Please see below selected recent emerging trends.
- A start-up claimed technology-induced lucid dreaming could enable people to work while asleep. Prophetic said that their headband, the Halo, releases pulses of ultrasound waves into a region of the brain associated with lucid dreams. Its CEO claimed that the ability to remain in control of their choices while they dream could enable users to write code or work on a novel while they are sleeping.
- Scientists at Harvard and Tuft’s University created tiny biological robots, called anthrobots, made out of human cells. In tests, the anthrobots were left in a small dish along with some damaged neural tissue. Scientists watched as the bots clumped together to form a superbot, which then repaired the damaged neurons. The researchers say that in future anthrobots made from a patient’s own cells could be used to perform repairs or deliver medicines to target locations.
- Meanwhile, researchers at New York University created biological nanobots capable of self-replication. The bots are made from four strands of DNA, and when held in a solution made of this DNA raw material they’re able to assemble new copies of themselves, noted New World Same Humans.
- Researchers unveiled two new brain-computer interfaces that translate brain signals into words. In two people who can no longer talk on their own, the devices enabled “speech” at speeds up to four times faster than any previous devices. “It is now possible to imagine a future where we can restore fluid conversation to someone with paralysis, enabling them to freely say whatever they want to say with an accuracy high enough to be understood reliably,” said Francis Willett, who co-authored a study of one of the devices.
- An estimated 7,000 languages are currently spoken across the globe, but 87% of people know just one or two of them. Even the most popular language - English - is only spoken by 18% of the world, meaning there is still a language barrier between the vast majority of people. In response, Meta unveiled an AI that can translate up to 100 languages, putting the company a step closer to its goal of creating a universal translator.
- Freethink noted that, if you look back on 20th century science fiction, you might feel a bit cheated. Where are all the hoverboards, flying cars, and talking robots? The philosopher Mark Fisher had a name for this kind of phantom nostalgia: “lost futures”. He believed that modern economic and political systems have stunted our collective imagination, leaving us unable to envision a future radically different from the present moment.
- By 2030, Asia will be producing more than 70% of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates in the G20, with China alone accounting for 35%, and India for 27%,
- Australian researchers found a way to reprogramme cells from adults so that they’re more like embryonic stem cells. These memory-less cells can be reprogrammed to become any kind of cell, potentially unlocking an endless supply of stem cells for research or treatment.
- Diseases aren't the only things that are contagious, e.g. when one person starts laughing, it's often not long before others join in. The same goes for enthusiasm: work teams with energetic, consistently enthusiastic leaders have with esprit de corps, but morose leaders make for morose teams. Countries differ in their level of collective mood, so when people immigrate, so do their moods: when people move to countries with higher levels of happiness, they themselves become happier, but, just as a good mood, enthusiasm, and happiness can spread from one person to another, so can depression, stress, and anxiety, argued the IAI.
- According to Exponential View, the growth in demand for electric vehicles and batteries is putting pressure on the lithium industry to scale up more rapidly than any extractive industry in history. But economics can help: shortages can increase the appeal of alternatives, including for batteries: e,g, sodium-ion chemistries are forecast to quintuple by 2028, thereby alleviating some of the pressure on lithium.
- GZERO noted that headlines that warn of catastrophe are hiding the revolutionary advances and opportunities that could benefit billions of people. By sifting quickly and efficiently through oceans of data, AI can help scientists and researchers develop new treatments, and even cures, for diseases, including cancer. It could help educators individualise the instruction of vast numbers of children. AI could also sharply increase economic productivity, an essential step in raising living standards.
- However, there are clearly risks to e.g. white collar workers like coders, paralegals, financial analysts and traders, journalists and creative, plus e.g. call centre workers in emerging markets like the Philippines, where the industry accounts for as much as 7% of GDP.
- AI-enabled drug discovery is accelerating. Three high school students, in three different countries - Norway, the US and China - collaborated with a generative AI engine to identify three genes to investigate as brain tumour therapy targets.
- Investment in the solar energy sector increased from US$1.9bn in 2021 to US$2.1bn in 2022, and solar energy usage rose 25% across the EU as installation costs came down.
- As many as 25% of hospital beds across the EU were unused in mid-2023 as a result of shortages in healthcare professionals caused by pandemic-related burnout and retirement. The bloc’s ageing population is likely to exacerbate the problem: more patients, fewer people to treat them.
- De La Rue, the world’s biggest banknote printer, said cash demand hit a 20-year low (saying so sent shares of the 202-year-old printing firm down 20% on the London Stock Exchange).
