Posts Tagged ‘futuresense’
Day Two/ Three/ Four of 2009 O’Reilly Etech Conference in San Jose
It is interesting to note that wherever you look, you will definitely spot someone using either a Macbook or Iphone…
Anyway, day two kicks off with a presentation by Alex Steffen on the topic of Sustaining the American Family. In what was related to as a “Massive Inter-generational Ponzi Scheme”, we are in danger of reaching the tipping point in peak population, peak carbon emission (No prize for guessing who is the greatest Ponzi of all time!). He reckoned that the world would be in ruins if the developing countries (poor) followed the path to richness as experienced by the Western developed countries. While America is in no position to stop the poor from seeking a better life, there is a need to educate them on the risk, else it would be difficult or impossible for anyone to sustain their current way of life. Hence there were talks on 1) energy efficiency and CO2 admission – by introducing electric cars, and how we can measure our energy footprint/ consumption, so as to better improve and optimize usage; 2) Design and Density – moving toward closed loops design, so as to have 100% recyablity (e.g. Crocs shoes) as well as urban homesteading/ clustering to share common resources as well as eliminate unnecessary traveling. There were further discussion in the session by Gavin Starks (founder and CEO for AMEE) on Energy Identity – Interesting to note that 2½ Kg Mac laptop has a 460 Kg CO2 emission footprint (Yap! Guilty faces of all the geeks/ techies in the room!). Energy identity is best describe as a digital embodiment of a user’s physical consumption. With 20 largest cities consuming up to 75% of the world’s energy, and more than 600 million people moving into cities over the next five years, we need rapid innovation in energy efficiency technology, service transformation (high carbon prices/ tax would result in business shift from products to services, i.e. having more efficient public transportation system, reducing car ownership, etc), as well as redefining how our communities’ perception to understand and enjoy quality of life through simplicity rather than money.
Elizabeth Goodman’s topic on Urban Green Space Planning had a different twist, in which people from the same community can register to form a working group to grow and maintain their neighborhood plants (Landshare) as well as reap the benefits/ fruits of their labor. This is no easy task, especially when most of us will have no prior knowledge in the art of farming, and you may need one to have good project management skills to schedule and plan resources to ensure the that plots are well maintained. Then there is the talk on Urban Homesteading by Mark Frauenfelder (Make Magazine) on the seven guiding principals leading to a successful urban farming: 1. Grow only useful things; 2. Region matters (understanding your surrounding environment); 3. Build your soil; 4. Water deeply and less frequently; 5. Work makes work (i.e. work with nature, not against it); 6. Failure is part of the game; and 7. Pay attention and keep notes. Mark also taught about rearing chickens, which I reckon it makes no sense to talk about it here…
In a slighter different light on urban planning, Brad Templeton shared how Robot Cars may be able to solve everything. Well, almost… He wanted a robotic car that parks, delivers and refuels itself, and would definitely be a great hit in countries such as Japan, Singapore, etc… Went on to share video of the DARPA grand Challenge, where competitors compete against each other through a series of test runs, both through urban as well as country-side driving. In addition to the fundamental issue of battery lifespan clouding the development of electric cars today, Robotic cars will bring about a different set of problems such as reliability/ safety, political, national security (terrorism).
Mary Lou Jepsen (recently named as one of the hundred most influential people in the world by Time Magazine – May 2008 for her work in creating Pixel Qi) speaks of Low-Cost, Low-Power Computing in order to reach out the billions of youth in developing countries, deprived of proper education, in her “one laptop per child” project. Though her project fell short of achieving the production target of 8 million laptops last year (actual production figures not disclosed), Mary is still hopefully that the recent downturn would help to drive material/ production cost down in her bid to produce small inexpensive laptops. On the technology front, she claimed that the war for more powerful CPUs are over, laptops are now being widely used as a medium for reading. Hence the development lies in having a low power, sun-light readable, high resolution screen.
We also get the opportunity to see Carl Taussig (HP Lab) introduce flexible paper-like screen, and the technology behind how roll-to-roll manufacturing. In time to come, we will be holding such flexible screens to read our news…
And the theme of Networking with Smart Sensors, which create quite a stir w.r.t. data ownership/ IP and the invasion of personal space. On Wednesday, Tony Jebara (Sense Network) talk about how Mobile Phones Reveal the Behavior of Places and People. With social network portal such as Facebook, Flickr, Gmail or mobile phone with wireless capability (Iphone, blackberry, etc), laptops/ desktop with IP addresses, tons of data are being transmitted and collected at any given time. On one project, they monitored people working in San Francisco financial district, using mobile signals to track their activities (such as working hours) and the correlation to stock market (Though there were questions raised as to how to determine if those monitored are actually bankers, clerks, janitors, etc); on the other project, they tried to map out and cluster group of individuals with similar interest who frequent certain type of restaurants, bars, etc (flow analysis). The latter was deemed to be useful as companies can use these data for their advertising, marketing, strategy planning/ churning (if a few members from the clustered groups start switching to a different network, they would promote themselves to the remaining individuals of similar group to retain their service); demographics; collaborative filtering.
In another session – Real Time City by Andrea Vaccari (Senseable City Lab), he showcased the visualization of mobile traffic between New York and other countries, which gives us a pretty good picture as to how New York is connected to other parts of the world, and social network portals like facebook, flickr, which will reveal the location of the users (I posted in my facebook that I will be in ETech this week!), and then Nick Brachet educated us on how we are being “tracked” daily (sounds like some James Bond movie…) – three nodes to identify location and a fourth to synchronize timing (based on the theory of six degree of freedom).
Though we now know how our digital footprint is revealing information of us at all time, it seems that the application of such data sounds rather trivial and non-conclusive. It would take a lot more (Political, regulations, signal networking, etc) before we establish more use for such technology.
