Tectonic Shifts Impacting Our World

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Last month, I blogged on looking to the future and offered the third installment of a series I wrote for the Defense Media Network. That post in talked about how the National Intelligence Council’s capstone publication, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds peered into the future and looked at Megatrends that would impact our future world. Those Megatrends lead directly to the Tectonic Shifts that will rock our world over the next fifteen years. When we mine the world-class work the of the sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies comprising the National Intelligence Council, these Tectonic Shifts become clear.

Among the projections of the Tectonic Shifts that will impact the world in the ensuing decades: Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds lists these four:

These tectonic shifts represent concrete, visible, and important changes we will see in our world along the road to 2030. Some people, especially those in affected countries, will notice one or the other, or perhaps several of these trends, but only in “Global Trends 2030” do we see them compiled and connected.

There are seven major tectonic shifts, stemming from the factors noted above, that will manifest themselves over the next two decades:

  • Growth of the Global Middle Class: Middle classes most everywhere in the developing world are poised to expand substantially in terms of both absolute numbers and the percentage of the population that can claim middle-class status during the next 15 to 20 years.
  • Wider Access to Lethal and Disruptive Technologies: A wider spectrum of instruments of war – especially precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and bioterror weaponry – will become readily accessible. Individuals and small groups will have the ability to perpetrate large-scale violence and disruption – a capability formerly the monopoly of nations.
  • Definitive Shift of Economic Power to the East and South: The U.S., European, and Japanese share of global income is projected to fall from 56 percent today to well under half by 2030. In 2008, China overtook the United States as the world’s largest saver; by 2020, emerging markets’ share of financial assets is projected to almost double.
  • Unprecedented and Widespread Aging: Whereas in 2012 only Japan and Germany have matured beyond a median age of 45 years, most European countries, South Korea, and Taiwan will have entered the post-mature age category by 2030. Migration will become more globalized as both rich and developing countries suffer from workforce shortages.
  • Urbanization: Today’s roughly 50-percent urban population will climb to nearly 60 percent, or 4.9 billion people, in 2030. Africa will gradually replace Asia as the region with the highest urbanization growth rate. Urban centers are estimated to generate 80 percent of economic growth; the potential exists to apply modern technologies and infrastructure, promoting better use of scarce resources.
  • Food and Water Pressures: Demand for food is expected to rise at least 35 percent by 2030, while demand for water is expected to rise by 40 percent. Nearly half of the world’s population will live in areas experiencing severe water stress. Fragile states in Africa and the Middle East are most at risk of experiencing food and water shortages, but China and India are also vulnerable.
  • U.S. Energy Independence: With shale gas, the United States will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come. Increased oil production from difficult-to-access oil deposits would result in a substantial reduction in the U.S. net trade balance and faster economic expansion. Global spare capacity may exceed over eight million barrels, at which point OPEC would lose price control and crude oil prices would collapse, causing a major negative impact on oil-export economies.

Read more about Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds and the TECTONIC SHIFTS impacting our world on the Defense Media Network Website.

Read this fourth article of the series here:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/global-trends-2030-tectonic-shifts-between-now-and-2030/

Head’s Up – Let’s Talk

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Yes, it’s all there in the palms of our hands – our smart phones. With e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everything else right there, why even look up? There may be more reasons than you think, and Sherry Turkle outlines some of the benefits of just popping our heads up and talking to the person we happen to be with.

Across generations, technology is implicated in this assault on empathy. We’ve gotten used to being connected all the time, but we have found ways around conversation — at least from conversation that is open-ended and spontaneous, in which we play with ideas and allow ourselves to be fully present and vulnerable. But it is in this type of conversation — where we learn to make eye contact, to become aware of another person’s posture and tone, to comfort one another and respectfully challenge one another — that empathy and intimacy flourish. In these conversations, we learn who we are.

Yes, we all have busy lives. What brings us more joy? The person or the machine with the clever apps we’re holding in our hands?

There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence and often prolonged physical presence with loved ones. And there’s no real substitute for a high degree of attentiveness that we bring to an occasion we spend with loved ones, friends, and even work associates.

Read Sherry Turkle’s article here:

Writing Critics

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Where you stand depends on where you sit. Some people think of critics as effete snobs who offer unfair criticism of works of art they themselves don’t have the courage to take on themselves.

But another view is that to be a critic is to be a defender of the life of art and a champion of the art of living. Here is what A.O. Scott, chief film critic for the New York Times, had to offer on the subject:

Like every other form of democracy, criticism is a messy, contentious business, in which the rules are as much in dispute as the outcomes and the philosophical foundations are fragile if not vaporous. We all like different things. Each of us is blessed with a snowflake-special consciousness, an apparatus of pleasure and perception that is ours alone. But we also cluster together in communities of taste that can be as prickly and polarized as the other tribes with which we identify. We are protective of our pleasures, and resent it when anyone tries to mock or mess with them.

