The POV Dispatch is our Autodesk internal newsletter, published monthly, where we discuss the big ideas that are important to us and our customers. It is published by our Corporate Strategy & Engagement (CS&E) team of which Autodesk Labs is a part. Sometimes I share what we publish outside our walls. Our sustainability team thought this would be a great one. We all agreed.
Today a fascinating, and critically important, discussion is taking place among experts, futurists, and policy makers around the world, about a complex challenge on our horizon... This discussion revolves around a simple question -- one that has far-reaching ramifications: What will life be like when our planet has 9 billion people?
Autodesk senior leadership has been thinking about this question in terms of its relevance to our company, and they have invited employees to join this conversation and help connect the Autodesk vision with this compelling concept. This "9 Billion" concept is interesting on one level because that's what the earth's population will be by the year 2050; but it's much more than just a population statistic... This population explosion -- most of which will come from Asia and Africa -- will dramatically amplify the complexity and urgency of the global challenges we're facing right now.
Looking Ahead to the Challenges of 2050
For example, in 2050:
We'll need to deal with hyper-urbanization: most of the world's population will live in the urban areas of developing countries, making it critical to figure out where and how all of those people will live, work, go to school, receive medical care, etc.;
We'll need to take care of a much older global population: By 2050 22% of the world's people will be over 60 (vs. 11% now), and average life expectancy will rise to 76 -- both of which will impact the medical and financial systems supporting our older population;
We'll need a lot more food and water: Demand for food will be 70% higher than it is today, and there will be a supply-demand gap of up to 40% on water;
We'll need a lot more energy: and global energy demand is set to increase by up to 50%, even by 2035.
Even today many of our global systems are already straining to work with "only" 7 billion people on the planet. So the big question is, what can we do, and do differently, to ensure that a world with 9 billion people is not only as healthy as the world of today, but even better?
Creating a World for 9 Billion
One of the most powerful answers to that question directly involves Autodesk and our more than 100 million global customers, both professional and consumers: design. We're going to have to design better, and differently, to meet the challenges of 2050 -- and that means all of us, not just the people who are "in design-related fields."
Our overall purpose as a company is helping people imagine, design, and create a better world. As we continue to refine our vision of what "a better world" means, we believe that we can help our millions of professional customers design for the challenges of 9 billion. But our potential for impact goes far beyond our professional customers, because we can also help to unleash the creative power of those 9 billion people, in general -- many of whom are already our consumer customers -- to help address these challenges.
By developing and sharing our most valuable mindsets, toolsets, and skillsets with our customers, and the world, we really can help people imagine, design, and create a better world. This is the discussion that we must, and will, have over the next year -- about the role of Autodesk and our customers in the context of a 9 billion-person world in 2050.
What Does A Better World for 9 Billion Actually Look Like?
To meet expanded energy needs, companies will be using Autodesk tools to create alternative energy sources, and products that can run on them. For example, Missouri-based company Freiezo, uses Autodesk software to create high-performance, zero-landfill wind turbines from recyclable components.
To meet the challenges of urbanization, architects, engineers, and city planners will be using our tools to create livable, enjoyable, and sustainable cities. Our Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler product is a good example of this, because it makes it easier for planners and architects to develop designs in the context of the existing environment.
To address the problems of poverty and literacy, entrepreneurs will be using our tools to create companies and jobs, and develop innovations in education. For example, Instructables web service offers thousands of instructables -- many of which are very colorful and creative -- about reading and education.
To address food and water shortages, planners and policy makers pioneers will be exploring new ways to undertake massive project that can change the lives of millions. A good example of this is the massive water diversion project under way in China, where the government is starting a $64-billion, 50-year project to move water from river basins in southern China to the arid regions in the north.
And beyond our professional customers, our consumers that we now reach -- 100 million strong and growing -- are also going to be taking part in the imagining, designing, and creating of a better world. A great place to see this concept is action is our Instructables online service (mentioned above), which is the biggest how-to and DIY community in the world, where people make and share all kinds of inspiring, entertaining, and useful projects, recipes, and hacks.
So the big question in terms of our role in this unfolding drama is, how can we get even better at helping our customer do their work, and in the process address many of these 9 Billion challenges? That's the debate we need to be having today, both inside and outside the company.
Bringing Autodesk Deeper into the World's "Big Conversations"
Creating a world for the 9 Billion is a concept that can lead to huge benefits for the planet -- but it's also, happily, something that could be very good for Autodesk, as well. This is a great topic with which to engage our channel partners, our customers, the media, governments around the world, students on every continent, and anyone else who cares about making a 9 billion-person planet even better than the one we live on today.
This is also a way to let people know that we're more than just "toolmakers"; that's our main job, of course: creating tools that can amplify our natural human talents, and that are easy to use. But in addition to the tremendous toolset we offer, we're also always looking for ways to help Autodesk customers expand their mindsets and skillsets, as well.
The concept is the perfect way for Autodesk to go even deeper into the global conversation about what "a better world" means, and to take action to make that concept real. But before we join the bigger conversation, we need to have a robust internal dialogue about what we, as Autodesk employees, think about our role in the context of this critical concept. And by joining the conversation yourself, you'll be helping Autodesk play a role in making 2050 as good, or even much better, than 2013.
So what do you think about Autodesk's role in a world of 9 billion?
Employee Video on YouTube
The Autodesk employees featured in the video (in order of appearance, name below each image) include:
As early adopters of technology, I'll ask the Autodesk Labs community: What do you think Autodesk's role should be in a world of 9 billion?
Prediction is alive in the lab.