Lastly a special mentioned on the session with Lisa Katayama (blog: TokyoMango.com) and Fumi Yamazaki on Japanese Tech Culture. Interesting to note that just this week, Hatsune Miku music software created a digital song (i.e. sang by computer) that tops their music chart (#2) – Makes you wonder what’s installed for the future of artists…
Oh, I forgot to mentioned that we are treated to the music of Zoë Keating on Wednesday night. Cool!
Day One of 2009 O’Reilly Etech Conference in San Jose (March 08, 2009)
Here we go, my first post with team (FG)… Sat through more than 25 sessions listening to 56 speakers. Hectic week? Below are some of the interesting topics.
(Tutorial/ Workshop, Keynote Address, Ignite Etech)
Brady Forrest (Chair of ETech) kicks off the conference by giving a brief introduction to this year’s theme of “Technology of Abundance and Constraints”. Main focus will hover around open source software/ hardware, energy identity/ urban planning, low cost computing, and smart sensors. It is also interesting to note that Etech is handing out RFID tag for the first time, which can be used to explore fun interactive projects, such as photo booth, personal info collector (to replace exchanging namecards), etc…
They have eight workshops running concurrently (four each in morning and afternoon session) on day one. Attended Holistic Service Prototyping: Sketching Hardware and Software presented by Matt Cottam of Telart, where he shared the transformation of America’s focus from agriculture to manufacturing to services. Consumers are demanding more than just the ownership of a product but the suite of related services that co-exist with the product. An easy to understand example would be Apple’s IPod – Not only is this a media player, but it also provides users the option to download music from iTunes. He then moved on to share this interesting project he did with elevator maker, OTIS, where tenants are able to use their IPod/ Iphone to communicate and control their elevator system, merely by the touch of an Icon – Doesn’t this sounds cool! Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to have the elevator/ cab/ train wait for you instead? Optimization at its best… Designers/ companies in this emerging field must develop new approaches for communicating (thru smart sensors, RFIDs, low power signals, etc) and conceptualize comprehensive service offerings to meet the demanding needs of the future consumers… Ended the workshop by participating in an exercise to brainstorm how the use of sensors can benefit future consumers… E.g. The future of guidance systems for the blind would include a proximity sensor shoes, coupled with force pressured belt linked to a GPS system (with RFID capabilities) to provide direction and suggestions of where to dine, shop, etc. Similar technology could be adopted to fit the collar tag of your pet so that you never lose a dog again!!! Hmm, you wonder wonder wonder!!! Good fun and great interaction opportunity with the crowd!
As for the afternoon session, I initially wanted to attend the workshop on 3D Printing by Zach Smith, but unfortunately this was cancelled. Ended up attending the workshop with Rob Faludi, who is the co-creator of Lilypad, XBee. Again, another workshop on how we use sensors (point to multi-point) in this new era of low-bandwidth, low cost, low power wireless network to device communications technologies that changes the way of life. However the content of the workshop hinges mainly of the product XBee (Open sourced hardware – more of this topic will be in Day Two session), where attendees installed the XBee (which can be purchased on the spot, if you wanna keep’em) into our laptops to communicate with the rest of the field, and also performed simple programming to compete and see who get the monkey clapping… Unfortunately, rather boring as my Macbook was one of the three laptops using Mac OS X software, which conflicted with the software installation… Sigh! Sat through the session looking over the shoulder of the guy beside me – It’s like learning to drive without getting your hands behind the wheels. Anyway, the entire exercise was merely to exhibit the ability to use low cost, low power, multi-point networking to communicate or transmit signals.
The highlight of the day would definitely have to be Tim O’Reilly’s take on how we should focus on the Stuff That Really Matters, especially in times like these where the world’s economy is falling into ruins. He then quoted how the creators of Facebook are spending time in developing application for one to “throw a sheep/ poke a friend”, which in his point of view has not much value. He urges us to relook at how we live our lives or model our business case, not only from the financial/ economic aspects but as a social venture (More Es – Ecological, Environmental than F – Financial) – how we can reinvent the future to take on the imminent challenges (such as global environmental issues) that we are facing today.
In short, two key takeaway from his speech – 1. Work on something that matters to you more than money; and 2. Create more value than you capture. If we are to innovate, allow flexibility for the system to evolve and in return, be friendly to those who extend you…
Lastly, the late night special – Ignite ETech. Backed by popular demand, after great review from last year’s session. There are a total of nine speakers, each having 20 slides for 15 seconds. Sniplets of the more interesting topics below:
Free Space (Jane McGonigal): Not really an emerging technology but merely a platform to sniff and generate innovative ideas from the crowd in a forecasting game based on the scenario in 2020 that custom satellites are cheap to built and cost only $99 (iSAT). What would be your strategy?
Cloud Efficiency (Niall Kennedy): Techie term for internet efficiency. With the rapid expansion in Internet usage in recent times, more is required to regulate and perhaps develop a efficiency rating for each website, so as to ensure efficiency use of data resources. Interesting idea to adopt similar concept of energy efficiency rating on Internet usage…
Arduino (Tom Igoe): Announced the launch of Arduino MEGA which has evolved with improvement in memory, pins allocations. Fyi, Arduino is the next generation of open sourced electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware. Is this the next Intel???
Paradox of Identity: Cloud Computing is Evil (Brad Templeton): Brad discuss how users are gradually shifting from the use of local PC (data stored in your hard disk) to time sharing (Network/ internet based). Personal data/ information are now being shared in the Internet, simply by having a user signed up to gmail, yahoo, facebook, etc. Now that your data is out there, where is the security in all this? Will there be any policy regulating the use of such data? The bigger question here would be: Who owns the data – you?
Future Sense: Hub Culture Zeitgeist City Ranking for 2009
Hub Culture has come out with its annual Zeitgeist ranking for 2009. We’ve written about the 2008 rankings in a previous futuresense. Here’s a snapshot of 2008 Zeitgeist city rankingsvs 2009 Zeitgeist city rankings and the movement of individual city rankings. You can click on the links for the full articles.
