Bill’s Blog March 28, 2020

Strategic Foresight in Action  

This blog strives to be experimental in order to find formats that work best for our readers. While our first issues presented leading ideas of interest, we now try becoming more interactive. This issue shifts focus to describe approaches for putting strategic foresight into action.

ASCE Future World Vision Project  The American Society of Civil Engineering has been conducting an exciting strategic foresight effort in which TechCast was invited to participate. Below, ASCE’s Jerry Buckwalter sums up his ambitious strategic project to transform civil engineering for a world of high-tech infrastructure. The article shows how major technological advances and converging global trends make various “new worlds” possible over the coming decades. When finished, the final program will operate online as a computer simulation, allowing engineers to explore and experience cross-disciplinary solutions to various scenarios.

Invitation to Solve the Global MegaCrisis    The global pandemic and its ensuing recession are adding new threats to the mounting climate crisis featured in our previous issue. With all these hazards escalating, Bill’s Blog thinks it is time to address the broader Global MegaCrisis. We invite readers to submit 100-word strategies that offer a compelling path through the existential challenge posed by climate change, global pandemics, gross inequality, financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, conflict and terrorism and other threats  making up the MegaCrisis. The submitted strategies (send to Halal@gwu.edu) will be presented in the following issue of Bill’s Blog, pooling our collective knowledge into insightful conclusions.

Global Depression  As stock markets plummet due to the coronavirus disruption, the editors offer our TechCast forecast on Global Depressions.

We look forward to hearing from you. The Editor

 
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Bill’s Blog March 14, 2020

Big History, Holograms, and Superbugs 

Responses to our first two newsletters was gratifying, and we were given a small wave of contributions to publish. This issue features fascinating essays by two of our most eminent TechCast experts and our forecast on Superbugs.

Jose Cordeiro Shows Us the Big History Chronologies of Life. This is an amazing collection of data showing the evolution of Earth from the Big bang  to today and into the distant future.  Below we provide the forecasts for the coming decade. This is intended to focus only on technology, so there is no mention of the climate crisis and other threats making up what Michael Marien and I called the Global MegaCrisis. Our studies and common opinion show that a strong majority of people think the present global path is not sustainable. Without a major shift in global consciousness, these powerful technical advances may never happen. Some type of global epiphany, a code of global ethics or a mental/spiritual revolution seems likely within the next few years – or we will face disaster. That will be a major event in big history.

Arthur Shostak Reminds Us that Famous People, like Tupac Shakur and Marilyn Monroe, Have Been immortalized in 3D Holograms that Act and Talk Like the Real Person.  This is expensive, but it should become commonly available as IT becomes “cheap and infinite.” Imagine your virtual assistant and other platforms gathering information on you continually. Eventually they would develop a replica of how you look, your behavior, your thoughts and idiosyncrasies. The idea of “uploading your mind to a machine” always seemed missing the human element. This would constitute a feasible way to immortalize humans and allow us to continue “living” with our loved ones and the public.

Superbugs Could Become the Next Global Pandemic.     Growing resistance to antibiotic medicines threatens our ability to contain a variety of more invasive diseases.  Our forecast offers a penetrating analysis. 

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Bill’s Blog Feb 29, 2020

Special Issue on
The Mounting Climate Crisis  

With parts of Australia now uninhabitable due to raging fires, flooding subways in New York City, and scorching heat in temperate zones like Europe, the signs of climate change are hard to ignore. Some climate deniers are coming to accept the massive threats upon us even now. It is estimated that  300 million people would be displaced, two orders of magnitude greater than the 2 million Syrian refugees that created political chaos in the EU. 

Little wonder that Jeff Bezos recently contribute $10 billion to combat the problem. Even the Trump Administration is getting worried and approved plans to plant one trillion trees.

To shed some guidance on this existential challenge, Bill’s Blog is pleased to present the following advice from four of our best minds. 

Noted futurist Hazel Henderson sums up the amazing and long anticipated move from livestock to plant-based foods now underway.

NASA scientist Dennis Bushnell outlines the revolutionary advantages of saltwater plants (halophytes) that could “solve land, water, food, energy and climate problems.”

TechCast Founder William Halal shows how a carbon tax/dividend policy would discourage the use of carbon fuels, avoid government regulation, gain political support and grow the economy.

Climatographer Mark Trexler draws on two alternative scenarios to illustrate the options and finds that the more pessimistic outcome seems likely now.

Click here for the complete version of this blog in web format.

