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21 Takeaways for the 21st century from the Singularity University Global Summit, August 13-15

By | Jorge Calvo, PhD | Deputy Dean, Professor and Independent Strategic Advisor [Tokyo],  GLOBIS University – Graduate School of Management

Here I present some thoughts written down in my notes from among the many bursts of inspiration triggered at the SU Global Summit, and which could be applied to all sectors and areas of society in continuous revolution. 

Singularity University does not fit the pattern of the classic academic university. Of course, it boasts the best professors, two of its founders hail from MIT: Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis, and have been honoured by countless institutions, but there, no-one talks about the past, they talk about how they want the future to be: “Hope is not a strategy.” Singularity University mission is to “educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges,” but it is not technology-driven. And it’s not just innovative either: it aims for large-scale disruptions – what Joseph Schumpeter, one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, called Creative Destruction. They don’t intend to appoint any Chairs; instead, they aspire to inspire.

The New Exponential Paradigm can be summed up in the following 21 takeaways messages:

1.    What is Moonshot Thinking? SU co-founder Peter Diamandis summarized it as follows:

A Moonshot is going 10X bigger, while the rest of the world is pursuing 10% bigger. When you try to do 10% better, you’re putting yourself in a ‘smartness’ competition with everyone else in the world – a competition you’re unlikely to win. When you instead try to go 10x bigger, you’re forced to approach the problem in a radically different fashion. The result is 100x more worth it, but it’s never 100x harder.

2.    Faster, cheaper computer power is boosting the growth of exponential technologies, including networks & sensors, synthetic biology, robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, with unexpected convergence and consequences and new business models.

3.    A new entrepreneurial mindset is needed to convert big problems into big opportunities for a better world. We should focus on the things we can make an exponential impact on.

4.    Over the last 10 years, leadership has been about coping with change and doing the right things. Exponential leadership is about coping with non-change: stops the things that are wrong for everyone, things that should be stopped.

5.    The exponential transformation process is not rational – it is fully emotional, and people and policy can either develop it or block it. Diamandis quoted:

Ideas Are Easy, Culture is Hard: Creating the ecosystem for rapidly evaluating and testing ideas is much harder than finding the idea. Filter weaker ideas early by running a ‘pre-mortem’ – predict in advance why an idea is likely to fail – and celebrate and reward ideas that the team kills early.”

6.    The various types of Exponential Leadership mindsets include:

  • Futurist: Imagines bold ideas.
  • Humanitarian Impact-Driver: Makes choices that positively impact people and communities.
  • Technologist: Accelerates possibilities with technology.
  • Innovator: Brings ideas to life.

7.    Speed is the critical currency of our time: the pace of change is accelerating exponentially and we are painfully and detrimentally slow – technology is growing faster than individuals, individuals are growing faster than businesses, and businesses are growing faster than public policy and regulations.

8.    As humans, we tend to think linearly. As entrepreneurs, we need to think exponentially to take advantage of the potential of emerging technologies to work together. SU co-founder Ray Kurzweil said: “Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.”

9.    The future world will be characterized by the 6 Ds:

  • Digitalized.
  • Deceptive.
  • Disruptive.
  • Dematerialized.
  • Demonetized.
  • Democratized.

10. Understanding customers’ needs today doesn’t ensure success tomorrow. The strategic advantage belongs to those organizations that can forecast future customers’ needs and respond in advance.

11. Exponential strategies pursue long-term goals but focus on short-term steps dynamically. It’s a constant zoom-in and zoom-out: think big but start small, managing volume, velocity and complexity:

  • Your customers: Look for the future jobs that need to be done.
  • Your future: Track and map ahead.
  • Your organization: Build and xEnterprise.
  • Your people: Train xLeaders who do the things that make the new things obsolete by making products exponentially accessible to people.

12. There are four convergent forces for exponential health, namely:

  • Psychology.
  • Neurology.
  • Technology.
  • Pharmacology.

There are, of course, a number of exponential controversies:

13. Don’t worry about future artificial intelligence challenges. Worry about human stupidity. Humans develop AI and write policy. AI (Watson) is 90% accurate in making treatment decisions in Early Stage Lung Cancer, professionals 50%. Self-driving cars are now safer than their human drivers. And the more data they gather, the greater their precision in decision-making.

14. Artificial intelligence eats data- AI and machine learning can’t make decisions without having built up enormous amounts of data. We humans can make decisions, albeit sometimes rash ones.

15. AI won’t enslave humans, as we don’t have just one or two AIs in the world – today, we have billions.

16. The aim of AI and robots… is to perform a function better than humans, not to be or think like humans. Aeroplanes fly but don’t imitate birds’ wing movements.

17. There are 2.6 million robots in operation, almost 70% in the automotive, electronics and metal industries. Worried about job loss? No need to be – countries with the highest robot/employee ratios have the lowest unemployment rates (Korea, Japan and Germany). The developed countries with highest unemployment rates, have the lowest robot/employee ratios (Greece and Spain).

Exponential Predictions:

18. In 10 years’ time, it’s predicted that 40% of the Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist. Companies that don’t like change will hate the future.

19. By 2025, it’s expected that almost 100% of the global population will be connected to the Internet – that means 5 billion new minds interacting.

20. And the revised prediction for IoT devices connected by 2020: 500 billion!

21. The cost of solar energy continues to fall, from $2.07 per watt in Japan to just $0.65 per watt in India. As solar energy reaches parity with fossil fuels and falls even lower in price, the cost of energy will drop close to zero, leading to greater democratization as increasing numbers of people gain access to it. We are rapidly entering an age in which sustainable energy is accessible and affordable around the planet. Those countries with the greatest capacity to generate solar energy are usually the poorest, so for them, it represents a great opportunity to generate much-needed wealth.

And perhaps nothing better to finish this article about the Singularity University Global Summit 2017 than one quotation from Diamandis: “When I think about creating abundance, it’s not about creating a life of luxury for everybody on this planet; it’s about creating a life of possibility. It is about taking that which was scarce and making it abundant.”

Click here to access to the Summit livestream recorded.


Originally published by Jorge Calvo @ LinkedIn

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