Robots on the rampage: How autonomous weapons will reconfigure the ethics of warfare

By Vanessa Cartwright on March 30, 2015 | Permalink

Robot stare 640x427

The robot armies, artificial intelligence networks and cyborg assassins of science fiction continue to haunt the human imagination. But could they be the future of warfare? To some extent, the onslaught of robots appears inevitable within major militaries. The U.S. Defense Force could replace a quarter of its combat troops with robots by 2030. Using nearly autonomous and autonomous “warbots” capable of intelligent battlefield behaviors could potentially save soldiers’ lives and improve the efficiency of decision-making in war. But it could also bring a host of dangerous problems. (more…)

Launch of Map of the Decade, ExaTrends of the Decade, and the Zeitgeist for 2011

By Ross Dawson on December 14, 2010 | Permalink

It is traditional at the turn of the year to look forward at what is to come.

We have crystallized our thinking on the year ahead and the decade of the 2010s in a new 3-page visual landscape.

You can download the pdf of the framework by clicking on any of the images. The full text of the ExaTrends and the Zeitgeist themes is below.

Note on ExaTrends: Given the exponential pace of change of today we are far beyond a world of MegaTrends. Exa is the prefix meaning 10 to the power of 18, following Mega, Giga, Tera, and Peta. As such Exa is Mega cubed.

Map of the Decade: 2010s


ABC Radio National: Discussion on the future of influence

By Ross Dawson on September 17, 2009 | Permalink

ABC Radio National Future Tense this morning featured a discussion on the future of influence (click here for the podcast of both the radio program, and the unabridged discussion between Duncan Riley and myself). It kicks off with a quote from Chris Saad saying that influence and reputation are the currencies of the day, even more than attention.
When asked why we rebadged Future of Media Summit as Future of Influence Summit this year, I explained why “influence is the future of media”, and the five key trends in how influence is transforming society.
Duncan pointed to how the rise of Internet and social media means that influence can now be global. He also raised the issue of trust agents, and what it takes to be trusted as a publisher. We have more choice in what we look for, and so we need markers of credibility.
On the topic of business models for influence, I talked about two key ideas. The first is whether and how individuals can profit from their influence, and how that will develop. The second is the emergence of influence as a currency, and the companies that profiting from making influence explicit for companies.
Listen to the long version of the interview for more details.

Top Twitterers: US, Canada, Norway, Australia, UK, New Zealand

By Ross Dawson on June 14, 2009 | Permalink

Sysomos has just released extensive research on Twitter use, filled with all sorts of fascinating information, such as 72% of Twitter users have joined since the beginning of this year, 53% of Twitterers are women, and marketers are 50 times more likely than normal people to follow over 2000 people.
I am always interested in comparing countries, so I pulled out and analyzed their statistics on where Twitter users are located to calculate the proportion of the population that are use Twitter. I used the Sysomos data on Twitter usage, the ever-handy Nationmaster for population figures, and a combination of the recent combined with Sysomos data on recent growth, as well as our own estimates.
The US is in the lead, not surprisingly, though by a far lower margin than even just six month ago. The global growth of Twitter has accelerated recently, making usage in a number of other countries not far behind that of the US. The English speaking countries – Canada, Australia, UK and New Zealand – follow close behind, with Norway the stand-out in non-English speaking countries, together with the Netherlands and Sweden. The figures suggest Twitter is a truly niche interest in other countries, including France and Germany.


Why GFC explains everything (to Australians)

By Ross Dawson on February 27, 2009 | Permalink

This morning an email from a client mentioned the GFC. Earlier this week another client was talking about the GEC (which has the advantage that you can pronounce it, while GFC has to be spelled out).

When this morning I Twittered about how we have a new acronym that doesn’t need to be explained, I got some interesting responses. @ITSinsider in America said that she had heard it before from someone else in Australia. An Australian initially thought I meant Geelong Football Club, so googled it to find out.

Which gives very interesting results…
If you Google “GFC” in Australia the #3 result is a newspaper story Tough week ends in talk of ‘GFC’, dated from October last year, with four of the top 10 results referring to the planet’s economic woes, including three newspaper headlines.

If you Google “GFC” in the US, aside from a #5 entry from Wikipedia which includes various acronyms including the contemporary one, the first entry which refers to GFC in this way is at #45.

So are Australians particularly acronym-crazy? Are we in the vanguard of what will be a global trend to summarize the state of the world as GFC?

Of course the very best thing about GFC is that it is an easy explanation for everything, in three easy letters. It was all getting very complicated for a while. Now it’s simple again – yay!

Profiting from Technology Trends: Keynote at National Growth Summit

By Ross Dawson on February 24, 2009 | Permalink

Tomorrow morning I am delivering a keynote at the National Growth Summit, looking at how fast-growing companies can tap technology trends to build growth and opportunities.
The presentation is below (usual caveats – this is not intended as a stand-alone presentation but to accompany my speech). I’ll write more about this soon, but now I must get to bed – it was a long (though fun!) day at Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum today.

Timewarp discovered: What daily life will be like in the year 2049

By Ross Dawson on January 17, 2009 | Permalink

Have you ever wondered what life will be like in the year 2049?

Amazingly I seem to have stumbled across a timewarp. The blog p40y is being written every day in the year 2049, and each blog post appears daily 40 years earlier. Since the blog began on New Years Day 2049 (and 2009 via the timewarp) some fantastic insights into the future 40 years from now.

