Did you know that we have more computing power in our smartphones today than all of NASA had in 1969 when they put the first man on the moon? This was true in 2011.
Did you know that researchers have created a machine that can read our dreams? Next, they want to play it back for you.
Did you know that developers are a year away from producing a medical tricorder (think Star Trek) that will be more effective at diagnosing medical illnesses than a team of 10 board certified doctors? This isn’t science fiction anymore.
Did you know that my son might never need a driver’s license? It’s because driverless cars may be a matter of course for his generation.
Did you know that it is very possible that I will live to be 150 years old…and that my children can live to be even older?
In December, I attended Singularity University’s weeklong executive program to learn about emerging technologies that can disrupt and change society, as we know it. The conference’s organizers brought together some of the world’s top innovators to share their discoveries with my class. To say that it was an eye-opening experience is an understatement. I would go as far as say that this was a life-changing event for me. I was unaware of the many breakthroughs happening in technology right now. It was easy for me to get caught up in the daily routines of family and work and completely miss what was happening outside of Tallahassee. The world has changed and continues to change at an exponential pace.
During the conference, I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose! When I came back, I felt serious withdrawal. The experience reawakened my sense of curiosity, which I never realized that I had lost. I found myself thirsting for knowledge and started seeking news about the tech industry, reading articles about the future, and watching tons of TED Talks videos. I have a newfound excitement about our future and I see a world of possibilities and opportunity.
The future is bright; however, there can also be a dark side. How can we live in a world with flying robots when we still have almost a billion people living in abject poverty, unable to feed themselves? What happens to the world’s resources when people start living to 150 years old and beyond? I also see a future world where technology accelerates the difference between the haves and have-nots.
Every day, the lecturers at Singularity pressed us to think about the bigger implications of technology and our social responsibility to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. They called them Global Grand Challenges and asked us, “How will you positively affect 1 billion people in the next decade?” Wow. It’s time to think big and beyond ourselves. And for the first time I realized that it was possible.
As my excitement started to temper, and I have had more time to reflect, I am also beginning to worry. Will the future move too fast for me to adapt? How can I prepare myself for this future? How can I prepare my children for this future? How can I prepare my organization for this future? How can I prepare my community for this future? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I feel the community should know about these disruptive technologies. Because whether we like it or not, change is coming. We have to see it coming, open up a dialogue, and decide what we want to do about it.