Look for more blogs on hot special issues. The Editor 


Yul D Anderson, USA

PROFILE SUMMARY

 I am the President and Founder of the African American Future Society. My work focuses on Black American and African Future scenario development. The world we live in will need more diverse drivers of the future, I am glad to be one of those drivers.
info@taafs.com

Global Pandemic

Disastrous pandemics capable of killing many millions have devastated humanity throughout civilization, most famously the Black Death, the Spanish Flu, and recently AIDS. Between 1940 and 2004, more than 300 infectious diseases emerged.  

A pandemic can cripple nations and entire regions. The US government estimates that as much as 40 percent of the nation’s workforce could be affected at the height of a pandemic. While advances in medicine and sanitation have largely reduced these threats, health experts acknowledge there is no way to determine whether a killer of biblical proportions will emerge.  

Threats Are Everywhere  

Contributing factors are causing a heightened risk of pandemics:  

Evolution of “superbugs” can cause well- controlled diseases to re-emerge in untreatable and deadly forms. Even common bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics, which are widely overused.[i] See our Wild Card on Superbugs.    

Although swift response by health authorities has prevented localized epidemics of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome), the disease has not been eradicated. It could reappear at any time. To date, smallpox is the only human infection disease to have been completely eradicated, and even that still exists in at least two highly secure laboratories.  

As climate change melts ice and permafrost, potentially lethal diseases can re-emerge as viruses and bacteria can survive tens of thousands or even millions of years in such conditions. There already have been isolated cases of infection by anthrax in Siberia, but the real fear is that re-emerging pathogens might cause a global pandemic. [ii]  

Households are breeding grounds.  Scientists have found that MRSA —methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus—best known for causing catastrophic hospital infections, originated in homes in northern Manhattan. Doctors hope this knowledge will lead to new ways of controlling major outbreaks.  

Speed of transmission is increasing. With millions traveling on airplanes, an aggressive virus (with an incubation period typically of a few days) could be on every continent within 36 hours. A combined avian flu virus and human flu virus could create a pandemic as lethal as the Spanish Flu of 1918. 

Stored viruses could be accidentally released, and terrorists could unleash deadly viruses as weapons. In 2004, 3,700 test kits of the Asian Flu virus were spread around the world from a US lab. Spores of weaponized anthrax were accidentally released from a military facility in the Soviet Union. An unknown virus that catches the global health community off-guard may spread faster than a vaccine can be created. Economics may hinder vaccination in impoverished countries. [iii]            

 
The urgency of the problem is creating solutions.  


Existing antibiotics can become more potent. Preliminary results show that modifying existing antibiotics, such as vancomycin, can make them up to 25,000 times more potent. [iv] US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking steps to understand rare diseases, curb their transmission, diagnosis quickly, and treat effectively. [v]  

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a leading military think tank, is working on a system to modify the genome so antibodies are produced to quell an outbreak. A spokesman for DARPA said, “We’re going to take the genetic code and put it in a format where you can go to your drugstore and get a shot in the arm [for any disease.]” [vi]  

 

Most Likely Forecast  

TechCast Experts think this is a major danger and the results would be devastating. Millions are dying now and several major diseases are active and pose serious threats:  

AIDS Will Kill Millions The AIDS virus alone is expected to kill almost 150 million by 2025.

Ebola Outbreak Over 4,500 people have died of the disease in central Africa, and the World Health Organization warns that there could be over 6 million infections by 2015.    

Tuberculosis  The World Health Organization estimates about 310,000 cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis worldwide in 2011.

Spanish Flu The Spanish Flu virus killed approximately 50 million people in 1918–1919. (Emerging Infectious Diseases)

Pneumonia WHO warns that pneumonia will again become a feared killer if urgent action is not taken to preserve the power of current antibiotics.  

Our experts estimate a 41 percent probability a pandemic devastates a major region, destabilizing global society. They rate the impact -5 on our -10 to +10 scale, indicating severe losses.      

Impacts and Implications  
The major impact  is that  a  global breakdown is possible. Aside from incalculable deaths, economies could come to a halt, as seen in the 2002 SARS outbreak in Southeast Asia, which required a US$1.5-billion rescue. Transportation, power, and most aspects of daily life could also be devastated by a lack of healthy workers.  

Many experts consider a global pandemic to be among the biggest health threats, if not the biggest. Evidence suggests global pandemic influenzas are a regular occurrence, and one is likely to cause millions of deaths even with some antiviral medications available.

