World Future Society’s Top Ten Forecasts for 2014 and Beyond
Each October, the Futurist magazine of the World Future Society, publishes its Outlook report — a selection of forecasts and statements about the future from previous issues. Patrick Tucker, the deputy editor of the Futurist calls it “a sprawling exploration of what the future looks like at a particular moment in time.”
Included in the report is a popular top ten list of the organization’s favorite predictions from the magazine’s previous year. He describes this list as” interesting, relatively high impact and rising in likelihood,” but admits the choices are subjective. “We aren’t actually interested in attempting to tell our readers what will happen so much as provoking a better discussion about what can happen—and what futures can be avoided, if we discover we’re heading in an unsavory direction.” Tucker says he wants to avoid predictions that take on the certainty of GPS directions. “The future isn’t a destination. The future is more interesting when it’s treated precisely as what it is: a set of potentialities and probabilities.”
In just 17 years, 2 billion jobs or about half of all jobs now in existence on the planet will go away. According to Thomas Frey, a blogger for the World Future Society who made the prediction, it wasn’t intended as a doom and gloom outlook. “Rather, it was intended as a wakeup call,” he says, “letting the world know how quickly things are about to change, and letting academia know that much of the battle ahead will be taking place at their doorstep.”
For example, Frey believes that over the next 10 years we will see the first wave of driverless vehicles delivering packages and groceries. This will eventually spell the end for taxi, bus and truck drivers; as well as gas stations, parking lots and traffic courts. Automobile accidents will diminish so fewer doctors and nurses will be needed to treat injuries. However, such technology will also create new jobs such as delivery dispatchers; traffic monitoring systems; automated traffic designers, architects, and engineers; and emergency crews for when things go wrong.
“Most jobs getting displaced are low-level, low-skilled labor positions,” he says.”Our challenge will be to upgrade our workforce to match the labor demand of the coming era. Although it won’t be an easy road ahead it will be one filled with amazing technology and huge potentials as many industries shift.”
Interconnectivity between humans, thanks to the Internet and associated technologies, has allowed us to share information, knowledge, ideas and ourselves on a scale like no other time in history. Yet, many futurists are increasingly focused on the next phase of connectivity: humans to things, and things to things.
Computerized sensing and broadcasting capabilities are being incorporated into our physical environments very rapidly, creating what many are calling the “Internet of Things” or IoT. Data flows from sensor networks, RFID tags, surveillance cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles and geo-tagged social-media posts, telegraphing where we’ve been, what we are doing and where we are going.
According to one report, more than 40% of all data will be entirely machine generated by 2020, up from 11% in 2005. “With ever more devices coming online, people will become less directly involved in the vast majority of communications,” says Richard Yonck of Intelligent Future, LLC. “…this will have unintended consequences and repercussions…security and privacy concerns…much will change. We will change.”
On the Horizon is curated by Pamela McConathy Schied, MS, Futures Studies in Commerce, College of Technology, University of Houston; Principal, Foresight Communications Group, firstname.lastname@example.org
- ‘Bot-tender, Pour Me Another One
Researchers at Cornell University have programmed a robot to anticipate what humans are about to do, so it can help. Using a Microsoft Kinect sensor, the robot watches body movements, then accesses a video database of many household activities. The robot then decides how it can assist in the task (much like a human would), whether it be putting a pizza in the oven, opening a door, making cereal or pouring a glass of beer. Ashutosh Saxena, one of the computer scientists at Cornell who programmed the robot, taught the ‘bot to guess fairly accurately what a person’s sequence of movements might be and to react to them. Technology like this has vast applications beyond simple household tasks. Not yet on the market, this version of Rosie the Robot could be available soon. Telepresence robotics and robots that work well alongside humans in factories, offices or hospitals are being explored extensively.(http://wrd.cm/12MMkrv)
- The Changing Face of America
The face of “the average American” is changing. In the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly 7 million Americans identified themselves as members of two or more races. According to the Census Bureau, by 2043, whites will no longer be the majority in this country. That’s part of an historic shift that already is reshaping the nation’s schools, workforce and electorate, and is redefining long-held notions of race. In the October 2013, 125th anniversary issue of National Geographic magazine, photographer Martin Schoeller captures striking images of today’s American faces which remind us of our complex cultural and racial origins. The changing face of America is a trend that promises to accelerate as interracial marriages and the births of biracial babies continue to rise. These images also challenge traditional ideas of identity, “providing evidence of the fluidity of racial and ethnic classification here and around the world.”(http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/changing-faces/schoeller-photography)
- Future Timeline
Most futurists readily admit to venturing toward the fringe of things from time to time in search of memories of the future. Here’s a place some of them may visit — a speculative future timeline. It’s part fact, part imagination, but the content is sure to get you pondering what may lie ahead, or be just around the corner. The timeline is based on research analyzing trends, the environment and technology — references provided where possible.(http://www.futuretimeline.net)