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The convergence of information and communication technology is a permanent topic in tech foresight. Now there seems to be a next step in the combination of emergent technologies, that might change our culture in the foundations, actually could change our “cultural DNA”. The material basis for the transformation probably will be a mixed reality of the already emerging Internet of Things, Ambient and Ubiquitous Intelligence – and the maturing new interfaces of wearable Augmented Reality.
Internet of Things – Internet of Everything – Power of Anticipatory Intelligence
Since IPv6 means the unimaginable explosion of the addressable space mankind is prepared for tagging and tracking of everything – goods, vehicles, animals, human beings. Not only managing the data of their trajectories in space and time, but in combination with Big Data and Ubiquitous Intelligence allowing predictive intelligence. The most evolved and complex systems in natural and cultural evolution have created subsystems of anticipatory intelligence – the predator “sees” where the running prey will be in the next tenth of a second. Individuals are making plans over years and decades – as a CEO, a politician or a citizen thinking about the pension. Civilisations have created professions concerned with the future – in modern times based on science, math and computer simulations. The vast “smartization” of the lifeworld will result in much more anticipatory processes, just for the advantage of prediction, but also because of the grown complexity, which in turn might demand more “simulation runs” to find the best decision.
Since the announcments of Google’s project Glass and the amazing prototypes and concept videos there is much noise about it. Actually the view count is near 20 million now and shows the vast interest.
Update 2013-02-22: The graphics on top has been added, though in beta version. Some resemblance with the text and graphics in the newsletter (German text) of the appreciated foresight company Z_punkt is not an accident, since I am quite involved in the process.
Ecology – is it an immature science?
If you have watched the controversy netween Paul Gilding and Peter Diamandis at TED.com you might have come to the conclusion that approaching the big question of our future survival and wellbeing cannot be accomplished in a scientific framework, the contrahents seem to be stuck in a clash of believe systems.
Why is this? Because most of the ecological research is still underscoring the “human factor”. But don’t researchers talk a lot about the anthropogenic factors? Yes, but they do it in a static way, neglecting the dynamics that comes with disruptive innovations.
Radical systemic change – or perish! The need for a kind of
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a “technological optimist”, who thinks, that we can ignore the alarming headlines and we can just lean back, since we will have cold fusion in some years to solve all energy and scarcity problems. Another vision would be, that we will soon have miraculous “synthetic organism” solving any thinkable waste problems.
No, we cannot rely on those promises, in the contrary – technology innovation alone will not solve the problems. We need more socio-cultural innovation to realize the urgent and painful radical systemic change.
I have written about the scenario logic of the ecological singularity and I even claimed that “Eco-Singularity is the top issue of our time” (here). Actually there are solution concepts – contrasting with the two extremes of the naive eco-apocalyptic stance or the also naive believe in hypertech solutions. The first one underscores the gamechanging role of innovation, the second one is narrowing the innovation issue to the technological realm alone. Typically the techcentric approach is neglecting also the economical system framework, let alone the ecological, the planetary boundaries. How can we find a new balance with our limited ressources, when hyperproduction, hyperconsumption and a unhealthy financial system are systematically cursing us to shred our ecosystems?
Gilding and Diamandis are both right and wrong
The technological optimist Diamandis has to understand the severe crisis and the limits of “technological salvation”. The ecologist Gilding has to integrate innovation more radically.
The technological optimist Diamandis has to understand the severe crisis and the limits of “tech salvation”. The ecologist Gilding has to integrate innovation more radically.
It woutd be encouraging if we can see the entanglement of both “cultures” in the soon future.
Update 2012-05-16 – The text has been completely reworked. Graphics had been added.
A dynamic year 2011 is ending: Crisis. protests, movements, system skepticism
What is in your mind? What will I have I forgotten to mention? Arab spring, occupy movement, maybe a stolen Arab spring in Egypt, maybe an awakening civill society in Russia. And kind of “cold (civil) war” in US. And ever more extreme weather conditions around the globe. Durban climate conference at the end of the year is a new confirmation of cognitive mis-mapping of the political leaders. As cognitive psychology has shown often: A certain complexity of a system cannot be handled by most of human beings, they take refuge to heuristics and kind of superstitious solution approaches.
Oh, Fukushima not to forget – for some 10,000 years – radiation is a reminder future generations did not ask for … What else? A lot of rather helpless activities to handle the debt cirisis in Europe. Angry citizens. Credibility of systems solutions going down, down, down. Politicians’ growth paradigm seems 99% unchanged. Locked in the mindset, which is the problem, not the solution. And again confirmation of the uncontrollable “innovation avalanche” of the hightech super-innovative society. News: H5N1 avian flu created in the laboratory.