And yet our ways of thinking about this fundamental human attribute amount to a heap of contradictions. There is no argument, but then again there is only argument. We grant that our preferences are subjective, but we’re rarely content to leave them in the private realm. It’s not enough to say “I like that” or “It wasn’t really my cup of tea.” We insist on stronger assertions, on objective statements. “That was great! That was terrible!”

The real culture war (the one that never ends) is between the human intellect and its equally human enemies: sloth, cliché, pretension, cant. Between creativity and conformity, between the comforts of the familiar and the shock of the new. To be a critic is to be a soldier in this fight, a defender of the life of art and a champion of the art of living.

You can read more of this insightful article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/sunday-review/everybodys-a-critic-and-thats-how-it-should-be.html

Wired to Create

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How can we be more creative? There is a cottage industry of seminar, books, videos, online courses and TED talks on the subject. Sadly, there is usually more heat than light. A new book on creativity offers some help:

 

Research into the nature of creativity has exploded the past 50 years, and scientists are finding that it’s rarely a well-defined, step-by-step process. Picasso drew 45 numbered sketches, each in multiple versions, while working on his famous painting “Guernica.”

 

Contrary to the well-worn notion that creativity resides in the right side of the brain, research shows that creativity is a product of the whole brain, relying especially on what the authors call the “imagination network” — circuits devoted to tasks like making personal meaning, creating mental simulations and taking perspective.

Once the idea is found, alas, the creative process begins to resemble something more like grinding execution. It’s still creative, but it requires more focus and less daydreaming — one reason highly creative people tend to exhibit mindfulness and mental wandering.

Creativity is a process that reflects our fundamentally chaotic and multifaceted nature. It is both deliberate and uncontrollable, mindful and mindless, work and play.

Read more in this New York Times article here

 

The Future is Autonomous

Global Hawk flying environmental mapping missions in Latin America, Caribbean

In his best-selling book, War Made New, military historian Max Boot notes: “My view is that technology sets the parameters of the possible; it creates the potential for a military revolution.”

One only has to read a few lines of defense media reports of autonomous systems development or industry advertisements regarding a particular air, ground, surface or subsurface unmanned systems to come away with the impression that autonomous systems represent completely new technology, an artifact of the 21st Century, or perhaps the late 20th Century.  But in fact, autonomous systems have been around for over a century.

As a naval analyst looking at major military trends, one of the most cutting-edge and intriguing technologies out there is in the area of autonomous systems.  But are we really leveraging this awesome technology in the most effective way.  Maybe not. We discuss this in our U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings article, “More Brains, Less Brawn.” An excerpt:

The future for autonomous vehicles is virtually unlimited.  Indeed, concepts for new missions, such as using autonomous aerial vehicles to detect approaching ballistic missiles are being generated by visionaries who have seized on the enormous potential of these systems.  But while their ability to deliver revolutionary change to the Navy-after-Next is real; this process is not without challenges.

This vision must be supported by both a commitment of the top levels of naval leadership and also by leadership and stewardship at the programmatic level – from acquisition professionals, to requirements officers, to scientists and engineers in the Navy and industry imagining, designing, developing, modeling, testing, and fielding these systems.  If the Navy does this well, autonomous vehicles will continue to change the tactics of today’s Navy, the operational concepts of tomorrow’s Navy, and will usher in a strategic shift for the Navy-after-Next.

You can read this entire article here:

http://georgegaldorisi.com/wp-content/uploads/Galdorisi-Dec-11.pdf

Insulating Our Minds

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Few things are as relentless as what you are holding in your hand – your smart phone, smart pad, or whatever other device you are wedded to.

 

Text messages, pop-ups, robo-calls – there is no shortage of claims on our attention. Is it any wonder we struggle to reclaim our inner lives?

 

In The World Beyond Your Head, the writer starts with a straightforward premise: “We are afflicted by a cultural crisis of attention—imperiling not only our mental health but also our ability to function as responsible citizens in a democracy. It’s hard to open a newspaper or magazine these days without reading a complaint about our fractured mental lives, diminished attention spans, and a widespread sense of distraction. More ominously, our interior mental lives are laid bare as a resource to be harvested by others.”

Today, the book’s author insists, “human flourishing” can best be achieved by mastering not abstract information but the ability to work with one’s hands—real work requiring mental agility and physical dexterity that pulls “us out of ourselves” under the guidance of mentors, parents and other authoritative figures. Reminiscent of “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” The book excels in its vivid depiction of a handful of gifted individuals immersed in their trades, from hockey players to glass blowers.

Read more of this review here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-plea-for-time-out-of-mind-1430348881

Moore’s Law – Onward!

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I’ve used this blog to talk about technology and to see where technology is pushing the edges of the envelope. Technology continues to dazzle us. But as Arthur Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

A giant in the history of the computer – indeed of the world we know today – died this month. His name was Gordon Moore.