- Global benevolence climbed 25% compared to before the pandemic, according to a UN report on world happiness. The report, which measured happiness across 150 countries, found that feelings of positive social support were trending stronger worldwide.
- In an attempt to stimulate China’s flagging housing market, banks in some cities extended the upper age limit on mortgages to between 80 and 95. Regulators had previously encouraged or enforced lower age limits on borrowing, measured by the formulation of age plus loan period, and usually capped at about 70 years, but the new offerings, from banks and lenders across several Chinese provinces, included limits of up to 90 or even 100 years and allowed older people to apply for mortgages of 20 or more years.
- The rise of robo-advisers - algorithms that can guide individuals - and of 'finfluencers' - social media influencers keen to impart their wisdom - are transforming the way many people manage their money.
- Futuri, a company that designs tech to help grow media brands, unveiled RadioGPT, a system that uses GPT-3 and other tech to create and market tailored content for radio stations. RadioGPT uses TopicPulse technology, which scans Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and 250k+ other sources of news and information, to identify which topics are trending in a local market. Then, using GPT-3 technology, RadioGPT creates a script for on-air use.
- Bumblebees learn to solve puzzles by watching their more experienced peers. Experts from Queen Mary University of London trained a set of bees to open a puzzle box containing a sugar reward. These bees then passed on the knowledge to others in their colonies, the study found. The researchers discovered that "social learning" may have had a greater influence on the behaviour of bumblebees than previously imagined.
- Extreme temperatures make people less likely to pursue outdoor activities they would otherwise make part of their daily routine, a study led by MIT researchers confirmed. The data-rich study, set in China, showed that when hourly temperatures reach 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), people are 5% less likely to go to public parks, and when hourly temperatures hit 35 C (95 F), people are 13% less likely to go to those parks. (See also: What's Changing? - Habit)
- AirOWater, an Indian startup, claimed to turn ambient humidity into drinking water. One of its first customers was a Marriott hotel in Dubai, which subsequently eliminated single-use plastic bottles and reduced its emissions.
- In 2022 alone, gamers spent more than 1.4 billion hours in the Sims virtual world, but , for some, a few things have been missing. In a game based on life simulation, some players have lacked options to accurately portray their own experiences, including those with disabilities. The update for The Sims 4 addressed some of those shortcomings with new customisations, e.g. a "medical wearables" category included a hearing aid in 15 colour variants and a glucose monitor that could be placed on an arm or abdomen.
- In an article, a philosopher, two cognitive scientists and an education scientist argued that as much as we need critical thinking, we also need critical ignoring, the ability to choose what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities. Critical ignoring is more than just not paying attention – it’s about practising mindful and healthy habits in the face of information overabundance.
- Over 20 drugs created with the assistance of AI were already in clinical trials by 2023, opening up the possibility of faster, cheaper, more personalised pharmaceuticals.
- Scientists sought to develop a “wellbeing blueprint” for gardens, that is hoped could be used in the green spaces of schools and hospitals. Researchers are using the Royal Horticultural Society experimental garden to observe the range of emotions it evokes in people, by splitting it up into sections with different coloured flowers and scents.
- Established research suggests that talking with strangers can make us feel more optimistic, positive and empathetic, boost our belonging, and gift us a sense of connection. Recent research, though, considered the impact strangers have on our ideas: the study looked to the role of our relationships in creative idea-making, drawing a line between the people who know us well and those who don’t, and found that those we have strong relationships with, like parents, partners, and friends, aren’t actually the best people to help us brainstorm new endeavours. Instead, we should look to those we have looser connections with.
- Rolled out alongside the newest OS update, Apple Music Sing allows users to independently control the volume on vocals for optimised tracks. Using AI originally developed for noise cancelling and FaceTime, Sing real-time identifies and isolates the vocals, letting people turn them down enough to sing over. Combine that with enhanced lyric presentations, and people have got a karaoke machine in their pocket.
- Researchers analysed hundreds of millions of recent job postings in the US, to identify the four most in demand skills in our changing workplaces. Analysis of 228 million job ads revealed that the fastest-growing, highest-demand emerging skills sets were: artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML); cloud computing; product management and social media.
- "Climate quitting" means leaving a job for greener organisations, or going as far as changing career to focus on tackling the climate crisis. More than 24 million green jobs could be created globally by 2030. Closing this labour gap will require both new skills and people leaving their existing jobs for rapidly evolving industries, and it’s already underway; in 2022 more people were employed by clean energy companies than by fossil fuel companies, according to the International Energy Agency.
