Future Trends Forum

public_logoLast week I was in Madrid, taking part in the 24th meeting of the Future Trends Forum, a think tank set up by BankInter, a leading Spanish bank.

The subject was the Second Machine Age – organising for prosperity, and this short video was shot during the meeting:

The jumping-off point for the meeting was the eponymous book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, so a lot of the discussion revolved around automation and the possibility of widespread technological unemployment.

The organisers brought together a fantastic group of smart, experienced people who worked together in a very open and collaborative way during the three days to frame and try to resolve the knotty issues raised by this subject.  Our ringmaster was Chris Meyer, author of Standing on the Sun, and it was in no small part due to his great skill at the job that the event was thoroughly enjoyable as well as highly stimulating.

Great credit to BankInter, whose Foundation, run by Sergio Martinez-Cava, hosts these events, and also to Ludic, a design strategy consultancy which provided technical wizardry.

I’m really looking forward to the publication of the reports which the Foundation makes available following Forum meetings.  The debate was consistently fascinating, and it addressed some of the most important challenges we face today.

For me, one of the most interesting and significant findings was that slightly more than 50% of the participants do not think that automation will result in technological unemployment, and that we will work with the machines to find more and more value-added jobs.  I was in the dissenting minority.

4 thoughts on “Future Trends Forum

  1. Calum, I’m with you. We are already suffering from technological job losses. People like to point to the Internet boom and the jobs it created, but many of them were soon lost when the bubble burst. The fact remains that people are almost always a less efficient use of capital when there is technology available to do the same work. Of course, technology gets cheaper and people more expensive.

    What IBM’s Watson has shown us is that even more cerebral pursuits are not safe from the job-consuming tyranny of technology. They have software that can write classical music and sports news stories that are indistinguishable from human work. Are novels next?

    • Thanks Tom. I hope that novelists have a few more years yet, but yes, I expect machines will be writing pretty good ones before this century is halfway through.

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