The future is here and now

Imagine a world where your smart phone could test your blood pressure, perform an EKG, MRI or ultrasound. Take that technology just a step further. What if a device that connects to your smart phone could test your blood or saliva and send the results directly to a massive medical database for testing and analysis, then send the results electronically to your doctor?

You won’t have to imagine for long, says former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. The technology for all this and much more is already available or in the development stage, he told a packed house at the November annual meeting of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. This new way of delivering healthcare will “unfold within the next 10 years,” he said.

Innovations like the ones mentioned above will not only transform healthcare delivery, but the entire healthcare cost debate. As supercomputers supplement the work now done by healthcare professionals, the cost of delivery will drop dramatically, said Pawlenty, the CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable.

While the innovations will be transformative in a number of good ways, they also will be dramatically disruptive to the workforce. A fourth industrial revolution is already underway and preparing to deal with the transformative changes on the horizon is a must for business, government and the general public.

The transformative nature of this new industrial revolution will reach far beyond healthcare. 3D printing, for example, could be utilized to complete work now performed by construction industry professionals – at a fraction of the cost and with a fraction of the workers now needed to complete the same tasks. Prototypes have already been completed. Russian Company, Apis Cor, built a house with a mobile 3D printer in 18 hours for a cost of less than $10,000 – in the midst of Russia’s harsh winter. Such possibilities raise the promise of solving the affordable housing problem.

Transportation will, no doubt, be transformed as well. German company, Lilium Jet, is close to field testing an on-demand, driverless flying car that can lift off completely vertically. The winged car boasts 36 engines, is powered electrically and gives off zero emissions. Developers claim that the small jet-car, which can seat two, will decrease travel time by five-fold. The jet -car is scheduled to be field tested in Dubai in the fall of 2018.

These innovations will have the potential to greatly improve our quality of life. They also will “create massive cyber-security issues and massive workforce displacement,” Pawlenty noted. Further, “our educational and training systems are not ready.”

Citing the slow American embrace of STEM training, Pawlenty argues that we need to clearly see this next industrial revolution coming.

“Our university systems are going to be in for a rude awakening,” he said. But, “even with a fancy 3D printer to build a house, we still need plumbers. We still need electricians. Many jobs can’t be done by a robot.”

Pawlenty argues that we, as a nation, need to invest rapidly and embrace the changes that are coming.

“We need to be open to change – we can’t be complacent,” he said. “Complacency is our biggest enemy.”

To drive home the point of just how dangerous complacency can be, Pawlenty utilized a 2008 video of an interview conducted by CBC with Research in Motion (RIM) co-CEO Jim Balsillie.

Shortly after the interviewer showed praise on Balsillie for transforming the way people do business with the coming of the BlackBerry, he posed this question: “Do you ever think of growing RIM beyond something like a BlackBerry?”

“No,” Balsallie responded laughing. “We’re a very poorly diversified portfolio. It either goes to the moon or it crashes in the dirt.”