Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Rethinking normal 12: looking ahead and at currently emerging change 5

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on October 29, 2013

This is my twelfth installment to a series on change, and more specifically about our understanding of what is normal, and how normal and assumable change (see Reexamining the Fundamentals, Section III for other postings to this series.) And I begin this by repeating a point that I first made in Part 10, and began to expand upon in Part 11, as it strikes to the heart of what I seek to explore in this posting and in this series:

• We see our understanding of normal as a comprehensive, seamless whole.

The only time we see our everyday reality as disconnected or as being in some way self-contradictory is when we face change around us that confronts us so significantly that it forces us to change too, in our own basic assumptions. But barring that,

• We see our understanding of normal as a comprehensive, seamless whole because we see our lives as following and forming a consistent and fundamentally seamless pattern, and because at least most of the time we see what we can construe to be a fundamental, reliable consistency around us.

Our current pace of change and our current rapid evolution and diversity of undeniably visible alternative normals, as discussed in this series makes that a less than certain proposition. Still, taking that as an “historically normal” starting point, I offer this posting as my take, at least as of now and this writing, on how our “comprehensive, seamless wholes” are changing and will continue to change as we proceed through the transformations that we face in this emerging 21st century.

As a final general point here, change and even very rapid change are not as important or as impactful upon us if they do not significantly affect or impinge upon our immediate day to day lives or our range of options as we live them. The more significantly a change affects us personally in at least something that we do, or for affecting our normal and how we perceive and understand what we do, the more important that change is for us. And with that, I turn to more specific issues and arenas where overall change is taking place, and I begin that with what I at least see as the most broadly impactful of them all.

At the risk of being reductionist, I begin this part of my discussion by stating that the driving force behind essentially all of the transformation that we now face can be found rooted in information and communication technologies advancements.

• It is information and communication technologies and their pace of change that are reshaping our sense of place and our social and interpersonal connectedness and across all physical boundaries of distance and location (see my directory: Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its page 2 continuation.)
• It is information and communications technologies that are driving our increased capabilities to automate complex tasks that I have been writing about, and very directly and specifically in several recent postings for their impact on the workplace and employability (see Some Thoughts on the Emerging Workplace and Employability Great Restructuring 1 and its Part 2 continuation.) And I continue to write about this set of issues from a jobs and careers best practices perspective (e.g. in my currently ongoing series: Offering a Unique Value Proposition as an Employee, available at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 as postings 311 and loosely following and particularly from its Part 29 on.)
• I will add that fundamental change in our information and communications technologies and in the widespread adaptation of here and now connectedness have fundamentally changed the consumer experience for everyone too, and a great many other area of our lives that would affect us essentially every single day – and this has coincided with fundamental change on our sense of normal as our marketplaces have become global and globally person-to-person interactive. How many of us and certainly in more technologically enabled communities would make a major purchase now without first checking online reviews first as a basic part of our due diligence, and who would have even imagined doing that even just two decades ago?

But I would step back and consider here, how this same technology fulcrum is shifting a much wider range of our lives and of our expectations than simply just our social and interpersonal, and our work life and professional experience, or our shopping experiences or even the sum of all of these.

So I diverge away from the overtly directly impacting here for a moment to look at how this is impacting on a major field of knowledge that in turn shapes and informs multiple industries – and that shapes our healthcare to come too: biology and biotechnology.

I began my professional life as a biologist, first working as a field biologist and working on and then setting up wildlife habitats. I transitioned to the lab when I began working on my second master’s degree and PhD and into basic biomedical and clinical research from that. The fact that I had a strong background in chemistry from my undergraduate studies made my transition to the laboratory and to cellular and molecular biology a lot easier as those fields, hands-on are in many respects the application of chemistry in general and physical chemistry as a particular to addressing life science questions. But even then, information science was becoming at least as important to that endeavor.

Ray Kurzweil writes of the incredibly rapid pace at which biological and medical knowledge, and knowledge as to how they can be applied are changing. See:

• Kurzweil, R. (2005) The Singularity Is Near: when humans transcend biology. Penguin Books.

But much of this is being driven by our increasingly sophisticated information technology and by its closely aligned cousin: automation. Bioinformatics: the study and management of increasingly vast troves of raw biological data and conversion of it into actionable knowledge highlights the importance of this.

On the one hand, our ability to sequence the complete genome of yet another species at yet lower cost and in a yet shorter timeframe, does not necessarily impact directly on many individual lives. But this same capability means that we are rapidly approaching a time where essentially any individual’s complete genome can be routinely and inexpensively sequenced too, and with the impact of creating truly personalized medical care for all of us and in ways never before possible. All of this and more serves to expand and reshape our sense of the possible and our expectations of the likely, and our sense of normal.

• No, information and communications technologies are not the only drivers to this change. New drivers, it can be argued, are in fact actively emerging with this overall flood of fundamental change taking place as a series of disruptive, game-changing steps.
• As argued earlier in this series, we are not necessarily approaching a true singularity of the type that Kurzweil anticipates in his above-cited book. But we are seeing discord and disruption from this change and from its still increasing pace.
• And I write this in late 2013 and on the last full day of summer, for it to go live a month later, and certain that up to now we have just seen the start of what will in retrospect have been a still wider and more fundamental sweep of change that will historically define this century, and on all levels for us: individual to global.

To the best of my recollection, I have never concluded a posting or a series here in this blog with a dedication. But fast approaching what would be my father’s birthday, I dedicate this to him and to the incredible change he saw in his lifetime. And I dedicate this to his resiliency in adapting to change where he could, and in thriving in the face of it as he did and even when he could not.

I may very well come back to this series and add further postings to it, most likely focusing in again on specific aspects of how normal is shifting and in how that is seen and understood. But I am going to conclude this series for now at least, with this. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Reexamining the Fundamentals. I am also including this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and also see my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page.


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