Redesigning Capitalism

I am grateful to the many people who responded to our request for rating topics:
 
Art Shostak
Ted Gordon
Clayton Rawlings
Carlos Scheel
Owen Davies
Dale Deacon
Fadi Bayoud
Jess Garretson
Gabrielle Rizzo
Young-Jin Choi
Peter King
Jonathan Kolber
Dennis Bushnell
Jacques Malan
Bob Finkelstein
Linda Smith
Margherita Abe
Hassan Rashidi
Amy Fletcher
Angus Hooke



The votes show that the winning topic is – Redesigning Capitalism.

Our initial framing of this study is shown below. Please note that our analysis on Redesigning Capitalism is simply Round 1 of what is likely to be three-round study. The trends below represent the type of trend analysis TechCast has pioneered for framing a topic. Our next blog will present a more complete analysis including comments from our readers, and it will also invite estimates to the questions posed. The third round will conclude with final results of the survey and conclusions.

It’s interesting to see this as a strategic version of “action research.”  This type of “strategic action research” uses simple but effective collective intelligence to provide the best possible answers to tough strategic questions. More than just seeing the results, the transparent nature of our process allows readers to participate and to better understand the method as it unfolds.

I invite all readers to send any corrections, additions, comments, etc. on this background analysis to Halal@GWU.edu. Please also advise if you think we should pose other questions for the TechCast community to answer.

Thanks for your participation. Get ready to learn the likely form of the “New Capitalism” in the coming issues of Bill’s Blog.
 

William E. Halal, PhD
The TechCast Project
George Washington University
 

 

Background Information on Redesigning Capitalism 

 
The financial crisis of 2000 and 2008 and the 2020 pandemic raised serious doubts about the failings of capitalism. These economic collapses, climate change, gross inequality and other threats making up the “Global MegaCrisis” have shattered confidence in what Francis Fukuyama proclaimed as “The End of History” – the fall of communism and the triumph of capitalism and democracy.

A variety of voices think this could become a “collapse of capitalism,” roughly like the “collapse of communism,” and caused by the same inability to adapt to a changing world. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote, “The 2008 financial collapse may be to markets what the Berlin Wall was to Communism.” Communism could not meet the complex demands of the Information Revolution, and now capitalism seems to be failing to adapt to the Global MegaCrisis.
 
In response, corporations are making the transition to a quasi-democratic form of business that focuses on forming collaborative partnerships with employees, customers, business partners, and the public as well as shareholders. The Business Roundtable’s announcement that firms should serve all stakeholders is truly historic. The New York Times called it a “watershed moment … that raises questions about the very nature of capitalism.” If done well, this broader form of business could go beyond social responsibility for doing good to become a competitive advantage. 

To put this in perspective, consider the three models in the figure below. The profit-centered model is traditional, while corporate social responsibility (CSR) has tried to shift the focus to stakeholders over the past decades, without much success. The problem is that CSR is usually considered philanthropy and often ignores the need for profitability, making it the mirror opposite of the profit model. 
 

 

In contrast, the “corporate community”, or “collaborative enterprise,”  model goes beyond CSR to form a more productive system that benefits all interests. The key lies in making stakeholders working partners, rather than recipients of benefits. 
 
The fact is that the social interests in any business – workers, customers, partners and the public – are roughly similar to the role of investors. All these groups invest resources, incur costs and gain benefits, much like shareholders. Any enterprise is basically a socio-economic system composed of key stakeholders that perform crucial functions. Focusing on only one function distorts the performance of the entire system. It makes as much sense to think of capital as the only goal as it would to say the brain, heart or lungs are the most important part of the human body. From a more realistic systems view, the need is to integrate all these resources into a workable whole. That is precisely what any good executive must accomplish to build a viable enterprise. Here’s how Bonville Power harnessed the knowledge of its stakeholders:

“We used to treat outsiders (labor unions, the public, regulators) as a nuisance. After working with them, our adversaries helped us find creative solutions to intractable problems. Public involvement is a must for today’s managers. Conflict is unavoidable; the only choice is whether to dodge it or harness it.”
 
A democratic form of enterprise would spur cooperation throughout the social order, relieve government of burdensome oversight responsibility and reduce the risk of market volatility. Because business firms would be controlled by their stakeholders, they would “internalize” social impacts and reduce government regulations and bureaucracy. This would also reduce the risk of stock market drops, labor conflict, cutthroat competition, swings in consumer loyalty, unexpected regulatory change, and other disruptive factors.

These gains would come at the cost of overcoming the obstacles noted in the Cons below. Profit is an easily measured, traditional goal, so displacing it will meet resistance from many, primarily investors and Wall Street. A quasi-democratic organization can be messy and it requires political skills that many business leaders lack.

The transition to stakeholder collaboration will be difficult, therefore, it may take years, and there will always be some firms that remain profit-centered. But the coming of collaborative enterprise is well underway even now and it will transform economic systems.

