65% of the kids in preschool today will work in a job or career that doesn’t yet exist

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A time when technology arrives to market obsolete
Futurist Jim Carroll describes trucking trends likely to shape disruptive years to come
Mar 17, 2017 Aaron Marsh | Fleet Owner

It’s a pretty wild concept: that technology today — including that in trucking — is being eclipsed and outdated almost as soon as it can be brought to market. But if you want to know what’s around the next corner for trucking, that’s where you need to start, says futurist Jim Carroll.

According to this future trends analyst and foreseer of sorts, if you want to get out in front of the next big change in trucking, keep in mind that when it comes to the future, you may have no idea what you should really be thinking about.

To set the stage and “bring you into my world — and that is a world of extremely fast-paced change,” Carroll referenced research on the future of careers in the U.S. that suggests about 65% of children now in preschool will have a job in a career that does not yet exist.

“Think about that: if you have a daughter, son, granddaughter, niece, nephew or whatever who’s in kindergarten or grade one, roughly seven out of 10 of them are going to work in a job or career that does not even yet exist,” Carroll told listeners. He spoke at the recent Omnitracs Outlook user conference in Phoenix.

How does something like that happen? It already did recently: he gave the example of smartphones and GPS services, which have sprung up over about the same time period. It’s resulted in geographically and directions-oriented apps and location intelligence professionals. Oh, wait a minute — “location intelligence professionals”?

“Think about that phrase, and think about what’s happening in the world of trucking and logistics,” Carroll noted. “Think about how integral all of those mapping applications have become in the world of your business.”

“That’s a career that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago,” he continued. “Now, cast your mind into the world of trucking 10 years from now and think about the careers and jobs that might exist.”

Here’s another guiding example. If you take “any type of degree today based on science” at a college or university, Carroll contended, “things are evolving so quickly that it’s estimated that half of what we learn in the very first year of a degree program will be obsolete or revised by the time we graduate three years later.”

Those who are fast

The point is, technology changes are coming from seemingly everywhere, and change — including in trucks and their growing embedded technology like Internet connectivity or advanced safety products — is accelerating.

And that is so much the case, noted Carroll, that many kinds of technology are out-of-date almost as soon as they hit the market and you can buy them. Think about smartphones, which often see multiple models of a given phone issued in a single year.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence.”
—Futurist Jim Carroll

That drive for the latest model has now even filtered into social standing. “The way your friends judge you today is very much based on the technology you carry around,” Carroll observed. “So in other words, if you go to a party and take out a flip phone, people will be kind of looking at you like, ‘What a loser — he’s got something from the olden days.'”

Carroll gave another example of digital cameras — actually something of a moot point, he suggested, since “this is back in the old days five years ago when people actually bought cameras and weren’t all just using their phones” — where products have about 3-6 months after they’re brought to market before they’re obsolete.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence,” he argued, attributing that phrase to global media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Some years ago, Murdoch had pointed out that there is such change happening and at such speed, “that increasingly, the future belongs to those who are fast,” Carroll said.

Trucking: unrecognizable

Polling the audience, he asked listeners what they thought the trucking industry — its methods, its equipment, its technology — would look like in a decade. Most everyone, 86% of those who texted in, voted that they think the industry will be “barely recognizeable, or fully and completely disrupted.”

That’s a clear expectation of considerable change in trucking. “So let’s try another question: if we are in the midst of so much change,” Carroll said, “are we prepared for it?”

And on that note, he added that being prepared for the potentially disruptive/ disrupted future of trucking is to realize that change has been happening faster, particularly in these latter years, than people expected.

To illustrate how, Carroll referenced a time he’d spoken before a roomful of astronauts and astrophysicists at NASA about the future of space. Carroll’s choice of what to present on? The Jetsons. That animated TV show came out in 1962 and was meant to depict life 100 years in the future in 2062.

Except, if you watch some of those old episodes, “George [Jetson] is using Skype. He’s getting his news off the Internet,” contended Carroll. “Elroy has a drone. You can watch one episode where he’s sitting in the living room and using a controller just like we have with our drones.

