Can Society Adapt to an Accelerating Pace of Change?

By Frank Diana | 14 December 2017
Reimagining the Future

(Credit: Gerd Leonhard)

I am often asked for my perspective on the societal implications of a rapidly approaching future. More recently, that question has centered on Government and our economic system. My views are somewhat captured by this comment from Phil Tanny – an active participant on my Blog:

“There is a limit to how much social change human beings can successfully manage. What exactly those limits are is unknown, but it seems beyond obvious that our ability to adapt to change is not infinite. Thus, there is a collision coming between the exponential rate of knowledge development and the incremental ability of humans to adapt to the social change generated by the knowledge explosion.”

Said another way, we now live in an exponential world, while the linear nature of humans – and structures that were built for a different era – have not changed. The governance mechanisms of our past – at some level – managed the pace of change. Those mechanisms are gone. I have argued for balance – while others argue for mechanisms that slow the pace of innovation.

My reason for balance lies in this often shared visual representing the two sides of the pace phenomenon. Case in point, at this Health Summit in Washington D.C, the many health challenges that we face as a society were on display. Innovators will one day solve these grand challenges – and I for one do not want to see the pace of realizing these and other societal gains altered. But the concerns that people like Phil Tanny raise are real concerns – and the risk of unintended consequences is very real.

The building blocks to both enhance and/or diminish humanity are there – it’s a question of how we as a society manage this exponential world. Here are my thoughts on the question of Government at the previously mentioned health summit.


Reprinted with permission from the author.

Frank DianaFrank Diana is a recognized futurist, thought leader and frequent keynote speaker. He has served in various executive roles throughout his career and has over 30 years of leadership experience. At Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), he is a thought leader and advisor in the context of business, societal and economic evolution. He blends a futurist perspective with a pragmatic, actionable approach – leveraging horizon scanning and story telling to see possible futures. His leadership experience obtained through various executive roles connects practical realities with the need to focus on an emerging future filled with complexity and change.

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