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Always think about the future – takeaways from SXSW2019

“The only way that we are going to get to a place that we are all happy in the future is if we are making smarter decisions in the present”, says Amy Webb, founder of The Future Today Institute.

I’m just back from the South by Southwest Interactive Congress (or SXSW2019), held in Austin, Texas. I’ll share my experiences from the congress over the coming spring. It really takes time to absorb everything I heard, saw and realized there. I’ll try to concentrate on a single theme in each of my texts. Let’s start with a major theme: the future.


One of the most anticipated keynote speakers in the Austin Convention Center’s largest ballroom was Amy Webb. She is the founder of The Future Today Institute and author of three books, including The Big Nine: How The Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity, which is a call-to-arms about the broken nature of artificial intelligence, and the powerful corporations that are turning the human-machine relationship on its head. Webb’s latest book, The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream, explains her forecasting methodology and how any organization can identify risk and opportunity before disruption hits.


At SXSW2019, Webb talked about the Future Today Institute’s 2019 Tech Trends Report, how to connect all trends together and how to figure out what the outcomes will be. Here is the link to the audio of her presentation.


This year’s Tech Trends Report includes 48 future scenarios and 315 tech trends. That’s 40% more trends than what the institute presented last year. The rising number suggests a clear pattern: the rate of innovation is accelerating.


The global future of food


Amy Webb urges us to think about the future in a less linear way. We all exist in our own bubbles but there are influences we receive from many different areas.


Let’s take the retail business as an example. Why should Walmart, the US based retail company or Finnish based retailers S-ryhmä or Kesko, think about genome editing, 4D printing (it’s like 3D printing but the printed product also changes shape over time or as circumstances change, reacting to e.g. heat, etc.) and green technology?  Because the global food supply is changing. In the future we will be using these innovations to produce food.


Genome editing has been a hot area in R&D. Maybe because of the massive uproar when a Chinese researcher claimed to have created gene-edited twins. But genomes are not just for people. You can now grow lettuce with 40% less power and 99% less water. That has led to indoor plant factories.


Changing and extreme weather patterns have started to effect farming and crop production. As a result of these changes, there are lots of new solutions coming to place like new ways to artificially create clouds to help mitigate the effects of weird weather.


Sounds a little frightening but the unknown always does. Organizations are already preparing for deep uncertainty and complex futures.


Amazon shows the way to the future


Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017. Majority of Whole Foods outlets are located in high-density, urban areas in large buildings and often with very large basements.  This makes sense when we consider that Amazon has some interesting areas of R&D when it comes to warehousing, robotics, logistics, sensors and life sciences. The company is also expanding to online grocery shopping.


This all is very exciting when you start putting the pieces together and realize where this is leading to. The conclusion is that in the future our food could be produced from genome edited seeds at indoor plant factories, housed in the Amazon grocery store system in each of our local communities. Maybe even here in Finland.


If you got excited about the future and how to communicate better in the world of tomorrow, please contact me via email at sari-liia.tonttila@ahjocomms.fi or call me at +358 500 659300.

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