By Dean Whittaker

Growing up, I watched Flash Gordon and Star Trek, read books such as iRobot by Asimov, and bought my first computer, a Radio Shack Model I. That is why the “present future” is no surprise to me. However, I am stunned by the speed at which it is arriving.

I’ve read several books this summer in preparation for facilitating a workshop for the Utility Economic Development Association, called “Trends – How to See Around Corners.” The purpose of the workshop is to identify and discuss trends impacting economic development and the utility industry.

A common theme in many of the books that I have read is the exponential rate of change. This is a rate of change driven by technology that is following Moore’s Law that states that computer power is doubling every 18-24 months, which it has been doing for the past 40 years.

The book I found to be most helpful is Future Smart by James Canton. In his book, Canton, one of the co-founders of Singularity University, takes us on a journey to 2030 and describes how we can be aware, prepare, and predict the changes that will take place. He teaches us how to be “future smart” by disrupting our thinking to create new ideas that are actionable.

Canton goes on to predict a few future jobs titles for 2030:

• Predictive Commerce Manager
• Genomics Processor
• Smart Machine Producer
• Smart Machine Manager
• Nano-Food Developer
• 3-D Maker
• Digital Engineered Personality Designer

Perhaps the greatest “aha” to come out of my reading is that 90% of people work in the operational areas of their organization focusing on 0-3 years time frame. Another 9.9% of people work in strategic areas of their concerns in 3-5 years range, and 0.1% are engaged in future thinking that is 5 years and beyond.

The challenge facing us is that the speed of change is exceeding our ability to adapt quickly enough to avoid becoming extinct like the dinosaur did when Earth’s climate changed, and it was unable to adapt quickly enough. To avoid this fate, we need to anticipate the changes coming, plan for these changes, and develop the capability to predict them.

Once when I was describing our company’s predictive analytic business model to a COO of a large auto parts company, he said, “Yes, and you are pretty far from the cash registers.” At the time, he was right. But, that is changing. The ability to anticipate and predict the future is becoming increasingly important as the speed of change accelerates.