27 January 2014 – interview with Dutch futurist Marcel Bullinga by Russian opinion weekly Ogoniok (in Russian) / PDF (in English)
– Is it true that rates of new technologies introduction and adoption are speeding up today? What are the reasons for that?
Yes that is true. The main reason is that we have a connected world since a few decennia. The multitude of communication channels that we used to call Internet have made it possible to spread and digest new innovations quickly. This caused a hypercompetitive world in which innovation for companies is necessary for their survival. All of this has fostered a culture of change amongst citizens. They very easily adapt new products.
If existing industries are very powerful, they can delay the introduction of new technologies – like the oil market. Then it takes longer to see a remarkable change. If a market is more fragmented and consumers are powerful, introduction goes faster – like retail. If newcomers can create a new market very quickly and don’t need to use the existing infrastructure, they can disrupt the market – like the news industry.
– What is your forecast about technologies introduction and adoption in future?
It will speed up even more in many more fields. Main reason here is that innovations intermingle and strengthen each other: both digital and biological and physical. It is called the Singularity, 3rd Industrial Revolution, or Circular Economy. It will make us millionaires in terms of the goods and services normal citizens have access to. We are heading for a world with a more local, self-providing economy with less transport that is populated with social robots and 3D/4Dprinters. Our children will learn less and know more. It will bring back old and dying hand crafts. Many new educational providers will give the world an educational shock, with much more competition between schools globally.
New technologies will also make countries less dependent of each other. For example, if Dutch households can produce their own energy all by themselves (solar energy, earth heat etcetera) then Holland is no longer dependent of Russian gas or oil imports.
By the way, it is always wise to ask a collective’s forecast. Bigger chance the forecast turns out to be true. I am a member of Global Techcast, which unites experts from around the world. We forecast when a multitude of technologies will reach a 30% market maturity and what impact some social trends and wildcards will have.
– What about 3D-printing? What are the dangers of it and how it can change our life?
3Dprinters and robots are going to turn the global economy upside down. Together they form the basics of the Maker Revolution. McKinsey recently figured out that in 2025 1/3 of the global economy would consist of 12 emerging technologies, 3Dprinters and robots being amongst them. 1/3 – about 33 trillion dollar – imagine that! About 7 years ago I first showed 3dprinters in my presentations. Really primitive. By then no one had heard about it. Right now, we can print solar cells, houses, retina eye cells, chocolate and concrete, and the general public starts to discuss it in the pubs. It is becoming part of mainstream culture. A perfect example of accelerating speed.
3Dprinting will do 2 things. It will penetrate existing industries and lower production costs considerably. Parts of the JFS are already being printed. And it will carry a totally new industry of small makers in local workplaces, called Fablabs and Techshop and Print shops – the new retail. This means less outsourcing, less offshoring, less transport of finished products, and more near shoring, more transport of raw materials, as CSC Consultancy recently figured out.
The dangers? Printing weapons. And Captains of Industry getting very distressed. Right now, only 147 companies control 40% of global production. They need to worry – and rightly so. For a more equal distribution of wealth, we need this decentralized production system. A similar monetary system of local coins will arise at the same time, like Totnes Pound and WIR. Forget about Bitcoin though; that seems to be a new pyramid game.
– And, of course, what about robotics? In all that sci-fi movies human live and work shoulder to shoulder with robots. Is it really possible in future and in what way is it possible?
Have a look at my photo – me and Robbie! Sci-Fi becomes reality. We will have mixed workplaces soon, and I don’t mean men and women working together but humans working together with intelligent autonomous robots. You must understand that every machine, every tool will turn into a robot – from your ordinary wheelchair to your house and your car. For example, at Global Techcast we expect that by 2021 30% of the cars sold will be intelligent.
Right now, to manufacture an IPad, it is touched by 327 pairs of human hands. That will change into, let’s say, 27 human hands and 300 robot hands maybe? That is a giant loss of jobs, but on the other hand, every robot job creates 3 human jobs. Because robots stops the loss of outsourced jobs; the work stays in your own country. The International Federation of Robotics estimates that robots will create 1 million extra human jobs in the US in 2016.
– Who will be at the cutting edge of new technologies adoption? Maybe it will be kids?
Yes, kids usually are. Well, basically everyone who has no legacy, has nothing to lose, and can make fresh new choices. Think of students and retired citizens. But newcomers in a market are also at the cutting edge; they benefit from the new possibilities whereas old-timers are often threatened by them. Note that new technologies and transparency go hand in hand – both are friend of the newcomer and enemy of the existing.
– What are the dangers of such technologies introduction and adoption’s speed?
That we get totally mad! The future is a world full of continuous distraction, and we may lose the ability to keep focus or to deep connect with other people. We will see a lot of screen addicts. Another danger is that a few tech multinationals like Google and Facebook will dominate the future so we will lose the ownership over our data and lose our privacy.
– What we have to do with the old technologies, with the information, for example, stored on VHS or Kodak films?
Part of it will be transferred to new media, the rest will disappear into thin air. No problem, since most knowledge is outdated in a few years – no need to keep it.
Funny that you mention Kodak though. Kodak once made 28 billion dollars with 140.000 employees. It went bankrupt in 2012 for not seeing change. Instagram, part of that changed world, took Kodak’s place. It made 1 billion with 13 employees.
– The world now is speeding up, but is it possible for human and its brain to be as fast? Can we resolve this problem in future?
There is an ongoing transformation from knowledge stored in our brains to knowledge stored in the cloud – this makes it easier to keep up with speedy change. The cloud will be our collective memory, and we humans will use typical human skills like leadership, creativity and enthusiasm. On the other hand, we will witness a Slow Down movement – people who get tired of too much change in their personal lives and develop a more comfortable pace. I think that, all in all, we will keep up.
Futurist & Trendwatcher Marcel Bullinga is Keynote Speaker & Chairman. He has given hundreds of presentations for renowned clients in government and business. Marcel is member of several think tanks: @Trendrede/@Trendspeech (12 Dutch trendwatchers), Singularity Hub, Global Techcast, Trendinstitute Building and author of “Welcome to the Future Cloud – 2025 in 100 Predictions”
Are You Futureproof? 10 Questions about the Future (PDF) & Top 10 Predictions for 2025 (PDF)
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