Futurist Craig Wing Reveals The Major Technology Sector You Should Be Following Right Now

Craig Wing is one of the stellar speakers on Heavy Chef's January 2018 calendar. Craig joins WWC's Mike Perk on stage on the 25th January in Johannesburg and in Cape Town on the 30th January. The Heavy Chef team caught up with Craig to chat through his thoughts on the changing shape of technology, which trends are 'so hot right now' and what is exciting him about the emerging technologies around the corner. We also push Craig, a holder of two master's degrees, to answer whether it's worthwhile studying for a tertiary education in this current environment. Read on, mighty reader. 

Craig, as an entrepreneur and consultant futurist yourself, which major tectonic technology shift are you most excited about?

It’s not actually one specific technology, but really the summation of several. This is commonly known as 'combinatorials'. For example, it's a world where data is aggregated through IoT, managed by a AI and then that information is pushed into a disripbuted array of self driving vehicles that make decisions and send that to their users via blockchain.

Wait. Whadda? Hold the friggen phone. Is that really a thing? 

While that may not be a specific use case, it’s really where the technology works in an exponential, multiplier affect whereby the world of tomorrow is unrecognisable from the science fiction we have today.

Ok, but seriously, which technology blows your hair back? 

My answer two years ago would have been Blockchain, but there is now so much speculation and interest on Blockchain, and almost everyone has a conflicting opinion it, I’ll steer clear of Blockchain for now.

Rather, I would say CRISPR, the technology whereby a group of scientists who came up with the “invention” were nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.  It's a fascinating - and also scary - sector that essentially allows scientists to remap, redesign and recreate living DNA. The implications are far incredible.

All the way from elimination of mosquitos carrying malaria to the end of cancer - or even the common cold. It could pave the way to customized 'super-babies' and even one of the key blocks of immortaility.

With that kind of power comes the moral and ethical questions around which we need to be very wary.

You're doing a series of Heavy Chef talks in the month of January 2018. What are you looking to focus on in your allotted time on stage - why those particular topics?

It’s going to be a whirlwind! Typically my keynotes range from 1.5 hours upwards so this is really the highlights of highlight. My talk is entitled: Future Fiction or Future Fact? 

Much like the combinatorials I mentioned earlier, Hollywood showed us glimpses of the future in the 80’s and 90’s that are now coming to fruition. Think about Kit in Knight Rider, Back to the Future with it's augmented reality, or Star Trek with 3D printers. Many of what we saw as fiction back then is now close to becoming fact.

I'm very interested in three main sectors. 

The first is the technology sector. We are on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution and many of the technologies will usher in a wave that we've not seen nor thought about. And as I mentioned before, its not just one, but the sum of these. It's the fact that we are at the intersection of multiple “S” curves that make this so interesting.

The second, within the business sector. The very way we transact and do business is changing. The concept of work is based on a 8-5 agragrian age mindset where we chased the sun to maximise time to grow crop, this hasn't changed.

Simultaneously, monopolies and oligopolies are falling away as the Internet has decentralized work and you can become a “Unicorn” in under 6 months with a “zero fixed cost” of starting a company and utilizing a decentralized gig-economy workforce.

And finally I'm interested in what's next for us as humans - as a species. This is the area that affects you and I the most - the very thing that makes us human. What is next on the horizon? Can we live forever? Should we? What will we do then?

What if Elon is correct and this thing called “life” is just a giant simulation played on someones console?

Craig, as someone who keeps his finger on the pulse of technology, what are your go-to publications, podcasts and channels that you subscribe to in order to keep abreast of things?

Honestly, there is so much out there the answer is anything and everything – all the way from “tattoo weekly” to “theories of quantam travel”. Just kidding, those are not real things that I follow. However, it’s not so much about the “what,” it’s the “why” – and that must be to learn.

My recommendation is to read anything that challenges your biases, frames of reference and gets you to look at the world differently.

I’m a firm proponent of what Alvin Toffler, reknowned Futurist, said “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read or write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

That will also be one of my big takeaway form my talk on the Heavy Chef stage. The key here is anything that gets you to think about the world differently and get you to live in the world of “what if.” For that we have something that we have diligently published for the last 12 years called Mindbullets where my colleagues and I write a news article from the future. If nothing else, doing something like that gets you to think about the “what if.”

