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WILD MASS GUESSING
November 9, 2012 7:03 AM   Subscribe

The Futurist Magazine along with The World Future Society predicts the future with a list of the top trends and forecasts for 2013 and beyond.
posted by The Whelk (53 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I predict that in the next six weeks we'll all be buried under an avalanche of look-backs and look-aheads.
posted by notyou at 7:06 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


People who title themselves futurists are a pet peeve. Those who call themselves "visionaries" are worse.

Taking existing trends from now and extrapolating them ahead a few years overlooks both weak signals of radical disruption (mobile phones and Africa for example were ignored for years until its all shock and surprise) as well as the potential for lateral emergence.

Posit a possible outcome if a particular path is taken but rarely is there only one option or choice or even, one linear path.

/end rant, now to rtfa
posted by infini at 7:07 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I applaud your second to last tag, however, and appreciate your FPP for the opportunity to have written my thoughts here. Thank you.
posted by infini at 7:08 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, this one has been a dream of mine for a while:

2. Future cars will become producers of power rather than merely consumers.

My version adds rooftop solar power to crack water/natural gas to make hydrogen for the car/garage power station.
posted by notyou at 7:10 AM on November 9, 2012


Tata prototypes car to run on compressed air. it farts its way home
posted by infini at 7:12 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


American Apparel seems to think the waist of women's jeans will now be just south of the sternum. So add that to your predictions!
posted by Mister_A at 7:13 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rather than worry about unemployment, however, tomorrow’s workers will focus on developing a variety of skills that could keep them working productively and continuously, whether they have jobs or not. It’ll be about finding out what other people need done, and doing it, suggests financial advisor James H. Lee

Let's all be sharecropping intellectual entrepreneurs? A dream to few, a nightmare to many!
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:13 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Additionally:

1. Neuroscientists may soon be able to predict what you’ll do before you do it.

Weirdly, futurists are already claiming to do this.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:14 AM on November 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Amusing what's not on this list.

Fusion.
posted by eriko at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If access to the internet becomes truly ubiquitous, mobile devices will be little more than a battery and a transmitter, relying on processors in huge computer clusters.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2012


Futurist lists may have given up on promising hovercraft, but they seem committed to perpetually trumpeting a kitchen with a brain that plans your menu for you. Odd which dreams never die; the persistence of this one seems powered by some strong gender ideologies in it that I predict will be harnessed as a power source within the next fifty years.
posted by DrMew at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I predict not a single one of these 10 will significantly progress in 2013.
posted by stp123 at 7:23 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


My Noonan-esque gut feeling is that we can throw this article in the "everyone will have jet packs one day" pile.

"If we can build support systems to benefit workers, wherever they are and whether they be formally employed or not, then we may be able to view the changes sweeping across society as opportunities to return to a fuller, more genuine, and more honest way of life."

When I grow up I'm going to be a part-time unicorn trainer.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:27 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Neuroscientists may soon be able to predict what you’ll do before you do it... One potential application is improved prosthetic devices that respond to signals from the brain more like actual limbs

That's definitely one potential application...
posted by the jam at 7:28 AM on November 9, 2012


If access to the internet becomes truly ubiquitous, mobile devices will be little more than a battery and a transmitter, relying on processors in huge computer clusters.

Well, except there will be a great deal of CPU in the device to handle the transceiver. Today's wireless data standards are quite complex and becoming more so.

And I don't know. With CPU power so damn cheap, and Moore's Law still holding, they're only getting smaller and more power efficient. Latency is a big factor in performance, and you're talking orders of magnitude less latency from onboard CPU to the display than there is over *any* wireless link. You cannot fight the laws of physics.

Moore's law also means memory density continues to increase. What isn't increasing, however, is bandwidth. There are more and more users, wanting higher data rates, all the time. There's only so much useful radio spectrum.
posted by eriko at 7:29 AM on November 9, 2012


A "futurist" vs mefites showdown would be awesome. They go first, we respond, and then we see what happens in 2015.
posted by infini at 7:37 AM on November 9, 2012


I'm digging this information about the Results-Only Work Environment.
posted by daHIFI at 7:37 AM on November 9, 2012


Future "farmers" may consist of householders recycling their food waste in their own aquariums. An aquaponic system being developed by SUNY ecological engineers would use leftover foods to feed a tank of tilapia or other fish, and then the fish waste would be used for growing vegetables. The goal is to reduce food waste and lower the cost of raising fish.
You want everybody to install and upkeep a fishtank with the goal of lowering waste? Um, you know it is a damn sight easier to compost food waste, and lots of folk won't even do that?
posted by Jehan at 7:38 AM on November 9, 2012


There's only so much useful radio spectrum.

