Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a business futurist specializing in technology trends including big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain. Patrick is the author of the book Anarchy, Inc.: Profiting in a Decentralized World with Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain (2018, Authority Publishing) and a former speaker for Bloomberg TV. He has lectured at various academic institutions including Purdue and Stanford Universities. Technology is evolving along an exponential curve, resulting in demonetization and abundance in one field after another. Life on Earth is getting better. Nevertheless, the macro trend from centralized to decentralized power structures is sowing the seeds of anarchy in our society and businesses need to understand these trends in order to thrive in tomorrow’s economy. Patrick’s keynote program on decentralization and anarchy will explain the tribal, individualistic and increasing self-reliance we see growing within our cultures, contributing to movements such as Brexit, Donald Trump, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street.
Anarchy is coming! Will you be ready?
Profiting in the new economy will take vision, boldness, and knowledge which is why Anarchy, Inc. is a must-read for the leaders of today … and tomorrow!Jerry Ross
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Excerpt from “Anarchy, Inc.” (which is being released in March 2018)
A World of Abundance
Let me be clear. The world is getting better. We’re moving towards a world of abundance. As products become increasingly digital, the technology becomes ubiquitous and the cost structure collapses. We used to buy cameras. Today, they’re included in all smartphones. We used to buy GPS devices, flashlights, encyclopedias, and calculators. Today, they’re all included.
Every industry is affected by this “demonetization,” and the biggest driver is digitization. Once a product or service is digitized, it goes through a predictable process where the technology gets cheaper and eventually approaches free. Every year, more and more features are “included” in the products and services we buy. More and more features that used to cost money are now available free of charge (or for a nominal cost). But let’s boil it down to the most fundamental resource of all: Energy. Yup, it’s happening there too.
As mentioned earlier, solar power is following an exponential curve. The cost of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels is decreasing each year. Meanwhile, the efficiency of these panels is improving at the same time. Between the two, the cost per kilowatt hour is dropping below traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas.
Grid parity refers to the point at which an alternative energy source can be purchased at the same price as electricity from the local utility. Grid parity is different in each country because resources are more available in some regions than others. As the cost per solar kilowatt hour continues to drop, we’re reaching grid parity in one market after another.
In 2014, Chile scrapped the Patagonia Dam Project (which was controversial for a number of reasons) and invested in solar power instead. China’s National Energy Administration installed over thirty gigawatts of solar power in 2016. And in 2017, they scrapped plans for 104 new coal power plants. Forty-nine of them were already under construction! One by one, countries around the world are hitting that threshold where renewable energy is becoming cheaper than fossil fuels.
The significance of this cannot be overstated. When a country hits grid parity and invests in renewable energy infrastructure at scale, the increased production volume inevitably reduces the cost structure even further. That means the new technology (such as PV panels, for example) becomes even more competitive in the future, accelerating the transition. We’re starting to hit that inflection point with solar power.
Government policies (like Donald Trump’s push for coal and reduction of subsidies for renewable energy) will affect when we achieve grid parity here in America, but it won’t stop it from happening. Meanwhile, production and refining costs for fossil fuels are fairly stable. Policies in favor of fossil fuels will only delay grid parity, not eliminate it.
Of course, there are many other sources of energy, and some of those are scaling as well. The next twenty years will bring dramatic increases in renewables, contributing to an increasingly abundant supply of clean and inexpensive energy. It’s simply a matter of supply and demand. Demand for energy is growing, yes, but the supply of renewables is growing at an accelerating rate.
What happens when energy becomes abundant and inexpensive? For starters, we can desalinate water. Water covers 71% of our planet. It should be an abundant resource, but it’s not. The problem, of course, is the salt. But if energy was abundant, it would make sense economically to desalinate ocean water. Also, if energy was inexpensive, we could pump that water inland to irrigate unused land.
All you need is abundant energy. I know it seems like a distant reality, but the trends clearly point in that direction. Desalination plants already operate all around the world, including huge plants in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel. If you have abundant energy, abundant water becomes possible as well. And with energy and water taken care of, the ecosystem of the entire planet changes. This “distant” reality is coming sooner than you think.
On top of that, birth rates are dropping all around the world, which means that the world population is stabilizing. According to the World Bank, we’re almost guaranteed to hit eleven billion people in the next 100 years, but the populations will recede after that. Birth rates have already dropped below replacement rate in most developed countries. Within 200 years, the population will likely stabilize between seven and nine billion. With abundant energy, this planet can sustain that.
Health metrics are improving as well. Life expectancy is increasing, infant mortality is dropping, deaths by disease are dropping, even deaths by natural disaster are dropping. Most people have no idea. They actually think the broad metrics of human health and longevity are getting worse. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The problem is that our media only covers bad news. As humans, we’re hardwired to notice bad news more than good news. And since the news media is in the business of delivering our eyeballs to their advertisers, bad news is simply better for business. We’re constantly inundated with bad news, but the truth is quite different. The truth is actually very good, and it continues to improve.
Politicians are just as bad. People are more motivated by fear than hope. It’s the same human bias of prioritizing bad news over good news, so it’s common for politicians to resort to fearmongering to motivate their base. Donald Trump took this to the extreme in his 2016 campaign. Many of his supporters believe that the world is falling apart at the seams, but it’s not true.
That’s not to suggest that the world is perfect already. Far from it. Countless things need fixing. The problems Trump trumpeted on the campaign trail are real, but they’re only part of the story. Those bad things are happening amidst an improving world. Even though there are still plenty of problems, overall, life on Earth is improving. Steven Pinker’s new book, touted by Bill Gates, titled Enlightenment Now discusses this in detail.
Tomorrow’s leaders need an optimistic perspective in order to exploit emerging business opportunities. Opportunities are everywhere, but they’re easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. Look for opportunities! Believe that they’re out there. Read optimistic books including Abundance and Bold by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. They’re both inspiring assessments of the technologies revolutionizing our world and the opportunities they create for businesses.