You studied entrepreneurship at Babson in Boston, which has consistently featured at the top of Entrepreneur-school lists in the world over the past decade. What are your thoughts on tertiary education going forward? Do you advise young millennials to pursue a long education foundation?

That's a tough question. Let me preface my answer by saying that I have over 10 years tertiary education: I’m a qualified electrical engineer, and Masters in both Engineering and Business.

The first thing I would ask is why are you looking at tertiary education? Is it because your parents say you must, or something you think you have to do to get a job? If the way the world is moving is fundamentally different today than it was 20 years, then what will a tertiary education get you?

Now, I’m not at all against tertiary education, I’m all for it! However, you need to ensure that you realize that the tangibles - degree, course completion, CV filler and so on - is less important than the most intangible, that is, learning to learn.

"Cultivate a desire of learning, albeit formal or otherwise and let that drive you to see the impossible, to dream the ridiculous and live for the insane." 

Let me put it another way. Often you hear that people such as Gates, Zuckerberg, Musk and Branson never finished their degrees. So, why should you? At the other end you have Buffets and Sims that did and so should you. It's flawed going down that route. Irrespective of their educational background, all of them have a lifelong thirst and desire to learn. They aimed to accumulate knowledge and then to apply that learning in ways ancillary to the traditional, to disrupt the status quo. Every single one of them.

The Argentinian Minister of Education positioned this new world best: “A child today can expect to change jobs at least seven times over the course  of their lives – and five of those jobs don't exist yet.” So how do you prepare for a world like that?

My advice would be to cultivate a desire of learning, albeit formal or otherwise and let that drive you to see the impossible, to dream the ridiculous and live for the insane.

Back on the African continent, when you were heading up Google's Small Business Dept., you were involved in setting up 50,000 websites in one year through the iconic Woza initiative. Were you... are you, excited about the state of entrepreneurship on the African continent?

I am incredibly excited! One of the biggest challenges we have in Africa is growth. Through growth, we can be competitive on a global scale. I know that the largest net contributors of growth will be entrepreneurs, vis a vis job creation. I am dismayed that many of the leaders across the continent don’t appreciate the importance of entrepreneurs or are enamoured by a certain kind of entrepreneur (read tenderpreneur) and aren’t yet creating a more conducive environment.

However the country that takes in entrepreneurs and creates a conducive environment will be leaps ahead. This means things like free visas for foreign entrepreneurs, tax incentives, government contracts and even changes the perception and narrative for entepreneurs. This is the kind of leader and environment we need to really drive entrepreneurship across Africa, 

Your title is a “futurist” – what the heck is that? And how do you respond to Rich Mulholland's claim in a previous talk that Futurists are charlatans. 

For one thing, I certainly can’t tell you definitively what the future is. Anyone who can tell you the future is either a crackpot or scam artist.  Rather my job is to give you a lens into what the world could be based off the patterns and signals I see that could fundamentally reshape the world, as well as what Nassim Taleb calls “black swans”.

There is a huge difference between being a trend forecaster and a futurist. The former would look at what is happening – quantitatively or qualitatively – and get you to follow suit. The colour of the day used to be red, it's now blue – so, um, you should make yours blue. My role as a futurist is to understand why the colour change? What is driving the  adoption? Where is it going next? Should you even follow that? The fundamental difference is that I believe you should position yourself to be robust and create a future you want, versus following what is the norm or best practice. 

What is the single biggest skill you would say they need to be relevant in the future?

So I’ve already spoken about the importance of learning, unlearning and relearning. One of the he biggest would be to think about the long-term, second order effects of your decisions – what happens after what you wanted to happen.

Many leaders look at the first order or direct consequence, but not what happens next. You really need to think about it from a systems perspective and cater for that. It’s not about being a futurist, but thinking like a futurist. As it happens, i'm starting an academy to help leaders do exactly that - but, we can talk about that in a follow up interview. 

Thanks Craig, you legend you. We look forward to your upcoming talk. Readers can buy tickets at Heavy Chef's events page - click here - as well as the VIP Masterclass with Mike Perk. You  can find out more about Craig and FutureWorld on their website: www.futureworld.org and get hold of him there. Also subscribe to www.mindbullets.net and drop Craig and the team a line as they'd love to chat more. To get hold of Craig directly, email craig@futureworld.org or check out www.craigwing.com