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March 12, 20244 min read

Electrification as the Catalyst for a New Era

This is a summary from the keynote address of the same title by Stefan Hyttfors, acclaimed futurist, author, and award-winning global speaker, at the Future of Electrification 2024 conference. Watch the full session here:

During his keynote address at the Future of Electrification Conference, acclaimed futurist and author, Stefan Hyttfors, offered a thought-provoking glimpse into the coming decades. His central message? The convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), the shift towards electrification, and our rapidly evolving understanding of work will redefine the future. Hyttfors argued that these three elements will shape how we approach employment, business strategies, and even our own self-awareness. 

There is no way to accurately predict the future, acknowledged Hyttfors. He pointed to Kodak, Nokia, and BlockBuster Video as examples, explaining that while these companies are often mocked as examples of failures, during their heyday they were all leaders in their respective fields. They fell victim, not to a lack of innovation, but to new technologies that rendered their offerings obsolete. Hyttfors emphasized that such unforeseen shifts highlight the limitations of expert predictions, which often rely on extrapolating past trends and could entirely miss the disruptive new forces that will shape the future.

As an alternative to relying on expert predictions, Hyttfors proposed focusing on analyzing trend lines and their growth rates. The analysis should consider two key hurdles: bias and size. Bias can cloud one’s judgment and prevent accurate predictions. Size refers to the trend’s overall impact, measured by market share. Hyttfors suggested instead focusing on the speed of growth, as this allows businesses to more accurately create scenarios, therefore allocating time, money, and other resources effectively.

During his keynote, Hyttfors suggested that climate change will be a defining trend of this era. While the issue has been on the radar for decades, the way we address it has undergone a significant transformation. Previously, the message surrounding climate change was to stop emissions and conserve resources. For example, Earth Hour, where the lights were turned off for a symbolic hour. While it was effective in raising awareness, these efforts were insufficient to halt climate change. Hyttfors explained that in recent years, the pace of climate change has significantly accelerated. Wildfires, floods, and droughts were once considered occasional occurrences, but they are becoming more frequent and devastating. He noted that the answer to combating climate change lies in embracing cleaner energy solutions like wind and solar. 

Renewables are not just better for the environment, emphasized Hyttfors, they also have economic advantages. Unlike fossil fuels, where extraction costs rise over time, renewable technologies become more efficient and affordable as they gain traction. Additionally, wind and sunlight, the sources of renewable energy, are also readily available and limitless. 

Hyttfors noted that the clean energy boom is being fueled by powerful economic forces in addition to environmental idealism. A prime example is China, they are a major player in the global energy market. Since 2000 their energy needs have tripled, and their significant investments in renewable energy are driving prices down worldwide. This has led to a surge in wind and solar installations across the globe. 

Hyttfors also emphasized the unprecedented speed of technological advancements. He predicted that over the next 25 years, or within just one generation, society will undergo a transformation that would have taken our ancestors seven generations to achieve. Essentially, we are on the cusp of rebuilding everything accomplished in the past, but in a fraction of the time. He highlighted the rise of smart devices and AI, as one such advancement. He believes AI will soon provide us with a more in-depth understanding of ourselves and the world than ever before. Technology, he predicted, will become an even more integral part of our lives, offering insights into our daily patterns and habits, and even predicting our needs before we recognize them ourselves.

Technological advancements, such as AI and electrification, could have significant implications for the workforce and the types of jobs that will be available in the future, explained Hyttfors. He suggested that work in the future will be less about financial gains and more about making life safe and efficient. He also predicted a shift in how we view work, transitioning from a place focused on completing tasks to a collaborative culture driven by a shared mission. He illustrated this point by sharing a quote from Isaac Newton, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” He explained how this analogy applies to AI, which he sees as a powerful tool for uncovering new “drops” of knowledge within the vast “ocean” of unanswered questions. He further elaborated that many of these "drops" of knowledge will be crucial advancements in electrification, such as optimizing production, storage, distribution networks, and consumption.

Hyttfor’s keynote provided a compelling vision of a future shaped by AI, electrification, and a changing understanding of work. While the future remains uncertain, focusing on trend lines and their speed of growth, rather than relying on predictions, can help the world prepare. Embracing AI as a tool for deeper understanding and cleaner energy solutions like renewables will be crucial. As Hyttfors suggests, the future of work will prioritize safety, efficiency, and collaboration, requiring us to adapt and embrace the vast ocean of possibilities that lie ahead.