Singapore’s city message: restraint, steady, simple, clean and secure … in a world of excess and madness …. not a bad message for today’s world. Reminds me of an earlier post I put up on Tyler Brule of Monocle remarking that Singapore’s strength is similar to Tokyo’s … and build a post-crisis service economy based on delivering service, education and training as part of our national brand. This city message is strong enough to attract creative classes from a post Chimerica world to Singapore. But beyond, I don’t think it will spin off that much to Singapore’s globally contestable companies yet. More to think on this.
21st Jan 2009
Change is in the air, and it has a decidedly political slant. The third Hub Culture Zeitgeist Ranking debuts with a new No. 1, set amid a palpable shift in our collective expectations. Security, sober simplicity and quality of life are dominating the scene now, creating a very different vibe among the world’s globerati.
Hub Culture compiles this ranking as a measure of the moment, drawn from discussions, emails, and observations gathered from members around the world. What keeps coming up, and more importantly… where?
The list may be debatable, since there is no formula for setting the pace. This gut read on how its all shaking out reflects the combined wisdom of niche crowds and curated views.
1. Washington, DC (new)
From out of nowhere, Washington D.C. bursts onto the No. 1 spot on our list, taking the running title from the beautiful people in Los Angeles. Known by some as ‘Hollywood for the Ugly’, Washington is alive with excitement as Sasha and Malia Obama get settled. But its not really about the Obamas – its about the context of our changing expectations of government. Hundreds of thousands of applications are flooding the city for new administration posts, and the bailouts of 2008 have shifted the attention of global business to the city. If you’re just starting out, DC is the place for jobs. If you’re hunting for a bailout, regardless of sector, DC is your first stop. DC’s slower pace fits with the new sober mood, and all eyes are on the Administration for policy cues, expanded international cooperation, and insight on an age of creeping socialization. We hate to say it, but for 2009, its all about Washington. Long may it not last…..
13. Singapore (2008 rank: 17)
Singapore is steady, and right now steady is very good. The tiny city-state showed restraint in the early part of 2008, and it continues to sit on piles of cash reserves. Private wealth and trading (two of the city’s biggest focuses) are giving ground to medical tourism, biotech and other homegrown industries taking root with support from the government. Throw in the nice quality of life, low crime, low cost of living and an improving plethora of local entertainment, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good deal: simple, clean, secure.
Future Sense – Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World
The US National Intelligence Council (NIC) recently published “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World”, the 4th unclassified report in a series that provides US decision-makers with medium- and long-term assessments of critical global drivers and scenarios. Previous reports dealt with global prospects for 2020, 2015 and 2010. The report utilises the scenario planning methodology and draws upon the views of numerous think-tanks, consulting firms, academic institutions, and hundreds of experts inside and outside of the US Government.
We are pleased to share with you a summary of key report findings, courtesy of our colleagues at the Strategic Policy Office, PSD. The full report, a 33.4MB file, is available here.
Key Findings of “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World”
The international system constructed after WWII will be almost unrecognisable by 2025. This development is likely to be caused by both the decline of the United States, exacerbated by the current financial crisis and the costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the concurrent rise of China, India and other emerging powers such as Russia.
As greater diffusion of authority and power in the international arena is likely to continue with a globalising economy and advanced communications technologies, non-state actors (e.g. businesses, religious organisations, criminal networks) will become increasingly influential and replace ineffective institutions.
The growing multiplicity of actors could strengthen the international system by filling gaps left by ageing post-WWII institutions. However, historically, multipolar systems also tend to be more unstable. Hence, the 2025 order is projected to be more fragmented and chaotic. Multiple actors pursuing diverse interests on the global stage would constrain multilateral cooperation and undercut the United States’ ability to demonstrate global leadership even as it remains the single most powerful country.
Developing countries may look to China’s state-centric model of development, rather than emulate Western models of democracy and free-markets, and erode at the United States’ legitimacy as the world’s leading nation.
Rise of the Rest
The magnitude and velocity at which global wealth and economic power is being transferred from the West to the East is unprecedented in modern history; fueled by the windfall profits generated from increases in oil and commodity prices and the shifting locus of manufacturing and more service industries to Asia due to lower operating costs and enlightened Government policies.
Should current trends persist, Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRICs) will collectively match the orignal G-7′s share of global GDP by 2040 – 2050. By 2025, China is projected to overtake Japan as the world’s second largest economy and not only become the largest importer of natural resources, but also the biggest polluter in the world. India and Russia are likely to increase its economic clout as much as China.
However, it is likely that India, Russia and China’s rise will not be straightforward. India must safeguard itself from terrorist threats / insurgencies and Russia needs to diversify its economy away from oil and gas. China will need to cope with domestic expectations of high growth and restructure key sectors to be less reliant on the US and EU economies.
Complex Transnational Challenges
As the global economy continues to grow, there will be greater competition for strategic resources such as energy, food and water. Demand is projected to outstrip available supplies over the next decade or so. Already, the oil and gas production of many traditional energy producers is declining. The World Bank estimates that demand for food will rise by 50% by 2030, as a result of growing world population and rising affluence, and the lack of water for agricultural purposes reaching critical proportions makes this situation even more challenging.
Climate change is expected to exacerbate these resource scarcities, particularly water and agricultural output. Such a complex and unprecendented syndrome of problems could overload decisionmakers, making it difficult for them to take action in time to enhance good outcomes or avoid bad ones.
New technologies could provide solutions to viable alternatives to these strategic resources, but there is often an “adoption lag” for major technologies. The best hope for a relatively quick and economical “energy transition” comes from better renewable generation sources (photovoltaic and wind) and improvements in battery technology.
The multipolar world is likely to be threatened by terrorism and competition for scarce strategic resources. Although terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, the rise of unemployment and the lack of legal means for political expression will precipitate greater radicalism, particularly amongst youth.
Terrorist groups existing in 2025 will likely be a mix of descendants from more established organisations (e.g. Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah) and newly emergent collections of angry and disenfranchised groups that become self-radicalised.
