One of the most encouraging trends in medicine in recent years is the growth of systemic approaches to problem solving, much like approaches in foresight. In other words, a range of factors often affect an outcome, each requiring a solution that must work effectively in combination with other related solutions.
Over the years, I have written concerning the unexpected consequences for companies of moving into technologies completely new to them, encouraged by their success in other, unrelated arenas. The illusion that success is a quality that travels with its recipient to new endeavors is a form of hubris that seems most endemic to areas like Silicon Valley in California.
Electric vehicles (EVs) continue to climb in attractiveness, with the Tesla Model S winning acceleration comparisons hands down. Their environmental advantages are clear, but the cost and recharge requirements of automobile batteries continue to stand in the path of broad market acceptance of EVs. Breakthroughs in this area are announced regularly; however, any celebrations might be followed by an “Oops!” announcement, or the “breakthrough” may gain no real momentum and just fade away quietly.
The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative in the Hawaiian Islands would seem to be the poster child for the increasing market penetration of solar power. KIUC has quintupled utility-scale solar capacity over the past year and soon may approach 80% of peak power generation for solar on the island, as MIT Technology Review contributing editor Peter Fairley recently reported.
The auto industry is clearly convinced that the question of autonomous vehicles is “not if, but when,” writes Motor Trend technical director Frank Markus, reporting from a forum on Intelligent Transportation Systems in Detroit. Lux Research projects $87 billion in revenues by 2030. But the view is not so clear concerning how the longstanding legal guidelines around automotive liability will be affected.
Toward a Freakier Mind-Set
Finding and interpreting signals or outliers in the landscape is not simply a matter of visual prowess, but of thinking differently about what is seen or even sought. It is part of the job for foresight professionals, which may be why many of us self-identify as geeks or freaks.
The practical realities of building sustainable networks are coming to life in Oakland, California, under the stewardship of a nonprofit group called Bay Localize as part of its Rooftop Resources Project.
Defense Department historian Michael Warner's timely book The Rise and Fall of Intelligence: An International Security History (Georgetown University Press, 2014) offers an academic but accessible overview of a topic naturally veiled in secrecy and cloaked in misconceptions.
It is often stated that productivity-enhancing technology may eliminate jobs, but innovation will create more. The experience of Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean offers an illustration and test case for this principle.
Fundraising like a seasoned politician, President Raynard Kington of Grinnell College recently delivered a report on the state of the college to local alumni in Washington, D.C.— a savvy constituency he jovially called “my people.”