However, a global outbreak of disease would be likely to bring a major influx of money into medical research, advancing our understanding not only of the specific illness but of the underlying mechanisms of pandemic. The US Food and Drug Administration has only approved two new classes of antibiotics since 1998. Some researchers thus are setting their sights on what they see as a more readily attainable goal: to combine existing drugs into more effective therapies. Some of these funds could be expected to go to the less developed nations, improving healthcare in regions where disease spreads most easily.    
 

[i] US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jun 17, 2016

[ii] BBC, May 4, 2017

[iii] Stefanakis, R., et al. PLoS “Neglected Tropical Diseases,” 6(10)

[iv] The Guardian, Oct 23, 2017

[v] UpToDate, Jun 9, 2017

[vi] Fusion, Mar 18, 2015

Democratic Enterprise

The financial crises that hit the world in 2000 and 2008 raised serious doubts about the moral and practical failings of capitalism. The yawning gap between rich and poor and neglected social problems like climate change have raised serious questions about the profit-centered business model. Critics from Bill Gates to the Pope have called it a “moral crisis of capitalism.” Repeated failures could discredit the profit-centered model of business and shift to a new business paradigm, much as the fall of Communism gave way to free markets. [1]

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote, “The financial collapse may be to markets what the Berlin Wall was to Communism.”

A study by Deloitte finds that 60-80 percent of Millennials want to work for companies with a strong social purpose. A poll found that 51 percent of Americans age 18-29 do not support capitalism and only 42 percent think it is a good economic system. [2]

Institutional Investors Laurence D. Fink, founder and CEO of BlackRock, which holds US$6 trillion in investments, told 1000 of the world’s largest corporations:

“Society is demanding that companies… serve a social purpose… every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management, said. “It is huge for an institutional investor to take this position across its portfolio.‘‘ He said he’s seen “nothing like it.” The New York Times called it a “watershed moment … that raises questions about the very nature of capitalism.” [3]

Many corporations are making the transition to a quasi-democratic form of business that includes social responsibility, ethics, the triple bottom line, employee engagement, community relations, equality and diversity, environmental management, and other progressive practices that we call “democratic enterprise.”

Ideally, the focus is on forming collaborative partnerships with investors, employees, customers, business partners, and the public to solve complex problems. Collaborative problem-solving goes beyond “doing good”  to create value, better serving economic goals as well as social needs.

Studies show that managers realized higher financial gains when focusing on stakeholders rather than on profit alone. Some claim companies that have a social purpose, high customer satisfaction, and strong employee involvement outperformed others by 10 to 1. Having women in corporate leadership is also found to improve performance, largely because women excel at building effective working relationships.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric who gained fame for pushing the primacy of profits, acknowledged “Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. Your main constituencies are your employees and customers.” [4]


New Business Paradigms

Various alternative models of business and economics are appearing around the globe to challenge the old “Capitalist” form of business.  

Fortune 500  Over 80% of Fortune 500 companies now publish Corporate Social Responsibility reports, covering issues like governance, community and partnerships. The editor of Fortune said: “an ever-growing group of business leaders … are building efforts to address social problems … Companies are moving beyond fuzzy notions like sustainability and corporate citizenship to making meaningful social impact central to how they compete.” [5]  

United Nations  The UN Global Compact is an association of businesses committed to universally accepted principles in human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. The association includes over 13,000 organizations from more than 145 countries currently, although growth seems to have leveled off over the past couple of years. [6]  

Coop Movement  The International Co-operative Alliance represents the global cooperative movement, with 284 organizations across 95 countries.

B Corporations  This group of 2,000 corporations across 50 countries focuses on solving social and environmental problems. Unlike traditional businesses, they meet comprehensive and transparent standards of social performance.

Benefit Corporations  The Benefit Corporation goes beyond the B corporation to make its status legal. California and another 26 American States recently enacted laws requiring Benefit Corporations to provide a “public benefit,” be governed to serve all stakeholders, assess social and economic performance annually, and to operate transparently.

Business for Social Responsibility  This global network of 250+ companies, thought leaders, and stakeholders shares best practices and forges new relationships for innovative solutions. [8]

 

Change is Hard

The obstacles are enormous, of course. Change is hard, so bold leaders are needed to take on this difficult challenge. Some countries have cultures that are committed to traditional forms of “capitalism” focused on profit and the rights of shareholders, and they are likely to resist the difficult changes that are involved.