Occupy the economy – New models please!
Oh, not only bad news!!! Some weeks ago I was really surprised and excited about the announcement of a “Funky Business Barcamp” in Berlin. Was this the “mycel of transformation” reaching the economy? Will there be emerging new models how to make business in a different cultural setting, with different values and goals – and in a intrinsically sustainable manner. It was an unconventional barcamp and time will tell, whether something substantial will spread from it. I will watch this carefully and will tell if it is …
Update – related posts (oops … Cassandra complex)
- 2009 vs. 1789 – Will the crisis end in a revolution? (March 30, 2009 – detecting weak signals)
- Titanic in full speed, me, you and the Trojan horse (II) (October 23, 2010 – the economic-political world system with extreme deficit of learning capacity)
Facts – present and future
There are different names out there: sharing economy, peer-to-peer value exchange – and “people-powered markets”. The last title is from Vanessa Miemis, who has done a great job to collect and sort 60 (!) of that markets (emergentbydesign.com). There are some more facts from her research:
- There are over 2.8 million couchsurfers in 80,317 cities across 246 countries
- Over 820 coworking places are active worldwide
- Car sharing will be a 6 billion annual business by 2016
You might ask: People Economy – is that communism reloaded? Definitly not! Just in the opposite direction. Yes, it has to do with re-wiring the value chains, but to give people more power. It is about empowerment. The leftist ideologies often did show that they have no real trust in people. When they have acquired power they have again and again build massive control structures – to keep themselves in power and keep people powerless. They even did hate freedom of speech, freedom of thought. The new “people economy” is quite the opposite: It accepts your economical empowerment, conceives you as an entrepreneur, encourages you to monetize on your ressources.
Airbnb story as an example
“Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world online or from an iPhone device.” (techcrunch.com) The company is funded with 108 million USD. The competitor wimdu.com has got 90 million USD. (techcrunch.com). And if you check the growing directory of Lisa Gansky you will find dozens of platforms in the travel category alone ( http://meshing.it/categories/29-Travel ). By the way the directory has 32 categories.
It is the unfolding socio-digital “matrix” again
Why is this happening now? In the US context there might be an influence of the ongoing economical crisis, but the primary driver is the maturity of the “socio-technological complex”, the matrix of highly inter-connected people – technologically supported with digital mechanisms of trust and reputation, with the habit to connect and interact. We will see this spread and gaining momentum in the coming years. While this trend is about sharing some posessions or skills there is another disruptive trend in close company: microwork crowdsourcing in the real world. Curious? Check out Gigwalk, the “first ever distributed workforce”: “We turn the world’s iPhones into your instant mobile workforce.” In the moment available only in US .
As I have said in the posts above there is a structural problem with our accelerated hightech civilization: We are witnessing two growing avalanches – the avalanche of technological solutions and the avalanche of secondary effects of these solutions. The manifold and shocking helplessness to deal with the nuclear accidents in Fukushima after the earthquake and tsunami are a strong example about this fatal dynamics.
In this week I have an exciting contrasting program to this anachronistic technology. I am attending the Ecosummit 2011, where the smart green economy is meeting. That feels good.
Entrepreneurial design – and the design thinking context
The focus of the entrepreneurship summit 2010 has been entrepreneurial design and I think the concept is convincing. Concept? Maybe there are more than one concept around under this name. Just found it linked to design thinking in a certain manner, as you can see on this page and nice video from Stanford Graduate School of Business Extreme Affordability Journal. Affordability is a central term here – since the process seems to target the “bottom of the pyramid“.
Since I was in touch with design thinking (DT) I am totally fascinated with the method. In this year I met the practitioners and “activists” at different places e.g. Potsdam HPI or the IA-Konferenz 2010, Köln (see post: “Are we Innovation Architects? Service.Design.Thinking, #IAK10“). Hey, I just realized my (subjective) “trend feeling” about DT and found evidence at Google trends:
Prof. Faltin’s stance
I found the interpretation of the term “entrepreneurial design” in the context of market dynamics quite plausible. In his keynote Prof. Faltin talked about the difference of a (complete functional) automobile and the Otto engine (as an essential technical component of a car). In this perspective the automobile is the entrepreneurial design, which enables the Otto engine to be sold. One could say it this way: Only with the automobile structure build around the Otto engine the engine is “networked” with the needs of the people. Making the explosion engine beneficial for the need of mobility. This at the same time transforms people to (automobile) customers, i.e. a new market emerges.
