Thursday, September 5, 2013


The decades-old model of inefficient hyper-consumption is rapidly giving way to a new swapping-based model called collaborative consumption. The premise behind this concept is as old as barter economies, but this new model is putting in place a system where people can share resources without surrendering personal freedoms or forgoing their lifestyle. But it’s not just about changing our consumption habits; it’s also about a widespread value shift: A shift from valuing possessions to valuing usage; and from valuing ownership to valuing access.
Globally, the middle classes – and youth populations – are becoming indignant. The revolution is empowering individuals to challenge hierarchies and traditional authority figures. The revolution enables the creation of powerful minorities and makes governing harder and minority rule easier than ever. What we see today is the profound genesis of indignation on a truly global scale in a manner like nothing seen before. Today, indignation travels not only at the speed of “sound,” but at the speed of light – or the speed of the network. The germination of ideas that underlie protest now only requires nanoseconds. Wee are moving full-speed-ahead into a truly global era of indignation.
New advancements are increasingly pushing 3D printing into the mainstream, and are being applied to a greater variety of product groups. The technology has improved – and been simplified – so that it enables designers to quickly and easily produce a useable product, which can then be tested, tweaked and reprinted, within a matter of days. As a result, 3D printing has opened up to a broader market, and now offers the critical combination of affordability, usability and accuracy. Today’s machines can print objects out of almost any material and with any complex geometry. 3D printing holds tremendous possibilities for manufacturing, and could potentially revolutionize the process of invention. It will also further challenge our concept of ownership, copyrighting and trademarking.
Laurence Smith, Professor at UCLA, predicts that global warming may make cities in northern regions like Canada and Scandinavia the next big global economic powers. Rising temperatures could mean that previously frozen natural resources like gas, oil and water will be unlocked just as the rest of the world is facing shortages. Smith claims that by 2050, these northern rim countries – NORCs – and other sparsely populated areas like the northern U.S., Greenland and Russia will become “migration magnets.” In recent years, many global companies have pursued aggressive strategies in developing markets like the BRICs. What we may see in the coming decades is a shift in strategy toward NORCs. The attractiveness of these critical geographies could help to revitalize North America and Europe at a time when Western countries struggle to remain competitive.
Does High “Valuation” = High “Value” Delivered? We are seeing fundamental and profound paradigm shifts evident among the world’s most influential, contemporary technology companies. The “best of breed” technological enterprises of today – including Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter – are collectively rewriting the traditional rules of business, and exhibiting remarkable adaptability in the process. These companies make their money either exclusively through virtual products and services, or through a blend of tangible products and virtual platforms. They are highly profitable, while maintaining a relatively tiny human workforce. They often (or exclusively) raise huge sums of capital from a small number of private investors, working around public exchanges in the process. Thus, profits and subsequent wealth creation are concentrated in the hands of few. In many ways, these companies are considered to be the emerging gold standard in global business.
We are now able to employ and leverage advanced tracking and metadata technologies to construct an extensive informatics infrastructure linking data from people, systems and things together. The result is a highly-detailed interoperable and connective model. This multidisciplinary and collaborative effort to understand changes in human behavior, systems behavior and object behavior is undoubtedly creating a trackable and comprehensive map of global connections. As we learn more about the functional and structural connectivity between the objects and systems that surround us, we are able to map multitudes of “connectomes” – all with greater speed, efficiency and resolution.
Fictional cloaking devices have been used in various TV programs and movies for many years. But recently, scientists have unveiled a variety of real-world cloaking devices which can manipulate nature, light, sound and time in novel ways and make illusions near-impossible to detect. These devices are being aided by new assemblages in material sciences – especially in the fields opened up by metamaterials (human-made materials with properties that do not occur in nature). Although much attention has been paid to organic materials, perhaps exciting future opportunities may also increasingly rest in the hands of these inorganic metamaterials. Metamaterials could lead to previously impossible forms of electronics, hold enormous implications for the health care and medical sectors, and usher in a new age of stealth technology for military.
We are seeing an involuntary social contagion developing among people whose interpersonal, psychological and attitudinal characteristics are being passed virally along to others with little or no conscious awareness that it is even happening. Social contagion can be immediately transmitted, either directly or indirectly, through any sort of interaction between two or more people. This can occur either in real space or virtual space. Loneliness, blame, obesity, self-control and anger – to name just a few – are all found to be transmittable through social networks.
The Internet was always about connecting people. But increasingly it is about connecting things. Systems, networks, structures, electronic devices and virtual entities are now connecting wirelessly, without human inclusion. Humans were typically central to the equation, serving, in large part, as intermediaries between various data systems. But control is shifting, from the hands of humans into the hands of systems – and the many networks of systems these systems control.
We have long witnessed the ongoing transition of processes, jobs and ultimately decisions from wetware – the computing capabilities of the human mind and brain – to software (and hardware). And while this, in and of itself, is not a wholly new development, the reality that people are now beginning to voluntarily opt-in to have technology govern parts of their lives, and complete what were once personal tasks, is profound. Consumer-facing businesses must not only assess the impact of this issue on their bottom line, but also where their value proposition fits along the continuum. As with any other trend, the evolution of wetware-to-software will be met with equal force by its countertrend – the desire for humans to reclaim tasks, functions and decisions once their own.
The 20th Century framework of economic development, once a useful tool for businesses, economists and policy analysts, may no longer accurately capture the true state of global markets. Long-accepted delineations between Developed and Developing or Less Developed (3rd) World markets are being challenged in the face of rapid geopolitical change. In recent years, several prominent economists have questioned the model’s continued relevance. What we see emerging now is an entirely new way of looking at the world. This new world consists of several important nations moving up the economic ladder very rapidly, and questions the continuing validity of a 3rd World classification. The categorization of BRIC countries is also in flux. This is the emergence of a 4th World – the combination of developed and developing markets into a more adaptive model.

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