The CEO of one of the world’s largest companies, Siemens AG, says : “ The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not just about technology or business. It’s about society.” Joe Kaeser, President & CEO
Survival on this planet depends on us, the actions of the people who inhabit a finite earth. The actions of people create harmony or dis-harmony, balance or imbalance, wellness or unwellness in our physical environment. Our thoughts and decisions are the genesis of actions, that influence and create the environment we live in, good or bad. Building a society then, capable of mitigating the severe threats, potentially destructive to Earth, to ensure our future and our survival is a prime directive. Apart from other times and ages, at our disposal now, is Technology as a means of mitigating against these threats. Much depends on how it is used. How it is used depends on the intellect’s capability to discern value to Earth and the ability to create a powerful, discerning intellect depends on the value system that emerges the innate virtues in mankind. The power to judge whether actions are good or bad for this planet will determine that quality of the action taken. Mans intellectual capability then, with technology now become the tools for saving this planet. Ultimately then mankind is responsible for its own actions and utilizing options in technology to effect meaningful change has always been available. Mans own interpretations of usefulness will result in the good or bad society and civilization, in a new age. The promise of the digital world, is real and already influencing thought, innovation, and creativity.
The phenomenon of Artificial Intelligence (AI) “The science of programming cognitive abilities into machines” is likened to the invention of electricity, the energy which powers this globe’s economy. The far reaching scope of Alternative Energy to power AI is only now beginning to emerge. The emergence of electricity in the 2nd Industrial Revolution, transformed our lives in ways previously unimaginable but it also created massive global problems as its reliance on fossil fuels increased.
AI, in this the 4th Industrial Revolution is also going to change our world tremendously. Massive energy output is needed though but the difference between then and now is the fact that alternative energy is cleaner and sustainable and now harnessable. Sustainable because alternative energy utilizes resources that are renewable and non-diminishing such as air, sun, wind and wave. Harnessing these energy sources will create a new environment and create new ways of thinking and logic in a world shaped by technology, a nirvana, if you will. The transition successfully, into this new existence whilst AI reaches this point of dominance in a value -based society, utilizing the capability of technology to effectively culture such will entail many changes. Such a society will eliminate waste and pollution, promulgate and culture healthy lifestyles and living, restoring balance and harmony to this world. The transition will determine Earth’s future but the challenge of overcoming the necessary changes in thinking, acting and sustaining is great.
Defining the Issues
The Prime Minister of India, in speaking to the issues facing us globally, outlined what he believes to be three major threats : Climate Change, Terrorism and Anti-Globalization. “Many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves!” he said. Recents events at the latest G7 meeting in Canada seems to suggest this statement by PM Modi to hold some truth. The imposition of retaliatory tariffs by Canada also appears to validate PM Modi. China vows to retaliate as tariffs are imposed, and Canada is imposing tariffs. Mexico is also imposing tariffs on 3 billion worth of US exports, whilst the EU is also doing the same. It seems PM Modi is right, and it demonstrates the power of a global superpower, but where is it going to lead us? The fracturing of the global economy is not good, and it may very well be the cause of the uncertainty expressed by global CEOs, but it brings with it the opportunity to forge ahead with new opportunities for growth and development.
The issue of Climate Change is also global, requiring a global response. The Paris Agreement is a global response, to a global threat capable of causing problems of catastrophic proportions. Indeed, small island states will be wiped out, completely gone forever through climate change. In a documentary published by Deutsche Welle, on November 8th, 2017 in the Social Media platform YouTube, the island of Kiribati is battling for its very existence . Justifiably concerned The United Nations has in place several initiatives and programs dealing with the effect of greenhouse gases and how to improve and in this regard there are huge amounts of information to be found on the United Nations websites.
Climate change by its very definition is environmental in nature. The environment is under very severe threat and understanding its genesis is most relevant. Climate Change is about the increased temperatures being faced. Its about the melting of the icecaps which causes rise in sea levels, warming of major currents causing the rise of ocean surface temperatures gives rise to more destructive weather phenomena such as hurricanes. It’s about the high emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But that is only part of the understanding of the issue of climate change.
