CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 16, 2018

No longer a trend, but an inevitability

The technology trends that will rock your world are already in motion.

During my sophomore year in college, somehow I actually managed to read a book. I even read it more than once. It was a best-seller at the time and sparked much discussion and debate.

The book? Megatrends, by John Naisbitt, which outlines 10 trends that are shaping our future. While Naisbitt wrote of changes in politics, the global economy, the workplace, and more, it was the trend discussed in the first chapter that captured my attention.

In 1982, just as the world was getting its first glimpse of personal computers, cable television, and cordless phones, Naisbitt recognized that we were moving from an industrial-based, blue-collar economy to a predominantly information-based, white-collar economy in which information and data would be shared globally and instantly. To put it another way, long before the Internet transformed our lives, Naisbitt foresaw our digital future.

That's just one example of why Megatrends has always stood apart from other books by "futurists." It's the one that nailed it. I've always considered it to be in a league of its own.

This year, that league expanded to two. Recently I picked up a copy of The Inevitable, published in 2016 by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine.

Kelly's book, which is subtitled "Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future," is a meditation on how our lives will change over the next 30 years, driven by tech trends that are already in motion. What's groundbreaking about his work is not the technologies he cites by way of example—robotics, 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and much more—but rather his ability to depict life in a world where, as one reviewer put it, "intelligence flows as easily into objects as electricity."

Imagine a world wherein you don't buy things like cars, but rather subscribe to a transportation service. Sometimes, that might mean there is a car in your driveway; other times, it could mean that a driver picks you up. Imagine further that the car or livery service would simply show up where and when you need it. The "universe of big data" will know based, perhaps, on a listing on your digital calendar that you need a car for a weekend get-away or a ride to a business meeting.

While that example in no way does Kelly's work justice, it does demonstrate just how profoundly and fundamentally our world will change.

And, according to Kelly, it will change much more quickly than we can currently conceive. We may be at or near a tipping point in which we will begin to measure the time until we have driverless trucks, fully automated supply chains, and a host of other breakthroughs in months rather than in years.

These changes are no longer just trends, it seems. They are also inevitable.

Mitch Mac Donald is Group Editorial Director of AGiLE Business Media.

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