Maybe if we went back to downloading most of our information in text form instead of streaming high-definition video of a talking head reading that same text to us, there wouldn't be a shortage.
posted by rocket88 at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


leftover foods to feed a tank of tilapia or other fish, and then the fish waste would be used for growing vegetables

Yeah, no. This little gem invalidates the entire article, in my opinion.
posted by davebush at 7:40 AM on November 9, 2012


A "futurist" vs mefites showdown would be awesome. They go first, we respond, and then we see what happens in 2015.
Well, to be truly awesome, it would involve mefites making predictions of their own. Those predictions would likely be more sensible and right, however, so I would be happy to hear them.
posted by Jehan at 7:42 AM on November 9, 2012


As something of a futurist here is my prediction:

In the future the cloud will be on tiny wireless devices. Why put my stuff in googs datacenter when I can have it distributed over thousands of devices, some of which might be 50 feet away. Why have 50 gigs just sitting there empty on my iPad.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nothing about the weather?

My prediction for 2013: hottest year on record. Bold one, I know.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:50 AM on November 9, 2012


I predict that Apple will release a bunch of products marginally different from already existing products and people will be disproportionately excited about them.

I predict that by the time my car wears out to the point where I have to replace it, a Toyota Prius will still be the best balance of practical and green, and that's kind of disappointing.

I predict that within a few years, it will be obvious to even the most strident deniers that ignoring climate change and energy concerns has been negatively affecting human health, the economy, and political stability. Finally major efforts will be taken to fix it, after enough suffering has taken place. Some people will make their fortunes from this, some honestly and deservedly, and some in a way that hinders progress.
posted by Foosnark at 7:55 AM on November 9, 2012


2. Future cars will become producers of power rather than merely consumers.

I suddenly feel like I've clicked on the Peter Molyneux thread by mistake.
posted by comealongpole at 7:58 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Future events such as these will effect us in the future.
posted by The Whelk at 7:59 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Fixed for accuracy:

1. Neuroscientists may soon be able to predict anything whatsoever.
2. Consumers will become future cars, otherwise known as bicyclists.
3. A giant festering mess of dead fish and algae in every kitchen?
4. The economy may become increasingly jobless, but you will be too busy working to notice.
5. The next space age will launch after 2020, driven by regulatory red tape and "adventure disasters".
6. The "cloud" will become more vaporous, not just a word to store ambiguity.
7. Corporate reputations will be even more important to maintain, due to there being more of them.
8. Robots will become gentler job takers in the next 10 years *
9. We'll harness noise vibrations and other "junk" Twitter from Twitter to power our Twitter.
10. A handheld "breathalyzer" will offer early false positives.

* Seriously, they won't even put up a fight when the mobs come to destroy them in 2076.
posted by hanoixan at 8:01 AM on November 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


In the future, bloggers will continue to take press releases that are hyped up for the purposes of securing funding at face value.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2012


I dunno, eriko. The datacentre route would 'solve' a lot of piracy issues, and would be pretty attractive to businesses. It's difficult to torrent software when the code is never stored on a device you directly control. I'm no expert though; perhaps wireless would not be possible.

The product would market itself though, "Never throw your computer out for a faster one again! Just sign up for our recurring monthly fee."
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2012


Robots will become gentler caregivers in the next 10 years.

I am scarred for life by watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" too many times at too young of an age. This sounds like a horror movie to me.
posted by anya32 at 8:06 AM on November 9, 2012


Within 10 years video and text will be interchangeable. Devices will be able to detect when I stop reading and use TTS to read to me. Audio from video files will be transcribed on the fly, we will be able to read breaking news if we so choose. All phones will have "universal translators".

Within 20 years cars will be a thing of the past. telepresence by Light speed communication via quantum entanglement and direct brain stimulus will make leaving the house a thing of the past.

Within 30 years houses will no longer exist. If you spend all your time in telepresence, why do you need anything more than a space to lay down.

Within 50 years the human body will no longer exist. People will reproduce by creating a hybrid personality matrix and instantiating it within the universal telepresence network.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:07 AM on November 9, 2012


What about:

Thanks to Nate Silver, Americans become slightly more interested in math for about five minutes and then go back to their core debating style of argument via wild misunderstandings about the world around them.
posted by chasing at 8:07 AM on November 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Note the fishtank one has a question mark after it. Even the futurists were snickering at that one.