Along with the Jetsons, here’s another example of the sci-fi, fictional future arriving sooner than expected: a group of scientists has prototyped this device, Carroll noted as he held it up to his head, which essentially works like the Star Trek medical tricorder set in the 23rd century.

“You can watch another episode where they’ve got an Apple Watch,” he continued. “George communicates with his boss via Facetime. Obviously, they’ve got self-driving cars, autonomous vehicles, all over the place, albeit they fly.”

“My point is this: we believed that this future would arrive in 2062, and all of a sudden, it is here much sooner than we thought,” he told the audience. “Could that be the case with our future overall?”

In terms of envisioning the future, perhaps think a little offbeat but observe the trends converging. Here’s an example. “Think about trends, and think about what has happened with drone technology,” noted Carroll. “I think a trend which is going to lead us to the world of self-driving, flying cars is we’re going to learn how to scale up our drones and sit a human in them.”

Warehouses on wheels

Carroll advised trucking professionals to think big change when they’re picturing what the industry will look like in the years to come. “Think about what’s happening here,” he said. “There are people with big, bold ideas. Think about what’s happening in the transportation space.”

What kinds of things could happen? Maybe a new type of truck or vehicle will be developed. Autonomous technology could be accelerated and advanced. New distribution models could emerge. Or maybe something else could — something entirely different that turns the trucking you know now into the trucking you knew way back when.

“We’re going to talk to our truck just as we talk to our iPhone. We’re going to have augmented reality screens in the visor. We’ll probably have robotic handlers built into the truck for loading and unloading. We’ll have payment technology built into the vehicle — not only has our cell phone become a credit card, but so has our truck.

“We’ll simply do a biometric thumbprint to complete a transaction,” Carroll painted his future trucking portrait. The only thing, though, is that those technologies, and testing of them, is happening now.

There’s also this: “Part of the changes you see happening [in trucking] is we are witnessing very significant changes in what retailers and manufacturers are doing with their supply chains,” he added. Trucks can now become something more like mobile distribution hubs, for example.

Because of the rise of online shopping and fulfillment, stores will become more like showrooms, and “we’re witnessing the end of inventory,” Carroll contended. Consumers will browse these showrooms and purchase a product, he suggested, and then a streamlined distribution system will deliver that item to the purchaser’s home — hint: trucking would have to be involved here — perhaps even within an hour.

“You are becoming warehouses on wheels, and everybody has this in their sights in terms of big, transformative thinking in your industry,” he argued. “And what is really also happening is that every single industry out there is speeding up.”

Many people don’t know how to think big — how to envision bold news ideas. In this clip from Las Vegas, Jim talks on stage in Las Vegas at a major manufacturing conference, about he challenged an auto company to think bigger by thinking about Google as a potential competitor. He uses this as opportunity to talk about the impact of future trends — particularly 3D manufacturing — upon industry and manufacturing.

The world of manufacturing is in the midst of a huge trend — we will witness the emergence of 3D printing and an inevitable shift to “additive manufacturing” from subtractive manufacturing based on “cutting, drilling and bashing metal…”

In just a few weeks, I’ll be the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 World Pharma Innovation Congress in London –one of the most exclusive and prestigious events in the world, focused on future trends involving health care and the pharmaceutical industry.

My job? I’m there to challenge the audience, many of whom are global leaders in the field, to think big in terms of the scope of the challenge that is on the horizon — but also to think big in terms of the potential innovations that could help deal what is coming.

This is a topic I’ve covered in depth previously; for example, earlier this summer, I spoke to senior executives for a global health care company at their summit in Munich, Germany.

At that event I covered the challenges in depth. First, the good news: in the industrialized world, a good proportion of the global population is going to live longer:

  • “German-based demographer James Vaupel estimates that the average baby girl born now in Western societies will live to be 100. Many of today’s baby boys, he says, will also live to be 100.” Sydney Morning Herald, January 8, 2011

Contrast that fact though, with the the long term reality for much of the Western world:

  • stagnating populations  and shrinking workforces
  • steadily increasing pension-focused populations as Western society generally ages
  • growing social spending commitments related to pensions for this generation
  • plus a massive ramp-up in health care demand — driven by aging and lifestyle based disease

It’s the lifestyle disease that provides the biggest challenge in terms of scope: according to the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, “1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50 per cent of adults in the US and Europe fit into this category.”

