Meaning - Mark Stevenson: the future and how to survive it

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Warning: Liveblogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and terrible, terrible crimes against grammar. This post will be improved over the next 24 hours

Mark Stevenson

Mark Stevenson is a cultural change consultant.

Douglas Adams said that there were three types of technology:

  • The tech that was invented before you were born – and it’s just there
  • The tech that’s invented when you’re young, which is exciting
  • The tech that’s invented after you hit middle age – which makes you furious

Most people leading companies are in the last group – which leads to institutional bewilderment.

Institutional genetic racism

Mark had a genetic test done – he’s at double the risk of prostate cancer of the average white man. The NHS won’t let him have screening – because he’s not black. Is the NHS institutionally racists? Or is it just failing to keep up with technology?

We live in a period of accelerating technological change – but we are not surprised about that. 10 years ago the idea of a car that’d rove itself was impossible. Now? It’s here. It’ll be in legislation by the beginning of 2015.

Insurance companies are fretting about this. How do they insure cars without drivers? On the other hand, humans are shit at driving – so maybe this will reduce the cost of claims. The costs of sequencing the human genome has dropped from $100,000,00 to $1,000 in less than 15 years. It’ll be $1 by the end of the decade.

We’re just beginning to create genetically-targeted cancer drugs, individual to the patient. There are organisms being developed that eat CO2 and water and shit crude oil.

Can we take CO2 – pollution – from the sky and sue it as fuel? Can we create artificial photsynthesis? These things are coming.

Power too cheap to meter

We spend billions on the Iraq War – could we have spent that money better? Solar power’s price is dropping exponentially. Use of solar power is doubling – we’re 6 and a half doublings form 100% of power coming from it.

The Green Tea Coalition is a bizarre alliance of sandal-wearing hippies and right wing evangelists in the US, to fight corporate America… We don’t have an energy crisis, we have an energy conversion crisis.

3D printing? Car parts? Sure? Makeup? Sure – it’s just coloured pastes. 3D printed dresses, and organs are coming. And printing is being done at the nano scale by nano scribe. Soon, 3D printers will be able to print 3D printers. The whole basis of the industrial economy is changing.

Our phones will have batteries that last forever – because they use solar panels. By the time our children grow up, they’ll be printing their own drugs. There’s a parenting challenge.

The threat to the power of money

The whole balance of power is going to change, when electricity gets too cheap to meter, and 3D printers can print pretty much anything. If the billionaires want to stay relevant , they need to take moral leadership instead. The existing institutions are on their way out – and thank god, because they’re a bit shit.

People are disengaged from politics. The financial system is incredibly exposed to risk. Most people are disengaged from their work. Hospitals are more dangerous than bungee jumping. Our education systems teaches kids about the past, not the future they will live in.

Phillip K. Dick said that reality is that which, when you stop thinking about it, doesn’t go away. It doesn’t matter how little you like this – it’s happening. If you ignore it – you end up like Detroit – rotting away.

Everyone says they want to innovate. They don’t. They want innovation wash – the appearance of innovation. Most people don’t like change. PayPal wasn’t invented by a bank. Skype wasn’t invented by BT. The world is Darwinian – it’s not the fittest that survive, but the most agile.

The B Team is a group of public companies coming round to the idea that they can’t withdraw from the environement forever.

We’re about to go through a massive, messy cultureal change. Digital was just the cocktail sausage at the beginning of the meal. We’re about to get mass power, and as Spider-Man almost said “with mass power comes mass responsibility”.

You cannot predict the fourth or fifth order of change of technology. Technology is just a mirror – asking us what sort of world we want.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.