At the inaugural International Solid-State Circuits Conference held on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1960, a young computer engineer named Douglas Engelbart introduced the electronics industry to the remarkably simple but groundbreaking concept of “scaling.”

Dr. Engelbart, who would later help develop the computer mouse and other personal computing technologies, theorized that as electronic circuits were made smaller, their components would get faster, require less power and become cheaper to produce — all at an accelerating pace.

Sitting in the audience that day was Gordon Moore, who went on to help found the Intel Corporation, the world’s largest chip maker. In 1965, Dr. Moore quantified the scaling principle and laid out what would have the impact of a computer-age Magna Carta. He predicted that the number of transistors that could be etched on a chip would double annually for at least a decade, leading to astronomical increases in computer power.

His prediction appeared in Electronics Magazine in April 1965 – over a half-century ago – and was later called Moore’s Law. It was never a law of physics, but rather an observation about the economics of a young industry that ended up holding true for a half-century.

Read more in this thoughtful NYT piece here

 

Books and Social Skills

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My mother wanted me to be more social. She always complained: You need to get your nose out of those books.” I was an avid reader, and to her point, not very social. Maybe it had something to do with growing up in New York City and learning – at an early age – never to make eye contact on the subway.

Fast forward decades and as Ann Lukits suggests in her Wall Street Journal Health and Fitness article, maybe books do make us more social. In her words:

People who read a lot of fiction are known to have stronger social skills than nonfiction readers or nonreaders. A new study suggests that reading fictional works, especially stories that take readers inside people’s lives and minds, may enhance social skills by exercising a part of the brain involved in empathy and imagination.

Fiction’s ability to improve social skills—or social cognition—may depend on how well readers’ attention is drawn to other people’s mental states, the researchers said. Stories containing compelling emotional, social and psychological content may trigger neural changes in the default network, which could translate into enhanced social skills in real life, they suggest.

Worth a try? Read more here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/reading-fiction-may-enhance-social-skills-1457366832

Megatrends Impacting Our World

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Earlier this month, I blogged on looking to the future and offered the second installment of a series I wrote for the Defense Media Network. That post in talked about how the National Intelligence Council’s capstone publication, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds peered into the future. I suggested that you don’t have to be as prescient as the late Tom Clancy to have a clearer window on the future. You need only mine the world-class work the of the sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies comprising the National Intelligence Council.

Among the projections of the Megatrends that will impact the world in the ensuing decades: Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds lists these four:

  • Individual Empowerment: Individual empowerment will accelerate owing to poverty reduction, growth of the global middle class, greater educational attainment, widespread use of new communications and manufacturing technologies, and health care advances.
  • Diffusion of Power: By 2030 there will not be any hegemonic power. Rather, power will shift to networks and coalitions in a multipolar world. Multipolarity is a trend that is closely related to individual empowerment.
  • Demographic Patterns: The demographic arc of instability will narrow. Economic growth might well decline in “aging” countries. Up to 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urbanized areas and that migration will increase.
  • Food, Water, and Energy: Demand for these resources will grow substantially owing to an increase in the global population. Importantly, tackling problems pertaining to one commodity will be linked to supply and demand for the others.

These trends, which are virtually certain, exist today, but GT2030 suggests that during the next 15-20 years they will gain much greater momentum, becoming the governing trends that change our world and shape it as we move toward 2030 – and beyond.

Read more about Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds and the MEGATRENDS impacting our world on the Defense Media Network Website Read this third article of the series here:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/global-trends-2030-future-thinking-about-megatrends/

Your Time?

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Yes, we all have busy lives. What brings us more joy? Is it the well-planned out – but limited “quality time” we purposefully decide to spend with others, or is the random moments of pure joy that evolve just from being with others?

There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence and often prolonged physical presence with loved ones. And there’s no real substitute for a high degree of attentiveness that we bring to an occasion we spend with loved ones, friends, and even work associates.

As Frank Bruni suggests in an article that spoke to me:

We delude ourselves when we say otherwise, when we invoke and venerate “quality time,” a shopworn phrase with a debatable promise: that we can plan instances of extraordinary candor, plot episodes of exquisite tenderness, engineer intimacy in an appointed hour.

With a more expansive stretch, there’s a better chance that I’ll be around at the precise, random moment when one of my nephews drops his guard and solicits my advice about something private. Or when one of my nieces will need someone other than her parents to tell her that she’s smart and beautiful.

We can try. We can cordon off one meal each day or two afternoons each week and weed them of distractions. We can choose a setting that encourages relaxation and uplift. We can fill it with totems and frippery — a balloon for a child, sparkling wine for a spouse — that signal celebration and create a sense of the sacred.

Maybe we can excise the “quality time” phrase from our vocabulary and substitute “unlimited time” with those close to us. Could anything be better?

Read the entire article here