Futurist: Next 20 years to bring huge changes
WINCHESTER — The future is coming faster than most people realize, and it will change the way we do everything from constructing a building to caring for our health.
That was the message imparted by futurist Thomas Frey in one of two keynote addresses at Thursday’s Business Symposium at Shenandoah University’s Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business. Frey addressed more than 200 people in Stimpson Auditorium.
“If your next project is not aligned with the future,” said Frey, the executive director of the DaVinci Institute — a nonprofit think tank focused on what’s to come — “the future will kill it.”
In a broad-ranging presentation, Frey said that though the future is constantly unfolding, most people are backward-looking because the past is knowable.
“It’s almost as though we’re walking backward into the future,” he said.
Almost everything about the world we live in will change significantly in the future, some areas sooner than others. Frey said humanity is expected to change more in the next 20 years than it has in its entire previous existence.
If you doubt that that’s possible, just consider the evolution of apps for mobile devices. Introduced to the market in 2008 by Apple, more than 1.7 million have been created in less than five years, Frey said.
Use of mobile devices will only increase as new uses are manufactured. Frey introduced the group to the DoorBot, a recent invention by the company Edison Junior that allows people to look at their smartphone and tell who has just rung their doorbell.
Driverless cars have been invented and are being engineered to traverse streets safely. Frey said the innovation promises to eliminate 5.5 million crashes, 2.5 million injuries and 31,000 traffic deaths per year.
Driverless cars likely will turn people from drivers to riders, who will order cars to take them places and pay by the mile, he said.
“Every car company in the world,” Frey said, “has a driverless division.”
He projected that the future will include drink dispensers that elicit liquids based on what one’s body needs and music systems that sense one’s reaction to a song and play similar tunes. Electronic communication likely will be aided by topic-related information that will pop up on screens.
Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has predicted that technological advances eventually will replace 80 percent of all doctors. Frey said micro-skin sensors are being developed to provide instant data on our health so people can diagnose, monitor and treat themselves.
The major breakthrough on the horizon is widespread use of 3-D printers, which could become as ubiquitous as mobile devices are.
Frey said a company plans to use them to construct a building in 2014, and they could be developed to do everything from clothe us (with a perfect fit) to feed us.
“In the future,” Frey said, “we’re going to print the can and then the food that goes in it.”
Such changes will cause a major upheaval, though. More than 2 billion existing jobs will disappear by 2030, he said, but new jobs will be generated to take their place.
The event featured six morning and afternoon breakout sessions on 11 subjects (the session on how the Affordable Care Act will affect small business and nonprofits was held twice) and five lunch-and-learn sessions that gave attendees information to chew on while they ate boxed lunches.
Martha Shickle, executive director of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, told her lunch-and-learn group about 10 programs in the region they might want to know about.
The list included grant-funded broadband planning efforts in Frederick, Warren and Page counties and the regional efforts to help communities save money while coming into compliance with new stormwater management regulations, an unfunded mandate from the state.
Shickle said the commission has a wide variety of demographic and land-use data available to the business community.
Of the 380 people who registered for the event, organizers said 263 from the region’s business community and 81 students from SU and Lord Fairfax Community College were in attendance.
Paul Delmerico, general manager of SpecialMade Goods and Services, called attendance “phenomenal” for the symposium.
“We’ve blown the doors off registration,” said Delmerico, the event chairman. “We sold more registrations than we had seats in the auditorium.”
Sherry Dawson, a marketing consultant for Centennial Broadcasting, said she attended to network and to learn ways she could help clients.
She said the session on social media marketing helped her determine ways clients for the radio stations she represents, including WINC-FM, can better align their on-air commercials with the digital marketing.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org