Fundamentally, then the answer to what causes the higher temperatures is needed. Higher temperatures are as a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the inability of the natural elements to reduce it. This creates the greenhouse effect and hence climate change. Industrial emissions from large and heavy industries, emission systems from cars and other such vehicles, large animal farms, garbage disposal all contribute significantly. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel and large industrial processes make up about 65% of the Global Greenhouse gas emissions. All of these emissions have roots in consumerism, and the industrial processes involved.
All of these processes are powered by electricity generated through coals and other fossil fuel. Approximately 80% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) producing large amounts of pollution. The production of goods utilize mechanized and subtractive manufacturing resulting in huge amounts of emissions, effluent discharge and waste as a by-product. The indiscriminate and inefficient disposal of waste now creates further problems for the environment.
Christopher Stiener , in his book titled “$20 Per Gallon,” published in July 2009, pg. 163 states :
“The breadth of products that come directly from petroleum is massive. Everything from milk jugs to laundry detergent to masking tape to perfume to mascaras to hand lotion to sunscreen to the insulation in a sleeping bag to the cushions in your couch, to the case of your computer to the eraser on your pencil to the ink in your pen. The list goes on forever.”
Manufacturing these products all use energy derived mainly from fossil fuels, The demand and markets are enormous for products in the West. The energy needed to produce these goods are fueled by energy that are high emitters of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants. All these products require plastics for packaging and production, generating the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
Climate Change is triggered by greenhouse gas emissions that come from energy produced by fossil fuels, that pollute the land, the water courses and the oceans.
Pollution : a global threat!
Pollution is environmental and can be broadly placed in the context of pollution of the atmosphere, pollution of the oceans and pollution of the Land. In particular, the focus will be on pollution of the ocean.
The production of vast amounts of plastics ultimately finds its way into the ocean. The harmful effects on marine life (fish) digesting these pollutants are reaching catastrophic proportions, as mankind’s dependence on the sea for sustenance is vital for survival.
Marine Pollution : Crisis Point
Sir David Attenborough, world renowned scientist and naturalist say :”our seas is facing its greatest threat in human history as it struggles to survive against warming temperatures and unprecedented quantities of plastic waste.”
SavetheSea.org estimates :
More than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. In 20 years, this number could double to 7 billion.
The World Bank says :
“Oceans are also threatened by marine plastic pollution and each year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans, with microplastics becoming part of the food chain. Scientists estimate that without urgent action, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. While complex, the issue of ocean plastic waste is a solvable challenge. Five countries are responsible for more than 50 percent of total plastic waste in the oceans (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Thailand). We also know that an estimated 80 percent of ocean plastic pollution originates from inadequate land-based solid waste management.”
Cleaning the world’s oceans then, is a priority to decrease this threat. But so too is the fact that the dependence of plastic has to be minimized. It takes a culture change in lifestyles to reduce demand, availability of alternatives and global action, as the Paris Agreement seeks to do. This change is already occurring as people become more aware of the plastic threat. Many organizations and social interest groups are raising awareness and executing strategies to effect plastic removal from the oceans. But this is not enough as lack of resources and awareness especially in the developing world are factors to be considered in the use of plastics.
In the meantime, the world moves relentlessly to a new existence, and the gap between then and now needs to be addressed. In January 2018, China banned the imports of non-industrial plastic waste, thus, in effect, saying to other countries : deal with your own waste. The additional pressure on small island states to deal with plastic waste is problematic since these countries lack the resources to recycle.
In this gap, we find emerging technologies that can disrupt those negative occurrences and cultures that threaten mankind’s survival. But in all these problems there are opportunities for solving these problems to create a better world.
4th Industrial Age Solutions
Technology providing answers to these problems.