Here are a few excerpts that give a flavor for what we can expect at the end of this half-century.


Today I sat in a meeting with some people and some Claytronic replicas of other people that were unable (couldn’t be bothered?) to make the meeting in person. Now I know this is a new technology but it’s total rubbish. In theory you just pmail or gfax over some instructions to a giant programmable lump of clay sitting in one of the spare chairs and it automatically morphs into a life size 3-D, walking, talking replica of the real person.
However, it didn’t. In this instance the millions of tiny microprocessors didn’t seem to be communicating with each other correctly – or the electrostatic forces weren’t working because someone left an AiPhone™ on – and what we got instead was a giant brown talking turd. “Different day, same old talking shit” as one wit observed.

This is particularly interesting. Kil’n People by David Brin, one of my favorite science fiction books, describes a world in which people create animated clay replicas of themselves. I have also blogged about a Japanese professor who has created a doppelganger of himself – though not in clay…
DNA Hacking


(Good) blog aggregators are the best source of news

By Ross Dawson on December 2, 2008 | Permalink

As one of many deeply absorbed in the US Presidential elections, I spent a lot of time scouring the news to gain insights into the latest as the extraordinary story unfolded. I consistently found that blog aggregator Memeorandum provided the best view on what the most relevant and interesting news was. Often stories became prominent on Memeorandum before they hit the mainstream press.
This points to what I first wrote six years ago in Living Networks, and have often restated:

“Blogs are not necessarily important individually, but in aggregate they are massively powerful. The “blogosphere” pulls together what millions of talented people around the world are discovering and thinking. Collectively, blogs enable us to collaborate to filter and uncover the most worthwhile news.”

The Guardian is the latest to say Memeorandum runs rings around Google News.

“Memeorandum is embarrassingly better than Google News. Google reckons that the more coverage a story gets, the more important it is. Unfortunately, broad coverage takes a long time to develop, so Google News can run hours or even a day behind Memeorandum. This is fine for casual consumers, but if you’re a news junkie – or a journalist – it’s hopeless.”


Financial transparency drives business results

By Ross Dawson on November 16, 2008 | Permalink

When solo developer Peldi Guilizzoni launched web design mock-up tool Balsamiq in July, he promised to disclose his revenues, reports ReadWriteWeb.
He has just announced he has hit $100,000 in revenue in the last five months, with revenue on a very significant uptrend.
I am a big believer in business transparency, absolutely for public companies, and also in many cases for private companies. Transparency is one of the Seven MegaTrends of professional services I described in 2005, one of the Six Facets of the future of PR, central to investor relations, while the naked start-up is becoming more common.
Clearly Guilizzoni is going to make a lot more money because of his financial transparency, given the attention it’s attracting.
Secrecy has its place in business, but it is highly over-rated. In most cases there is no valid reason not to share information, just a disinclination to give away things. We are going to see transparent models increasingly favored moving forward. Certainly I find the reporting and accounts of many public companies to be extraordinarily opaque, giving little insight into the real drivers of business performance (a case in point being most non-US media companies). The most significant result is that investors shy away and shareholder value is lost.
Open book management’ is not a new idea, but the majority of companies are slow to shift on this front. I’m toying with the idea of a business model which includes publishing all company accounts on the web – hopefully this will be becoming more common by the time I get to this.

Scenario planning: strategy for the future of global financial services

By Ross Dawson on October 30, 2008 | Permalink

For my keynote at the Vision 2020 Financial Services conference last month in Mumbai I prepared some ‘quick and dirty’ scenarios for the global financial services industry landscape in 2020 from a technology perspective. Below is an overview of the content I used in my presentation. The complete slide deck from my keynote is also available, though it needs the explanation as below.

WARNING: These are scenarios prepared for a presentation, so they are far from rigorous or comprehensive. True scenarios should have fully developed storylines that evoke the richness of how the scenario unfolds and could actually happen. To be truly valuable, scenarios need to be created for a specific organization or strategic decisions – generic scenarios are of limited value. Always work with someone highly experienced in the field – most consultants that claim to do scenario planning are making it up. The Driving Forces and Critical Uncertainties identified below are highly summarized, and would be presented and aggregated very differently in a real scenario project. OK warning over, on with the content…

Scenario planning
Scenario planning recognizes that beyond a certain degree of uncertainty forecasting is of limited value (or can even be detrimental to good decisions). The process of creating a set of relevant, plausible, and complementary scenarios (more than the scenarios themselves) can be invaluable in creating and implementing effective, responsive strategies.
The heart of the scenario planning process is distinguishing between Driving Forces (consistent long-term trends) and Critical Uncertainties (unpredictable elements). Once these are identified, they are brought together to create a set of scenarios that reflect both what you know and what you don’t know about how the environment will change.
The image below shows a sanitized version of the process for a scenario planning project I ran for a major financial institution. This was quite a streamlined process relative to a comprehensive scenario planning project, however was designed to bring the insights directly into the existing group and divisional strategy process.
Below are the scenarios in detail:

  • Driving Forces: Global Financial Services
  • Critical Uncertainties: Global Financial Services
  • Scenario Framework for Global Financial Services
  • Four Scenarios for Global Financial Services

1. Economic shift

Economic power is shifting to the major developing countries. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) together host close to half the world’s population, and their pace of economic development means that before long there will be multiple economic superpowers. In addition, global economic growth is shifting to the virtual, and developing countries will gradually wean themselves from primary and secondary industries to be significantly based on knowledge-based services.


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