This website stores cookies on your computer. These cookies are used to customize your browsing experience, and for analytics and metrics about our visitors on this website. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy.

Star Wars®, the 'Singularity', and 'The Future of Packaging'

It’s May and Star Wars month, which is my sabbath so complete disclosure I’m in full geek mode.  After all, who wasn’t intrigued by the super-villain Darth Vader? Part man, part machine; and beloved C3PO, the practical logic-based humanoid?  Characters fantastically introduced to the world in 1977 and now icons of pop culture. The time of melding humans and technology is rapidly approaching, and it’s going to change the very foundation of our industry.

I don't consider myself a futurist. Well, not necessarily. Although, the concept of the Singularity [1] is maddeningly intriguing- that inflection point in humanity where artificial general intelligence (AGI) overtakes human ability and perhaps our consciousness can be uploaded to exist forever digitally. Consider that if our reality is simply electrical impulses interpreted by our brains, and our brains are effectively biological computers, then it makes sense there is a potential intersection point between human conscience and machine. Some suggest around 2045 - in 21 years – this super AGI milestone will occur. Given the current AI (artificial intelligence) acceleration, some scientists are calling it a "fair approximation" that human-level AGI will be created within this decade - around 2029[2].  In fact, and quite timely for this blog, OpenAI released GBT-4o on May 13th and it is another AI milestone – multimodal data processing across voice, vision, and text meaning a less linear and more immersive “human-like” experience. We are in the home stretch of the final period in our history where AI is not a permanent fixture in our day-to-day lives.

Earlier this May, I had the privilege of being The Future of Packaging conference endnote speaker at the University Club of Chicago hosted by LEK[3]. The format this year explored the forward state of brand, mergers & acquisitions, and sustainability. From my perspective, one cannot put the cap on such an industry event without delving into technology and the coming-to-age of AI. The audience was wide-eyed, and you could have heard a pin drop. This is not P/E ratios nor EBIT multiples. This concept is big, and incomplete. It resides largely with Big Tech as the fight for AI supremacy wages on, and this story is still being written. It’s challenging to embrace because it is unclear, unregulated, and outside of operations still quite amorphous and unproven. It is also the plot of many Hollywood doomsdays like Terminator, The Matrix, or I, Robot. That stated, as a business leader this equation is what ricochets around my brain in its spare time – the quest for leverage – how we get-there-faster as a team, do more with less, and gain and exploit “edge”. Leverage dictates advantage. Advantage leads to new forms of value. Feels a bit like a familiar topic, doesn’t it?  And, how I do love a stage…

In my last blog article, I wrote about layered value creation. Those three layers being cost, experience, and platform. Cost motivation values lowest possible price. Experience places value on interactions & services. Platform is value created through the power of ecosystems. Now, as I type this, AI continues being unlocked, unchained, and further understood. This adaptive and dynamic intelligence is powering the coming Industry 5.0 (I5.0) revolution. For organizations like ours fostering a culture of curiosity & innovation defining ourselves not by what we make and how cheaply we make it, but by technical and social challenges we solve and the transformative value we can create. The future is very bright indeed.

Mind you, we exist within the current boundaries of our broad & wonderfully dynamic packaging world.  At Winpak, we work our R&D and innovation teams tirelessly to preserve our planet and resources while protecting our food supply by extending shelf-life and reducing food waste. We provide dosing, authenticity, and traceability for healthcare and pharmaceuticals. While critically important and responsible societal efforts in their own rights, we are not necessarily splitting the atom. Nor are we landing reusable rockets so we can colonize Mars (we have Elon & SpaceX for this). However, with I5.0 we stand on the very precipice of exponential force-multiplication the likes of which have never been experienced in human history.

But, before we delve into the future, let’s consider our brief history of time (…yes, that’s a nod to Hawking). For contextualizing where we are in relation to our known US timeline:

  • The Mayflower was 404 years ago.
  • The United States is 248 years old.
  • The Civil War was 159 years ago.
  • The Manhattan Project ended 77 years ago.