3D Printing and Recyclying
The reality is that plastic can be recycled. Capturing the plastic trash for recycling is easily accomplished as have been demonstrated. Recycling plastic is a very powerful solution, as recycled material can be turned into domestic products. But that ecosystem can be further strengthened with 3D Printing, producing a cycle for the resultant plastic product. Industrialized, this environmental sector can be a wealth generator.
Recycled plastic can form the feedstock for use in 3D Printing for almost any application, in health, household, production. Recycling will form the Centre of an ecosystem involving society, business and government in creating new standards for living sustainably.
Households or factories operating fully on solar, wind or wave will reduce the demand for fossil fuel energy. The reduction of industrial emissions from large industrial processes can be effected with the use of these renewable energy options impacting positively on the environment. Clean energy is the cornerstone of mankind’s survival since our environment sustains life itself.
The cost of solar energy is decreasing, whilst wind and wave are abundant in small island states, and small island states who depend heavily on tourism for their economic survival, can benefit greatly.
Alternative energy will help to alleviate problems by decreasing the amount of gas emissions into the atmosphere thereby contributing to the reduction of the greenhouse effect. Reducing the carbon footprint is a major development goal of the United Nations and the “Greening the Blue” initiative.
Already the US, China and India are three leading countries in renewable energy as solar energy adoption rates are increasing exponentially. It is expected that these rates will further increase in the next few years to significantly impact global greenhouse gas emissions. The awareness of global population is also an enabler, as global online platforms disseminate information with very detailed data being provided. Social Media allows information to be delivered instantaneously causing rapid action to occur in the cause of mankind and civilization. Digital aged technology is contributing all-round to global recovery and the creation of a new way of living that purely benefits our society.
Technology is an enabler in this time of man made industrial pollution. However, the application of Digital Age Technologies can and will effectively reverse these negative effects. Clean energy, sustainable in its essence, provides the basis for such reversal and together with greater awareness, technology is no longer a short term fix. But it requires change. The new generation of Millennials, have gravitated towards these new approaches significantly, and will continue to evolve and emerge their desire for a better world. They will provide the impetus for change.
Technology has evolved far beyond, into the realm of of this generation and the longer term, deep horizon strategic approach for the betterment of the environment of planet Earth’s sustainability, enhancing life itself into a better place, is necessary…now!
Artificial intelligence has taken the world by storm in its application towards creating a better lifestyle. The introduction of artificial intelligence to drive robotics in shaping this world will assume major proportions in the battle against pollution of the oceans. The online publication of TechRepublic outlines four major technologies that can fight against the plastic pollution of the oceans. Amongst them are floating barriers, sea robots, smart nets and sea tagging. Other technologies in the near future are scuba droids, robo-tuna and robotics-jelly fish. The oceans need rescuing and the time for action is now.
The World Economic Forum concludes :
Our fate is inextricably linked to the fate of the oceans. Technological innovation on land has helped us immeasurably to clean up polluting industries, promote sustainable economic growth, and intelligently watch over changes in terrestrial ecosystems.
We now need ocean tech to do the same under the sea.
As the marine industrial revolution advances, we will need to lean heavily on innovation, ingenuity and disruptive tech to successfully take more from the ocean while simultaneously damaging them less.
Saving the oceans is an imperative to our survival as mankind moves through the gap between the present predicaments to an opulent world of comfort, happiness and prosperity. It is necessary to conclude that the world is not divided by oceans but rather it is connected by oceans, and a collective approach is needed.
Indeed, the Golden Age is one of Opulence and opulence is the absence of malevolence and the dominance of benevolence, abundant purity in lifestyle, and the environment. The Opulence of a life of bliss, is stress free living, pristine natural environment, a balanced, healthful life, and respectful, harmonious existence. Reaching Opulence requires the filling of the divide, a crossing using technology to overcome the obstacles and challenges faced with the facilities of human courage and determination and technological inventiveness, innovativeness and intuitiveness. In these times of the Millennial, The Opulence of a Golden Age is within reach, as this generation has indoctrinated itself with the sensibility of technology, and the notion of a far advanced society.
