⏩ Future Normal: Fast Forward #11

Renewable energy's tipping point; battery-swapping scooters; facial recognition in China; lessons learned from forecasting COVID-19 and more...

A mixed collection this week: The Future Normal will see endless clean energy underpinning innovative transport solutions. It will also see battles over privacy, data and trust continue…but being aware of what’s next will help you create a future that’s fairer, healthier, and greener for us all.

So whether these glimpses of the future inspire or provoke you, please take a moment to share this newsletter with a curious colleague or friend.

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Renewable Energy Is Suddenly Startlingly Cheap

🔮 #FutureNormal // In 1954, Lewis Strauss, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, famously said “our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter”. While the energy industry & optimism haven’t typically gone hand-in-hand over recent generations, advances in solar technology suggest we are on the cusp of a radical transformation. And not a moment too soon.

💡#TrendTruth // The real implications of the transition to cheap, clean energy won’t just be on our energy bills. Paradigm shifts in energy change everything.


How a Taiwanese scooter startup finally made battery swapping for electric vehicles work

🔮 #FutureNormal // Gogoro Global’s 2,000 charging stations see 200,000 battery swaps a day; now the startup has recently partnered with Indian motorcycle manufacturer Hero Motorcorp to bring its technology to a market with over 200 million gas-powered two-wheeled motorbikes.

💡#TrendTruth // Swapping the batteries rather than waiting for them to charge seems an obvious way to cater to EV drivers’ desire for convenience. However, the battery swapping pioneer Better Place famously burned through nearly $500 million before crashing into a high-profile bankruptcy in 2013. The important lesson here: a single failure doesn’t mean an idea will always fail. Context and timing are everything.


Deepfake satellite imagery poses a not-so-distant threat, warn geographers

🔮 #FutureNormal // This is both fascinating and scary in equal measures. You can easily imagine a dystopian Future Normal where fake videos of politicians, celebrities and even everyday people fly around the web. AI-generated satellite imagery probably isn’t top of your concerns. But as this article highlights, deepfake geography would have profound and dangerous implications.


The increasing backlash against facial recognition in China

🔮 #FutureNormal // Facial recognition technology will only become more powerful and more universal. We can be sure of that.

💡#TrendTruth // What’s less clear is how it will be used. Some important insights here: first, technology and politics will be increasingly indivisible; second, human needs and wants are reliably universal. The (Western) media might present China as a state-controlled monolith, but it’s hardly shocking that local citizens care about their privacy.


Lessons from the pandemic’s superstar data scientist, Youyang Gu

To end this week’s edition, less of a news story and more a powerful reminder of how to think about the future. Gu’s lessons reminded me of Philip Tetlock’s Superforecasting: keep things simple, be adaptable, welcome and learn from criticism, and more. Well worth your time.


I’m delighted to be speaking later today with my friends and fellow future-gazers David Mattin and Monique van Dusseldorp on the Future of Events, thanks to Opus Agency. It’ll be a provocative discussion, and I’d love for you to join us.

Register for free here


Over to you. How will you use these glimpses of The Future Normal to create a fairer, healthier, greener future?

Thanks for reading,

Henry