We are living in an era that is both exhilarating and terrifying. To coin a phrase, ‘it [is] the best of times, it [is] the worst of times’. The interplay of technology and societal disruptions is more frequent and pervasive today that at any other time in history. Through the late 20th century, the timescale of these disruptions, e.g., the car and telephone, was on the order of decades or centuries. Today, that timescale is years. We are seeing ubiquitous use of cell phones and social media as powerful tools for both good and evil† around the world. Simultaneously, rapid developments in autonomous, electric vehicles are fundamentally changing not only transportation, but infrastructure, commerce, and even the world’s geopolitical balance (increased need for cobalt for batteries offsetting reduced demand for petroleum). At the beginning of 2019, ‘corona virus’ was just a fancy technical name for the common cold. Within a few months, a new strain had overwhelmed healthcare systems, broken supply chains and brought the global economy to its knees.
"It is clear the 21st century is marked by disruptive change." -Dr. Tim Wei
It is clear the 21st century is marked by disruptive change. All of society, i.e., families, nations, corporations, government, education, etc., is being forced to adapt and respond in very complex and unpredictable ways. In his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near, the futurist Ray Kurzweil introduced the idea that change happens exponentially and that we are transitioning from the part of the exponential where change looked linear to the part where change is … well … exponential. It is not unreasonable to postulate that the political turmoil we see in the nation today is, in fact, a manifestation of our collective inability to respond to the disruptive forces at work in the world.
"The success, and indeed stability, of a growing global society depends on our collective ability to proactively and strategically plan for a 22nd century that will be fundamentally different from what we know today." -Dr. Tim Wei
The success, and indeed stability, of a growing global society depends on our collective ability to proactively and strategically plan for a 22nd century that will be fundamentally different from what we know today. But how do we stay ahead when things are changing so quickly? And specifically, how do we innovate in an era of disruption?
In our next article, Dr. Tim Wei will offer his considerations for how we must move forward in an era of disruption and what he is already doing to stay ahead of the exponential change.
† The release of the iPhone in 2007 coupled with a doubling in world food prices from 2004 to 2011 were key factors leading to the Arab Spring in 2011.
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