Due to the greater proliferation of technologies and scientific knowledge, terrorist groups are likely to have bio-chemical weapons in their hands – a situation which will stress a multipolar world even more. Already, Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and ongoing clashes between Pakistan and India suggest that the possibility of nuclear war in the future cannot be foreclosed.
The potential conflict over increasingly scarce strategic resources could interact with growing multipolarity to create further international stresses. China and India have already been building up naval capabilities due to maritime security concerns. Such pre-emptive moves and counterbalancing acts will create increased tension or, possibly, opportunities for multilateral cooperation. However, as water scarcity is a growing problem in Asia and the Middle East, the prospects of cooperation to manage water resources is likely to be increasingly difficult within and between states.
The threats of terrorism and scarce resources suggest that the US’ role as the security enforcer and regional balancer in Asia will be of greater importance, even as its power declines.
Future Sense – The Numerati
Every credit-card purchase, every handphone call, every click on the computer mouse channelled details of our lives into vast databases. Those with tools and skills to make sense of them could begin to decipher our movements, desires, diseases, shopping habits and predict our behaviour.
Who–or what–are the Numerati?
According to Stephen Baker in “The Numerati”, they’re members of a global elite, and are busy analysing our every move. They’re rummaging through mountains of data, looking for patterns of our behavior so that they can predict what we might want to buy, who we’re likely to vote for, what job we’d do better than our colleagues. The Numerati are masters of symbolic realm. They’re great at math and computer science. The Googleplex is crawling with Numerati. So is IBM. And they are remaking entire industries, starting with advertising and media.
This book began as a cover story, “Math Will Rock Your World” (BusinessWeek 23 January 2006) and later covered in “Management by the Numbers” (BusinessWeek 8 September 2008). A lot of the Numerati in this book are working for businesses, including Yahoo, Accenture and Chemistry.com. For the US in this election year, microtargeting is the rage – using statistical analysis of every conceivable piece of data, from subscription to Wired or HBO to the number of school-age children living at home. Most of the money is still in mass market, things like TV ads. But if either candidate can use microtargeting to zero in on a few thousand voters in crucial districts, it could spell the difference in the election.
According to the book …
The Numerati are transforming…
The same algorithms originally used to combat email spam by predicting its mutations are now being used to predict the mutations of the HIV virus
The Numerati are now using surveillance methods perfected in Las Vegas casinos – methods designed to pinpoint known cheaters, crooks and card-counters – to spot potential terrorists
By analysing the data they gather about us, retailers are learning how to lavish big spenders with special attention and nudge cheapskates towards the door
- Consumer Power
—but vigilant Numerati are also working on behalf of the consumer providing Web surfers with the tools to amass their own idea – and to sell it to advertisers rather than blindly give it away.
Intel is measuring the time it takes a person to recognise a familiar voice on the phone if the lapse lengthens, it can point to the onset of Alzheimer’s. And by studying old sitcoms, researchers can see that Michael J Fox was shortening his stride a decade before his diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Now they’re hooking up monitors and even “magic carpets” to pick up the same telltale signs in thousands of homes.
Political Numerati are placing citizens into new types of tribes according to our values, studying and targeting citizens with increasingly customised come-ons. And they’re discovering al sorts of correlations – cat owners are more likely to be Democrats. Republicans trend towards dogs.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon are studying the patterns of office email to spot signs of subversive networks taking shape within a company, or to spot outliers – who might be ready to jump ship, or even spill trade secrets.
Meet the Numerati (they’ve already met you)
Runs Intel’s health research division. Sets up sensors network in older people’s home to monitor them and detect changing patterns of behaviour indicating the possible onset of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
Run a Las Vegas start-up that helped casinos identify and track cheaters. Sold the start-up to IBM a few years ago and is now a privacy advocate involved in anti-terrorist efforts
At IBM Research, headed the effort to model the work habits and productivity of 50,000 IBM consultants. He moved last summer to Goldman Sachs.
Kansas State University researcher who is putting computers with sensors and wireless radios into the bodies of cows, tracking their behaviour and correlating it to their health, to eventually benefit ours.
Entreprenuer out of MIT Media Lab. Started company to help pinpoint possible friends and allies through mobile networks.
A professor at Carnegie Mellon who studies the social networks of corporate emailers, trying to spot growing alliances, insurgencies and hidden star performers.
Founded Spotlight, a political consultancy that combs through consumer data to place 175 million Americans in 10 new “values” tribes.
Founder of Tacoda, a behavioural advertising company that tracks our clicks and sends us microtargetted ads.
Founder of Umbria, a company that automatically sorts millions of bloggers by age and gender and mines their sentiments for market research
Rutgers University anthropologist who devised Chemistry.com’s matchmaking formula
At Accenture Labs in Chicago, he decodes the behaviour of the American shopper and refines techniques to make shoppers spend more.
Founder of Inform Communications, which automatically scours the world of news, put articles into context and groups them and links them to targetted customers.
What does this mean for Singapore?
The Numerati rely on statistics and probability, and use algorithms to make predictions. Though the Numerati are not always right –what the Numerati call “false positives”– nevertheless, there will be significant opportunities for innovators and enterprenuers over the next decade to learn from foresighters and trendspotters, including the Numerati. How can Singapore businesses effectively take advantage of these opportunities? Is there a role for Singapore to play here?
BusinessWeek cover story, “Management by the Numbers” (8 September 2008) : http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/toc/08_36/B4098magazine.htm
BusinessWeek cover story, “Math Will Rock Your World.” (23 January 2006) : http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_04/b3968001.htm
Future Sense – China’s Clean Revolution 2008
“In the move to a low carbon economy, we believe that China will no longer be a developing country …., but a pioneer leading the way”,
Steve Howard, CEO, The Climate Group, August 2008
China looks set to assume a new global leadership position in the low carbon clean industry. A report by an international NGO, the Climate Group, recently hailed China as the world’s leading renewable energy producer – overtaking developed economies in exploiting valuable economic opportunities, creating green-collar jobs and developing critical low carbon technologies. This is an important development, especially for a country industrialising so rapidly that it must open a coal-fired power plant every week.