- During office visits, pediatrician Charlie Obihara noticed patients didn't always understand their condition or treatment options. Since metaphors often helped flick the switch of comprehension, Obihara decided to enlist colleagues and illustrators to build an online repository of medical metaphors or "mediphors". Medifoor.nl currently features metaphors and accompanying illustrations for 50 different diseases. Mediphors are aimed at helping adults and children grasp complex concepts to help them achieve better health outcomes.
- The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, who adjust their symbolic Doomsday Clock to reflect how close humanity is to self-destructing, moved it forward to 90 seconds before midnight. It’s the closest the clock has ever been to striking 12 o’clock since its inception in 1947. The scientists pointed to the war in eastern Europe as a precipitating factor among a host of worries influencing the ticker.
- At the request of the astronomy community, NASA is developing a space telescope devoted to hunting down habitable planets around other stars - and it could allow us to finally answer the question: are we alone in the universe?
- NASA's successful Moon rocket launch will be a boon for private companies, experts predicted. As global economic growth slows, space and Moon exploration could become a source of ignition for new ventures and jobs. By late 2022, at least 22 companies specifically focused on the Moon that have raised funds from private sources, according to venture capital firm Space Capital. Over the previous decade, at least US$781 million in private investments had gone toward the lunar industry.
- Around the world, government agencies and companies are also making their own plans. More than 20 missions were planned to the Moon between 2022 and 2026, with participants including NASA, international agencies, and industry. Half of these missions are headed to the Moon’s South Pole, and many are targeting the same handful of craters and other features of interest. Many of these missions are going to operate in proximity to each other on the surface of a celestial body for the first time in history.
- Multi-modal AI applications will allow AI systems to process audio, visual and language data in combination with and in relation to each other. Multi-modal AI can allow AI systems to analyse data and the environment in highly sophisticated, nuanced ways. In medicine, multi-modal AI could examine a combination of patient imaging and histories, and data from biosensors to craft diagnoses and treatment recommendations. The transition to multi-modal systems will also give AI even more creative power than it has today. "It's like Netflix creating a whole new film based on your preferences, versus just surfacing recommendations," according to Madrona Venture Group's Matt McIlwain.
- Agroforestry and its ability to sequester carbon has made the practice at the forefront of sustainable agricultural systems that can not only help the world reach climate goals, but also diversify income for farmers and provide opportunities for food security, soil protection, wildlife habitats, and community empowerment.
- The Future Normal argued that the physical world is about to get a whole lot more decentralised, especially energy (both at the supply level and batteries enabling greater flexibility), food that is grown (in shipping containers and giant cultivation tanks), and more diverse and flexible transportation (from e-scooters to flying cars).
- Inflation was the number one concern for people globally at the end of 2022, according to an Ipsos survey. Concerns over rising prices had already persisted for more than a year. Poverty, inequality, corruption and climate change were also major concerns and a majority believed their country was heading in the wrong direction.
- Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo plan to form a new “OPEC of Rainforests.” The three countries are home to more than half of the world’s total tropical forests, which environmentalists say are crucial “lungs of the earth” to mitigate the global warming effects of greenhouse gasses. The grouping would coordinate on limiting deforestation while also advancing proposals for developed countries to help finance conservation efforts in the Global South.
- Dutch students invented a car that reduces carbon emissions. The “Zero Emission Mobility” vehicle captures CO2 while driving.
- France wants car parks to soak up sunshine. A solar panel covering will be mandatory for lots that can park 80 vehicles or more.
- More than half of people with Down syndrome can't find paid employment. Aiming to match supply and demand, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society launched the world's first employment resource on LinkedIn for people with Down syndrome, by partnering with LinkedIn to develop Inployable. People with Down syndrome in search of a job could fill out a brief form on inployable.com, including their LinkedIn profile. If they didn't have a profile, a coach would help build one. Job seekers are added to Inployable's network, where potential employers could find them. Inployable aimed to build out the community with resources for employers on subjects like training processes and how to implement inclusive hiring. Crucially, the goal was to provide long-term support, not just share a meaningful but fleeting campaign.
- Business schools have started teaching classes in virtual worlds as they look to prepare their students for the age of the metaverse, the Financial Times reported. Virtual classrooms, which can accommodate a lecturer and hundreds of students (all in avatar form), have the potential to make learning more interactive. By learning in these virtual worlds, business students may also start to figure out the commercial opportunities that the metaverse presents.
- As “therapy speak” increasingly infiltrates the vernacular, Merriam-Webster took official note of the trend. The dictionary publisher chose “gaslighting” as its word of the year for 2022. A term that once referred to extended and severe “psychological manipulation,” it now means “something simpler and broader: the act or practice of grossly misleading someone”.
