Embracing the future of exponential change

“I can observe the changes occurring around me and embrace the struggle to accept them, to respond to them, to adapt to them.

I can look ahead and live today holding space for tomorrow. I can fight for what we can still curtail. I can play a part, not live apart, and I can act with care for others when the floods hit, when the seas rise, when the snow melts, the rivers run dry, and the flames rage.

Defeat may only be a failure to adapt.

– Lauren E. Oakes, In Search for the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World.

 

We are now in the early stages of the 4th Industrial Revolution, in a world where the pace of innovation and disruption is quickly accelerating into the exponential. Change is not only inevitable but will continue at a speed humans cannot comprehend. But what does this really mean? Will we be forced to adapt to this change because we are a part of a fast-paced global community? Or, is it an inherent part of the human condition?

The Age of Acceleration refers to three aspects of society that are accelerating exponentially; technology, globalization and climate change. If you think about the changes we have seen in these areas over the past 20 years, it’s easy to see the beginnings of this exponential change.

The development of the internet as we know it in the early 1980s, along with the subsequent creation of the world wide web in 1990 began an information exchange unlike any that had never been seen before. By the mid-90s, the first smartphone was introduced by IBM, leading to Apple’s revolutionary iPhone launch in 2007. From there, the technology has continued to improve, and we now have more information available to us in our pockets than Bill Clinton did in his whole time as President of the United States.

The flow on effect can be seen with the growth in globalisation, as the world becomes smaller and smaller. The internet, social media, forums and other social sharing platforms have given billions of people around the world the tools to instantly share and consume information, knowledge and comments on any topic. This instant feedback loop has completely transformed the power dynamics between producers and consumers, with consumers now having the potential to completely destroy a company’s reputation with one simple comment.

Ironically, as the world gets smaller, the population gets bigger. In 1998, the global population was 5.9 billion. Today, we have grown to approximately 7.6 billion, with predictions saying this number will reach 9.8 billion by 2050. Climate change is now becoming a grim reality, as our efforts over the last 20 years have only been enough to balance out the increase in population that has occurred.

As the world continues to grow, being unique and standing out in all of the noise is equally becoming harder and more important. Increased visibility has resulted in increased opportunities, meaning more and more people are seeking entrepreneurship as a way to live out a personal purpose and improve the world for the better. Companies such as Google, Facebook and Uber have shown people the power and wealth that can be gained through a simple innovative idea. Entrepreneurial innovation and experimentation will constantly destroy the old to introduce a new equilibrium, in theory, making possible higher standards of living.

Urban design is also seeing a shift, in turn directly impacting the way we live, work and conceive the world. As consumers, we are beginning to make more ethical choices and influencing business models, the development of technologies and advances in science.

It is easy to ignore the speed at which disruption by technology is affecting the globe, but we must look at the overall impact it is having on the human side and our approach. The exponential rate of change requires us to learn faster than humans have ever had to before. Certain behaviours we have perfected for decades will soon become obsolete. As a result, “Adaptability Quotient” (AQ) will soon become the primary predictor of success, with general intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) both occupying an inferior position.

The following questions are raised, how do we keep up with it? How do we face it? Is it possible to manage it? How are these changes shaping the future?

 

If fear is the absence of breath, and faith is a positive force, I want to breathe into an uncertain future.

If this tree species and all the people connected to it gave me one great gift, it is this: the realization that there’s simply no imaginable tomorrow — no modelled future scenario, no amount or shade of red—that could ever possibly nullify the need for unwavering care and thoughtful action today.

To me, that is thriving. To me, in this rapidly changing world, that is grace. It is how I choose to live with what I know.”

– Lauren E. Oakes, In Search for the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World.

 

 

As a collective, we need to become comfortable with uncertainty, be more vulnerable in the face of the unknown and not be afraid to admit that “we don’t know”. The future will be a constant process of learning and un-learning, transforming ourselves with the world around us to achieve new and incredible heights. All we need is the eagerness to welcome the unknown, the strength to thrive outside of our comfort zones, the positivity and perseverance to move forward and the drive to do your part in transforming the world for the better.

 

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein

 

Change is not inherently good or bad. It is inevitable.