Learnt incompetence

Has it really come to this? I’m used to the idea that the UK can’t cope with 0.25cm of snow. But do we now need to be told how to climb stairs? I’ve added a new blog category – real human stupidity – to offset against artificial intelligence.

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A Quick Scenario Methodology

Just been thinking about how you might create some vaguely useful scearios if you have a matter of hours at your disposal rather than days or weeks.

1. Explain the purpose of the scenario exercise – generally to stretch a group’s thinking to the edges and reveal any hidden assumptions.*

2. Agree and write down a simple question or issue you want the scenarios to address.**

3. Discuss mega-trends and critical uncertainties and agree just two to create a simple matrix. Each axis should have a high/low dimension or opposing elements.

4. Label the quadrants S1, S2, S3 and S4.

5. Have a go at naming the scenarios, but keep all the names in one genre (e.g. if you pick song titles, make them all song titles).

6. Either give the whole group the task of pulling out the defining characteristics of each scenario or split people into four groups one for each scenario. Defining characteristics would cover the economy, the environment, competitive sets, technology, society (dominant human attitudes and behaviours), resources, politics, regulation etc.

7. Write a paragraph about what each world (scanario) is like to live in. A ‘Day in the life’ works well here. Use images if you can.

8. List early warning signs for each scenario (events that indicate one scenario is emerging versus the others).

9. Write a list of scenario breaking events that could kill off any of these future worlds.

10. Backcast all of the scenarios to now. What would your have to do to remain successful in each scenario? What would you have to change?

BTW, all the above is about being curious and trying to keep an open mind (confirmation bias is a real killer here). Look for things that are new, but also things that don’t make sense or go against the current trend. Group think has an impact here too. If you are 22 and live and work in Shoreditch (or 55 and Tunbridge Wells) that’s your reality. You need to fight this by moving around and meeting people unlike yourself. The inevitable surprises will come from thinking that everyone thinks like you do.

* Despite what people might think, no future is certain. Scenarios are a way of challenging singular entrenched viewpoints.
** This can be the hardest part of the whole process, but often the most useful.

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Disruptive Technologies List

Getting there….

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You don’t see this nowadays

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Could we walk away from the internet or give up our devices?

I’ve thought about putting this thought into the ether before, but I’m all too aware of confirmation bias and the fact that what I’m about to say might be the future I want rather than the future that is unfolding. I’m also far too aware of the words of the writer Douglas Adams, who said that: “anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.”

So, I’m being cautious. Nevertheless, I’m becoming aware of a rising tide of discontent regarding Big Tech, social media and smartphone use. A number of people I’ve met recently are also starting to articulate a future with no internet in it or at the very least a future where we have a significantly altered and re-balanced relationship with the internet and our devices.

Exhibit 1. A London lawyer in his twenties that I met last week could foresee a time when people become so disillusioned with the internet, smart phones and social media that they drift away from it. Key issues for him were data security, individual privacy and a lack of censorship with regard to unacceptable material (e.g. easy access of pornography by young kids with smartphones at school).

Exhibit 2. I forecast a Big Tech Backlash two years ago and it appears on my map of megatrends published back in May. I was in Silicon Valley a few weeks ago and while I’m used to reading articles about Facebook being the anti-Christ there was a fairly hostile opinion piece about Google in the US edition of Wired magazine of all places. There was also an article about throwing technology out of younger years education in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Exhibit 3: I’m starting to see words like ‘addition’ being used on an almost daily basis in relation to digital technology.

Exhibit 4: The attitudes and behaviour of Uber recently/generally.

Exhibit 5: The fact that owning the latest smart phone isn’t cool in parts of Silicon Valley. (see also the popularity of ‘dumb phones’).

Exhibit: 6: UK schools starting to end their ‘do as you want/anything goes’ policy regarding the use of technology on school premises. One school I know personally has gone as far as banning pupils from using mobiles during the day. iPad hysteria in educational circles also seems to have died down.

Exhibit 7: Remember e-cards? Exactly. They were the future a decade ago, but it eventually dawned on us that digital can be sterile and characterless while analogue can be sensory. People are sending me handwritten cards again. Also witness the re-birth of vinyl records, paper books and fountains pens. Sending someone an e-card for Xmas might be convenient or cheap, but it can signify that you too are cheap and can’t be bothered to invest time or effort in a relationship. Can deep human needs and desires trump convenience or price?

It should be noted here (because it rarely is) that digital and physical are different on many levels. It’s not so much embracing the one and rejecting the other (a rather binary outlook) but rather working out which is better in a particular context or circumstance.

Exhibit 8: If digital tech is so great why do so many senior people working for companies like Apple and Google send their kids to schools like the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, where there’s virtually no computer to be found? Schools such as this one are increasingly arguing that computers and learning don’t mix well, diminishing attention, inhibiting creativity, and weakening human relationships. This might please Eric Schmidt at Google, who once said, ‘I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something.’ (See exhibit 6).

Exhibit 9: The behaviour of teens. Filters on Instagram are becoming passe. Facebook is dead in the water in developed markets and back in schools smart kids are revising using paper cards because, as one explained to me: “you remember things better.”

Exhibit 10: Not an exhibit, but an idea. There are surely events that could radically reshape the digital landscape. What if Google or Facebook were redefined as publishers rather than technology platforms, for example? What if they were regulated in exacatly the same way as a newspaper or TV station? What if they were viewed as monopolies and broken up? Or what if Google simply decided to charge a cent for every search? The biggest vulnerability beyond all this, it seems to me, is simply that the ad model breaks down. Take advertising away and a significant chunk of the internet simply ceases to exist.

These are minor and largely anecdotal examples, but worth watching all the same.

BTW, one thing that isn’t being commonly discussed, surprisingly, is the idea that the data that many tech companies create value from is our data, stolen from us largely without our explicit consent. (oh please, you think people really read those terms and conditions?)

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The Death of Imaginary Friends

I haven’t been very active recrently, largely because I’ve been thinking. But this is too good to resist. A survey by a face-paint company (you read that correctly) says that there has been a sharp drop in imaginary friends over the last 16 years. The culprit, of course, is digital technology, especially phones and online gaming.

I wish I’d anticipated this finding, but I’m afraid my imagination isn’t what it once was.

News here Bit of background on imaginary friends here and here and best of all here.

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Rotten Apple

Switched my computer on, clicked on something I didn’t understand from Apple and found all of my files have vanished. Was then forced to set up an iCloud account against my wishes. Thought I’d get even, but someone had obviously beaten me to it.

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From useless to being in the zone

Strange morning. Looked at my hand from last night to remember what I’d written on it. Bio-Solar wallpaper. (yeah, I know, dry hands. It’s the gardening). Then I pondered my tech disruption map for a while lying on the bed and rather gave up. Tried writing a speach, but gave up on that too. Then went out in the car and bought some tulips. Came back and I’m on fire. What the heck was that about? Was it just about having a break, doing something different, giving it time or what? No idea!

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Disruptive Technology Timeline

Gonna be a good one. Will be done next month and published early January.

Posted in Emerging Technology, Imperial College, Tech Foresight, Tech trends, Technology, Technology Foresignt, Timelines | Leave a comment