Global Strategic Trends

GST6 is just out. It’s the best publication of its type and well worth a read. Link to PDF download here.

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How was it for you?

There’s an episode of the TV series Black Mirror where the main character becomes obsessed with ‘liking’ everything. This is supposed to be fiction, but nowadays it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell the difference between what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Last week I was at the airport again. I’m getting used to being asked to rate my ‘security experience’, but my ‘baggage experience’? Really? Are you serious? And if that isn’t bad enough there’s now news that UK schools are to measure the happiness of their students. At least they didn’t call them customers.

Measure the happiness of students eh? You mean ask the students how they are feeling about the endless changes of direction, the obsession with exams (narrow measurement from the age of five in many cases) and generally the stress and anxiety created by education. It’s the education system in this country, and others, that is causing the unhappiness you dimwits. Of course, if you measure something it generally absolves you of any responsibility to actually do anything, most of all to think.


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Trend of the Week

We’re had dark tourism (visiting concentration camps and sites of war crimes). Now, it seems, we have Narco-Tourism. WTF.

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Digital Disruption

A nice chart to, perhaps, use alongside my Table of Disruptive Technologies. I do like the point about looking at the fundamentals of supply and demand. In my view, not enough airplay is being given to what is NOT changing.

Couple of standout quotes from the McKinsey report…

“Don’t we need to focus more on the nature of the disruption we expect to occur in our industry rather than on who the disruptors are today? I’m pretty sure most of those on our list won’t be around in a decade, yet by then we will have been fundamentally disrupted. And how do we get ahead of these trends so we can be the disruptors, too?”

In helping executives to answer this question, we have—paradoxically, perhaps, since digital “makes everything new”—returned to the fundamentals of supply, demand, and market dynamics to clarify the sources of digital disruption and the conditions in which it occurs. We explore supply and demand across a continuum: the extent to which their underlying elements change.

Source: McKinsey & Company (article link).

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What if?

I really like this… 30 questions to provoke disruptive thinking about the future.

30 Questions.

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From the 3Rs to the 7Cs of Education

As I mentioned a few posts back, I’m working on a short essay about the future of Universities in Australia. One thing I stumbled upon whilst researching this was the 4Cs of learning (Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity). I’m proposing that we build upon this list and set off toward the distant horizon on the 7 Cs; Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Curiosity, Character and Compassion. (It’s been suggested by Mark – thank you Mark – that I add Citizenship and possibly Systems Thinking, but I think Citizenship is part of Compassion and Systems spelt with a C seems a bit odd to me (but he’s right).

The first 4Cs are self-explanatory. We (society) need people to think critically and creatively about the world’s biggest challenges and communicate and collaborate across communities and geographies to come up with solutions. But the last 3Cs are especially important.

The aim of education generally should be to instil a lifelong love of learning and this is becoming especially vital in a world where new knowledge is being created at an exponential rate. But how can we expect people to continually re-learn things without first instilling a sense of Curiosity about how things work or how things might be changed for the better?

Character is important for two reasons. First, as machines become more adept at doing the things that were once thought the preserve of humans, the value of emotionally-based work should come to the fore. Most jobs feature people at some level and if you are trying to persuade others to do something (especially something they don’t want to do) you’re more likely to be successful if you are liked.

An attractive personality cannot be taught, but it can be encouraged. Moral character is equally important. As I’ve already said, we don’t just want smart graduates, we want ethically grounded ones too.


Image from my map of trends and technologies. Full image here.

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Trend of the Month…

…is asociality. This isn’t to be confused with people being anti-social, which generally refers to antagonism, displeasure or hostility towards other human beings. It isn’t quite introversion either, which might be referred to as someone that’s reserved or reflective or autism where people find it hard to interact with other people. No, this is more to do with individuals (or indeed an entire society) that just prefers to be left alone, dare I say it, to their own devices.

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Where’s Wally?

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The Seven Cs of Education

I’m in Oman speaking at a technology conference organised by Bank Muscat. But here’s the thing. I was doing some background homework on Oman, especially on the future of Oman. This got me looking at a project called Oman 2040 (also mentioned at the conference). Looking into this further I got into future skills and education (a subject very close to my heart – my mother was a teacher). Anyway, quite separately I’m supposed to be writing something on the future of universities for publication in Australia (I get around!). I’ve been stuck on this for weeks to the point where I was about to say that I couldn’t do it. But then two things happened (and I think this is how ideas hatch generally, which links to innovation and, serendipitously, another conference in Oman called the Global Innovation Summit. (Stay with me here it’s going somewhere).

Last week I was at another conference on AI at Cambridge (like I said, I get around). By total fluke I sat next to a film maker at dinner. (I tried to sit next to a few other people, but they told me to move!). Anyway, the film maker and I got talking about education and he mentioned the 4-Cs of education (Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity). So that idea got stuck in my subconscious.

Then today I was having dinner by myself in Muscat and after eating I had a cigar (known as a ‘thinking stick’ to a salesman from IBM that I once met). Then out of nowhere I had an idea. The 4C’s are all wrong*. It should be the Seven Cs. They should be: Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, Curiosity, Compassion (EQ) and (Moral) Character.

So, there you have it folks. That’s how ideas get born. My essay on the future of universities is now flowing like there’s no tomorrow…

  • The point here, I think, is that you need to stop thinking before you can start thinking (i.e. to have an idea you have to first stop trying to have an idea). The cigar prompted a short period of reflection. I wasn’t thinking about anything, just drifting and dreaming, and this somehow sparked a idea that rose, I’m supposing, from my subconscious.


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AI ‘Watson’

I’ve been attending a conference called the Singularity Summit: Imagination, Memory, Consciousness, Agency and Values, part of the AI and Humanity series at Jesus College Cambridge. One of the great things about going to Jesus College is you can stand in the taxi queue outside Cambridge station and shout the immortal line: “Is anyone else waiting for Jesus?”. Anyway, a wonderful two days. A few standout quotes below. BTW, one thing that really stood out for me talking to people that work in serious AI research is the degree to which they are almost anti-tech. They don’t use computers outside of work, they have dumb phones or none at all, they aren’t on social media, they avoid digital media and they like to read and write using paper (“they (digital products) scatter your brain.”).

“Experts on X are rarely experts on the future of X.”

“There is no definition of intelligence that isn’t political.”

“The robots won’t take over because they couldn’t care less.”

“The fear of the arts and humanities people is that there isn’t anything unique about humans…the fear of the (AI) scientists and engineers is that there is.”

“Rapid change makes the future harder or even impossible to predict”

“The human mind cannot merely be a matter of matter”

“Experience drives perception.”

“Humans need comfort…they need to feel safe.”

“Machines that can substitute for intelligence.”

“Thoughts change with bio-physical change.”

“Humans develop over time. Machines don’t.” *

“The fantasy (fetish?) of the asocial person.”

“Is it wrong to steal from a robot?”

“Machines that are made to suffer”

“AI is a corporate idea” (i.e. born of the military-industrial complex)

(The world is being designed by) “WEIRD people (Western, Educated, Industrialised Rich, Democratic” (to which I might add people on the spectrum).

(Perhaps we develop) “a nurturing process for robots” **

* Links to a lovely idea – software that rusts.

** Would contradict machines not developing over time. (i.e. we release robots – or embodied AIs – into the world to learn over an extended period in much the same way that humans do. It might take a (human) lifetime, but you may only have to do it once.


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