And the displacement of "jobs" by "work" sounds suspiciously like something my company would like very much, and that I would not like at all. But I'm not concerned, because TFA links to a piece by the author of that "insight" where he pulls out his best real-world example of why that's the Future:

“Thanks to ROWE [Results Only Work Environment], people at Best Buy are happier with their lives and their work,” Ressler and Thompson write in their book. “The company has benefited, too, with increases in productivity averaging 35% and sharp decreases in voluntary turnover rates, as much as 90% in some divisions.”
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2012


People will reproduce by creating a hybrid personality matrix and instantiating it within the universal telepresence network.

Forever uninstantiated.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


American Apparel seems to think the waist of women's jeans will now be just south of the sternum.

In that case I am keeping my fingers crossed for the December apocalypse.
posted by elizardbits at 8:26 AM on November 9, 2012


> American Apparel seems to think the waist of women's jeans will now be just south of the sternum.

> In that case I am keeping my fingers crossed for the December apocalypse.


Just wait it out. I watch a lot of old movies, and apparently today's young women currently favour pants from the 1940s.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:37 AM on November 9, 2012


"We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."
posted by idiopath at 8:49 AM on November 9, 2012


I have these conversations with my wife all the time...

Me: "In five years, no one will be driving their own car, because Google will have invented..."
Her "... a zombie plague."

Me: "Communications and brain science are advancing so fast, in ten years, at Christmastime, we'll be able to tell our daughter to grab her neural interface...
Her "...to receive her annual reprogramming from God Emperor Zuckerberg."
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Charlie Stross, the world of 2512
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


"We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."
posted by idiopath


Nope, I'm going to stay in the present.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:04 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


You cannot fight the laws of physics, captain.

FTFY.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2012


These articles get eyeballs in ways that real predictions don't, because the real predictions aren't much fun.

The real predictions aren't made by "futurists", they're made mostly by people with job titles like "Analyst" or "Associate" at very un-inspiring offices in Manhattan. And they typically don't try to look more than 12 or 24 months ahead, because it's nearly impossible to do that with any more accuracy than reading tea leaves.

At least the ones I've read tend to go something like this: (1) we're going to burn a shitload of oil; (2) then we're going to burn a shitload of coal; (3) outlook for polar bears very negative; (4) rare-earth metals are pretty neat; (5) damn there are a lot of old people around.

It's not quite the Grim Meathook Future, but there's a pretty big gap between the "futurists" (who are really entertainers) and the analysts writing on behalf of people and organizations with serious skin in the game. Granted they tend to have a pro-status-quo bias, but I've also noticed that reality tends to have a pro-status-quo bias. Things tend to stay the same until they really, really can't.

So, between positive-grid-feedback cars and tilapia tanks in the kitchen, and everything staying pretty much the same except BHP Billiton and their Chinese competitors making somewhat more money trashing the planet, I think the latter is both phenomenally more likely and more depressing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apple will release a slightly larger version of the iPhone. Or maybe slightly smaller.
posted by kcds at 10:14 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


New New York will be built on the decaying ruins of Old New York. People will have careers assigned to them by aptitude, the data for which will be encoded on a chip, embedded in the hand. Ron Popeil will invent the technology to keep human heads alive in jars, and robots will have Shiny Metal Asses.
posted by mrgoat at 10:26 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


With CPU power so damn cheap, and Moore's Law still holding, they're only getting smaller and more power efficient. Latency is a big factor in performance, and you're talking orders of magnitude less latency from onboard CPU to the display than there is over *any* wireless link. You cannot fight the laws of physics.

A friend of mine likes to say that "processors are getting faster more quickly than the speed of light is increasing."

The computer industry is constantly swinging back and forth between phases where it pushes computation out to the edges , and where it pushes computation back to the center again. Once upon a time you had dumb terminals connected to powerful mainframes, because processors were expensive and networks were cheap. Then processors got cheap, and so you had an explosion of small computers at the edges. Then networks got cheaper again, so you had people start talking about "thin clients". Then processors got cheaper again, so people got all excited about distributed computing. Then networks got cheaper again.

The dot-com boom fueled a huge investment in network infrastructure, and we've been reaping the benefits for the last ten years or so. Everyone's going nuts about "cloud computing" and building massive datacenters, because it's cheaper to pipe data across the network than it is to process it locally.

Give it another ten years, and the cycle will be reversed. Processors are still getting faster and cheaper, while physical infrastructure is expensive and there's nothing you can do about the latency cost of long-distance communication. The current ramp-up in cell network investment won't last forever, and when it peaks out there's going to be a push back toward the edges again.

In the very, very long run, I think there's a significant political advantage in keeping computation distributed to the edges, and that is that central processing offers a single point of control which is thus a single point of failure. We need computing infrastructure which can't be broken by stupid politicians or by clumsy engineers, and the more we spread it out the harder it is for any one person or organization to screw it up.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:49 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Within 50 years the human body will no longer exist.

And then we find out about the monsters from the id.
posted by jfuller at 1:07 PM on November 9, 2012


leftover foods to feed a tank of tilapia or other fish, and then the fish waste would be used for growing vegetables

Yeah, no. This little gem invalidates the entire article, in my opinion.



Here in Milwaukee, we have an urban farm that already does this.
"Sweet Water's sustainable aquaponics system was inspired by Will Allen’s (MacArthur Genius Award Winner and Founder of Growing Power) three-tiered, bio-intensive, simulated wetland. In the re-circulating systems, the fish waste acts as natural fertilizer for plant growth and the plants act as a water filter. Our current vegetation includes various lettuce and basil, watercress, tomatoes, peppers, chard, and spinach. Our fish are tilapia and perch. As Sweet Water grows we look to our communities and restaurants to determine what comes next."
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:31 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The future is fundamentally unpredictable ..." per Jim Dator, Futurist and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies.

Dator doesn't predict, he proposes possible scenarios as a way of encouraging people to Design their alternative futures. He details trends and constraints and proposes four possible scenarios: Grow or Continue, Collapse, Discipline around some values, Transformation.

I, personally, have a lot of disdain for both the Futurist magazine and their pop culture "seers" who like to predict for entertainment (i.e., the list above, which mainly focuses on 'gadget culture'). They are not representative of the futurists I have known.

Interesting read: Dator's predictions about age-cohorts and the possibility of a future 'Dream Society'.

And, I admit my bias -- Dator was my mentor and chair of my online graduate committee almost 20 years ago.
posted by Surfurrus at 3:46 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


> leftover foods to feed a tank of tilapia or other fish, and then the fish waste would be used for growing vegetables

Yeah, no. This little gem invalidates the entire article, in my opinion.


>> Here in Milwaukee, we have an urban farm that already does this.


There are now many, many communities doing aquaponic<>gardening projects -- nothing futuristic about it. I don't know why a person would have one in their own home, but it would make sense to have one in every neighborhood/apartment building.

Some interesting videos: 1 million pounds of food on 3 acres 10000 fish 500 yards compost
posted by Surfurrus at 4:01 PM on November 9, 2012


isnt charles stross an old white guy with a beard
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:26 AM on November 10, 2012


In the mid-90s I wrote an article for Bizarre magazine where I took a number of books of Dem Futurmalogical Predictingions published in the 60s, 70s and 80s and compared them to see which had done best. They ranged from serious research to pop-sci, fringe and for-kids. And nobody knew shit. Nobody got shit right. None of these clever people got within a custard pie of accuracy. And none of them gave anything resembling an overarching view of a future society even within their own texts, let alone an accurate prediction of how we would be living in the far future of 1996.

And bear in mind this was 1996. The web was so new we still though Yahoo! was kind of interesting. Not many people had mobile phones, and they were huge heavy things. Wind power was a Thomas Dolby song. What we think of as now was only just powering up. But the books were full of self-cleaning clothes and self-driving cars that followed metal strips in the road, and increased leisure time and houses made of fibreglass and enclosed motorbikes and the 100% solid-gold holy grail of books about the future, domestic automation and home robotics.

When it comes to predicting the future, don't wonder if you'll be right. Wonder how wrong you'll be.

In other news, Charles Stross is a middle-aged white guy with a beard.
posted by Hogshead at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2012


infini: I applaud your second to last tag, however, and appreciate your FPP for the opportunity to have written my thoughts here. Thank you.
"list"?

Brevity is sometimes the soul of ... obfuscation.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2012


He added new tags I note.. I picked the staring into a glorious tomorrow one, I did.
posted by infini at 5:51 PM on November 12, 2012


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