It’s important to note that stakeholder collaboration in business is a special case of the Third Principle in our earlier formulation of Global Consciousness:
 

     Principle 3. Collaborate With Stakeholders to Better Serve Collective Interests.
 

This more powerful and universal statement can be applied to all institutions. For business, it means serving social interests as well as economic goals. In government, it would carry democracy to the grassroots and better serve towns, cities and nations. It could also resolve the present conflict in healthcare between profit and multi-million dollar executive pay versus the welfare of patients and communities. Religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, would then temper the hierarchical power of the priesthood with the influence of their members. 

That’s what makes this study of such great value that you should want to consider it carefully and apply the concepts everywhere.  This is a definitive analysis of the changing role of business, government and all other institutions.
 

Framing the Forecast
 

In 2018, the TechCast Global Brain Trust of experts estimated a roughly 30 percent probability of this historic change in the next decades. They also estimated a big positive impact, which highlights the great potential such a change could present.

Events have change so dramatically that we can now create a new estimate for 2020 and establish a trendline for this seminal change. Looking over the trends below, I would guess the probability will prove to be far higher, most likely over 50%. 

Here’s how we frame the questions for this survey today :

“Please estimate the probability that the mainstream of business in industrialized nations shifts to collaboration with workers, customers, governments, and other stakeholders over the next several years.”

“Please estimate the impact this would have on society as a whole. 
(from -10 Catastrophic to +10 Excellent.” 


I invite readers to improve on these two research questions, suggest others and provide any justifications.
 


 

TREND ANALYSIS


PROS: TRENDS DRIVING THE NEW CAPITALISM
 

Progressive Business Is Going Democratic      A robust leading edge of progressive business firms and practices have long thrived around the world:  Johnson & Johnson, Nucor Steel, IKEA, the Mondragon in Spain, labor participation in Germany, self-management in France and  Japanese corporations have practiced various forms of collaborative management for years.  Studies by the consulting firm, McKinsey, conclude “shares of companies that connect effectively with all stakeholders outperform competitors by two percent per year on average.” Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, acknowledged “Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. Your main constituencies are your employees and customers.”
 
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.” While Jana Partners and CalSTRS, the California retirement system, issued a similar declaration: “… we believe the long-term health of society, our economy, and the company itself, are inextricably linked.” 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.” 
 
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.
 
Coop Movement  The International Co-operative Alliance represents the global cooperative movement, with 284 organizations across 95 countries
 
B Corporations  This group of firms focuses on solving social and environmental problems. Unlike traditional businesses, they meet comprehensive and transparent standards of social and environmental performance, institutionalize stakeholder interests, and build a collective voice through a unifying brand. Amy Prosenjak, a B corporation owner, said “Everybody has to win.” 
 
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.
 
Business Culture  These concepts are now practiced among progressive companies and taught at business schools. Recent surveys show that only five percent of CEOs now say they are “mainly focused on profits and not distracted by social goals.”  Other surveys show that more than 80 percent favor stakeholder collaboration.
 
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.”
 
Business Schools One of the most popular courses at the Harvard Business School is “Reimagining Capitalism.” Enrollment increased from 28 students when the course started seven years ago and now numbers 300 students each semester.
  
Public Attitudes  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.


CONS: OBSTACLES OPPOSING THE NEW CAPITALISM  

The obstacles are enormous, of course. Change is hard, so bold leaders are needed to take on this difficult challenge.

Tradition  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.
 
Investor Rights  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.
 
Power of Wall Street  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 collaborative enterprise offers the possibility of resolving this problem by having stock held by stakeholders who are interested in the long term.
 
Democracy is Messy  Collaboration is more time-consuming and difficult than autocratic leadership, and it may fail. 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.  
  
New Generation of Leaders Needed   Few present business leaders seem able to make this change. A new generation of executives less wedded to tradition may be required to spearhead the transition.
 
Requires Political Skil Forming working relationships is inherently a political act, so managers must adapt by developing political skills. This requires a more challenging form of “political” leadership and depends on stakeholders being receptive to partnering.
 

Be sure to tell your friends and associates to sign up for this blog at www.BillHalal.com.
 
                                                                        Sincerely, Bill
 
                                                                        William E. Halal, PhD
                                                                        The TechCast Project
                                                                        George Washington University

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Choosing the Top Strategic Studies

What Are the Most Crucial Strategic Issues To Study? 
A Survey of Readers’ Interests
 
Bill’s Blog has been publishing for only a few months,  yet we have done penetrating studies of  “How to Resolve the MegaCrisis” and  “The Coming Internet.” The first was opened by roughly 30% of our subscribers and the second by about 10%. This poses a tough question I would like to your help with – Which topics have the greatest strategic interest?
 
Here are a few hot ideas that seem exciting:
 
1. When Will the Pandemic End?  
Studies of  the pandemic have become overwhelming, so TechCast will focus on more strategic aspects of the crisis, such as forecasting the return to normal living conditions. For instance, when will 90% of people no longer wear masks, social distance, etc?  When will unemployment drop to about 5% again?  How bad will it get? We may also estimate arrival of the next pandemic.

