The future? We are on the second half of the chessboard!

The future is a headache for our clients. For a while, we thought it was awareness. Management teams not being aware of the technology changes. We were wrong. They are very aware. They just don’t know what to do with it.

Awareness gap

That does not mean that the whole organisation is aware. There seems to be a massive gap between the awareness of the management team and the rest of staff.  That creates a lot of issues, particularly when you want your organisation to be fluid, agile and responsive.

Opportunity for SMEs

We do find that owner-managers of small companies are very unaware. In fact, there is an element of putting the head in the sand and hope it will go away. That is an unfortunate attitude, because what small business have are agility and fluidity.

The books we use

Dependent on the angles we use a wide range of books. “What technology wants” is a classic. ‘Future files” is a classic. So is “Future Minds”. “Future Babble” which we use as the anti-book (you can’t predict the future) is a classic. I suspect “The future of the mind” will become a classic.

Speed of change

What we never seem to be getting across in our sessions, is the speed of change. Big companies think they have enough time to respond. They even get the need to disrupt their own business model. The just don’t get exponential part of change. And the need to react NOW. Which is why we introduced “The second machine age”.

We are on the second half of the chessboard.

Anyone that has been taught chess has heard the story of the inventor of chess and the Persian king. He asked as a reward that, starting with one grain of rice, and it to be doubled every square. With 64 squares on a chessboard, if the number of grains doubles on successive squares, then the sum of grains on all 64 squares is: 1 + 2 + 4 + 8… and so forth for the 64 squares. The total number of grains equals 18,446,744,073,709,551,615. weighing 461,168,602,000 metric tons, which would be a heap of rice larger than Mount Everest. This is around 1,000 times the global production of rice in 2010.

Moore’s law is everywhere.

It has happened to computers. It is happening to biology. Engineering. Material science. Robotics. Knowledge. Data. Artificial intelligence. Physics. Sensors. Energy. Speed. Printing. And it is happening to your business. Moore’s law is everywhere.


And things get weird when we are on the second part of the chessboard:

  • Twelve years ago one computer hit 18 teraflops. Ten years later 64 million units were sold of the Playstation3, which had the same capacity.
  • The iPhone 4S is as powerful as the 10-year-old Apple Powerbook
  • A human doctor would have to read 160 hours a week to keep up
  • Users spend collectively 200 million hours each on Facebook. That is 10 times as many hours were needed to build the entire Panama Canal
  • More pictures are taken every 2 minutes, than in all of the 19th century.
  • And straight from “What technology wants”; The technetium contains 170 quadrillion (a quadrillion is one thousand million millions) chips. The number of neurons in your brain is similar to the number of transistors in the global network. The number of file links is similar to number of synapse links in your brain. The planetary electronic membrane surrounding the worlds is comparable to the complexity of the human brain. With 3 billion artificial eyes (webcams, phones, etc.) plugged in.


Each new development becomes a building block for future innovations. The number of possible (re-)combinations become infinite. That means innovation will explode. Is exploding.

Business implications

The business implications are enormous. You need to invest in innovation. You need to invest in technology. Which will cost. For example, for every dollar invested in hardware, you need to invest 9 dollars in software, training and business process. Not to forget the time in which you will have to write it off as the speed of development keeps increasing. Depreciation as we know it becomes obsolete?


What is more serious for business is that analog dollars become digital pennies. Which brings us to “Free” by Chris Anderson. The other side of the chessboard puts enormous pressures on pricing and margins. An eye opener for me was the question by the authors on how to square that with economic policy. How do you make “free” part of GDP? Is it value? For example Google saves an average of 15 minutes per query.  There is a need to review that in this context.  The Bhutan approach (Gross National Happiness) might be an option. It might no be as mad as it sounds.

Labour market

The same “free” effect is start having an impact on the labour market. If you can use Google to drive a car, if robots can make cars, and if computers can answer calls and are starting to win Jeopardy and chess, what other types of work can be taken up by machines? Research suggest that 47% of all jobs are now at risk by computerisation.


The book goes a bit dark after that. Because of these pressures, there will be a long tail in the labour market. The happy few who will have a job and have it all. A lot will have no job and no prospects, made obsolete by machines. With all the imaginable cost to society. That makes Gross National Happiness as a measure much more important than you think.


It goes dark on the Internet of things. It has elements of “Over-connected” when it starts talking about what can happen when everything is connected. Learned a new term called “cyberbalkanisation”, which is as bad as it sounds. Terminator and Skynet are mentioned.

So how do your prepare? Ideation!

Invest in proper education. Watch Ken Robinson on TED. Ideation will become a key skill. Allow the entrepreneurs to play. They are the job creators of the future. Between 1977 and 2005, existing firms as a group were net job destroyers, losing an average of approximately one million jobs annually. Startups, in sharp contrast, created on average a net three million jobs per year in the USA.

Singularity event

And maybe, maybe we will have the singularity event in 2045 as predicted by Ray Kurzweil and the GPH will sky rocket.



sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

6 thoughts on “The future? We are on the second half of the chessboard!”

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