We have come a remarkably long way from wooden ships, bayonets, and cannons. Not too long-ago crates and rubberized horsehair were the epitome of packaging technology. Today we are micro layering crosslinking coextruding polymers within circular economies and leaving material handling to our AGVs and drones. Quite the time warp of human ingenuity and technological progression. Afterall, we as humans are creating the very technologies that are in turn advancing us at such a fantastic pace. This is what makes our species so wonderfully unique.

My grandfather lived to be 103, which creates an interesting timestamp perspective of the speed technology has developed from industrial mechanization to electricity to computers, IoT networking and machine learning. Incredible journey over the last 200 years. Still, today brand owners and R&D teams rely on information breadcrumbs to synthesize data into direction and thus where to apply increasingly finite human capital. We are limited simply by the scale of calculus we can perform based on the amount of information we can mine and the time it takes to do so. Enter the power of artificial intelligence.

Moravec’s Paradox[4] argues that machines are vastly powerful yet inherently dumb. Siri just simply doesn’t get the jokes and forget about sarcasm. Moravec’s point was biological neural networks differ from artificial in terms of intelligence which is why we as people can recognize a long-lost friend at the airport easier than mentally completing complex mathematics, and conversely why our graceful motor skills and intuitive reasoning are so difficult for robots to mirror.  Machines are endlessly capable yet pretty blunt as instruments.  AI is the blending of these previously unique, mutually exclusive worlds. The computational horsepower of computers with the recognition and common-sense capabilities of ourselves. All of this is limited only by reach. The sheer number of inputs and the virtual fences we create around information access and sharing.

Behavior influences market. Market drives innovation. Brand influences behavior. The constant swirl of causality. With AI we will have the ability to ideate, generate, model, and synthesize user experience and acceptance.  A decade ago, Amazon was a trailblazer of “anticipatory shipping[5]”. It was revolutionary. The concept was mining data to predict a consumer’s next order and box and ship before the order is ever placed. Essentially analyzing an individual’s order patterns and betting the surprise of delivery would lead to greater consumption, heightened customer experience, and galvanize brand loyalty. While considered revolutionary, Amazon merely used an algorithm, a steppingstone of the real potential AI has ability to unleash.

Imagine the processing scale of neural nets. Cognitive operating systems with immeasurable calculative ability overlaid with new levels of practicality and intuitiveness. This multimodal design will mine deep data stacks informing strategic direction, sustainability synergies, design synthesis, and pre-human risk adjusted validation. The ability to almost immediately see the path materialize, uncover and refine value layers, impart intelligent design, and pressure test vast scenarios is beyond tantalizing. This capability will influence research and development, optimize sustainability, precision branding, and inform highly complementary M&A strategies. The construction of this combined with the almost given supply chain and operational efficiencies is set to push our industry into hyperdrive, or as the Teslaratis would say: to Ludicrous Speed.

This, my friends, is the doorway to the 4th layer and what I’m calling “Adaptive Value” creation. This will be an edge for companies, professions, individuals who embrace and understand how to manipulate technology. This pace of progress potentially compresses millennia of human intelligence advancement into mere weeks. Think about that contrast against developments over our last 200 years and the pull effect it will have on us getting to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ at progressions not experienced in our timeline on this planet.  This is within our grasp and the shared value we will unlock will be as mind-bending as the speed in which we will be able to deliver it. 

My advice is to get cracking because we are Winpak, and we already are.

Remember: It’s our Nature to Protect.™

And, it’s our DNA to WIN.

PS oh yes – and, welcome to the Dark Side


® - STAR WARS is registered to Lucasfilm LTD

[1] Silicon Valley Confronts the Idea That the ‘Singularity’ IS Here, New York Times, June 11, 2023

[2] Super AGI and the Matrix: Sophia the Robot co-creator predicts economic ‘mayhem’ on road to AI utopia, Fox News, June 1, 2023


[4] 7 Paradoxes of Artificial Intelligence, Forbes, Feb 26, 2024

[5] Why Amazon’s Anticipatory Shipping is Pure Genius, Forbes, Jan 28, 2014

Ryan Roberts
Ryan Roberts
President – Winpak Portion Packaging & Equipment Solutions
Sauk Village, IL United States

Submit a comment

{item.FirstName} {item.LastName}


{reply.FirstName} {reply.LastName}