Mon, 17 April 2017
This week’s guest is Daniel Franklin, the executive editor of The Economist and editor of The Economist’s annual publication The World In.... which focuses on predictions for the upcoming year. He is also the author of the book, Megatech: Technology in 2050
Looking beyond the immediate horizon is helpful when looking at future trends. In particular, Franklin looks at the drivers of change. For instance, follow the money and what does that tell you? Look at what might hold technologies back or push them forward and that gives some insight into future trends.
The title of the book – 2050- is a metaphor to encourage one’s thinking to push out to what might be possible in the future.
One of the future technologies that Franklin is paying attention to is farm technology. By 2050, it is predicted that there will be 10 billion people on the earth. The need to feed all of these people is critical. Therefore, a combination of advancements – such as distant farming, the massive applications of data to farming, when to sow and harvest, when to water and fertilizer, will help to meet the need to support that population.
While food is very important, so is energy. In the future, solar and wind technologies will become a large factor. Franklin sees that more power will be in our homes rather than in a big grid. This leads to a discussion of the potential to create a lack of incentive in the workplace towards finding other ways to produce energy when the “sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing” and how that will be resolved.
Moore’s Law [processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years] has proven to be ‘doable’ by the industry. The ‘metronome’ – the regular beat of efficiency – has led to astonishing changes. The smartphone is one way in which this is exemplified. The smartphone has allowed people to now have computing power in their pockets - the same power that used to take rooms to achieve.
This makes us hungry for ways to have more and has become the lifeblood of lots of industry. We have reached the point where we can’t go any smaller so there has to be another means where we can continue to produce gains and efficiencies such as in the past.
This is the challenge of Moore’s Law – if the computer loses its metronome. The bad news is that it’s tougher and more expensive and gains don’t come as regularly as in the past. The good news is the computer capacity will continue to grow, such as the use of ‘clouds’ and improving software.
Franklin’s advice for business leaders? Think big and broadly about the possibilities that are there, be prepared for things to happen faster than you probably imagined. Think about what happens to your industry when data processing becomes more efficient and be prepared to be flexible in the heart of your operations.
Franklin also says we shouldn’t be afraid of trends. Instead we should look at them from the point of view of ‘what does it offer me’? We should be excited about the possibilities of future trends, rather than fearing them.
Things you will learn in this episode: