Technology is not what we seek, it’s how we seek – and we should embrace technology but not become it.

About Technology vs. Humanity
For more on the book, to pick up your copy, or to check out a free preview of Technology vs. Humanity, please visit our website here.

Governing in the age of Uber, AI and Zero Hours Contracts

By Rohit Talwar

In response to the Ars Technica article “Uber drivers are company employees not self-employed contractors, court rules

We are at the start of a dramatic reshaping of the economy, the business world, and the future of jobs and employment. Governments need to start thinking about the implications for national policy, economic strategy and ensuring a fair society.

The current maelstrom around Uber drivers being classed as employees in the UK is a fantastic case example of the kind of complex problem scenario that will be played out many tens of thousands of time all around the world over the next five years as we try to create a sustainable next economy.

Governments are desperate to avoid the impression that they are condoning what are effectively zero hours contracts and the erosion of workers’ rights that come as an almost inevitable by-product of the strategies of societal capacity recyclers like Uber.

However, most governments are looking in the rear view mirror and legislating for a situation which is already being overtaken by the automation of entire roles. For example – Uber is in an accelerated pursuit of driverless vehicles which could at one level render the debate over driver contracts irrelevant in a decade or less.

I think that governments need to be way more forward looking, experiment with a range of policies that address the world we are entering – rather than that which we are leaving behind. We need to explore strategies and policy measures that edge us towards an economic platform that serves the whole of society.

One practical step would be to look at automation taxation policies that get firms like Uber to be financially responsible for a certain level of jobs based on total revenues – that money could be funneled into retraining people with the skills of the future, supporting people to create their own sustainable ventures and a guaranteed basic income that gives people the money required to hire the driverless Uber.

Otherwise ‘Anarchy in the UK’ could become a prescient forecast rather than just a song I used to pogo to!

Submit a proposal for The Future of AI in Business

Deadline Nov. 18th

We are putting out a call for proposals for our next book, The Future of AI in Business. We’re looking for a broad range of contributors who are creating, shaping and implementing the coming future of AI in businesses and corporations worldwide.

Fast Future Publishing and AI Business are pleased to announce their collaboration on the forthcoming book The Future of AI in Business – Unlocking Human Potential. The book will bring together case studies and future perspectives from leaders in the development and deployment of AI across the business world and will be launched at AI Business flagship event, The AI Summit in London on May 9th 2017.

The book is a collaboration between Fast Future Publishing, a specialist ‘exponential’ publisher focusing on fast track delivery of futures-oriented books, and AI Business, the leading media and events organisation focused on the practical application of artificial intelligence (AI) in the business world.

The Future of AI in Business is a response to the explosion of demand for quality insights on the current and future role of AI in business. Over the last year, interest in AI has reached fever pitch as the business world has started to explore and embrace what represents potentially the most socially transformative technology since the invention of gun powder. The pace of investment in, and adoption of, AI in business is accelerating, and the level of interest and activity is rising rapidly across all sectors.

The intention is to provide a diverse set of perspectives on where the technology is going, how it is being deployed in business today, and how the capabilities, applications, and impact of AI could evolve over the next 3-10 years. The book will present case study experience, insights, and visionary thinking from end users, technology vendors, professional service firms, researchers, and those with a deep interest in the field.

If you are interested and would like to find out more, please visit our website for a fuller description of the book and contributor guidelines:

And see our full press release here.


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