Graduation season is upon us, and after the excitement of finishing their final exams, walking across the stage and proceeding to throw their cap in the air most graduates wake up with one burning question: What next? Luckily for the Class of 2017 the World’s Richest Man skipped out on being the keynote at the Harvard and Yale ceremonies and took to Twitter to give his commencement speech. Followers were not disappointed. In a series of tweets, Bill Gates covered many inspiring topics but ultimately confessed that if it were him that was starting his career today he would focus his efforts in one of three very promising sectors – Energy, BioScience, and Artificial Intelligence.
It’s no secret that these sectors are on the rise as we continuously hear those buzzwords, but what exactly does the future hold for these fields? For starters, renewable energy technology is evolving at an astronomical rate. Sure, it’s been around for ages, but the truth is that water, wind and solar sources only account for about 13% of the World’s total energy consumption. Seeing this as a challenge, scientists have begun working on versions 2.0+ which are not only more efficient and sustainable, but are also experimenting with interconnected solar and wind sources that could multiply the overall output. Furthermore, and not to get too nerdy, but researchers are even coming closer and closer to perfecting Nuclear Fusion and even creating solar “space stations” that absorb sunlight and essentially “beam” it back to Earth for our use! I know what you’re thinking – it sounds incredible, but how is it going to affect our lifetime or the next? Well, while it may seem like science fiction, multiple sources state that this form of energy is only about 10 years away from becoming reality, and it could be even sooner than that. Okay Bill, it sounds like you’re 1 for 1 thus far.
Next up on Gates’ list is BioScience and it’s certainly broad so I’ll give you a bit of insight from 20,000 feet on what’s unfolding. The future and possibilities of BioScience are seemingly endless and the subcategories within the field are even more expansive. For these purposes let’s just discuss the advancements of Biotechnology. While still a relatively novel field of study, the improvements over the last 20 years have been remarkable and much of that is due to the progressions in personalized medicine. Personalized medicine essentially changes the entire paradigm to focus on providing treatments that are individualized to genetic makeups or other exact characteristics. In other words, the days of a “one size cures all” type of drug are behind us as scientists are quite literally performing clinical trials on certain patients to determine which cure works best for a specific genetic profile. What’s even more incredible is that we’re just scratching the surface. Scientists are continuously making improvements on Gene Therapy, Stem Cell treatments, Nano medicine which uses heat energy to destroy cancer cells and even improved drug delivery systems to dispense drugs in an exact location to improve its effectiveness. The rate of which this type of medicine has evolved is truly mind-boggling, but Gates may be on to something within this field. If nothing else, a new graduate could certainly make their mark on the world within the sector.
Last, but not least, is Artificial Intelligence. Again we could cover anything and everything from Siri recommending a great restaurant to robots making us dinner, but let’s discuss something a little more controversial… Self-driving cars. As you read this Google, Microsoft, Tesla, and Amazon are working out all of the kinks to something that once seemed so science fiction. How’s it even possible? Well, those same household names like Google and Microsoft are relying on lesser known companies like Nvidia to develop processing cards that basically absorb massive amounts of data and make real-time decisions for autonomous driving and speech recognition. These processing cards are really the brain behind the wheel and CEO of Nvidia, Jen-Hsun Huang, confirms that their hardware will be able to completely drive a car by the end of 2018! This niche is just the next step, and competition for the best will continuously evolve it. Again, looks like Gates got it right, and is batting a thousand.
So what is the message here? The message is that despite what we see in the media the future is promising, and there is a reason why Bill Gates is the richest man in the world. The World is changing faster than it ever has before. Factory workers are being replaced by robots. Deliveries are being made by drones as opposed to truck drivers. As the baby-boomer generation continues to leave the workforce newer technologies are being embraced. As organizations, we’ve got to be nimble enough to be able to adapt to these changes because it’s what the future holds. We can’t remain static or get complacent. As a community, we can build those solar panel bike paths to add beautification aspects to our cities. We can build incubators that invest in BioScience research to attract talent and improve the quality of life. We can even embrace autonomous driving by preparing the infrastructure today. Charles Darwin said it best, “It’s not the strongest that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change”. Ultimately what may seem controversial now could be mainstream within the next decade. Don’t believe me? Flashback to the days of good ol’ AOL dial-up Internet. Once you’re past that annoying dial tone think about how absolutely taboo it would have been to summon a stranger from the Internet and ask them to take you to home after a couple of drinks at the bar. Well now it’s 2017, and last year Uber posted revenues of $6.5B. Not because they were lucky, but because they saw technology advancements as an opportunity instead of a challenge, and as leaders of your organization and community I challenge you to do the same.