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A Brief History of Our Future

Written by Paul Morley

A Brief History of Our Future

Written by Paul Morley on Jan 16, 2020 12:00:07 PM

Datacon Africa DataCon Africa Insights Data and Analytics

Paul Morley

Brief History of Uur Future

DataCon 2020



We stand on the cusp of the massive evolutionary change the 4th industrial revolution is about to impose on all dimensions of our culture - from politics to business and education. 

We are starting on a roller coaster ride of epic proportions.  Fundamental to our ability to survive and prosper as individuals and social collectives,  we are going to have to change the way we see the world and our individual context within the world.  Embrace news of thought, interaction and thinking, to equip us on this journey of discovery.

Fundamental to everything, is we have to change the way we think, see the world and interact with people, systems and machines.

There be monsters

Like ancient master mariners of old, at the start of the 1st industrial age, before the great age of discovery everyone thought the world was flat, and there were see monsters at every turn.  And only the desperate, ambitious and brave under took the leap of faith, to push the boundaries and challenge the way society and leaders saw the world.

This example in history,  is not much different than the uncertainty we face in the 22nd century.  However history is a great educator, looking and understanding where we have come from,  we can navigate our future a little better. Whilst we do not have time machines, fortune tellers or crystal balls,  we are far better equipped than our historic master mariners to shape our future and the next generation of humans.

We have all heard at some point in our lives the famous quote, “Invention is the mother of all necessity”,  well it turns out that it is the “Second of Law of Technology

Over 3 decades ago a historian, Melvin Kranzberg, a professor of the history of technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology published these laws which predated,  many modern unicorns and mega corporations like Apple, Google, Microsoft.

Laws of Technology

  • Technology is neither good, bad; nor is it neutral
  • Invention is the mother of necessity
  • Technology comes in packages - big and small
  • Technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence
  • All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant
  • Technology is a very human activity 

Change the way you see the world, The past is as important as the future, if not more so.

Social impact of the 4th Industrial Age


We always seem as technologists and evangelists to under play the more complex and intricate dimension of people and the process of interaction.

This new age is going to bring the requirement for agility, self-learning, lateral thinking and  creativity to deal with the complex and rapid evolution of technologies and external forces drive the need to evolve.

We need to start changing the way we plan and develop strategies that are futureproof  to counter uncertainty and exponential change. We have started to see the effect of an accelerated business and social context which will continue to accelerate exponentially into the near future.  The reality is that many more companies are going to have a “Kodak Moment”.

Recent research shows the resilience and sustainability of companies is becoming shorter and shorter.  As quoted by the WEF, “The average lifespan of today’s multinational, Fortune 500-size corporation is 40 to 50 years.

For anyone in leadership in corporations of any size, that should be a sobering statistic. That means the company you’re tasked with leading has a 50/50 shot at making it past what we mere mortals call middle age. A further sobering statistic tells us that almost 50% of the Fortune 500 from 1999 had disappeared from the list just ten years later.

The 33-year average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 in 1964 narrowed to 24 years by 2016 and is forecast to shrink to just 12 years by 2027.

Additional research by  Standard & Poors continues to suggest this is holding true, going into the future 

Be creative, and critical

Quantum Thinking

What can we do about this seemingly dystopian future? 

First of all throw away your current reference of how you think.  We need to think differently. As history has already shown us if we keep doing and thinking in the way we always have,  we will be a part of the statistic WEF and S&P have published.  

Now they could be wrong and my views could be wrong,  but ask yourself, what if they are not wrong.  

Enter Quantum Thinking, this is about being able to maintain both a for and against position,  at the same time. Because I am entertaining at least two significantly possible but inconsistent hypotheses, or because I favour some parts of a set of ideas and not others. 

At the core is superposition, which is similar to “quantum superposition” in quantum physics, which is the theory that all states exist simultaneously or at the same time.

By simultaneously holding two significantly possible, but inconsistent hypotheses it forces us, in Colum McCann’s words, to keep away from answers but live in the middle of the question, avoid the magnetic poles of oppositional opinions, and to embrace the ambiguity of the unfinished answer.

Within, around, and adjacent to this skill, is a host of others skills that are critical for personal development and education systems. Such as the rational evaluation of opposing arguments, deconstruction and isolation of the parts from the whole, accurate and non-binary communication of your opinions. All these skills are important to develop our minds into something that can deal with agile process, ambiguity and uncertainty.  None of which are inculcated in our education and leadership frameworks.  

This level and type of thinking becomes very critical, to design thinking and aggressive product development, allowing product owners to develop the next generation of products, whilst not being influenced by existing bias that exist in the present context.

Quantum thinking also implores us to keep our friends close, but our enemies closer, for if we understand the challenges that our opponents face even better than they do, then we have the advantage, and if we can hold our own positions at a healthy distance, we retain objectivity and avoid compromising biases, such as Status Quo bias.  Which is an almost overwhelming human trait. 

Change the way you think

Age communication

Communication has always been the key stone of human evolution,  and is the single greatest trait, outside of the discovery of fire.  That has separated, and allowed homosapians to be the evolutionay masterpiece of the animal kingdom.

Long before written language, we have the ability to transfer one generations knowledge to the next, through stories and paintings.  One of my favorite authors, P,K Dick. Basically said if you can define reality and communicate it you can control it. 

Well we see this all over modern society. Politics, religion, advertising, education.  We could give a miadride of examples where the basic premise of language and how we communicate, controls, define and manipulate, society.  There many trials and tribulations, thought out colourful history, that we could showcase.

In the 22nd century, we find ourselves in a world of unprecedented abilities, tools. 5G networks, cell phones, cloud, hyper connectivity, social media, mobility. 

All these trends tool and capability are shaping the way we communicate, react and understand our current reality.

We have seen how fake media/dark media, NLP media search engines that propagate various biases and artificial context.  Eroding and destroying the fabric of modern society. With capability to manipulate entire societies is more prominent now than ever.

Our single biggest defence against dark aspects of living in a hyper converged and connected world is through education and understanding our next generation of humans.  

“Millennials”, have the characteristics to better enable the future as well as to destroy our current notions of business and social structures. Early signs such as FinTecs evolution, moving to younger and younger generations, massive uptake in gamification, online gaming and esports.  All these are totally alien to most of the current generations. We, the older generations and traditional thinkers and leaders need to start adopting and learning new ways of agile engineering and adaptive thought process, like quantum and scientific thinking. Or we will not be able to evolve fast enough, and will become irrelevant faster than we think.

The current and newer generations, need to embrace and shape these traits today, or will be at risk of becoming irrelevant.  

  • Augmented reality 
  • Remote learning
  • Digital twins
  • Assisted reality
  • Wearable technologies
  • Virtual reality

Change the way we communicate and engage

Paul Morley is the Executive for Nedbank Group Data Services and will provide the opening keynote at DataCon Africa 2020 on 11 March at the CTICC.


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