2. Forecasting the Trump Presidency
With the Trump presidency nearing a turning point at the 2020 elections, this could be an optimal time to update our 2016 forecast.  The 2016 forecast also offer a rare opportunity to assess our accuracy. Notice that our TechCast experts proved fairly accurate on policy changes, national performance and a 50% probability for the scenario “Trump Rules.” This small test confirms the value of our collective intelligence method – gathering background data and using expert judgment to resolve uncertainty and reach the best available estimates. Next time we could forecast the winner of the 2020 elections and what happens “After Trump.”
 
3. AI and Future Jobs
This study is one of our most popular reads, and we could update it to establish a trendline, if you are interested. What other aspects of the topic should we cover?
 
4. How Does Artificial Intelligence (AI) Differ From Human Intelligence (HI)?
AI research is working hard to simulate subjective aspects of human intelligence, raising the profound question – What is the essential difference between AI and HI? When an audience is asked this question, I find that 90% plus think there is a fundamental difference, though they can’t tell what it is. This study could explore that crucial issue.
 
5. Technology Is Creating an Age of Consciousness
This is the subject of my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge. Smart phones, social media and AI are causing the Knowledge Age to mature and fade into the past, moving us into the next stage of social evolution. Today’s “post-factual” nonsense is a prescient harbinger as it based on beliefs, values and emotions and other forms of consciousness. Whatever one may think of  President Trump, he is a master at shaping consciousness. This means an Age of Consciousness is here today, though we may not like its current form.

 6. State-of-the-Art in Strategic Foresight
TechCast has done extensive work defining strategic foresight practices, including a recent survey updating my landmark study Strategic Planning in the Fortune 500. This may be a good time to answer further questions as change reaches historic levels.
 
 7. Prospects for the Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest emerging technologies around today, yet it is fraught with obstacles, especially security issues.  We struggle with hacking, identity theft, viruses and other security problems, so imagine what could happen when billions of devices are connected to everything around the globe? This study could update our IoT forecast.
 
8. Is Life Extension Really Coming?
Yes, life expectancy is increasing steadily, but that’s due to better health care, nutrition, public safety and other ordinary causes. Real life extension would take us beyond the 120-year limit that seems to set by genetic factors. Is it really possible to live 150, 200, 300 years? When will this be likely? By what means? Stay tuned.
 
9. Forecasts of the Space Age
As a former aerospace engineer on the Lunar Module of the Apollo Project, the coming Space Age is near my heart. My best thinking is that the world will enter this final frontier in earnest about 2050 after forming a unified global order. Say the word and we will explore this fascinating topic.
 
10. When Will Self-Driving Green Cars Enter the Mainstream?
Tesla is a step in the right direction, but it will take widespread renewable energy, much better automatic driving systems and far lower prices to make self-driving, intelligent, ecologically benign cars a widespread reality. Should we pool our collective intelligence to forecast when this will happen?
 
11. Top-Ten Tech Breakthroughs
A great study would use the knowledge of our experts and readers to assess the prospects for various tech breakthroughs and identify the top-ten that are most strategic. Strategic techs are those few likely to arrive in 5-10 years, with the greatest payoffs and broadest scientific influence. This would a fine study.
 
12. Top-Ten Social Trends
We could do the same study to select the 10 most strategic social trends.
 
13. Top-Ten Wild Cards
Ditto for wild cards.
 
14. Redesigning Capitalism
This is a hot issue today as the world is increasingly disenchanted with Big Business and the dominance of profit. TechCast has been forecasting the arrival of a quasi-democratic form of corporation for years – and it is starting now.  Yes, I know this rankles those who are afraid of “socialism,” but let me assure you this is not government control. Collaborative problem solving among all stakeholders creates added value for all involved, including greater profit for shareholders. It can be a competitive advantage. 
 
15. Rise of the Asian Century
This study would provide historical context on the “American Century” starting after WW II and the “British Century” before that.  We could focus on how great powers have changed in the past, and what might happen in the future as America loses its hold on global dominance. We could forecast the rise of Asia and its strategic implications. 
 
Please Tell Me What You Think

 
I really want to make Bill’s Blog a more interesting and useful source of strategic knowledge for our readers. Please take a few minutes to email me at Halal@GWU.edu with your top choices for topics to study. You can just send the numbers of topics you like (EG, No. 4,5,9, etc). I will do my best to analyze your responses and create a research agenda that will delight us all.
 
Be sure to tell your friends and associates to sign up for this blog at www.BillHalal.com.
 
                                                                        Sincerely, Bill
 
                                                                        William E. Halal, PhD
                                                                        The TechCast Project
                                                                        George Washington University

Click here to get the full newsletter in web format.

Forecasting the Trump Presidency

This is a slightly updated version of our 2016 study forecasting the Trump Era.

The original study drew on the expertise of our global network of 150 international thought leaders. We realize that political issues are highly controversial, but the Trump presidency is one of the pivotal developments of our time, and we think it deserves objective research. This report includes a forecast of changes in Federal policies, a forecast of national performance, three alternative scenarios and comments from the respondents.

Based on all this data, here’s quick summary of what we forecast in 2016:

Growing Turbulence and Uncertainty  

A striking result is the wide variation in expert estimates. Some are at opposite ends of the scales. We think this reflects powerful drivers of change and widely differing actors are now emerging. This also tells us there is a strong need for sound strategy, especially focusing on planning for crises and contingencies.

Major Change Plus Wild Cards 

Our analysis suggests that most of these policies are moderately likely, while some are considered unlikely. The expected social impact is generally considered to be quite damaging. Signs of wild cards are seen in the prospects of an alliance with Russia and the impeachment of Mr. Trump; both are rated to have positive results.

Mediocre Performance 

Our thought leaders also estimated various indicators of US national performance. They expect only modest economic growth, with Trump’s approval ratings likely to remain about 40 percent.

US National Policy Changes 

We asked our experts to judge the likelihood that the federal government will deport illegal immigrants, impose tariffs or import taxes, curtail trade agreements, repeal the Affordable Care Act, muzzle the EPA, restrict Muslims, partner with Russia, reduce taxes on the wealthy, provoke a war, cancel the Iran nuclear accord, deregulate banks, and even impeach Mr. Trump. Here’s a quick summary of key themes that seem to be emerging from the data:

 

National Performance Forecasts

This table updates our 2016 forecasts by adding data for July 10, 2020. Note that most forecasts proved reasonably valid, except for the stock market gains.

 

  2016 Forecast 7/10/20 Actual
Average GDP Growth/Year 1.5 % ~ 2 % until virus
DJIA Index 21,000 26,000
Trump Approval Rating 39% ~ 40%
Increase in Debt $6.5 Trillion $5.4 Trillion +

 

Alternative Scenarios

Following are the forecasts made in 2016. We are  considering  updating these estimates and adding a fourth forecasting the 2020 election.

Trump Rules   Probability = 50%, Impact = -.5 (-10 to +10)

President Trump inherits an economy that is extending its cycle of economic growth. Deregulation and lower taxes further boost business profits and provide gains for his supporters.  Trump strengthens his hold on public opinion as a leader who gets things done. This allows him to run the nation like a corporation, treating allies as good team members and punishing enemies. Trump takes credit for successes and blames scapegoats for failures, while protests are smothered under dubious counter-claims and discredited. Congress goes along, encouraging him to dismantle much of the EPA and other disliked programs. By the end of his first term, Trump has transformed the US into a more purely capitalist and authoritarian society, somewhat isolated and in slow decline.

Trump Changes  Probability = 27%, Impact = 3

 Donald Trump is a brilliant strategist, and when the Congress shifts to Democratic control in 2018, he recognizes that his political survival requires a major change of course. As crises mount, his family and advisers press him to “pivot”’ toward being more traditionally presidential and cooperative. He modifies policies to appease critics, stresses the good progress he has made, and becomes more friendly, while continuing to confuse opponents with doubtful charges. The president is persuaded to yield on issuing incendiary tweets, and some opponents are even mollified by the Trump charm. Congress is pleased to see him appearing more reasonable, and Democrats approve the less controversial parts of his agenda. The US enjoys some prosperity and peace, although with occasional flare ups of political crisis and conflict.

Trump Falls   Probability 39%, Impact = -1

The voices of protest become so persistent that they overwhelm Trump’s defenses, making his presidency untenable. The administration suppresses protests with force, causing violence to grow out of control and bringing normal life to a near halt. Enormous political pressures force Congress to work around Trump and assume effective leadership, with support from Vice President Pence and key Republicans. The rest of the world goes on while the US struggles with this constitutional crisis. Global agreements stall, and the world becomes increasingly chaotic. China becomes the dominant world power, with Russia also gaining influence. Trump resigns rather than suffer impeachment, and Congress hands power to President Pence.

Typical Comments

Here is a small sample of expert comments. This is only a cursory look over a representative sampling of expert opinion, but it suggests two contrary themes that seem to be emerging: Increased business profit and economic growth—but failed promises, crisis, conflict, and lost support.

  • If Trump is anything, he is a populist. And with a one-party Congress, they are likely to achieve some positive ends.”           
  • “Increased spending on infrastructure projects in the US along with decreased taxes should improve the bottom line.”           
  • “Trump is pro-business, and profits will be made.”
  • “Many of the promises made during the campaign will be abolished, making the followers turn away from him.”
  • “Much of the USA will grow tired of Trump’s antics and rhetoric.”
  • “Instability. Promises not kept. Other nations will compete equally with the same tools.”
  • “In a post-truth world of lies, Trump has more to live up to than he will actually deliver on.”
  • “It is likely we will be entering inflation and a severe recession. Wall Street and Main Street will be continuing their stark separation.“     
 
Recommendations

The report will also include advice for adapting to the Trump Era. Some tentative recommendations include:

  • Study trends, expert opinion, and forecasts such as this to prepare for strategic contingencies such as a global depression.
  • Develop decentralized organizations of self-supporting units able to cope with hyper-change.
  • Search out creative niches that offer opportunities for advantage, such as prospects for modernizing US infrastructure.

Survey Results on the Coming Internet:   Yes to Security, Decentralization and Immersion  

It is our great pleasure to present final results of this study exploring where the Internet is going.  
 
First, a little background. Our blog of May 30 highlighted George Gilder’s new book, Life After Google, forecasting how blockchain technology will create an Internet that is secure, decentralized and sensually immersive.  Using our method of collective intelligence, our blog of June 13 presented comments from several experts to frame these issues more carefully.  

This blog of June 27 presents results from a survey of 20 experts who answered our survey questions.  The responding experts are listed below, followed by detailed results using bar charts and comments.  Responses are often less that 20, as respondents do not answer all questions.  This is a small sample, but anything more than a dozen responses is sufficient to get into the right ballpark. 
 
Here’s a quick summary of what we learned:

 
Security May Arrive About 2027   

We found a sharp division of opinion, with roughly half of our experts thinking there is little or no chance that the Internet would become secure — and the other half thinks there is about a 60% probability that blockchain and quantum cryptography will solve the problem at about 2027.  After noting the success of Gilder’s previous forecasts, we tend to accept those who agree with Gilder.

Decentralization Likely About 2028-2030

We find some consensus around a 60% Probability and Most Likely Year About 2028-2030. The critical technologies are thought to focus on blockchain, but quantum, AI, biometrics and the Internet of things (IoT) also thought to offer localizing capabilities.

Immersion  Highly Likely About 2031-2032

The experts show good agreement on a 70% probability that immersive capabilities will arrive about 2031-2032.  They also suggest a variety of technologies will make this possible: blockchain, VR and AR, gaming, AI, IoT and a useful brain-computer interface.
 
Despite pockets of doubt and uncertainty, we think this study tells a compelling story about evolution of the Internet.  The continuing advance of computer power, possibly using quantum, nanotech and photonic technologies, is likely to make complex blockchain platforms feasible over the coming decade. Along with applications of quantum crypto and AI, a new generation of Web systems is likely to greatly improve security and move control from tech companies to individuals. Some confusion and security failures will remain, of course, but glitches will be accepted by a younger cohort of users. The development of richer Internet experiences using VR/AR/XR, biometrics, AI, the IoT and holograms is very likely to bloom into the Metaverse long anticipated. Obviously, many other trends will also play important roles in the new Internet, as noted in our experts’ comments.

The strategic implications should be formidable. The status and control of the large tech companies is likely to shift to users, and the Internet service providers (Verizon, Comcast,  etc.) may face competition from satellite systems flooding the air with cheap and abundant access. Apple and Elon Musk are launching satellites even now and expect to envelop the Earth with high-capacity broadband in a year or two.  In addition to fierce competition from these new sources, the entire supply chain of ICT equipment and services will be disrupted by an advanced generation of suppliers. Users should gain more sophisticated and immersive capabilities that are needed for the high-tech society ahead.

This is small study, but TechCast thinks it illustrates the power of our 2nd generation website in providing authoritative strategic analyses of hot topics quickly. Thus far, we have solved the  MegaCrisis by identifying 5 universal principles of a global consciousness, and this study outlines the new Internet architecture that promises to revolutionize life online. TechCast is considering our next strategic topic for study, and we welcome your opinion. Email us at Halal@GWU.edu to suggest topics you consider worthy of attention. 

 

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The Coming Secure, Bottom Up, Immersive Internet

 

Bill’s Blog – June 14, 2020

 

Our previous blog of May 30 summarized background information on the Internet. It then posed three questions about advances in blockchain based the provocative new book by George Gilder, Life After Google:

Security  Can we expect the Internet to become secure and avoid todays hacking, viruses, malware, identity theft, pirating millions of personal data sets? What technologies will permit this? When?  George Gilder seems certain that the cryptology of blockchain will make all transactions safe from these threats. 

Decentralization  George Gilder thinks blockchain technology will permit a bottom up Internet that avoids the plethora of passwords, logins, cookies, tech giants, etc. How likely is this possibility? When? Do you agree with Gilder that blockchain will avoid all these tech company systems and return control to individuals?

Immersion   Virtual reality (VR) is slowly entering mainstream use, and sophisticated games create rich virtual environments. Gilder thinks the new Internet will be rich with sensual information and graphics. Will fully immersive  technology including 3D graphics, stereoscopic sound, haptic sense of touch and other effects become mainstream?  When?  

