By Dean Whittaker

This month’s theme is, What’s Next? Earlier in the month, I attended the IAMC (Industrial Asset Management Council) Spring Forum in Tampa. It was an informative meeting and well attended. The keynote speaker was Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical strategist, who described a world in which the United States pulls back from world affairs, becoming energy and food self-sufficient. Peter tracks the trends in demographics, energy, and transportation on a global basis. His most recent book is The Absent Superpower. In it he describes the geopolitical position of the United States as compared to the rest of the world in the next 3-5 years.

From an energy perspective, the Shale play in the US provides oil independence. Located near major population centers, the transportation cost is reduced. The abundance of natural gas will provide the raw material used in everything from plastics to fertilizer. Natural gas pipelines are being constructed to provide service to both Mexico and Canada.

Our inland waterway system through the rich farmland provides a very inexpensive transportation mode for food and other commodities.

In Peter’s words, “We would have to work really hard to screw this up.”

The challenge will be in much of the rest of the world. As the United States becomes less interested in Saudi oil, we will stop protecting the shipping routes, putting the global oil supply line to China, Japan, and Korea at risk of conflict and other peril. Demographically, the developed countries have declining populations among the working and consuming 24-45 age cohorts.

To learn more, take a look at a presentation that Peter Zeihan gave at Oklahoma City Chamber 2016 State of the Economy.

Also, this month I had the opportunity to co-present “The Future of Work” with my colleague, Jason Sosa, at the TEDx Macatawa 2017 event, in which the theme of was “Next.” The key point of our presentation is that we need to begin planning now for the disruptive changes that are coming at an accelerated rate driven by technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

We describe technologies already changing so fast that they are beyond our ability to adapt to, regulate or understand them. Ending on a hopeful note, we said that we need to begin now to create the support systems, career ladder shifts, and re-training/education that will be needed to keep our workforce relative in our preferred future.

So, have heart, as Jon LoDuca, the final speaker at TEDx Macatawa said, we don’t know what the future holds, but he and I believe “our humanity will see us through.”