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Trends for the ’20s

This article appears in the issue January/February 2019 [Volume 28, Issue 1]
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It’s hard to believe we’ll soon be entering the third decade of the millennium. During the past 10 years we’ve witnessed the transfer of several breakthrough technologies from the laboratory into the mainstream—some old, some new. The more celebrated of these include AI, blockchain, the Internet of Things, 3D printing (including living tissue), and quantum computing. The coming decade will see not only continuing advancement of these technologies, but the emergence of new ones as well.

It’s easy to become captivated by the glimmer of these “bright shiny objects.” Just look at some of the “hot” predictions making headlines, such as commercial space travel to the planets and stars, extreme longevity, and the like.

But as KMers, we like to “keep it real.” This means thinking of not only the technologies, but also their implications for business, society, and our way of life. Along those lines, here are five game-changing trends you need to be closely watching.

Trend #1: The continued acceleration of the five V’s of information: volume, variety, velocity, veracity, and value. With increasing volume naturally comes increasing variety, making the coming barrage of zettabytes even more overwhelming. Increasing velocity brings the benefit of more timeliness, along with the negative tendency to rush to judgment. All three together place additional pressure on veracity and value, resulting in more “junk,” which in turn produces an increase in the number of poorly made decisions. Which brings us to …

Trend #2: More serious decision consequences. This applies to the full range of decision types, large and small, strategic and tactical, across all disciplines. This trend has been fueled in large part by the social amplification of technology, in which small, incomplete fragments of information (think “tweets”) spread virally through social networks and media outlets, creating huge waves of both support and outrage, either of which can be grossly exaggerated and misdirected. The result is large-scale second-guessing of decisions, which unfortunately can lead to silence and inaction as the preferred alternative.

Many believe that machines will be our salvation. As computers become more powerful, their capacity to quickly assimilate and analyze massive volumes of data, and algorithmically determine a course of action, will soon exceed the human capacity to do so. The resulting tendency is to abdicate responsibility and defer key decisions to machines.

We have always cautioned against this, and instead have favored a blended approach of human creativity, intuition, and judgment, supported by the processing, memory, and bandwidth of machines. Which brings us to …

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