While the pioneering developments in clean industries were led by developed countries, China is now racing ahead with up-to-date technologies and an impressive manufacturing capacity that leverages on growing international and national regulations on carbon emissions. The markets for electric bicycles and solar water heaters are two notable examples – both now largest in the world and having developed from almost nothing at the turn of the millennium. China has also/is the on the way to achieving other leading global positions – in solar photovoltaic power, hydro electricity generation, wind turbine production, solar water heating installations, battery production, biomass production, and more. See below for some related diagrams.
The swift developments in the clean industry stem from a strong regulatory and policy commitment from the Chinese government, a highly responsive private sector, growing export opportunities and supporting finance. Chinese consumers are now exposed to strong marketing campaigns along with a range of eco-friendly products and buildings, low carbon transport, efficient appliances and geen loans. China has also become the world’s largest supplier of the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits which are now funding billions in carbon reductions in the country.
China’s investment in renewable energy is truly impressive and has grown to almost match that of world leader Germany as a percentage of GDP. With our vision of becoming a global clean energy hub (Clean Energy Programme Office (CEPO)), Singapore would do well to note the industry, technological and public/private market developments in China. There are, in particular, several up and coming Chinese companies to look out for:
Solar Photovoltaic - Suntech Power Holdings, LDK Solar, JA Solar Holdings, Yingli Solar (market capitalisation of over US$2 billion each)
Electric Cars/Bicycles - Dongfeng, Chery, Chang’An, BYD, Giant Bike Company
Wind Turbines - Goldwind Science and Technology Company, Sinovel
Solar Water Heaters - Himin Solar Energy Group
How can Singapore leverage on China’s rise in this industry to our own benefit? Do our SMEs have a role to play in the global market and how can our agencies help them? Should we be highly selective in targeting potential markets (e.g. South and Southeast Asia only), given that we are likely dwarfed by huge companies from China and U.S./Europe? Will China be the definitive price-setter in the global clean industry? Any thoughts and comments on this are much welcome.
Future Sense: The Future of Making
An emerging do-it-yourself culture of “makers” is boldly voiding warranties to tweak, hack and customise the products they buy. And what they can’t buy, they build from scratch. Meanwhile, flexible manufacturing technologies on the horizon will change fabrication from massive and centralised to lightweight and ad hoc. The Institute of the Future (IFTF) has looked at the way things are made is being remade and published a “The Future of Making” map. Whether the organisation is dealing in bits and atoms, knowledge or stuff, the future forces IFTF has identified in this map are likely to have a profound impact on our lives at work and at home.
Full PDF file can be found here.
There are 6 possible implications arising from this trend:
1. Network your organisation
Many of the best ideas may come from unexpected contributors, especially those outside your organisation. What are some of the ways we can identify and engage with external networks of exceptional people through community R&D platforms?
2. Reward solution seekers
Often, employees are rewarded for solving a problem but not for identifying someone else’s solution and integrating it. Problem solvers think deeply but solution seekers think broadly. What are some ways we can reward both?
3. Err on the side of openess
“Open source” used to only refer to software but in recent years, the open-source mindset has been applied to physical objects as well. This kind of openness encourages lead user innovation and peer production. The end result is usually a better product. What are some ways we can embrace open-source culture in an authentic, well-considered way that is good for both the customer and for the bottom line?
4. Engage actively
Powerful new technologies for collaborative innovation are emerging but there is a limited number of hours in the day to collaborate. Projects must do more than just capture and capitalise on the attention of creative people. There must be feedback in the system, intense immersion and meaningful community in order to create an environment where the participants have a vested interest in the project. What are some ways we can encourage the makers’ inherent curiousity, sociability and passion for the process?
5. Go transparent
As people’s curiousity and knowledge about how things are made increases, they’ll seek out more information about the products they buy. For organisations, this new realm of “visible” data will be useful in understanding their own products’ lifecycles. What are some ways we can make the process more transparent?
6. Celebrate hackers
A hacker is an ingenious individual who pushed technology to their extreme. They explore technology’s edges, making it work the way they want it to and building better systems from the bottom up. They reveal what is possible. Instead of litigating against hackers, what are some ways we can celebrate the hacker culture?
While it is unlikely that the maker culture will replace industry as we know it, traditional manufacturers and maverick makers will be closely linked in the future. They will sometimes compete, sometimes cooperate but frequently blur the boundaries that separate them. Success will occur with the two cultures are woven together in new and interesting ways.
Future Sense – Fast Cities 2008
Fast Company has just released their list of 12 cities to watch in 2008. These fast cities are “vibrant, creative, growing, full of life, and bursting with diversity – in race, culture, and business”. In addition to these rising cities, Chicago has been named the US City of the Year, and London the Global City of the Year. The online feature discusses the characteristics of the 12 cities, interesting facts about London and Chicago, and why Chicago is deemed the creative capital of the universe.
This issue of Future Sense provides a brief of the online feature, which is accessible here.
Fast Cities 2008
The 12 fast cities are thriving with nodes of creativity and innovation, and we can see that from their economic statistics and city landscapes:
Mexico City Barcelona
Kigali Kansas City
Orlando Abu Dhabi
US City of the Year: Chicago
Chicago is constantly reinventing itself, it’s as if the place is trembling. Chicago’s lure lies in its ability to take what was, and figure out what could be. Chicago is the epicentre of social investing in USA, and started greening before the rest of the country caught on. As a city, Chicao pushes the boundaries. A punk rocker declared that he avoided Los Angeles because “there they talked about whom they were going to play with”, and New York because “there they talked about the projects they were going to do”. But in Chicago, “they come to work, without regard for what others might think”.