Maybe, that there is a whole concept cloud around “entrepreneurial design”, or that this all is just one design thinking cloud – I for my part find the Otto engine example of Prof. Faltin graphic, maybe paradigmatic.
Insight: The “Apple success” is based simply on … entrepreneurial design
Now think about the Apple success story. The competitors are shocked again and again to see that Apple wins the market with devices, that are build on components some not being state of the art. The success is based on entrepreneurial design, i.e. networking the companies ressources with the users needs, making the device a “node in the behavioral network” of the customer.
Three posts about ecological singularity and the avalanche of change
Eco-Singularity – core concept, strengths and challenges
In part II a first approach has been accomplished to define the concept of “eco-singularity”:
Eco-Singularity definition (from Part II)
Eco-Singularity is the event, when our (growing) capacity to solve the totality of anthropogenic problems is superseded by the volume of the (growing) totality of anthropogenic problems. (Part II)
The definition’s strength is that it meets the intuition, that there is a race between the problem elements of the system (total biosphere) and the solution elements of the system (total biosphere). There are some challenges of the concept – find more about it in the appendix beneath.
Scenarios and insights: Will we have the innovation avalanche we need to survive our own technology?
I will unfold the main scenarios in some future post. For the moment the most important insight is, that there is a high uncertainty concerning the “innovation race of mankind”. Some more insights in no special order:
- Industrialization 1.0: With the global spreading of technology and industrial production the consumtion of natural ressources is growing and environmental pollution is increasing – as everyone knows.
- Industrialization 2.0: We find the secondary technologies to avoid unwanted effects nearly everywhere on the globe: filter technologies to avoid emissions, sewage plants to keep the water clean, recycling infrastructure etc.
- Only deeds count: The extent of neutralization clearly is dependent on the technology, innovation generation, effectiveness and especially the actual application of the technology.
The two avalanches: Problem system and solution system interacting
- Dynamic picture: There is a race of the two avalanches – and this is a more complex picture than thinking about the “limits of growth”. “Limit thinking” is right to point to the fundamental fact, that the planet’s material ressources are … limited.
- Do not underscore the innovation factor: We are part of a naturally limited system, right. But technological innovations of all kind can shift the limits dramatically. E.g. when re-cycling valuable ressources, what is done routinely, the same atoms can be used again and again. It is a different question, whether this is done to an adequate extent and whether it is possible in a energy- and cost-efficient way.
- Disruptive innovations are needed: With China, India, Russia and Brazil (the socalled BRIC nations) increasing their metabolism with nature we find that the Industrialization 2.0 standard efforts are not capable to compensate for the “problem input” to the biosphere. The resistance to some (rather weak) CO2 treaty is a good indicator of the mismatch. Probably we need disruptive innovations to reach the goals. We then might come back to some sustainable metatboilism with our biosphere – if it is possible anyway.
The message: Think innovativeness beyond technological innovation!
If you realize the trouble we are in, you might be a bit discouraged. Everyday some 130 species are extinct for ever – this is 1.000 times more than the natural extinction rate, i.e. 100.000%. Every acre of land which is deforested, will cost us so much more to re-forest … and so on.
But there is reason for hope: The creativity of the human being and the human culture is incredibly huge! Today we see the investments of hundreds of billions in the technological sector of innovation. We have to seriously add other sectors of innovation:
- Social innovation: New ways of working, sustainable lifestyle, happiness driven “social layout”
- Political innovation: New ways of opinion-forming, decision making, politcal representation
- Economical innovation: New sustainable business models, new ways to create value chains
If you look around you will find a lot of signals and drivers of change.
- Social innovation examples: Crowdsourcing, Coworking places, “transition towns” …
- Political innovation examples: netbased debate, Liquid Democracy platform, civil society, (weak signal of “new civil dissent”: “Stuttgart21 protests” in Germany) …
- Economical innovation examples: (macro)wikinomics, microfinance and microwork platforms …
Together with convergent innovative technological solutions we might be witness of the birth of some new socio-economical “blueprint” leading to global sustainable society – before selfmade “eco-singularity” is winning against ourself.
Update! 2010-11-02 – Thank you very much Ralf!
