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Observations on Superforecasters, Hollywood, Virtual Reality and the Automobile Industry
Since it is the third full week of the new year, we are all still in the prediction mode. We will release our predictions today for the CRE/FM world (click here to download), but after I wrote them, I was fascinated by a series of three articles that appeared in the Financial Times the weekend of January 16. One focused on a review of five books just released on predictions (I focus on just two), another on the disruption and future visioning that is going on in the auto industry today and the last on the first commercial release of a virtual reality product from Hollywood[1]. As I have been researching and writing a lot about our new digital era, these articles were particularly relevant as we think about all of the changes going on in every industry across the world no matter what field you are in or what business you may think you are in now… Superforecasting The Industries of the Future is the title of Alex Ross’ new book. Ross was senior advisor on innovation for Hilary Clinton in her State Department reign and he focuses on digital currencies, big data and robotics of the future. He says that, “within our lifetime, robots will walk the streets with us and working in the next cubicle to us.” Ross sees humans and machines collaborating on projects side by side. Forget plain ol’ forecasting…now you have to be a SUPERFORECASTERAnother book reviewed was Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner’s Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Predictions which is about a fascinating competition called the ‘Good Judgement Project’ sponsored by the government agency DARPA.Six teams were chosen for this competition and Mr. Tetlock was in charge of one team which consisted of 20,000 volunteers recruited to make 500 predictions, both political and financial.The Tetlock team won because he designed a system where he could identify and pare down to the best forecasters.He beat the competition using these ‘superforecasters’ who all had similar profiles:they were analytical, intellectually humble, self-critical and flexible in changing their minds when presented with new data or a rational opposing viewpoint. The Auto Industry Disrupted In this second article, three authors who had gone to the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas[2] and interviewed leaders in innovation in the auto industry who had gathered at this event to present their visions in response to Silicon Valley’s technology’s forays into their backyards. Now Toyota strikes back and says that it envisions itself as a robotics company. Ford is now a mobility company and Nissan/Renault is the maker of the robot meets smartphone technology. Guess the auto industry is destined for a new name…stay tuned. Forget a fancy car…meet your violin playing new status symbolToyota plucked a leading Robotics expert right smack out of the GooglePlex to pump up their Artifical Intelligence expertise and are predicting that domestic robots may take the place of the status symbol that cars once were (watch out BMW and Mercedes).Ford’s Jacques Nassar predicted at the beginning of the 21st century that the company would be a mobility company and that is what they are indeed concentrating on 15 years later. This concept of mobility expands beyond the car to all forms of travel and services…does this mean we will have a Ford airplane and Ford train?Who knows as it is not clear at this stage of disruption.Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan described their future as being a “provider of personal mobility.”His vision is not unlike other auto execs who envision a worls where smart connected robotic cars are the new smartphones delivering new mobility services. General Motors is placing its bets on the sharing economy with its $500m investment in Uber’s rival Lyft calling cars an “interchangeable utility.” The first Hollywood VR Product Forget simply watching a move…Matt give me that space suit pleaseFinally, this third article announced the first virtual reality product being released by a major Hollywood studio which means additional money to be wrenched out of the pockets of faithful movie fans who want to have a 3D experience thus creating a new media moment. It has been designed by the infamous director, Ridley Scott who has created for the fan base the ability to don Matt Damon’s spacesuit and experience a series of challenges from the film like what it is like driving over the rocky surface of Mars. As I was writing this blog on an airplane, I watched a guy in front of me twisting about in his seat, trying in that small space to turn his head from side to side as if he was being tortured, until I realized he had a set of VR googles on. So it will not be long before we will have fellow passengers having their own personal Mars experience sitting right next to us rather than simply watching the movie on their laptops…and as I always say, do stay tuned…our group at Trimble will have some exciting news in this space to make plain old operations and maintenance an exciting virtual experience…except we are staying on earth for now.

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