Magazine article National Defense

Global Trends Underscore the Role of Innovation

Magazine article National Defense

Global Trends Underscore the Role of Innovation

Article excerpt

It may be surprising to many of you that one of the nation's oldest organizations, the U.S. Coast Guard, is leading the way in making innovation a key tenet in its day-to-day business. In the Coast Guard, there is a growing understanding that innovation is not just about replacing capital assets but it's also about doing things differently and making better use of capabilities they already have.

Innovation, in other words, will be requisite for survival in a world with finite resources.

What we face is not a pretty picture, according to Erik R. Peterson, senior vice president of the Global Strategy Institute, whose mission is to provide world leaders with strategic insights and solutions to emerging global challenges. The institute is funded by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Peterson addressed the Coast Guard's annual Innovation Symposium and Exhibition in San Diego last month, which was organized by NDIA. The challenges we face, says Peterson, can be summarized in what he calls "Seven Revolutions." He describes each one as follows:

Population. Currently at 6.30 billion, the total world population will grow by almost two billion by 2025. Eighty percent of the world's population will be in countries least capable of supporting further population growth. Although the populations of many developed countries will actually be smaller in 2025, by then, the developing world will experience an enormous youth bulge.

Resource Management. The combined effects of population increase and income growth are expected to double global food consumption in the next 30 years. Water and energy also are core resources at issue.

The most serious resource challenge in 2025 will be the scarcity of water.

Reliance on hydrocarbons is not likely to change significantly, but the geopolitics of energy, however, will change. There will be a significant concentration of production in the Persian Gulf, and drastic increases in demand will come from the developing world, Asia in particular.

Technology. The three major and simultaneous drivers of technological change during the next 25 years are computation, genomics and nanotechnology. If you have children or grandchildren under the age of 10, the introduction of genetic medicines and therapies could help many of them live to be 120 years old, maybe older. IBM has just produced, with organic molecules, a computer circuit so small that 200 billion of them could fit on a thumbnail.

Knowledge. Economists have traditionally pointed to three factors of production: land, labor and capital. In the information economy that is materializing, all of these will be overshadowed by a new and primary factor: knowledge. Increasing dependence on information flows also means increasing vulnerability. Hacking, identity theft and cyber-stalking are all forms of destructive, predatory behavior that can be done with relatively little know-how and few tools.

Economic Integration. Advances in technology have not only increased the scope, speed and efficiency of business operations worldwide, but they also have brought down the costs of distance by gradually eliminating the burdens of communication, geography, transportation, language and even time. …

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