Like others, TechCast has serious doubts about blockchain. But how can we ignore this stunning forecast about the imminent transition to a vastly different web? Gilder was right in his landmark books, Life After Television, MicroCosm and TeleCosm!  His politics are crazy, but his knowledge about brilliant entrepreneurs in the trenches of Silicon Valley is breathtaking and compelling.  Yes, blockchain seems overly complex and demanding of resources, but so too were the first smart phones, the size of a brick. With quantum computers entering use, it’s easy to imagine blockchain becoming sleek and ubiquitous as computer power becomes infinite. 
 

This little study of blockchain is TechCast’s furthers our new approach to using collective intelligence directly in this newsletter. We focus on simple designs that are relatively quick, like action research, but offer big strategic payoffs. Our previous study using background data and 12 experts produced a definitive model of global consciousness to resolve the MegaCrisis.

In fact, our forecast of global consciousness seems to be erupting into public life even today as the “Black Lives Matter” movement abruptly shifts attitudes around the world. The sudden emergence of this political power is reminiscent of the “Me Too” movement that ousted sexual predators, as well as the passing of “gay marriage” laws a few years ago. Big change is always possible when the time has come. The most telling thing about  today’s push for racial justice is that it is led by young people across the political and racial spectrums, the cohort that intuitively favors principles of global consciousness. This newfound power could be turned to resolve any of the other great obstacles to serious change. In short, a major shift to global consciousness is almost here, roughly along the lines of our previous study.

This first round on the coming transformation of the Internet presents comments from our experts to frame the questions more accurately. We conclude with a short survey to get a better sense of what to expect. Here’s a quick summary of what we learned from the experts:

Peter King is rightly concerned about the vast potential impact of an even more demanding Internet – increased use of energy, more pollution and climate change, more intense tribalism caused by siloed information sources, distractions from reality and Nature, obsession with frivolous delights and so forth. In Peter’s words the question becomes security for whom? … Ironically, a technology that was supposed to bring the world together may ultimately be responsible for tearing it apart … we have created a cohort of young people who have completely lost touch with Nature.  This is the generation that believes milk comes from cartons and meat has no connection with the cruelty of intensive livestock farming…”

Jonathan Kolber focus on the increasing richness of multisensory online experiences and sees big possibilities for an improved Internet replacing travel and improving human awareness. Here’s how Jonathan puts it: “Fully immersive VR will transform how we work and play…  much of the pressure on the environment for physical resources will diminish … People will be able to share experiences with others … with reduced cost and social friction … An inexpensive full-body haptic suit will probably be the last barrier to full immersion … VR-enabling and enhancing software, including virtual worlds, will be a major growth industry of the 2030s and beyond.” 

Dennis Bushnell focuses on broader changes in Internet technology, forecasting ubiquitous computing to flesh out the Global Brain. Dennis describes it this way: “Blockchain is touted as a nearer term security solution, but has scalability, security and operability issues… The emerging Quantum Crypto approach is beyond blockchain on the way to quantum communications security solution …  A rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT), involving robotization of nearly everything with ever improving AI and intelligent agents … Machine/brain interaction is developing into 5 senses virtual reality/holographic projection/immersive presence… enable phone capabilities to go directly into the human brain, as we all become  part of a connected Global Brain.”

Steve Hausman sees major obstacles to security and decentralization, but the technology is likely to become practical in about 5 years.  Listen to Steve’s main ideas: “Threats to the Internet will only increase in the future when everything will, in essence, be a computer… so they are vulnerable to becoming compromised …  every type of safeguard we put into place an Internet adversary comes up with a counter measure …  blockchain technology has the potential to transform security in a radical fashion such that its use might obviate the need for passwords and ensure that individuals attempting to gain access to a website are validated …  will become practical in about the next five years… .  It is likely that in another decade VR and AR will become so commonplace that these devices will be with many people all of the time.” 

Peter von Stackelberg sees serious limitations in blockchain technology that will prevent the security and decentralization claimed by George Gilder. But he also thinks blockchain will serve a useful niche. Here are his main ideas: “A single bad security incident could discredit public acceptance … Blockchain technology typically doesn’t perform as well as non-blockchain systems with similar functionality … I seriously doubt that blockchain will return control of information to citizens … we are early in the commercialization stage” of the technology life cycle.”

Alexandre Pupo draws on his ICT skills to forecast these trends. He thinks The Internet tends to become a more and more insecure space for people in the next ten years. That will happen due to the increase in numbers and types of autonomous agents … Blockchain technology has a small chance of replacing things like passwords, logins, and other authentication and validation mechanisms … Part of the immersion technologies – the fewer complex ones – will become mainstream by 2030. The more complex ones still have a longer path and will not become mainstream before 2035.” 

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The Bottom Up, Secure and Immersive Internet

The Bottom Up, Secure and Immersive Internet

 
This week’s blog explores the coming next generation Internet — a web that is secure, decentralized, sensually immersive and has other advanced features. Below are key trends driving this change.
 

