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Bill Roth headshot

6 Disruptive Changes That Rocked 2016 and Will Shape Your Future

By Bill Roth

Has there been a year during the 21st century where disruptive changes are so poised to define our future? Donald Trump’s election appears to be the year’s obvious mega disruptive change. But it is actually just the tip the iceberg.

During 2016, six disruptive changes achieved critical mass. Any one of them has the power to forever change our country. The synergy of all six will shape your future, our economy and the environment.

These six disruptive changes are:

1. America divided over its past and future

Research is emerging that points to Election 2016 as being a vote for the 20th century versus a vote for the 21st century. It appears that those who voted for Trump were seeking a restoration of the past. Those who did not vote for Trump were seeking to realize a future very different from that past.

This research explains for me why “Make America Great Again” was such an engaging slogan. In this slogan, Heartland America found hope. It was a hope of restored jobs. It was hope for a renewal of their values and faith that they saw as core to what America stands for. This slogan captured a back to the future.

Equally important, this research points to half of America being perplexed by “Make America Great Again.” For these Americans, the future was the promise. This promise is built on smart and clean technologies creating an economy that delivered sustainable jobs and societal/environmental solutions. This future embraces diversity. The future for half of America was a world coming together to solve big problems in a way that enables economic progress, increased human health and environmental sustainability.

In Election 2016, the “past” won the electoral college but lost the popular vote. Whether this election is a lasting victory, or a last gasp, is the question 2016 leaves us.

2. Social media "fake news" goes mainstream

'Fake news' is the promotion of unsubstantiated claims to make an emotional connection. Fake news was not invented in 2016. But it could be argued that this year it gained critical mass.

A BuzzFeed News analysis found that “in the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others.”

Placing this 2016 disruptive change in perspective, before there was fake news there was the early 20th century’s yellow press or jingoism. The 20th century’s age of yellow press was followed by a global trade war instigated by the U.S. that sparked the Great Depression. Within 10 years of the Great Depression, the world was at war.

3. Hacking warfare 3.0

Hacking warfare 1.0 was a pursuit by hackers seeking to steal money. Hacking warfare 2.0 was a pursuit by government agents to steal technological proprietary information. Hacking warfare 3.0 is a pursuit of regime change by an outside government.

It now appears Russia successfully implemented hacking warfare 3.0 by influencing Election 2016. The relevancy of Russian hacking is not only tied to who was elected president. That perspective fails to appreciate the cyber warfare precedent and the conflicted American reaction.

Hacking warfare 3.0 raises the question of whether hacking is now part of our culture, like advertising. Have the lessons learned this year on how to implement hacking warfare 3.0 opened the door to foreign companies who seek to undermine the legitimacy of an American business competitor?

4. Global warming is here

In 2016, global warming passed key milestones. 2016 is the hottest in recorded history. And this year the world permanently passed the 400 ppm CO2 concentration level.

Arctic ice is melting at an unprecedented level. The American Meteorological Society concluded that the major heat-related weather events of 2015 where all magnified from global warming. The 2016 evidence is conclusive, except among climate deniers, that global warming is here and our climate will never be the same.

5. Smart and clean tech wins on economics

The fundamental premise of the Green Economic Revolution is that the world will become smarter and cleaner because these solutions cost less. 2016 saw the emergence of an enabling technology called prediction that will accelerate the adoption of the Green Economic Revolution.

Prediction software uses mass accumulation and assimilation of data to create machine learning -- think: Iron Man’s J.A.R.I.S. (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System). The more data gathered, the smarter, cleaner and cheaper that technology can become.

The autonomous car was the poster child for prediction in 2016. All those millions of miles that Google and Uber autonomous cars accumulated in 2016 are the foundation for enabling a future trillion sensor Internet of Things. We will look back at 2016 to see the start of a new economy that uses artificial intelligence to do things cheaper, better and with less environmental impact.

6. Our weight is killing and bankrupting us

In 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented that we are in a national weight crisis. Our weight has created an obesity and diabetes epidemic. The cost of weight threatens to bankrupt our healthcare system.

2016 also saw incremental improvement in awareness and actions to address our weight crisis. But like in politics, America is divided in its response. 2016 raised the question of whether the boomer generation will embrace a healthier future or face a painful and costly death from a love of 20th century convenience food.

Image credit: Pexels

Bill Roth headshot

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

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