Quotes on what makes Chicago hot and creative
“Chicago is compassionate. We have a lot of people here from other places, ….. not just that there is a mix, but they mix. Here, they come together as people”
“People like to create here. ….. Chicago is a place that really likes to go beyond boundaries, redefine what boundaries can be.”
“People talk about Chicago as being a cluster of hundreds of different neighbourhoods.”
“Chicago is a pirouette. (She is) always turning, always changing, always trying to get better.”
“It’s the momentum. Sitting in a restuarant, you can hear the buzz of conversation, the discussion of innovative ideas. … It’s living, breathing progress. It’s exciting and evolving. It’s Chicago.”
Unknown facts about Chicago
Estimated growth rate of Chicago’s economy in 2008 is faster than New York or Los Angeles.
Proportion of downtown Chicago residents with graduate degress – 3.3 times the national average.
Number of Fortune 500 companies based in metro Chicago – more than any US city, except New York
Global City of the Year: London
London is expensive and snarled in traffic jams. There are surveillance cameras at every other corner, and the weather is awful. But why is a such a place still a great place for creatives to live, work and play? London has more museums than Paris, more theatres than New York, and more bars, public libraries and music venues than both cities. London has topographically recreated itself, from its historic monuments (eg. Tower Bridge, House of Parliament) to modern civic icons (eg. Tate Modern, London Eye).
One in every 8 Londoners work in the creative industries – more than any field except finance. London is dynamic and creativity thrives there. London’s edge lies in its “genuine multi-culturalism and creative heritage”. More than 300 different languages are spoken in London, and it takes pride in its ethnic diversity. One leading designer based in London likes that “there is no barriers to race or discipline… the cross-pollination gives rise to truly talented people who want to be open to new ideas and different disciplines”.
Advances in technology, earlier days of cheap real estate and a growing economy helped the resurgence of its creative industries. In the past, weakness in London’s manufacturing sector resulted in poor commercialization of its design creations. Now, digital technology allowed information to be sent to factories around the world. Meanwhile, cheap workspaces allowed London’s creatives to set up studios in disused warehouses and factories in rundown industrial areas. The question is whether London’s creative resurgence can continue in the face of escalating rents and a weakening economy.
Unknown facts about London
32% of Londoners born outside UK
150,000 foreigners immigrate to London per year
62.1mil internation travellers pass through Heathrow in 2007 – the busiest international airport in the world.
38% of London is green/ open space (vs 14% in New York).
Future Sense – The Future of Intellectual Property
This is a world of uncertainty. There is recognition that no single innovator or team, no matter how loyal to an employer or successful in the market, has a monopoly on wisdom. Gaining innovation and knowledge is power as the global economy grows, just as intellectual property as the currency underpinning it. Managing intellectual property is always the stickiest part of collaborative innovation. The most successful efforts seek to build win-win cultures where both parties benefit in equal measure.
So how will the IP World evolve?
ONE of the oldest barriers to innovation is “Not Invented Here,” a persistent bias of even the most creative people toward their own creations and against those of people who work for other companies. We are seeing more efforts to counteract N.I.H., large corporations have promoted technology alliances with rivals, as well as the concept of “open innovation,” to draw on a wider circle of big brains — not on their payroll — to work on core technical problems. But aside from the potential explosion of innovation advancement, the IP World itself is under pressure due to the sheer scale of unexamined patents, the growing number of patents application, the increasing geopolitical clamour for change and the increasingly louder voices on enforcement of IP.
IP World in 2025
The European Patent Office (EPO), the regional patent granting authority for Europe and one of the biggest patent granting offices in the world, embarked on the Scenarios for the Future Project. They created the following four scenarios of the IP world in Yr 2025:
Business as dominant driver
The story of consolidation in the face of a system so successful that it is collapsing under its own weight.
Key Questions :
Would ever increasing volumes overwhelm the patent system?
How might issues of enforcement impact the further development of patent rights as a financial asset?
A way to test this is to see whether business maintains its use of patent protection in the era of globalisation.
IP World in 2025 – Rationalised in the face of ever-increasing numbers :
The IP world is dynamic and proactive, seeking to secure value for innovative businesses. The IPR system no longer sees patent protection as a defensive strategy for a company, but rather as a commodity to be exploited and developed.
Patents have a well understood value in their own right as well as combined in portfolios – they are more like the exotic financial products of the 20th century and the uncertainty of their value over time makes them attractive to investors. IP right is now more widely recognised as an intrinsically tradable product around the world.
Raw technological change is displaced by financial and business skills as key to IP success. Patent professionals replaced by intermediaries who know how to maximise value, acquire rights and create earnings from retained IPR. Licensing is a huge business – not only to maximise profits but as a strategy to support emergin lines of businesses and brand new markets.
This interest fuelled ever increasing patent applications, esp in new areas of research. The more financially astute support their investment with multiple applications and can apply financial market techniques to spread the risks. Others join the game even if they are not technologically innovative. SMEs, which had long complained about the costs and resource problems of managing IPR in the 20th century, are more willing and able to engage in the system.
Geo-politics as dominant driver
The story of conflict in the face of a boomerang effect that strikes the dominant players as geopolitical balances shift and competing ambitions emerge.
Key Questions :
What are the main drivers for future geopolitical changes and how would they steer globalisation?
Does the patent system serve the world’s various interest fairly?
A way to test this is to look at the impact between the least developed countries and the other developed countries.
IP World in 2025 – IP becomes a pawn as geopolitical stresses rise :
The confidence experienced in the West in the turn of the century diminished as the American economy slowed down towards 2010, exaggerating the protectionist mood as many jobs moved overseas. China and India intensified the fierce competition for oil and raw materials, openly exert their growing power within international institutions such as the WTO. IP as part of business strategy meant IPR become a trade weapon. Continued growth in China and India prompted business in emerging and developed economies to take a cavalier attitude to IP – many treaties covering IP were poorly enforced in the gold rush atmosphere prevalent in the newer economies.
Citing social necessity, drug patents were particularly hard to protect outside western world. Poorer countries saw protecting their own people as more important than IP rules.
