By Michel Van der Bel, Managing Director, Microsoft UK
We live in a world of profound change and transformation, where the results of decades of research into sensors, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are coming together to reshape our world in ways unprecedented since the turn of the 20th century. This pace of change can pose complex questions for individuals, businesses and governments trying to balance competing needs with enormous possibilities for growth and learning. It is precisely these opportunities, and challenges, we are exploring at Future Decoded here in London this week.
As we gather tomorrow, it’s important to remember we live in a world where the UK is a modern, innovation-led economy driven by entrepreneurialism and creativity. Where, as the first country to make computer science compulsory in schools, UK students are learning to speak the languages of the digital age alongside more traditional languages. It is a world of possibility. A world where the skills to manage change and thrive on it have never been more important.
“Ten years ago a weekly shop meant two car journeys, a trolley fight with small children and a lengthy queue.” Michel Van der Bel, Microsoft
Because even the most mundane of activities are being transformed. Ten years ago a weekly shop meant two car journeys, a trolley fight with small children and a lengthy queue. Today, three clicks, a ring on the doorbell and 15 minutes to pack the fridge. Tomorrow, the fridge will do it for you. Or at the edge case – think about 3D printed parts on the International Space Station versus putting them on a rocket, or how quantum computing is set to revolutionise the amount of raw computing power we can apply to a problem. Don’t miss Brian Cox and Microsoft’s Krysta Svore untangling the quantum on Wednesday afternoon.
And change can often be portrayed as ‘challenge’. Recent studies by Deloitte and Oxford University suggest that more than 35% of all jobs in the UK will disappear in the next 20 years. At face value a worrying statistic, but we should see that prediction for what it is, an opportunity, not a threat. And as we move towards a future powered by more personal, more intelligent computing, it’s an opportunity to re-think the myriad ways in which we create and find value as the very fabric of our experience changes around us. At the heart of Future Decoded is a chance to do just that, to gather and understand how we can transform our businesses, our perspectives and ourselves.
“The answer, I believe, lies in helping people to tackle the challenges they face and make the most of their opportunities. We do that by helping people share their ideas, by breaking down language barriers, by providing information that’s useful and relevant and by fundamentally focussing on the human need.” Michel Van der Bel, Microsoft
There remains another key question, how do we improve UK productivity? The answer, I believe, lies in helping people to tackle the challenges they face and make the most of their opportunities. We do that by helping people share their ideas, by breaking down language barriers, by providing information that’s useful and relevant and by fundamentally focussing on the human need. Over the next two days we’ll hear from organisations large and small that are doing exactly that, embracing organisational transformation and the power of technology to change lives. Virgin Atlantic, Arsenal FC, Lotus F1, BioBeats and the MOD are just a few.
This week we bring together some of the leading thinkers, creative business leaders and inspiring athletes of our generation at Future Decoded. By sharing our collective experience of change, its pitfalls and its rewards, and by working together, we can prepare ourselves for the road ahead. I hope we all bring something with us to contribute to the discussion and leave with so much more.
I look forward to the next two days with you.
Michel Van der Bel.