Recently Nikolas Badminton was invited as a Futurist Keynote Speaker to provide United Way with an impactful Keynote. I called it United Way – Our Brave New World. In this session I spoke for a while to over 1800 delegates at the United Way Worldwide inspirational Community Leadership and Impact Conference (CLIC) event. In this keynote he talks about the age of acceleration, exponential technologies and our need for deep empathy in creating the new world so no-one is left behind. A full transcription is also provided below.
United Way – Our Brave New World (transcription)
Yesterday I get a phone call and it’s like, “Okay, we’re looking for a futurist.” My agent texts me, I get on a phone call. By 4:00 yesterday afternoon, I have two keynotes prepared. This is the first one. I’m going to do another one later on as well.
But really, they were like, “Okay, do you know United Way?” “Yes, I know United Way. My girlfriend’s father worked for United Way for a number of years.” So, that’s a good thing. I’ve learned so much today. That’s amazing, what [Brian] and everyone’s been talking about today. Hugely thrilled to be here. I’ve worked with over 300 companies in my lifetime, and I’ve worked with companies to help them understand where the future’s going, how to be prepared for the changes that are coming in life, through technology, through the changes in society, and what we can do to be a part of that world.
And really, this is why the presentation is called, The Brave New World. We have to be brave, we have to step forward, we have to really look towards the future with some certainty around what’s going to happen, right? I look out five, 10, 20 years into the future. I’m less accurate as I look out further. If I look out three to five years, I can tell you with a great deal of certainty the things that are going to change the world, and I’m going to highlight some of them today.
But as I look out further, it’s more speculative. But if you understand where we’re likely to go, we’re going to have more ability to change the world because we can set plans in place today that set a foundation. And United Way is already along that way, with digital transformation, looking at data, looking at the connections that you have around the world. And it’s so great to see people from all over the world here.
But really, when I talk about the future, I kind of like to look at the past as well. So, we’d like to see the industrial revolutions that have gone before us. So, everything changes with communication and transportation and energy. They’re the three dimensions of change when we look at industrial revolutions.
So, we went from steam to electricity in the early 1900s, and then into the computing era in the 1980s. And now, we’re in a world of huge change in the fourth industrial revolution. Cyberphysical systems, sensors and data, the internet. Everything’s connected. And data in the world is growing as strong as we’ve ever been before.
The five top most powerful companies in the world, they run on data because data is a resource that is constantly being generated. And those five companies are worth $4.5 trillion, which makes them, if you change that to GDP, makes them the fifth largest country in the world. Just think of the influence you can have in the world, and this is the rate of change that’s happening.
But I’d like to just say here’s a couple of examples about when we kind of get things wrong or we don’t expect change to be happening quickly. So, back in the 1900s, in New York City, where this picture is taken, it was predominantly horses and carriages, right? Can anyone see where the car is in this picture? There’s the car. One single car.
Fast forward 13 years. Can anyone see where the horse is in this picture? There’s no horses. When the car was introduced, they said, “We just need more horses.” But then that technology catches on fire because you can get places more quickly, you have an abundance of gasoline from oil, and the economy changed, and communications changed at the same time. The Industrial Revolution there.
And then, April the 3rd, 1973. This guy makes a phone call for the first time, the first cell phone call, from downtown Manhattan to Bell Labs in Jersey. Right? And who would’ve understood where we are today? Is there anyone in the audience that does not have a cell phone? Right? I get no one saying that they don’t have a cell phone, except for security people. People that do cybersecurity are like, “I don’t touch them.”
But today, we’re in a world where, by 2020, there will be more than 6 billion smartphones in the world. That’s more people with access to mobile communication than actually use toothbrushes. It’s a very strange stat that I roll out. Hands up, who brushed their teeth today? No.
But we’ve now got access to this technology. I mean, we’ve got influencers in the crowd, and they can generate 4K video, upload it to YouTube, and get a million views in 6 hours. Please do that with me. That would be great. But this world’s accelerating and it’s getting much quickly.
Now we’ve got a change of pace in the world where we no longer know what normal is, and there’s a new normal. And as I’ve met lots of inspirational speakers and innovators, the people building technology and building the new world, I see some incredible examples of what some people’s vision is leading us to understand the new world to be.
This is a video by a British researcher called Keiichi Matsuda, and he’s saying the phones are going to disappear and we’re going to wear headsets and glasses that are going to allow us to overlay all of the data that we need to see in the world as we’re walking down the street. This video was actually filmed down in Medellin, in Colombia. Post-production put visual effects in there.
But imagine this world of just overwhelming data, augmented reality. I’m excited about this, but I kind of think that we’re going to be wandering around just literally looking to the sky, and we’re not going to understand what’s happening, and then suddenly the Coca-Cola polar bear’s going to hop next to you and go, “Hi! Buy some Coke.”
