Optimism in Times of Uncertainty: The Power of the Exponential

In times of uncertainty and transition, when long-held beliefs are being reexamined, the natural human response is to hunker down and wait to move forward until it becomes apparent how things are going to shake out. A subconscious uneasiness can creep into our lives whether or not we have been directly impacted. If people do take action before the new status quo is established, they do so slowly and after much analysis, using historical tools and outmoded assumptions. While this malaise starts on the personal level, it then extends to permeate economic and business environments as leaders feel unable to plan and execute the long-term vision, hedging their bets on potential paths forward.

One thing that isn’t stuck these days but that can add further to the uncertainty is the ever-increasing pace of change. Spurred on by seemingly daily advances in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, cryptocurrencies, nanotechnology, digital biology, and other exponential technologies, we’re seeing massive disruptions in every industry. These developments are proving stressful for leaders who grapple with how, whether, and when to leverage these technologies in their organizations.

You would be forgiven if the world I’ve described above seems hopelessly complex and difficult.

But what if I said to you that now is actually the best time to embrace sweeping change and the perfect setting for optimism?

It all starts with the right mindset

What if these technologies, along with a new way of applying them, could bring about 10x growth to business and the global economy and a 10x improvement to our lives? And, what if those technologies and a new way of thinking about them could also galvanize individuals, communities, startups, and large organizations to create innovation on a scale never before encountered that could help solve today’s challenges around water, food, the environment, medicine, poverty, and education, among others?

At Singularity University this what we’re all about. We bring exponential technologies, exponential thinking, our tools and methodologies, and a vast global network of experts and partners to bear on solving the world’s most urgent challenges. We know we’re making an impact because we’ve seen the impossible become possible.

Large companies like Airbus, Lowe’s, Bayer, AEP, and Rotoplas, as well as small startups you haven’t even heard of yet are working alone and together to take innovation to new levels by harnessing exponential technologies.

Lowe's Holoroom

“Far and away the biggest barrier to innovation that we have seen in well-established companies is a sense of complacency and commitment to orthodoxy. Thankfully, we have moved from an era when innovation is ‘cool’ and important to one in which it’s flat-out urgent. Finally, scaled organizations are opening their eyes and their doors to collaborate with others, to leverage their significant resources, and to go on the offensive in creating new digital innovation platforms that enable them to compete in an exponential era.”
—Geoff Tuff, Principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and a leader of Deloitte Digital’s innovation practice

Powerful examples of impact in action

This shift in thinking is helping to catapult businesses forward while doing good for humankind. Among some recent advancements:

  • Biotechnology and drones that stop desert expansion, purify soil, and reduce CO2 emissions
  • Artificially intelligent, voice-activated home devices that help people better manage chronic diseases
  • Inexpensive water filtration systems and solar-powered cookers that use items commonly found in big box stores
  • Education platforms that use mixed reality (virtual and augmented) and the latest cognitive science for customized teaching to improve retention
  • A venture that works with corporations to sponsor employee fitness challenges that translate calories burned into calorie donations that feed hungry children of the world
  • Plastics made from seaweed
  • Wind turbines generating energy for homes and businesses
  • An application that helps people with visual impairments to “see” via crowdsourced help from sighted volunteers around the world

Man flying a drone

These and other real-world examples showcase how entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are leveraging the rapid change in technology to do well while doing good. Their innovations give us a huge reason to be optimistic about the future, and I hope they’ll inspire you as well.

What might you do—as an individual in your community; member of a SingularityU Chapter; entrepreneur; or leader of a business, government, nonprofit, or academic institution—to make a positive impact on the world? Read our growing library of case studies to see how exponential technologies are enabling some truly amazing outcomes, and then start taking action yourself! We’re here to help you along the way.