The Blockchain Revolution
 
George Gilder’s latest book, Life After Google, is a landmark forecast on what he calls the “cryptocosm.” Like his earlier book, Microcosm, which forecast the Information Technology Revolution caused by microchips, followed by Telecosm, which forecast today’s explosion of wireless technology, the cryptocosm extends major advances in blockchain technology into all spheres of the Internet.   Gilder thinks the cryptocosm will produce a web that overthrows the top-down monopolies of Google, Facebook, Amazon and the other tech giants that have created a web that is insecure, clumsy and destined to fail. Using stunning examples of brilliant technological advances by pioneering entrepreneurs, Life After Google promises an Internet that is secure, private, decentralized and controlled by users rather than the tech giants.
 
In Gilder’s terms:   “Google is hierarchical. Life after Google will be heterarchical. Google is top-down. Life after Google will be bottom-up. Google rules by the insecurity of the lower  layers in the stack. A porous stack enables the money and power to be sucked up to the top. In Life after Google, a secure ground state in the individual, registered and timestamped in a digital ledger, will prevent this suction of hierarchical power.”   A telling sign is that China is leading the blockchain revolution. In October of 2019, Premier Xi Jinping called on the nation to “seize the opportunity of blockchain technology as a new security architecture for the Internet.” In April 25, 2020, China launched its national blockchain platform, the Blockchain Service Network (BSN). In time, Xi plans to replace their national currency and other currencies around the globe with new digital systems.   TechCast has reservations about  blockchains. It requires multiple people to endorse a transaction, burns up huge amounts of energy and generally seems too complicated. But we should not discount too easily this latest vision from one of the seers of technology.
 

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Bill’s Blog – May 09, 2020

Wrapping Up Our Study of the Global MegaCrisis

 

I am grateful for the many wise comments contributed to our study of the Global MegaCrisis, and also for the  many responses from readers of Bill’s Blog. A close friend in California told me: 

“Bill,  I love what you are doing with your blog.  I want you to know you DO have hugely interested readers… I am right now sitting in a rocker on my deck , reading your blog, watching the moon rise, drinking a glass and generally communing. In my imagination, I can actually hear your voice.   Please keep on keeping on.  This is important work for all of us and for the planet.

Onward in grace and in hope! Julie”

As one example, the Men’s Group of my church in Georgetown, Holy Trinity, one of the most influential in DC, took to this message with enthusiasm. After outlining my thoughts in a Zoom meeting, they decided to devote five meetings to discuss the five principles of global consciousness.  The meetings on principles 1 and 2 have been held thus far with great success and the others are planned in the following weeks.  I am left amazed and gratified to find such an honorable response. It certainly has left an impression on the more than one hundred men in this group and their wives, many of whom joined the meetings.

Now it is time to wrap up this small study by noting a few references you may find useful: 

  • My blog of March 28 provided background information and issued a call for comments on solving the Global MegaCrisis. 
  • The blog of April 11 presented responses from seven contributors that concluded the coronavirus shows the present world order is not sustainable and suggests moving to a global consciousness. 
  • The blog of April 25 included another six responses extending our discussion into even more hopeful territory. 
  • The Journal of Future Studies is posting a summary of all this in their online version. 
  • Jess Garretson, CEO of The Cognis Group, has been posting podcasts on all issues of Bill’s Blog. The latest is here. 
  • An article summarizing the entire project is available here at BillHalal.com
  • To learn more about contributor Sohail Inayatullah, see How to Become Futurist and the Metafuture School

    One final essay trickled in recently from my colleague and good friend Pradeep Rau. Pradeep is a brilliant scholar, a seasoned manager and an inspirational leader. His considered advice is offered below.

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Bill’s Blog – April 25, 2020

 

Our blog of March 28 issued a call for comments on solving the Global MegaCrisis. The blog of April 11 presented presented responses from seven contributors that concluded the coronavirus shows the present world order is not sustainable and suggests moving to a global consciousness. We now present responses from the second round of this study using collective intelligence again. Quick summaries of the responses shown below show some who see more peril ahead and those who see the promise of change.

Jose Cordeiro captures this nicely by noting that the Chinese word for “crisis” means both threat and opportunity.


Hazel Henderson, Futurist and CEO of Ethical Markets Media, offers guides to avoid a collapse  of the Internet under heavy loads caused by the virus crisis. “Now that  everyone and every organization on the planet is going virtual … the question is on everyone’s lips: ‘Will the coronavirus break the internet?’ We at Ethical Markets are using some simple rules… They won’t harm anyone’s business or other outreach activities.  Rather such politeness and consideration for essential users and public information can help assure that the internet can continue to be the vital backbone of our lives for the foreseeable future. 

Peter King, Environmental Consultantprovides comments from two of his associates in Asia:  “Among my peers, there is considerable anxiety about what kind of world will emerge from COVID-19.  The accumulating threats to the planet—climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, illegal wildlife trade, air and water pollution, depletion of fish stocks, loss of coral reefs, among others—have been put on the back burner, while billions of people are hunkering down at home.  On the other side of this pandemic, will we go all out for economic recovery at the cost of the remaining absorptive capacity of the planet, or will we have learned our ultimate lesson—Nature always wins in the end.  