That’s a pretty “big” problem, if you pardon the pun. Consider the trends, using diabetes as an example:

  • “The number of adults with diabetes worldwide has more than doubled since 1980 to 347 million, a far larger number than previously thought and one that suggests costs of treating the disease will also balloon.” Global diabetes epidemic balloons to 350 million, Reuters Health E-Line, June 27, 2011

(It’s interesting to note though, that the challenge with lifestyle disease isn’t restricted to the Western world; the statin (cholesterol) drug market in China, India other “BRIC”countries is set to grow at rates of up to 25% compounded per year. In other words, developing nations are soon to see the same lifestyle diseases which are currently sweeping through North America and Europe.)

The potential impact of the problem is massive in scope:

  • “If policies do not change, six European countries— Belgium, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Ukraine—will be devoting more than 30% of GDP to age-related spending by 2050.” “Old age tension,” Economist Magazine, Oct 2010

What makes the challenge difficult is that there is an ever-decreasing workforce that will be there to fund increased health care spending:

  • the ratio of workers to retirees in the Western world is about 5.2 to 1 now
  • in some countries, this will drop to 2.6 to 1 within a decade
  • the immigration outflow in some countries (i.e. Ireland) exaberates the problem

There is a similar challenge in scope with age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia:

  • the number of patients with dementia / Alzheimer’s set to double to 66 million by 2030 – and to 115 million by 2050!
  • that will require an estimated $604 billion a year in treatment — it’s set to triple by 2050!
  • that means spending here will go from 1% of global GDP today, to 3% of global GDP by 2050

Of course, this is where the opportunity for big scope innovative thinking comes in — as I outline in all of my work, “Some people see a trend and see a threat. Others see opportunity!”

For years, I have been relentless in stating that what’s likely to lead us out of this recession? “A combination of bold goals on energy and the environment, significant investment in health care to fix a system that is set for absolutely massive challenges, combined with high-velocity innovation in all three sectors.”

That’s why one of my favourite quotes comes from Dr. William Reichman, president and CEO of Baycrest, a world-renowned centre for studying and treating diseases of aging: ““What we did for heart health in the 20th century, we can do for brain health in the 21st century” — in other world, some bold ideas and actions related to Alzheimer’s and dementia. We need more people thinking like he does.

And that is beginning to happen. From a global perspective, I am witnessing a real trend in which there is a shift in thinking as to how we deal with the significant challenges which are coming: worldwide, I am seeing a major new emphasis by health care providers, organizations, government, medical groups and others to a philosophy that is shifting to a “preventative” approach as opposed to a reactive model.

It’s focused, for example, on wellness and lifestyle; behaviour oriented payment policies; and aggressive public / private efforts for lifestyle modification.  I’ve just written about this in a previous blog post; see the link below.

What is also happening is a recognition that earlier screening for lifestyle and age related diseases can have a massive impact on the overall cost of dealign with the scope challenge:

  • “Identifying dementia early can cut the cost of care by nearly 30 percent … routine screening that identified patients with early signs of dementia helped cut average healthcare costs by nearly $2,000 per patient in the first year, often by eliminating money spent on unnecessary tests and treatments.” Early diagnosis can cut Alzheimer’s costs, Reuters Health E-Line, July 2010

The key issue as we go forward: where there is a crisis, there is an opportunity for innovative thinking.

We are in a period of time that involves tremendous challenges; and yet, when we step back 10 or 20 years from now, we will see a number of organizations which stepped up to the challenge and pursued some pretty bold concepts and ideas.

In the context of the World Pharma Innovation Congress and my London keynote? Obviously, pharmaceutical companies have huge opportunities in terms of unique and innovative approaches in dealing all of these challenges. It’s an industry that has had its share of problems and challenges from a variety of different perspectives — but now is the time to think big, and innovate!


  • The future of seniors care: big trends or crazy ideas? 
  • Insurance 2020: Bold moves, turning concepts upside down 

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