By 2025, the former knowledge economies have lost control of new knowledge. As Asian Innovation takes off, the balance of licence fees and royalties move East. The World of IP is divided – regional geographies with shared histories, interests, cultural habits and beliefs were pooled in new combinations.
Trees of Knowledge
Society as dominant driver
The story of erosion in the face of diminishing societal trust and growing criticism of the patent system
Key Questions :
How can public and private interest in IP be reconciled for the benefits of society?
Does patent benefits society?
A way to test this is to examine whether it achieves a balance between rewarding innovation and providing goods and knowledge to the public.
IP World in 2025 – Societal pressures shrink patent system :
Even in 2007, there was growing concen about the public’s ability to access and use materials in an increasingly digital world. Copyright and related rights were seen as being used to protect old business models, restrict innovation and limit access to building blocks of the knowledge economy.
As time goes on, civil society groups at local, national and international levels started to network and joining forces in a very flexible way using the internet. Vast majority of the public no longer sees patent and copyright as incentives for innovation and creativity.
ICT, media and entertainment industry sees an ever increasing flood of file sharing. The enterprises adapted and used first mover advantage and consumer oriented services to generate revenue. The power is in the hands of the artists who needed add-on services such as web hosting, marketing, tour support and networking opportunities.
Majority of the world’s new computers and smart phones eventually ran on open source software. Open sourcing moved from software, to biotechnology, agriculture, environment technologies and telecoms.
A major pandemic swept across the world, killing millions and had serious consequences for the world economy and destabilised global financial markets. The crisis also severely damaged people’s trust in the patent system as companies refused to lower the prices of existing vaccines and refused to allow generic manufacturers into the market. Subsequent act of granting compulsory licenses, broadened research and clinical trials exemption for public good, resulted in shift of investments by pharma industries to IP-insensitive areas as the risk of never recouping their investments was too high. Pharma industry instead start to offer tailored pharmaceuticals to the wealthy.
Further shortage of food arising from change of climate conditions and pests result in mass demonstration. Government step in to limit monopolistic practices and open up high yield varieties to increase food crops. Results of research remained in public domain.
After a long period of diminishing significance, patents have largely been abolished in most technical fields worldwide.
Technology as dominant driver
The story of differentiation of the patent system in the face of global crises, societal reliance on technology and the threat of systemic risks
Key Questions :
How can valuable knowledge be protected in emerging and complex technological fields
Should the one-size-fits-all system be abolished to meet the different technological sectors?
A way to test this is to check whether a bifurcated patent system can better respond to the needs of technology and society.
IP World in 2025 – Patent system split as IP needs of different industries diverge :
Patent offices in 2025 are able to adapt to technological change. This agility mirrors changes in the way offices work, such as the way patent applications are examined and ICT tools that will support information & ideas to be shared. The problems of backlog and resulting legal uncertainty are reduced considerably.
The kind of IP available has also evolved. There are now two distinct kinds of patent: a soft patent for complex technical fields, such as ICT, and a classic patent rights for areas such as the pharmaceutical sector. “Soft patents” no longer offfer completely exclusive rights and this means that innovation is no longer held up by blocking rights. The “soft patents” foster collaborative innovation, e.g. open innovation networks and patent pooling.
In emerging technologies and complex technical fields, open sourcing has increased in importance. The soft patent regime and the open source approach co-exists and both support a collaborative innovation process. Even for areas where classic patents are still available, open source has become part of the system.
Due to the shortening of technological products cycle and removal of exclusivity of patent rights, alternative types of protection, such as branding, secrecy and technically implemented copy protection become more important.
What does this mean for Singapore?
There will be significant opportunities for innovators and enterprenuers over the next decade as innovation grows and IP evolves with time. How can Singapore businesses effectively take advantage of these opportunities as well as insulate themselves from threats? Is there a role for Singapore Government to play in enabling businesses to grow into this role?
Future Sense – Who’s Your City: Choose Where you Live Carefully
Thomas Friedman’s famous argument is that technology makes the world flat as routine economic functions spread more widely around the globe. However, Richard Florida’s “Who’s Your City? ” argues that this view is incomplete. Specialised activities like innovation, scientific research, design, finance and media are not distributed evenly, instead they concentrate in specific locations. A phenomenon he calls ‘clustering force’. He further points out that for advanced nations, most wealth in the economy would come from the work of creative professions, from designers and architects to software engineers and financial-service innovators. And those highly mobile workers would be more drawn to places that value talent, innovation and open-mindedness.
From Florida’s research, cities or regions able to master this clustering force (the SF Bay area for example) will win on the right side of globalization. Those rooted in long-standing traditions and are resistant to changes (Rust Belt cities for example) tend to decline over time, exporting their best and brightest to New York, Seattle and other places.
In other words, the world is not flat, it is spiky. Place is not only important, it is more important than ever.
We attach an interview article of Richard Florida from the Seattle Times below. Seattle is also mentioned as one of the superstar cities that is appealing to the creative class not just for its economic assets, concentration of universities and technology, but also its linkages to the booming Pacific economies. The main competitors to Seattle mentioned by Florida are California, Sydney and Singapore. Florida also mentions Singapore in his book, which is reproduced in an excerpt below.
One of Florida’s main themes in “Who’s Your City?” is that cities have ‘personalities’ that attract particular sorts of people to settle in them. Through extensive research, the category of people ‘Open to Experiences’ is the only one that adds value and economic growth to a city. This is also mentioned in the Seattle article, that beyond an educated work force, Seattle attracts ‘experience junkies’. This is not the retirement-and-golf crowd. ‘Experience junkies’ attract more ‘experience junkies’ to Seattle, further deepening its special characteristics, ensuring a continuing cycle of success.