And then the world gets strange. I mean, this is a vision. This isn’t happening today. It’s coming. People are putting billions of dollars into that world.
This is happening today. Self-driving vehicles. Why? We’re solving a human problem. We’re not good drivers. I wish it was funny. 1.3 million people a year die because of bad human driving. If we can even reduce that by 1% by introducing new technology, that’s a good thing. That’s a lot of people who are still going to be walking around with us, providing value into the world.
But this is weird. I mean, this picture has still got a steering wheel in it. Imagine there’s no steering wheel. In fact, you don’t all have to be sat forward, and you’re literally hanging out in an office on the way, or you’re maybe having a nap. Hands up who would be really comfortable doing that today. There’s lots of… Okay. We’ll all meet in the corner and talk about the new world of self-driving cars. There’ll be three of us. Okay.
And this is the new normal. Landing rockets. Right? We look at billionaire entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, and we’re like, “That guy’s crazy,” and, “What’s he saying on Twitter,” and whatever. Elon Musk lands rockets, and he changes the world through electric vehicle technology, and he gives access to people to all of the patents that he has around that. So, we create acceleration. The new world is rockets landing and rockets taking off. Eventually the new world will be lunar colonies. Eventually the new world will be research expeditions to Mars, and then interstellar travel. I’m excited about this.
And that’s why I say that we are in the age of acceleration. We’re going faster than ever before. How can we keep a grip on that? How can we keep pace with that?
Well, it’s very simple. We just need to look at what we need to do every day, and do the small things to accept technology into our lives, accept the human connection that comes from that. But understand that, fundamentally, we’re people that need to connect, and we need to do business, we need to have impact in the world.
Last month I went to Songdo, South Korea, and I was flown down there by the United Nations Climate Change Secretary. And I gave an opening keynote to a week called Resilience Frontiers. We were trying to come up with new ideas about how we can build a resilient society, because the inevitability that in 2030 we’re going to be a raised temperature in the world that’s going to cause climate catastrophe, there’s going to be more hurricanes, there’s going to be more floods, coastlines are going to change.
And there was this amazing evolutionary biologist, Professor Choi, and he was saying about how we are no longer homo sapiens, or just homo sapiens. Humans with wisdom, that’s what homo sapiens means. The wisdom that we have from experience and knowledge and the data that we access and the actions that we take.
But we are actually stepping into a new world, where we have deeper connection and understanding that we are connected to everyone. There’s expression, there’s empathy. This powers us into a world of homo symbious, the symbiotic relationship between us, each other, the communities, the animals in the world, the ecosystems that we need to protect and we need to take action to help, the communities that we need to go into, the technologies that we use to help us. I love that term, homo symbious. That our connection and our empathy is going to take us further than ever before.
And moving on from the age of acceleration, I don’t think that that really does the job that we need it to do. I think that we are truly in the age of empathy. Empathetic understanding about how the world works, what we all need, understanding that our sisters and brothers are sometimes going to need our help, and that we are here to step up, and we can look to the future and say, “Okay, don’t worry. It’s tough today. We’re going to get somewhere different tomorrow, next year, five years, 10 years, 20 years.” Giving them hope.
That’s what I do as a futurist. I give people hope that the new world is not going to be so drastically dystopian, like some people think. That is not my agenda. But the age of empathy will usher in this new hope for a world that’s going to be different and very powerful.
Now, when we look at change, and people bandy the word change and disruption and trying, G us up to do something different, I think it’s very simple. We have to change because change is inevitable. We either choose to change, or change is going to happen to us.
I’ve never stood still in my life. I’ve changed my career five times, I’m doing something hugely interesting now. I try and step forward, I work with new clients all the time, I step forward into charitable organizations. I really try and make a difference in the world, and I know next year I’m going to be operating differently because change is inevitable.
The question is, are you ready for change? It’s not easy to look to the future with hope, but you have to. And really, there’s a lot of opportunity to understand how we’re going to be different tomorrow, five years’ time, 10 years’ time, 20 years’ time.
And that’s it. We’ve stood in the brave new world today. But it’s not the technology that’s brave or the data that’s brave. It’s us that are brave. And the actions that we take to have empathetic connection, to use bold terms like, “I love you, and everything’s going to be okay,” or, “I’ve got your back,” or, “Don’t worry. We can get a plan together.” Because five, 10, 20 years down the line, you’re still going to have a place in this world, and this is the world that we build together. Thank you very much.
See more of Nikolas’ keynotes:
Nikolas Badminton is the CEO of EXPONENTIAL MINDS and an award-winning Futurist Keynote Speaker, researcher and author. His expertise and thought leadership will guide you from complacency to thinking exponentially, planning for longevity, and encouraging a culture of innovation. You will then establish resiliency and abundance in your organization. Please reach out to discuss how he can help you, and read on to see what is happening in the world this week.