$20 Per Gallon, Stiener, C. Grand Central Publishing, New York, July 2009, pg 163.
A clear pathway has been identified for the journey ahead, and it seems paradoxical there is high expectation for the short term but uncertainty for the longer term despite projections of global growth and prosperity from global gatekeepers such as the IMF and multinational consulting firms such as PwC. Technological advances clearly point to new, exciting opportunities in service delivery as well as new product development in robotics, 3D Printing, Blockchain, Drones, The IoT, Cryptocurrencies, Augmented and Virtual Reality that are all foundational technologies . With all the Blue Ocean possibilities from these, the strategic focus should therefore be about positioning to take advantage of these new opportunities that can be applied throughout civilization and beyond. Short term thinking without longer term planning is a dangerous scenario, all around, and it seems that short term thinkers and leaders are being created based solely for short term results. The short term mission related leadership is suited for the environment that requires short term results, based on short term plans and in business, that can be detrimental. For business to survive and achieve sustainability, it must relentlessly deep-scan its own horizons, but in today’s world of total convergences, it must do much more. It must scan the entire global environment to make appropriate decisions, regarding its business. Or, as Gene Hammett puts it : is there a crisis of leadership.
The IMF projects an uptick of the growth globally in 2018 of 3.9 % up from 3.7% in 2017. But despite this, there still are some places where this type of growth will not occur. In the Caribbean, Grenada GDP in 2017 was about 5% but its next door neighbors are in crises of food, crime, poverty and economic sanctions. In the wider sense Corruption, xenophobia, protectionism, and climate change are also global components of a malaise threatening to cause tremendous harm to this planet.
Transparency International points to statistics that say more than two thirds of countries measured fall in the “poorly performing” category. Corruption is a hydra-headed monster, not limited to financial matters alone, although the acquisition of money and wealth and power can cause value systems to be discarded and disregarded. It spreads throughout society when money becomes the focal point. Money lost through corruption, is money that cannot be used for the benefit of the State, and there are laws for it, but it can and will result in much fracturing, strife, poverty, and subterfuge.
The issue of these IMF projections then can be seen in the context of global benefit for people. Given the vast amounts of monies lost to development through corruption and crime, the people who work and Labour to produce this growth are being prevented from these benefits. With corruption at its present levels, confidence in the short term, but high caution about longer term prospects seems to suggest a deliberate strategy to not engage strategic thinking and planning for risk of being open and transparent. In other words who needs it when the goals are short term. Short term thinking leads to “quick fixes” or “low hanging fruit” or “high value items” the likes of which lead to short term, temporary gains, cost over-runs, corruption and little long term gains.
This is alarming as it expose a risk-averse attitude to think and plan strategically, utilizing a deep-horizon scan, and create roadmaps into the future.
That is most alarming both for business and society. Short term thinking, planning and execution are not good signs.
Global CEO Survey
The following excerpt from a PwC Global Report illustrates a focus on short term thinking, even whilst acknowledging future trends in technology.
–Excerpt from PwC Global CEO Survey
You don’t have to look far for signs that we live in tumultuous times. Geopolitical uncertainty, cyberattacks, and jobs threatened by artificial intelligence are just a few of the topics that dominated headlines in 2017. But despite these, a record-breaking percentage of CEOs are optimistic about the economic environment worldwide, in the short term. That’s one of the findings of PwC’s latest Global CEO Survey.
