Salim Ismail, the chairman of ExO Works and the executive director of Singularity University was the keynote luncheon speaker at the Canadian Council of Public Private Partnerships annual P3 conference in downtown Toronto.
Ismail started by saying in any large, complex organization, the "immune system" will fight against innovation. even in the technology sector.
Ismail said there are key tensions across organizations, and Ismail said his time at Singularity University, which is an institution dedicated to the study of exponential technology growth.
Technology, according to Singularity University founder Ray Kurzweil, doubles steadily, especially once information technology is applied. This pace does not change, and never before have we seen so many technologies doubling all at once. Robotics, AI, biotech, nanotech, neuroscience, energy and computing are all rapidly accelerating.
But all our teaching and training makes us think in a linear fashion, Ismail said, which our brain excel at processing.
Internet connected devices are becoming ubiquitous, he added, with the "Internet of Things" headed to a trillion devices. AI is analyzing customer service phone calls to gauge mood.
Ismail demonstrated how information is exponential by using the example of film. Chemical film operated on a scarcity model, but now digitization brings the marginal cost to zero. However the problem isn't lack of pictures, it's lack of searchability of millions of pictures. The cost of light went from it being a very precious resource in 1300 to being nearly free at present.
CRISPR, Ismail said, is a new process that allows us to "cut and paste" DNA as we would a Word document.
A critical mass of automated vehicles means there will mean a 10 to 15 time increase int he capacity of roads. Our entire society is based on geographic proximity, and that will fundamentally change when cars can come to us.
But our infrastructure has been designed not for new technologies, but for yesterday's needs, Ismail said.
Solar technology is possibly the biggest accelerating change, and Ismail projected within 14 years solar will be able to provide 100 per cent of power needs. Energy is the biggest industry in the world, but the poorest countries in the world are also the sunniest, Ismail said.
When solar gets to the point where you can store excess energy, it will make no sense to rebuild the grid, and utility companies will be massively disrupted.
But government and other stakeholders have to be aware of these technologies in order to take advantage of them. Human societies also aren't very good at adapting to massive changes.
"We'll need to alter our thinking going forward, and our old ways of thinking don't apply," Ismail said.
From an economic perspective, there is usually a huge drop once an industry is disrupted, and given we view thing sin a linear fashion, it's tough to spot t until it happens. Ismail cited music downloads and newspapers as two examples of this disruption.
In the past only a large corporation or government lab would be be able to affect such change, but the cost of entry is also radically lowering.
This doesn't always mean the end of industries, but transformation. Ismail pointed to ATMs as an example where people thought the ATM would destroy branches, but it lowered the cost enough to build more branches.