With 9 billion people in 2050 that decade will face crises beyond the scope of today’s institutions. As a Digital Earth we could gain new levels of working together, producing results and delivering them real-time, worldwide. Everyone will receive continuous know-how to overcome problems instantly. Our challenge is to prosper by ascending to a digital world that can produce universal success, no matter what the crisis.
One day in the future…
The CEO had called an emergency company-wide meeting for noon. He didn’t disappoint.
It was exactly 12:00:00 in New York, in the US’s Eastern time zone. Worldwide, every linked teleportal screen in the company turned black for a full three seconds.
The blackness stopped every online connection, every type of computing, every type of communication and media.
Then an alarm started ringing softly from every teleportal, with vibrating and moving abstract shapes faintly appearing on screens.
It grew for five seconds: The alarm grew louder and the abstract shapes started centering into a ball that was blue, green, brown and white.
Ominous rock music started playing as the shape morphed into a picture of a flooded Earth from Space. Europe was in its center with much higher sea levels. Most of it was under water.
As the music’s driving beat grew louder, that view of a flooded Earth faded into another flooded view, then another. Each new view moved East, showing another region sinking into crisis:
First Europe was flooded…
Then India and Eastern Asia were flooded.
Then North America and South America.
Then Europe. Again.
The music slowed, softened and turned sad as rapidly changing images took over the teleportal screens, the images dissolving from one to another: Children and adults suffering, crying, then dying, one after the other. People of all cultures. Individual funerals followed, then graves, then fields of headstones in cemeteries.
Finally the music turned uplifting, smoother, while images of the company in today’s world started appearing. Its offices, people, products, drivers, warehouses, manufacturing plants, and customers using its products.
It had taken less than a minute. Everyone had stopped what they were doing. Attention was complete.
Then the CEO appeared on the screen, a close-up so his face filled the screen. His eyes were bright, alive with the fearless intensity that he was known for.
“The sound of death sometimes starts quietly,” he said softly, with enough bass echo added to make him seem larger than life.
“For decades we’ve been told fossil fuels aren’t that harmful. But the Arctic sea ice melted faster than expected, and now the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are doing the same. Sea levels are rising higher than the climate models forecast.”
The camera started zooming out. The CEO was wearing a full bright yellow rain suit with a red utility vest and gloves. As the zoom out continued, black waders were on his thighs, and a yellow helmet on his head.
He was standing knee-deep in water in a flooded street in what was obviously a Northern European city. The camera held that view for about three seconds.
He held out one arm and turned to one side of the street, the camera followed his gesture to show a closeup of the knee deep water that covered the sidewalk, lapping against the fronts of flooded stores that continued down the length of the street.
The camera panned back so the CEO was re-centered on the screen, standing knee deep in the flooded street.
“Now we’re being told that higher tides are normal. Within decades cities like Miami and New York will start looking like this. So will other coastal cities on every continent.
“This is not normal. Over two and a half billion people live on the world’s coastlines. This is going to force many millions to move from where they live. In a few countries they’ll afford it but in most regions millions of people will try to move to places where there’s no room, no money and they’re not wanted.”
The camera zoomed back in so the CEO’s face filled the screen again. The bass echo in his voice was boosted a touch so his intensity hit home.
“The sounds of death sometimes start quietly,” he said softly.
Disruption for the common good
Worldwide, all the teleportal screens turned black again. A news report filled them, the newscaster saying, “Over two-hundred more flood warnings have been issued today as another serious coastal tidal surge comes ashore this afternoon.”
It switched to another broadcast, with a reporter in front of a group of policemen knocking on the doors of homes: “Police forces are evacuating coastal towns along the East and North coasts. People are being urged to follow all police evacuation instructions.”
It switched to a news report from a reporter in rain gear with high ocean waves crashing over a coastal road behind him, “Many defenses are being overtopped by the combined high tides, strong winds and tidal surge.”
Then a news broadcast showed a government meeting while a reporter said, “The Environment Secretary is chairing an emergency meeting on the growing need for even stronger defenses against the high tides.”
The dramatic rock music started again, with images appearing rapidly of coastal roads overtopped with waves; harbor shopping streets flooded up to ankle and knee heights; rescue crews in flooded streets pulling small zodiac rafts with elderly couples, women, children and their pets; stranded cars and trucks in flooded streets; and coastal buildings collapsed and damaged.
The music and images faded.
