Friday, January 28, 2005

Amsterdam Summit for the Future Day 3

Day 3 of the Club of Amsterdam Summit for the Future 2005.

This was a day for summarizing and wrapping up. Before I get to that, let me go back to Day 2 and a few more words on the Media & Entertainment “Knowledge Stream.”

See Day 2 blog down the list for more on this, but Gerd Leonhard, co-author of The Future of Music (Manifesto for the digital music revolution) made a splash in this session. What really struck me was how sweeping a change the music and other media content businesses face, given the emergence of ubiquitous, always on broadband, delivered to your home and office but most especially to your mobile devices. This is something I have talked about, and certainly heard from many sources for a while. But Leonhard crystallized the coming changes in a succinct and powerful way.

A few highlights, taken from his presentation, and appearing also in the book and at Gerd’s website, http://www.musicfuturist.com/:

In less than 10 years, probably 5, everyone in rich counties will be always on line with decent band width, and in fact people won’t realize when they are off line. (This will be a growing reality in poor countries as well.)
All content that can be digitized will be always online, legal or not.
Music & entertainment will live on the network, not in your box.
It will not matter to you where content is, access is all that matters.
With more and more digital content available, browsing is out, filtering is in.
The future is in having access to music, rather than owning it. But having access will enable all kinds of up-selling and the music/entertainment community can make much more money, not less money if they get this.
In the future new artists will likely pay you to download their music.
Delivering this access to phones via subscription is the likely business model of choice. Imagine access to the entire Sony music library for $5 annual subscription on 300 million Chinese cell phones.

Ok, so that was eye-popping.

The summary was also excellent. First a panel of students, who came from many places in Europe. Their comment: the oldies were insufficiently global in our outlook, and concentrate too much on “luxury problems” rather than core problems of the have-nots of planet earth.

The keenest student observation went like this: “Look, you all are waiting for us to morph into the idealist generation that you were long ago. We are the MTV generation, so we party. But we are no less concerned about the future, in fact we are more concerned than you were because the problems are worse. We will be driven by stark realism, not idealism. If we don’t act, we may not survive.”

Next came the panel of “philosophers”, a nice innovation of the Club of Amsterdam. Each Knowledge Stream had an assigned philosopher. Not all were trained in philosophy, but all attempted to take a philosophical perspective. Key observations: We say we are becoming and should become a more integrated world, but what do we mean by integrated? We say we are becoming and should become knowledge societies, but what do we mean by that? Most interesting, they said, is the term, preferred future, which the Club had urged as a key outcome.

Preferred future comes down to questions of value. And the concept of “the” preferred future seemed dangerous to them, suggesting that a single preferred future ought to eliminate all other alternatives. Instead, what seems valuable and worth working toward is a world where each person can create their own version of their own preferred future, that is improving the conditions and increasing the capacity for people to choose.

Finally, several futurists including me joined in a final panel for summarizing. This panel emphasized the need for wisdom beyond mere knowledge, which is becoming a commodity. You can find or purchase knowledge more and more easily. To make any progress we need insight, wisdom, and the will to act.

So that was the Summit for the Future. A few things are more clear as a result, for me. Gatherings to consider the future have a power to them. When you see how far there is to go, and how tiny, in the grand scheme, is even a sizable group of participants, you can still be heartened by the common purpose.

Standing out above everything else is the clear impression that we are far more global a society than we even know, even as we mouth the phrase all the time. The cross-cultural commonality of concerns is obvious when you are in this kind of setting. The commonality of mental models for seeing the future is striking. We are in fact becoming one even as it can appear we are coming apart.

The conference several times referred to the Digital Native generation after I introduced that concept (and Gerd Leonhard later reinforced it). As we closed, a young person coined a new one. We are not only the first digital natives, he said, but also the first true global natives.

Check out the Club of Amsterdam, their free newsletter, great website, and multiple programs they do through the year. If all goes well. Futurist.com will be joining forces with the Club in some fruitful ways.

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