1. CEO optimism
This year’s survey showed a record jump in the all-time highest level of CEO confidence regarding global economic growth prospects for the coming year. Since 2012, there has been a remarkable shift as CEOs demonstrated their confidence that the global economic growth will “improve”. This unprecedented optimism is global — from North America to both Western and Central/Eastern Europe, as well as Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Strikingly that Confidence waned as CEOs doubted their own company’s growth in the next three years. 51% said they were “very confident” about their organization’s longer-term growth prospects, only 45% shared that view this year.There might be a feeling that the future is less predictable as technological disruption and geopolitical uneasiness increasing the unpredictability of longer-term confidence. Added to that are the foreign policies of self-preservation as trans-Atlantic and European cross-border migration, causing anxiety and uneasiness. Brexit will cause severe disruption, with people losing jobs and opportunities, but the socio-Political fallout seems destined to have longer term and far reaching effects.
2. A focus on the geopolitical positives
In the short-term, CEO optimism appears unimpeded by shake-ups such as Brexit, the Trump administration’s withdrawal from trade agreements and climate accords, and increased anxiety over North Korea. Undeterred, CEOs continue to invest in and grow their businesses. As we kick off a new year, global commodities prices have recovered from their trough and the world’s major economies are growing. Even Britain’s economy seems to be persevering despite Brexit. This upward trend is set to continue in 2018, with PwC predicting that the global economy will grow by almost 4% in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms this year.In the US, the Trump Administration’s pro-business policies — with the notable exceptions of trade and immigration — look to be fuelling a stock market boom, corporate confidence and low unemployment. With deep corporate tax cuts, down to 21%, deregulation and infrastructure spending for 2018, North American CEOs are enthused and infused with confidence as more than half (53%) are “very confident” about their company’s growth in the next 12 months.”Only time will tell how well-founded CEOs’ short-term confidence is but the economic indicators are on their side, with booming stock markets and strong predicted GDP growth in most major markets. Also, while risks seem to grow and multiply, CEOs are, on the one hand, becoming more used to high levels of multiple risks; while on the other hand finding ways of managing them. There are plenty of potential potholes in the road ahead for business but CEOs have become better at predicting where they are and navigating around them.”
3. Taking technology in their stride
Technology is affecting businesses in many ways. As the digital age marches on continuously and relentlessly, business strategies on the one hand, such as cybersecurity are constant threats, but on the other hand innovation and creativity in artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality, and operational effectiveness through cloud computing continue to drive growth. “Last year, 24% of the CEOs we spoke to told us they were “extremely concerned” about cyberthreats, but that number has jumped to 40% this year. In contrast, business leaders see enabling universal connectivity as the chief benefit of globalization.
There is no question that the impact of AI will be enormous, potentially transforming business and society at large. PwC’s recent global AI report predicts AI will contribute an additional $15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030. But those benefits are unlikely to be shared evenly with the US and China set to account for 70% of the boom.
Employment & Job Creation
The excerpt clearly indicates widespread opportunities for growth and development. The prediction of massive growth in AI, enthuses the mind, but establishes a disconnect. The report tells of confidence in the short term, on one hand, and uncertainty over the longer term on the other, showing a distinct gap which shouldn’t be, which will lead to problems in the future. The organizations who can engage in deep-horizon planning, not just tech companies, will be able to navigate rough seas in the future because of the roadmaps they create to survive and prosper. The opportunities are there, 15 trillion of them, and the US or China or India for that matter doesn’t have a moratorium on intellectual property. Risk-averseness is a high level threat to business.
The organizations who can engage the strategic culture of innovation will not be blindsided by the shocks of changing markets, products, skill, knowledge and wisdom sets needed for the Digital Age, as they would have made gradual progress towards strategic objectives set against clearly and accurately defined trends.The question therefore is, if projections are clear and accurate, where AI is predicted to contribute and additional 15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030, why is there this lack of confidence in the longer term. Is it the reluctance to effect change, or change? Is there a reluctance to engage deep-horizon scanning identifying trends and insights into what life will be or could be 10, 20 or 30 years from now and initiate their movement away from the comfort zone ? Is it a risk averseness to the future?
Given this impact of AI, there are opportunities for tremendous development in other countries who will be seeking to develop their own AI capability. Gaining the benefit and use of emerging platforms of IoT, driverless cars, drones, healthcare and education, energy and agriculture, are real benefits.
