Our new book has many snapshots from across the world, of people adapting to the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, embracing the changes in our planet.
Here are some:
- The process of developing a viable COVID-19 vaccine candidate may appear like it occurred at lighting speed — because it did. But it’s important to remember the robust foundation and investment in infrastructure that enabled that pace. According to experts, a combination of factors, including intelligent planning and some chance circumstances, made it possible to develop vaccine candidates so quickly. Aside from the global “race” for a vaccine, the background of vaccine development for infectious diseases such as Ebola, SARS and MERS contributed to the quickened pace, as did the desire of researchers to work further with messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines. And COVID-19 vaccine development occurred in the spirit of a relay race, with batons passed between teams. Additionally, experts agreed that funding — which is typically a problem in vaccine development — was not hard to come by during the pandemic.
- The first country in the world to scrap fares on public transport nationwide is Luxembourg. “Free day” for Luxembourg’s buses, trams and second-class rail was 1 March 2020. Only passengers travelling first class on trains will pay for public transport. François Bausch, the minister of mobility and public works described the move as “the social cherry on the cake of a larger mobility strategy”.
- Covid-19 is likely to reduce immigration and increase the use of robots for a range of tasks and services where there is a shortfall, as is already seen in Japan. The Weird Hotel in Japan is staffed by robots. The English-speaking receptionist is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the Japanese-speaking receptionist is a female humanoid with blinking lashes. “If you want to check in, push one”, the dinosaur says. The visitor has to punch a button on the desk and type in information on a touch panel screen. The porter is an automated trolley taking luggage to the room. Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists that using robots is not a gimmick but a serious effort to use technology and achieve efficiency.
- In urban areas across the planet, public spaces were adjusted to new needs of Covid-19: New York City pedestrianised two streets per neighbourhood so that people could social distance safely. Other streets were pedestrianised at busy hours from 10:00 to 19:00. Playgrounds and parks remained open so that people could use them while social distancing.
- The Arctic became open for business year-round in February 2021 as a large commercial ship sailed the Northern Sea Route from Jiangsu, China, to a Russian gas plant on the Arctic coast, for the first time ever during the month of February, when winter temperatures normally make the icy waterway impassable. The tanker, owned by Russian maritime shipping company Sovcomflot, was able to make the trip through the Arctic sea ice because it is no longer frozen all winter due to human-induced global warming.
- Researchers have discovered that a green algae found in the UAE could be used to produce an alternative to palm oil, which is environmentally destructive in its cultivation. Researchers from New York University Abu Dhabi studied the algae which can be found in coastal beaches, mangroves and desert oases. They have a diverse set of genes and proteins that help them to thrive in both fresh and salt water and enable it to consume over 40 different varieties of carbon sources to produce energy. The microalgae also accumulate oily molecules with a similar composition to palm oil.
- The world’s largest insect farm is currently under construction an hour north of Paris. Inside the new farm, robots will hatch, feed, harvest and process mealworms in trays stacked in tall towers, with AI monitoring and optimising environmental conditions. Ÿnsect has contracts worth $100 million with fish feed producers.
- Beijing-based China Construction Bank (CCB) is selling $3 billion in bonds for bitcoin and U.S. dollars through its unit in Malaysia. This transaction in March 2021 was the first digital security issued by a Chinese bank on a blockchain. The deal also allows investors to trade these China Construction Bank’s digital certificates using bitcoin on Fusang Exchange, a digital exchange licensed by the financial regulator in Labuan, Malaysia.
- In 2017, iFlytek and Tsinghua University successfully created an AI system that not only passed the Chinese medical licensing exam but scored better than over 96 per cent of people taking the exam. This is an important AI accomplishment as the exam not only tested breadth of knowledge but also the ability to understand intricate connections between facts and use them to reason and make decisions.
- In San Francisco, California, Matt Haney’s walk to work at City Hall passes the luxurious homes of some of the richest US tech billionaires, as well as hundreds of the country’s most desperate people living in tent encampments on the street. The “extreme, shocking inequality” led Haney, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors – the city’s legislative body – to propose a new “overpaid executive tax” designed to help tackle the problem. San Francisco voters overwhelming backed a new law that will levy an extra 0.1% tax on companies that pay their chief executive more than 100-times the median of their workforce. The surcharge increases by 0.1 percentage point for each factor of 100 that a CEO is paid above the median, up to a maximum of 0.6%. The tax, which comes into force in 2021, will be collected from all companies operating in the city, not just those headquartered there. The pay ratio will be calculated comparing CEO pay with the median of workers in the city, not worldwide.
There are many tools available, here are two that we find particularly useful
This tool connects what is happening today to what has happened in the past (how we got here) and possible futures. It enables a conversation that identifies different diverging paths that may emerge as a trend unfolds and helps people to make sense of what could happen. There are four steps:
- Looking to the past to see how trends emerged. This allows people to identify patterns, watershed moments and also to acknowledge that they have successfully dealt with all these changes, putting them in a position of strength to work on the future;
- Looking at the present (Horizon 1) to identify what the working assumptions in the business today are;
- Looking 30 or more years into the future – tomorrow ++ – (Horizons 3) to identify how pockets of the future occurring today might play out. What is emerging and new today that might become commonplace in the future;
- Looking at tomorrow + (Horizon 2) which is the bridge between the trends you discovered in Horizon 3 (tomorrow ++) and the current operating assumptions for how you run your business today. This is the space for innovation and creativity as you work out how to bridge from today to tomorrow ++; how you will adapt what you do today to address the challenges from the future (either for new opportunities or to mitigate risk).
This tool explores the impacts of a change going forward. You focus on a specific change and treat it as if it were here today. Then discover the primary impacts of that change, followed by secondary and tertiary impacts over time. It helps to widen out the discussion of unintended consequences and further explore the different paths a trend may follow and the consequences of that.
We use this tool to gain a deeper understanding of how trends may play out. It explores the consequences of changes we’ve identified might happen.