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Autonomy

Autonomy is an important part of the pull paradigm. As our systems start to track their own metadata, we can let go of the inefficiencies of central control and let individuals, products, business units, packaging, and other assets determine what to do, where, and when. An example is in flight control. The FAA’s radar-and-voice based system of tracking flights (circa 1930s) has been crumbling for decades and hasn’t kept up with the ever-increasing demands of air traffic. To solve the problem, the FAA has spent over $45 billion since 1981, most of it on a huge central-command system that never saw the light of day. Now, the FAA has a new approach – give airplanes and pilots more data and let them make and respond to requests for flight paths, changes, re-routing, and emergency procedures. This more autonomous approach creates a market for flight data and lets each carrier upgrade using simple modular components as needed. It should make flights much more direct, help aircraft use less fuel, and save over $1 billion per year in in-flight management costs. Today, several airlines have already installed the new systems for flights that go over water, and UPS is already saving tens of millions per year by allowing aircraft to space closer together and take shorter routes. Air traffic controllers will still be involved, but more as back-up than as a primary means of communication.

This kind of autonomy will happen to packages, cars, products, consumers, teams, and customers in general. There will be much less “home base” support and much more peer-to-peer communication. New technology will allow mesh networks to spring up to solve problems ad hoc, rather than wait for someone to design a system, test it, and deploy it. We’re already seeing the effect in media of people becoming news sources as well as news consumers. In the pull era, people become much more empowered to manage their own processes and outcomes.

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Here are some of the companies and groups helping build this future:

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