Toptal interviews Dr. Amy Zalman regarding strategic foresight, trends in global transformation, emerging technologies, and the importance of a future-focused mindset.

Excerpted here:

Toptal: “We’ve talked a little bit about electric cars and changes concerning mobility, but what issues should executives be most concerned about right now?”

Dr. Amy Zalman: “Top of mind is the complexity of some of the macro changes in our world. I think it should be a significant part of foresight for business leaders to get an everyday understanding of what science is teaching us about complex systems; being aware of emergence. Nothing happens in a silo or a vacuum.”

“It’s evident that we’re in a transformational moment. Some people like to call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution; I don’t think that’s quite it. It is not merely an economic change. We’re in a technological shift on the scale of the industrial revolution, but what is most important is that it shifts other paradigms, other expectations.”

“So, what should business leaders be looking out for? One, climate change. That is probably the number one issue that leaders in the world need to be aware of. In the shorter term, extreme weather and its movements; in the longer term, the sustainability of everything, their business, the people who work there, the food supply that gets food into their stomachs every day.”

“Some geologists say now we’re in a new epoch; the last one was Holocene. So, for 10,000 years we have been understood to live in our own system while the earth systems operate on their own course. Anthropocene is the premise that that is no longer true; it doesn’t just affect us; we affect it.”

“Attendant to that, on an enormous scale, is food and population. We’re about to have 10 billion people on earth by 2050, probably. That introduces some resource stresses and opportunities for technology and for creativity that are quite impressive.”

‘The third is the convergence of technologies that all start with a computer. I mean, they start with the digital, and from there they become artificial intelligence and machine learning, they become biotechnology, they become genomics and so on and so forth. The upshot of it is that we are very clearly introducing surprises and systemic risk into our social systems and critical infrastructures.”