Jose Cordeiro, Vice Chair, HumanityPlus and Director of The Millennium Project, shows how this crisis presents both threats and opportunities. “We are currently living in a MegaCrisis, which implies MegaDanger but also MegaOpportunity. Even though Covid-19 originated in China, it is now a global problem and it requires a global solution. This MegaCrisis can be the MegaOpportunity to move forward together as one global family in our small planet. 

Michael Lee, Futurist and Author, examines the possibilities: “We could be facing unemployment and poverty on a scale that will dwarf the impacts of the financial crisis of 2008-9. When the global economy awakes from its lockdown hibernation, will it be a zombie economy? Will the epoch of wars and empires, which has engulfed history and caused more death and grief than I have the stomach to calculate, finally be over? Can we come together as one human race, black, white, yellow, brown and all the beautiful shades of human skin, to focus on the one reason why we’re all here in the first place: to use our fleeting lives for the total, ethical upliftment of human civilization?”

Fadi Bayoud, Consultant, Strategic Anchors, offers his vision of a preferable future: “beautiful as a priceless piece of art where: Spirituality drives human relationships. Science is respected, and governments invest more in scientific research … People’s development becomes a social policy. Education becomes free and foresight oriented …Economy becomes shared and sustainable … The countryside and Nature are a source for spiritual, psychological, and somatic healing. Industrial energy production is sustainable. Individual households produce their own energy needs … where rivers and lakes are source of pure and clean water. Health paradigm shifts to prevention.”

Julio Millan, President of the World Future Society, Mexico,  thinks “The megacrisis … is showing us that we have been leading the wrong model: it is not about individual gains, but about the common welfare. …  to behave like good citizens and understand what it means to do things for our community, to be empathetic to our neighbors, and to create better societies. Our concern now should be, what are we going to do when the liberal order, to which we are so accustomed, falls? We are in a historical moment, because after the pandemic our preconception of the world is going to change: we are entering a new era. 

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Bill’s Blog April 11, 2020

Collective Intelligence on Solving the MegaCrisis

 

 

Last week’s blog issued a call for statements proposing solutions to the Global MegaCrisis. 

 

Yes, this asks a lot, but the coronavirus crisis warns what’s in store as other threats arrive in the years ahead–more pandemics, climate change hits home, revolts over gross inequality, mass automation of jobs, global financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, cyberwar, bio attacks, terrorism, etc.


I received several fine statements and invited others to join in. The results are shown below in alphabetical order by last names. This is hardly a scientific survey, but it does represent a collection of forward ideas by some of the best thought leaders in the world. Here’s my quick analysis of what each has to offer, followed by what we can learn collectively.

Dennis Bushnell offers a provocative vision in which people become self-sustaining on a small plot of land while connected seamlessly to the entire world on tele-everything. Dennis concludes that all problems would disappear – “no pandemics, no energy crisis, no climate change, no financial mess, no job losses, etc.”  But one must think big to see this solution.

Jim Dator is dismayed by attitudes favoring economic growth over cultural and ecological values and believes that they are unlikely to change. The only way forward is through the imminent self-destruction of dominant values, behavior and institutions, with “the hope that a million phoenixes arise from the ashes… countless tsunami that we must learn to surf with pleasure and pain.”

Amy Fletcher provides a timely analysis of the coronavirus pandemic and effects of the crisis, highlighting the failures that are prolonging the pain. She advises us to “listen to those voices who do not have a platform and speak truth to power.” The role of the futurist is to facilitate the efforts of those who lack power because the answers we need may lie with them.

Sohail Inayatullah digs beneath the layers of these continuing crises to probe the underlying causes. Sohail finds that we need a “Gaian re-balance by moving to a world with a quadruple bottom line: Prosperity, Purpose, People, and Planet.”  A new Renaissance is needed – the transformation of self and society, home and plant.

Peter King urges us to follow the science and create a Nature-centric world. Guided by the natural wisdom of Earth’s ecosystems, we would find abundant energy, food, medicines, water, jobs, economic growth and a more satisfying lifestyle. To avoid dangerous tipping points, we must move forward into a “visceral and directly experienced relationship with Nature.”

Ruben Nelson focuses on the passing of today’s “modern techno-industrial” civilization, with no workable replacement for it in sight. While he is not hopeful about a solution, he does think what’s needed is a “wise, integral and meta-reflexive form of consciousness.” In other words, rather than thinking of economic growth, “The only way to grow, is UP.”

David Passig finds two phases that could unfold from the MegaCrisis. The first will disrupt the present idea behind globalization as mutual collaboration based on voluntarily respect and common interests. The second will establish the idea of ”entanglement” as symbiotic undetachable ties with enforced collaboration that respects mutual dependency on each other.