Chapter 13. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Foresight is Becoming Digital

The digitization (simulation and automation) of all our planetary processes by our information technologies and machines is the first feature of Big Foresight that makes it different from previous human eras. Chapter 10 lists a few books that describe this coming transition. Books like The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), Blown to Bits (2008), The Silent Intelligence (2013) The Second Machine Age (2014), and Humans 3.0 (2015) are good intros, but the digitization story is vast and no one book sums it up well yet. No acceleration in the world is more obvious than that of information production. According to EMC, which tracks global digital information growth in its annual Digital Universe report (here’s the executive summary), digital data is growing 40% a year, doubling a bit faster than every two years. This incredible growth phenomenon won’t slow down in the forseeable future, as miniaturization and machine-to-machine sensing, communication, and computation drive us relentlessly to an ever smarter world. (To honor this realization, I chose Ever Smarter World as the title of my personal blog, and a fun pun on my last name).

As we increasingly digitize our world, our machines are progressively gaining sensors, learning how to see and speak to us, and achieving ever more capable robotics and automation. We are also increasingly wedded to our machines, using them to connect with others and to monitor and improve ourselves (and when we are not careful, enslave, distract, and addict ourselves as well). Individuals, organizations, and countries that smartly embrace this great digitization, and learn how to manage its First-Generation downsides (unnecessary complexity, invasion of privacy, unnecessary expense, disempowerment, addiction, and crime) will lead this inevitable transition. For one example of foresighted digital policy at the country level, see this great video on Estonia, Life in a Networked Society, YouTube, 2013. Foresight professionals who understand and offer suggestions for smart strategy during this Great Wave of Digitization, and can tell its story well, will long be in great demand. Why shouldn’t that be you, in your areas of specialization?