There are more and more people, who understand the core problem. Yesterday somehow marginalized by the “leaders”, today they are literaly entering the stage: E.g. Leaders listening to thoughtleader Otto Scharmer at World Economic Forum, China 2010
Update: Great, here is the embeddable version of the video (skip to the 8th minute for Scharmer):
Update! 2010-11-04 – Wolff Horbach (Business Blog innovativ.in) has done an interwiew
Wolff Horbach (Business Blog innovativ.in) asked me about my analyses and theses, thanks a lot!
Wolff Horbach helps people and enterprises to understand the dynamics of … happiness, Everyone wants it, nobody really knows and understands it. Isn’t it a goal and a ressource at the same time? He has writen a book too (German), find more about it here: Faktor G - Glückliche Mitarbeiter. Glückliche Kunden. Glückliche Unternehmen.
Challenges of the eco-singularity concept (in the perspective of hard science)
The definition’s weakness partly lies in the “limits of measurement”: How to measure “problem volumes” and “solution capacity”? There is a overwhelming complexity in both parameters. We have intuitions that a problem A (having cancer) is “bigger” than a problem B (having cought a cold), and that a solution A (teaching safe driving) has more capacity than a solution B (teaching to avoid traffic controls). This means that some “soft” metrics should be possible. There is a first list of complexity issues:
- (a) the vast amount of options,
- (b) causal interdependency of choices (combining two optima sometimes leads to a suboptimal global solution),
- (c) value dependency (the moral value coordinates determine the rating and ranking of problems and solutions)
- (d) self-referentiality and non-linearities
There might be some more intricacies, but we can set all this aside for the moment since the concept at first is useful to understand the “big picture” of global technological history. It will be useful as a kind of world view or cognitive tool even if the details of the defining features have to be worked out.
- 2010-11-01 Some minor changes in spelling, hyperlinking some words. adding second graphics
- 2010-11-04 linking the three posts
Three posts about ecological singularity and the avalanche of change
Reflections after the econsense meeting
- US, China, Europe have ambitious green tech and clean tech goals. But: Eyeing for the emerging green markets will not be enough
- Speakers at econsense meeting made an appeal to bring the sustainability issue into the DNA of the company – I totally agree; as an analyst I know the difference of appeal, role, institutionalization and generalized corporate behavior; today we find a lot of big companies at awareness level 2 or 3 – that means they have established some “sustainability modules” as I would call it; there is a sustainability policy and a reporting routine, i.e. some new roles (= level 2) and institutionalization (= level 3)
- Probably we need to do a lot more! We need to rebuild the whole DNA of the company and the economy. Why? Humankind is riding spaceship earth totally over capacity – day by day. Did you know that the “ecological debt day” in 2010 was August 21? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_Debt_Day)
- Other fact: There are about 10.000 business schools around the world (FT.com) producing the leaders of tomorrow
- I am really afraid that they somehow produce the same type of manager, which brought us here
- FT.com: “Just 326 have signed up for the UN Principles of Responsible Management Education. Only 60 schools are members of the Academy for Business in Society and 40 are in the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative. Just 149 schools entered the last Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes biennial rankings.” (Business education _ Schools ignore sustainability revolution / FT.com – October 3, 2010)
From “Business Schools” to “Planet Schools”
- Is it a waste of time to target business schools for “deep change” i.e. strategic sustainability?
- Do you really think you can set the shareholder value at first place and at the same time make decisions beyond that “particular interest” of the shareholders? E.g. even respect generations in the distant future, living when you and your company will be forgotten … I am afraid there are some rules of logic you cannot discard.
- I have a radical step in mind to foster paradigmatic change: Let us close the “Business Schools” in the long run and have a new start with “Planet Schools”, a completely new framework from the roots. This new schools will not teach strange esoteric stuff or utopian economics, but have to be committed to the realism. Guidnig question: “How to have metabolism with a finite planet?”. The core belief of business schools of today have to be unmasked as utopian thinking (“Infinite growth is possible.”). This step might ensure transformation of the mindset – what do you think?
Are you on the bridge seeing, acting, taking responsibility?
Are you in the Marconi Room sending SOS? Or are you in the squach court? A call from the sidelines with an eco-singularity point of view (http://blog.futurefacts.net/2010/10/09/eco-singularity-is-near-definition-ii/).
econsense meeting, 10th anniversary – So what is the level of awareness in Germanys industry?
Just the new green markets in mind? Or is it more? I have been attending the meeting Oct 12th and will tell you a bit more soon.