Shareholders legally own a corporation, which tends to stress the central role of profit. In fact, shareholders can sue if not satisfied that management is doing everything within reason to maximize their profit. However, some corporations are learning to fight back and are in turn suing their shareholders. A growing number of nations and US states now recognize legal rights of stakeholders other than shareholders. [9]

The possibility of takeover has traditionally forced firms to focus on short-term gains to avoid losing capital as their stock drops under threat of being absorbed by another company. The democratic enterprise offers the possibility of resolving this problem by having stock held by stakeholders (employees, clients, etc.) who are interested in the long term.

Collaboration is more time-consuming and difficult than autocratic leadership, and it may fail or mire business with internal politics. The intention may be good, and some firms may thrive, but there is a serious risk of wasted time, endless conflict, and rising costs with democratic processes.

Few present business leaders seem able to make this change, and a new generation of executives less wedded to tradition may be required to spearhead the transition. Forming working relationships is inherently a political act, so managers must adapt by developing political skills. It requires a more challenging form of “political” leadership and depends on stakeholders being receptive to partnering.

 
Most Likely Forecast

A robust leading edge of progressive business firms and practices have long thrived around the world: Saturn, Johnson & Johnson, Nucor in the US; the Mondragon in Spain; labor participation in Germany; self-management in France; Japanese and Indian firms have practiced various forms of collaborative management for years. Recently, “Conscious Capitalism” has been advocated by John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods. [10]

These “democratic” practices are usually relegated to the margins of business culture, but they are more productive than traditional corporate doctrines and may now be moving into the mainstream.

The TechCast Global Brain Trust of experts collectively estimate a roughly 30 percent probability that mainstream business shifts to collaboration with workers, customers, governments, and other stakeholders in the next decades. Although their confidence is relatively low, they estimate a big positive impact, which also suggests the big potential such an historic change could present.

 

Impacts and Implications

It is hard to think of a more wide-ranging positive impact. A democratic form of enterprise would spur cooperation throughout the social order, relieve government of burdensome responsibility, and reduce the risk of market volatility. Generally, it would encourage a more collaborative society

Business is a powerful institution that sets the character of a society, so this shift to more equitable and more productive paradigm could have a profound impact on economics and civilization itself. Corporations practicing democratic enterprise may prove better at competing in a market economy, and change societies for the better. They could serve as a model of cooperation

Because business firms would be controlled by their stakeholders, they would “internalize” social impacts and reduce the cost of government regulations and the bureaucracy needed to enforce them.

Gaining the support of all major constituencies would reduce the risk of labor conflict, cutthroat competition, swings in consumer loyalty, unexpected regulatory change, and other disruptive factors.


[1] Christian Felber, Moral Crises That Have Resulted from Free Market Capitalism (Zed Books, 2015)
[2] Fortune, Jun 1, 2016
[3] New York Times, Jan 15, 2018
[4] Harvard Business Review, Apr 4, 2013
[5] Fortune, Sep 1, 2016
[6] UN Global Compact, Mar 27, 2017
[7] B Corp, Mar 27, 2017
[8]  BSR, Mar 27, 2017
[9]  Investopedia, Feb 23, 2017
[10] John Mackey, Conscious Capitalism, 201

 

Julio Bolzani, USA

PROFILE SUMMARY

Julio Bolzani is the Head of Autonomous Systems at Embraer. He is in charge of the company strategy for autonomy, building synergies and developing business opportunities across all Embraer Business Units and Affiliated companies. Julio was part of the Embraer Advanced Design Team for Phenom 100/300, Lineage 1000, Legacy 450/500, KC-390 and E-Jets E2 programs. He later acted as On-site Product Development Manager working in collaboration with suppliers to bring the new E-Jets E2 FBW up to certification and, more recently, was in charge of Autonomous Systems at EmbraerX, the disruptive innovation arm of Embraer, working from the EmbraerX outpost in Silicon Valley. Julio is an Electrical Engineering graduate of Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) and holds a Master of Engineering degree in the field of Data Fusion and Filtering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA).
juliocbcf@yahoo.com.br

Claire Nelson, USA

PROFILE SUMMARY

Dr. Claire Nelson is Chief Ideation Leader of The Futures Forum – a non profit research and education practice committed to bringing the power of strategic foresight and sustainability engineering and diverse thought leadership to organizations and communities interested in managing change and effect powerful transformations. A gifted storyteller and social entrepreneur, Dr, Claire seamlessly blends her right and left brain skills to creating engaging scenarios that engage both hearts and minds and lay the blueprint and scaffolding for engineering the change you want. A sought after keynote speaker, Dr. Claire is a member of Association of Professional Futurists, Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers and serves as Editor at Large for Human Futures Magazine of the World Futures Studies Federation.
nelson.claire@gmail.com