The emergence of Artificial Intelligence has fueled the debate about automation and the loss of jobs that will be caused.
It is no different from the turn of Industrial Ages prior to Industry 4. As each iteration occurs, there are transformations. This present one is no different. The skills needed are to be developed, sharpened and distributed extensively, so as to usher in new benefits and living standards, as innovation, creativity and perhaps inventions are achieved. Already, the world is witnessing and experiencing tremendous developments, at blinding speeds as exiting new tech products come available, and that’s the difference that sets apart this Industrial Revolution.
The pace at which changes are occurring has made driverless cars, battery powered cars, drones, robotics, medical services almost commonplace already. There is still the last wave to hit, and it seems to out there on the horizon lurking, and that may really be something to see and experience.
Given this massive shift in technological application, I submit that the roadmap is there for all to see, but is it the traditional that is holding on for dear life and not allowing the new age of design thinking, strategic thinking, platform designed organizations to flourish?
Thinking, Planning & Acting Strategically
Throughout history, in our darkest moments on this planet, we have been able to devise strategies to recover ourselves from great adversities. It was and still is simple. Survive.
During those world wars, famine and natural disasters the Vision was clear : survive at all costs. Thus we thought and planned and executed with that vision of victory over the antagonists. Those victories came at tremendous costs : time,money and people. When victory was achieved, we then started to plan recovery and sustainability. In other words, the vision, mission, strategies prior to victory were clearly understood up to the point of victory and What happened next was a matter of survival from then on. So that there was still tremendous hardships after victory. All sorts of plans then had to be created, for instance The Marshall Plan, tried, tested, kept or discarded, before global prosperity assumed a sense of universality. We still ended up with the Cold War, dictatorship and societal ills we face today.
Today, however, the Vision, is quite clear, with technology leading the roadmap journey. Climate change, cyber-terrorism, geo-spatial conflicts are still real threats and it’s possible to empathize with Global CEO’s expressing lack of confidence for the longer term. But with the massive trillion dollar market in AI looming, there is reason to think, Plan and act strategically.
There will be new models emerging and these will threaten traditional ways of thinking, but the fact is, new model will emerge.
The essence of strategic planning then, is to be visionary to be able see over the hills and mountains and seas, take action, so that tsunamis which appear from time to time are repelled and hardships ameliorated through the early warning systems of thinking, planning and acting strategically. A strategic thinker will not only understand the trends, but possess the ability to prescribe the necessary adjustments needed, and execute those so as to position the organization for growth in a new environment of high tech and increased people power.
To accomplish this, the traditional structure that seems to be producing short term leaders at the top, are required to adjust and remodel that traditional hierarchical top-down structure. It requires a concerted, deliberate strategy to achieve collectively, embracing all within and without the organization to create a uniqueness that can be developed into a competitive advantage. The circular, agile, platform organization is needed for this new world, that continuously pushes its boundaries to develop new markets through innovation and creativity in an open environment which can be anyone, anywhere, anytime.
The new Digital Age is dismantling old structures, as a shopfront moves from being open just for a specific number of hours a day, to being open for business 24×7 Online, as CyberSecurity becomes entrenched at the front of the organization, as Customers no longer have to wait to purchase. To accommodate this, new supply chain structures and processes must be constructed to meet demand and supply, delivery and new management models in marketing, and sales. This agile framework dismantles the hierarchical model and it is an imperative for today’s environment.Working hours are changing as automation and online access set in, new behaviors, and more leisure time to spend on the creative. New skill sets to be managed and new opportunities all become part of the ecosystem required for the Digital Age.
The age of creativity and awareness is upon us and there is no need for limited, short term thinking. In a world so filled with opportunities to improve it, it is difficult to accept the notion that the longer term is uncertain. If these opportunities are pursued actively, there is great reward. Just ask Elon Musk!