The CEO returned. The camera view was zoomed out. He was standing knee-deep in the flooded shopping street, surrounded on both sides by flooded stores.
“A year ago we stopped believing that high tides are normal. We think we have 5 to 10 years before bigger and more rapid crises start arriving. We finished our plan a few weeks ago but waited for this high tide to announce it. Now, as you see today’s rising sea level for yourself, one thing is clear: This is the most important all-hands meeting we have ever had.
“Frankly, we don’t know which of the coming crises will be sea levels, weather, politics, resource shortages, tsunamis or earthquakes. We’re here to prepare this company for a world that’s entering an age of crisis.”
A new stage: Digital becomes real life, with us in control
“A world crisis is a turning point that’s happened many times in history. It’s the epic struggle of man versus destiny. Because we can see this age of crisis coming, we can face it head on with new ways to rise to the top.”
The CEO paused. One at a time, four executives appeared on the teleportal screens next to him. Each was their normal height next to the CEO. The bottom of their legs appeared to be in the water, but they were dressed in business casual clothes and not wet, so were obviously in their offices and not in the flooded street.
“Our strategy is right in front of you,” the CEO said. “As you can see, we’re making ourselves fully digital so we can operate continuously and worldwide even when we’re surrounded by streets that are flooding. When we get to that level we will be able to operate digitally during a crisis, with better performance than we have today.
“There will be four main areas in which we will prepare for this age of crisis. We will become the world’s crisis experts by being ready to react instantly, know how to operate during even years of crisis conditions, and recover after it. Our expanded digital abilities in these four areas will help us prosper instead of fail.”
He pointed to each executive in turn, describing their area and what the strategy will be:
• Design and development: Employees will be distributed worldwide in safe locations, with continuous connections between all employees, with customers and with outside experts.
• Manufacturing and logistics: Switch to contractors, subcontractors and suppliers in less vulnerable locations, with continuous connections throughout the world to plan for and deal with business interruptions as fast as they appear.
• Marketing and sales: Multiple location teams will combine digitally, to provide continuous digital communications with customers and prospects, even when some locations are disrupted.
• Business operations: These will be distributed to less vulnerable locations and employees on all continents, and merge into one continuously connected team so everything operates from in multiple safe locations.
“We’re going to spend years getting ready for this. Every one of you will be part of it. Our priority will be protecting you, this company, its supply chain, retail channels and its customers.
“Once we’re digitally prepared, we will be the best place to work if the world turns dark and everyone grows afraid. We’ll be ready, and we’ll take over the market shares of companies that are damaged during each crisis. We’ll acquire our competitors when their prices hit bottom.
“Or, if the world turns digital and avoids this crisis we’ll still be the best company to succeed in that totally connected world. It’s a win-win strategy.
“You’re part of the best group for prospering and doing well in tomorrow’s world — whether we rise above the crisis, or the world we live in starts coming to an end.”
The next daily grind: Pressures to ascend during an Age of Crisis
We’re rapidly turning into a world of nine billion people, with an economy that’s multiples of today, limitless desires for centuries of unlimited consumption, aging populations, resource shortages and a growing range of disastrous crises.
We’re going to need the ability to work together on problems that are monumental and can quickly turn catastrophic. When they hit, they’re not just going to affect small groups and small regions.
We will find ourselves in situations that are beyond the scope of any of today’s institutions’ abilities to manage.
We’re going to need new levels of connecting immediately to work together, produce results and deliver them. We’ll need a continuous flow of know how to every involved person, so they can instantly deal with something that they didn’t expect but must overcome quickly.
On a monumental scale, we’ll need new capabilities for anticipating, dealing with and recovering from daily events that could turn into potential huge disasters in the world as we know it.
We’ll need much more than survival. We need to become able to prosper — and maintain peace — in ways that will make all of us proud.
One day, we will have no choice but to add entirely new levels of continuous connections and capabilities so we become the people and societies who can manage and succeed in tomorrow’s huge, high velocity and high-risk world.
Starting sooner will be better.
Image credits: Shutterstock.
Dan Abelow is an American inventor, author, speaker and technology consultant. His latest patent-pending invention, the Expandiverse, is new technology to build an advanced Digital Earth now. His previous patents are licensed by over 500 corporations that include Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung Electronics and many other leaders. He holds degrees from Harvard and the Wharton School. Get connected with Dan at ImagineANewFuture.com/connect/