Category Archives: optimistic

Being Happy With What You Have Is Bulls**t

Whatever Happened To Ambition? I’m going to start this post off with two completely opposing views – both of which I’m pretty familiar with. Let’s start with Star Trek. On the episode, This Side Of Paradise, the crew encounter a planet where Earth colonists have been for a few years. These alien spores keep everyone healthy and…

How To Boldly (Star) Trek Into An Awesome Future

Star Trek is Probably the Most Influential Cultural Artifact of Any Currently Living Generation I wasn’t old enough to remember when, 50 years ago last week, Star Trek took to the airwaves for the very first time. Gene Roddenberry’s “Wagon Train to the Stars”, his “western, but in space”, showed his amazing knack for envisioning…

Does Necessity Really Drive Innovation?

innovationI’ve heard it said a few times that its necessity that drives innovation – that if you aren’t trying to solve a hairy problem, or your back is against the wall – that is the only space that innovation comes from. The companies will only innovate if they are forced to.

If you ask me, by the time you are forced to innovate in order to stay alive, then it’s probably already too late. You need to get ahead of the curve – to innovate before you need to – in order to map out the future direction of your company and the world that your company will exist in.

One of the things that I did during my time at Yahoo! we called “Targeted IP Generation” – which is a fancy term for “inventing things we can’t build yet” – we would pick a specific area, say social networks, or even a combination of areas, and invent products in that space that we purposely knew couldn’t be built right now. The reason that they couldn’t be built was usually that the systems were currently incapable of building them right now, or the market wasn’t quite ready for it right now, or that there was no clear business model to the invention, but there was something about it that felt right – that you could see that product exist in a near future world. One of the most interesting things we found that most of the things are came up with actually did come to pass, just at the wrong times. I like to say that inventing products is a bit like being a weatherman: sometimes you are right, sometimes you are wrong, but most of the time you’re right, just at the wrong time.

For example, one of the inventions had to do with augmented reality glasses using a transparent overlay, and about 5 years after we filed for a patent on it, products with that similar capability started coming into the marketplace. The technology had finally caught up to the idea. Since we had filed for a patent on the idea, when the technology catches up, that could have become a whole new line of revenue for the company.

Did we need to innovate? No, there was no pressing need (although if you ask me there is always a pressing need to innovate!) at the time, however we knew that there would be a pressing need for new products and business models in the future, so we preemptively invented for that time. Not many companies are that forward thinking. In doing so, however, you can ensure your continued existence. You don’t have to be worried about disruption shutting you down, like those firms did in the Innovator’s Dilemma – you’ll be prepared for the disruption. You will be birthing new businesses and business models to replace the old ones.

So I’d argue, if you wait for necessity to push you to innovate – you’ve already been outdisrupted. The time to get ahead of the curve is now. Tomorrow may already be too late.

— image Thomas Hawk

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The Future Is Not a Scary, Cold, Emotionless Place

escapingthedomeWhat’s the deal with all of the scary, dystopian futures that we are seeing in all of the popular culture? Why are people thinking that the future is going to be so horrible? Of course, if you look in some directions, you see the power of the state increasing, but in other cases, you see the power of the individual increasing via the use of technology. Is not just a balance, it’s in our favor. As humans.

Is there a chance of a world like the Hunger Games or Tomorrowland’s failed cities actually happening? Is it really possible that we will see worlds where people are pitted against each other to fight to the death like in the old Roman gladiator days, or is it more likely that we’ll see robots and other automatons battling it out to the cheers of the crowd?

Whatever happened to all of the positive visions of the future? Where things were going to continuously get better, instead of worse? Where the big hairy problems of the world start being solved, as opposed to taking over the world? Where we move to be a more enlightened species?

One of the most interesting questions I’ve come across as a futurist is “Do you really think, as a futurist, that you can change the future?” To that I have to answer – absolutely. Why would anyone want to map out possible futures, some good and some bad, and not try to redirect things towards that positive future? Personally, I don’t believe that we should “Prime Directive” like, stand outside the stream of events and simply report that future, so that others may implement it. We need to be in there, be involved, to change things that are going wrong. To help steer and guide ourselves into the future we have always wanted.

In my vision, the future isn’t only better, its probably not even very “futuristic” in the sense that most people think of the future. A good example is the “positive future” commercial in the movie Tomorrowland – the city is all modern, full of tall spires, ultra modern and sleek cars and transportation methods, super high tech flying backpacks, and all sorts of things one would typically see as “futuristic”. In these futures, the technology is front and center, sometimes even burying the humanity and the natural into the background.

If you ask me, its technology which is going to sink into the background. As we move forward into a more and more seamless world, the technology which we use to communicate with the online world and other people will get smaller and smaller, and eventually disappear. Instead of sitting in the square watching all of these people interacting with their smartphone, they will interact with each other. Devices will disappear, the technology will disappear. Things will simply happen when we need them to, in the exact right time and place that they need to happen, mostly without our intervention.

In this future, our brains are as big as the world. We can work and play from anywhere, at any time, with any one, no matter where we, or they, are. All reality will be augmented, improving our lives immeasurably. Big data, predictive analytics and the internet of things will allow us the freedom to be fully human, while the machines take care of the mundane, we can be free to be creative, interact, and allow serendipity to happen.

Between humans, for humans.

The future will actually be more human that you think.

— image: yumikrum

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