Tremendous rate of change is the theme for the 21st century. Whether we are talking about business or politics or the environment, most people are going to be astonished at how quickly things will change in the years ahead. Part of the issue will come from the sheer numbers, we are now 7 Billion humans!
Change is also coming from the hyper-connected society we live in. As we are all personally hyper-connected to each other, we are also going to see the built environment become connected to each other and ourselves in ways that might astonish us in the years ahead.
Let’s look at the auto industry for a second. The auto industry may well see 50 years of progress crammed into the next 10 years. This is in part why VW is in trouble. While they were trying to avoid installing expensive urea injection systems in their diesel designs, their engineers couldn’t meet the environmental emissions regulations and instead of fixing the problem, it appears they cheated. While the world speeds up, the answer is clearly not to sidestep the issues but we need to meet the challenges head on.
Imagine CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards improving dramatically the efficiency of vehicles in the future and the autonomous technology being rolled out to all manner of vehicles while we see the bulk of the fleet become electrified and active crash avoidance change the very manner in which cars are designed. Add to this the fact that many millennials or Z-geners have little or no interest in owning a vehicle. This one industry may be unrecognizable in 15 years!!
While this is an exciting time for many it can also be a time of great fear. Engineers should understand what lies ahead better than anyone. We are the architects of change and in some ways are responsible for the ethical and high integrity use of the products and systems we are building, we need to help make society ready for what is coming as it is coming very fast!