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Professor Peter Cochrane
co-founder of ConceptLabs, and former chief technologist at BT

In the next couple of decades there is one overriding issue facing mankind - the rise of non-linearity and chaotic systems.

They govern everything from economies, markets, the weather, fuel supplies, nuclear fusion, communications systems, logistics, human health, and crowd behaviours etc - they are all fundamentally non-linear and chaotic.

The problem is we have we have no generalized mathematical models or techniques to deal with such systems - we are flying blind and moving into a mode where mistakes will be increasingly expensive. In short, our ignorance is costing us dearly today, and in future it will cost us even more!

Our only hope lies with computing power and computer modelling. Until we develop comprehensive models in almost every area of human and natural activity we stand in danger of making dire mistakes.

For example - global warming may or may not be a natural event, we may or may not have triggered this occurrence. Making decisions in this regard on the basis of a number of limited correlations is dangerous and expensive. Our models are still relatively crude and incomplete - lack the rigour and understanding of the causality of the situation - and yet we are having to make critical decisions today.

Similarly - the logistics of moving containers around the planet is grossly inefficient due to the fact that there is a lack of automation and end-to-end communication and control. Machines are far superior at solving complex logistics problems compared to humans, but the models have yet to be built, tested and deployed.

Networked computing and sensor networks across the planet might just be developed in time to save the day in some of the critical areas where problems are rapidly building up!

Peter Cochrane is author of Uncommon Sense: New Tips for Time Travellers (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and 108 Tips for Time Travellers: Your Essential Guide to New Technology and the Future (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.

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