The psychology of cities is an intriguing one. If we use this as a lens to look at Singapore, what would our city ‘personality’ be? What sort of talent are we attracting, or repelling, by our ‘personality’? Are we attracting ‘Open to Experiences’ talent that adds value and economic growth to Singapore? What sort of environment would these ‘Open to Experiences’ talent value? Would we have to say no to other talent? E.g. If we want only ‘open to experiences’ talent, would this automatically rule out the retirement-and-golf crowd (or the Silver economy)?
Many intriguing questions, for your reading pleasure.
Excerpt from Florida’s “Who’s Your City?” on Singapore (p.57)
” Greater Singapore is a classic city-state, whose population of 6 million generates LRP (Light Based Regional Product) of $100 billion. It has ‘willingly and explicityly given up the trappings of nation states,” Ohmae writes, “in return for the relatively unfettered ability to tap into … the global economy.” A major center for global disk drive production, Singapore boasts strong niche industries in science and technology and, as a result, has succeeded in luring top Western universities to establish branches there. Its long term strategy to be a creative center has paid off: considerable investments in the arts – both high-culture and street-culture – have made Singapore a top destination for innovative people of all lifestyles and interests. “
Choose where you live carefully
Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, 13 Apr 2008
Seattle already has the ingredients of what author Richard Florida calls a superstar city: an abundance of talent, knowledge industries, tolerance and the kind of dense, urban fabric that encourages the creative class to thrive.
Florida coined that term in his 2002 book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” and added the cautionary work, “The Flight of the Creative Class,” in 2005, which warned that the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks risked closing itself off to some of the world’s most talented people, with serious economic consequences.
Some of Florida’s ideas were misunderstood and criticized. But he never, as some would have it, saw an economy of latte-sipping poets living in gay neighborhoods.
Rather, he argued that for advanced nations in the 21st century, most wealth in the economy would come from the work of creative professions, from designers and architects to software engineers and financial-service innovators. And those highly mobile workers would be more drawn to places that valued talent, innovation and open-mindedness.
Nor was Florida a cheerleader. He consistently warned that the creative economy would bring significant challenges, including big disparities in income and potential roadblocks to low-skilled workers rising on the economic ladder. Events have borne him out.
In his new book, “Who’s Your City: How the Creative Economy is Making Where You Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life,” Florida goes further. Part of the book provides help for people in deciding what place fits their personality, values and goals.
But he also examines how a globalized, talent-based economy is changing the calculus of competition. It’s something that top corporations already understand, but it’s slow to penetrate the parochial concerns of government policymakers.
Simply put, competition is less between states or even countries, but between cities, or, as he calls them, mega-regions. This is where human capital is clustering.
Looking at author and columnist Thomas Friedman’s argument that technology has made the world flat, Florida writes, “It’s a compelling notion, but it’s wrong. Today’s key economic factors talent, innovation and creativity are not distributed evenly across the global economy. They concentrate in specific locations.”
Among the powerhouses are Boston-New York-Washington, D.C.; Southern California; Northern California, and what he calls Cascadia, the region including Seattle and Portland. But competitors range worldwide, especially in Europe and Asia.
Florida has found his personal superstar cities in Washington, D.C., and Toronto, where he is a professor at the University of Toronto and founder of a think tank, the Creative Class Group. It’s quite a rise for a working-class kid from New Jersey.
When I caught up with him, he was quick to praise Seattle.
“Mega-regions are going to be super successful and Cascadia is one that is poised to be the most successful,” he said in a telephone interview.
“This is the Pacific century, and when we look to the future, the Pacific regions are going to do very well. Seattle has a concentration of technology. It has fantastic universities. And there’s the value of proximity to the Canadian border.”
Our main competitors: California; Sydney, Australia; and Singapore.
Florida’s work is based on extensive research, including a fascinating new study that uses satellite images of the world at night as a starting point to correlate light emissions with various measures of economic activity. The light output clearly delineates the mega-regions and Florida’s team has come up with the yardstick of “light-based regional product” or LRP.
The world’s 10 biggest “megas” house approximately 416 million people, or 6.5 percent of the world’s population, but account for 43 percent of the planet’s economic activity, 57 percent of patented innovations and 53 percent of the most-cited scientists.
Take the top 40 megas, with 18 percent of the world’s population, and the numbers are even more staggering: 66 percent of economic activity, 86 percent of patented innovations and 83 percent of the most cited scientists.
The world is not flat, but spiky.
By Florida’s calculations, Cascadia generates $260 billion annually in LRP. (That compares with $2.2 trillion in output for the much more populous Northeastern U.S. mega).
Florida also found interesting data on housing prices, with good news for owners and sellers and challenging implications for buyers. Some of it will rekindle Florida’s controversial nature for some social conservatives.
The cities that sustained the best prices also came out high on Florida’s “Bohemian-gay index,” which combines the concentration of artists, musicians and designers with concentration of gays and lesbians. These populations not only meant strong housing values but also high incomes.
Why? The groups tend to be attracted to places with abundant amenities and openness; as historically marginalized populations, they tend to be self-reliant and entrepreneurial. Their clustering in specific locales adds a powerful entrepreneurial spirit.
Now Florida is drilling down to individuals, writing to help them decide what cities and regions will mesh with them.
“No one has ever written a book on how much place matters to you,” he said.
Some 40 million Americans move each year and 15 million make significant moves. “This is about how important place is to your happiness,” he said.
Florida finds Seattle appealing not just for its economic assets but for “the personality of the place. In Seattle, it’s not just an educated work force but a concentration of particular personalities. They’re experience junkies.”
In other words, this is not the retirement-and-golf crowd. Seattle’s special characteristics draw the talent that feeds those special traits, a continuing cycle of success.
Florida said it has yet to play out how global warming and higher energy prices affect the mega-regions. But he was clear about the dangers that await the regions that Balkanize and indulge in fights between cities and their suburbs.
“Mega-regions are the new organizing economic units of our time,” he said.
“Regions, cities and communities are no longer competing against their neighbors. If they expect to compete and thrive in the global creative economy the spiky world they will need to collaborate on mega-regional planning and economic development efforts.”