- It's worth understanding the metaverse as a space subject to competing ideals and political pressures and fragmentation. Internet scholars Kieron O’Hara and Wendy Hall discerned that at least four internets have emerged: the Silicon Valley open internet, the highly regulated European “bourgeois” internet, the Chinese authoritarian internet, and the US commercial internet. The WEF believes we can therefore equally envision a future of at least four metaverses, namely the open metaverse, the civil European metaverse, the authoritarian Chinese metaverse, and the commercial US metaverse.
- The global market for envelopes, tubes, mailers, and other protective packaging was projected to hit US$63.6 billion in 2022, nearly double where it stood in 2019, before the pandemic vastly accelerated the growth in e-commerce.
- Spanish scientists claimed worm saliva could break down plastics. The researchers discovered that chemicals in the saliva of the wax worm can break down polyethylene, the world’s most used plastic and maintained that just one hour of exposure can cause degradation that typically takes several years to occur.
- A new AI tool can predict risk of heart disease by scanning a person's retina. A paper in the British Journal of Ophthalmology said the tool analyses veins and arteries in the eye, and can deliver an accurate risk of heart disease and stroke within 60 seconds.
- There could be a cancer vaccine within the next decade. The team behind Pfizer’s COVID jab say they’ve had some “breakthroughs.”
- A Dutch city decided to ban ads featuring meat products. Citing environmental and health concerns, Haarlem will implement the ban, thought to be the world’s first, from 2024.
- Developed by Dutch startup Loop Biotech, the Living Cocoon is a casket made of mycelium. It takes seven days to grow using local waste ingredients and 30-45 days to disappear once placed in the earth. A human body buried in a mushroom casket is estimated to decompose within three years, versus 10 to 20 in traditional caskets or coffins. Not only is the process faster, it's also cleaner. Toxins in the human body are neutralised by networks of fungi and bacteria, preventing toxins from polluting the soil. Dela, the leading Dutch burial insurance provider, announced that it's including Loop's caskets in its range of funeral products for both burials and cremations.
- Shoji Morimoto has what some would see as a dream job: he gets paid to do pretty much nothing. The 38-year-old Tokyo resident charges 10,000 yen (US$71) per booking to accompany clients and simply exist as a companion. "Basically, I rent myself out. My job is to be wherever my clients want me to be and to do nothing in particular," Morimoto told Reuters, adding that he had handled some 4,000 sessions in the past four years.
- An all-electric airplane took to the skies. The prototype could become the first fully electric commercial plane.
- The global population grew by less than 1% a year for the first time since the aftermath of the second world war in 2020 and 2021, with Europe’s total population actually falling during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the UN. The populations of 61 countries are forecast to decrease by at least 1% between 2022 and 2050, and the associated low fertility rates are likely to also combine with better healthcare to accelerate the ageing of societies.
- Chinese researchers developed an AI that they said could test loyalty to the Communist Party. Researchers at the Hefei Comprehensive National Science Center claimed the AI could use facial expressions, electroencephalogram (EEG) readings, and other data to generate a ‘loyalty score’ for party members.
- Researchers claimed AI could help protect the welfare of farmed chickens by listening out for their distress cries. The technology correctly distinguished distress calls with 97% accuracy according to scientists at the City University of Hong Kong.
- Finnish researchers installed the world's first fully working "sand battery" which can store green power for months at a time. The developers claimed this could solve the problem of year-round supply, a major issue for green energy. Using low-grade sand, the device is charged up with heat made from cheap electricity from solar or wind. The sand stores the heat at around 500C, which can then warm homes in winter when energy is more expensive.
- Gallup, the analytics firm, first began tracking global unhappiness in 2006. Negative emotions—the aggregate of stress, sadness, anger, worry and physical pain has reached a record high This may not be surprising. The world in 2022 was suffering from a large European conflict (in addition to other ongoing wars), inflation and the consequences of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, but the global rise in unhappiness started long before most of those issues made headlines. In fact, global unhappiness had already been increasing for a decade.
- There’s already litter on Mars. NASA believes a shiny object photographed between two red rocks is a piece of a foil thermal blanket from a 2021 mission.
- Vinyl has been resurgent for years, but 2021 marked the format’s biggest year in decades: Sales grew 51% and vinyl outsold CDs for the first time since the 1980s, according to Luminate. CD sales are also on the rise, but sales of digital music—once synonymous with the $.99 iTunes single—are in freefall. In 2021, digital sales brought in only 4% of US music industry revenues, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
- An autonomous merchant ship sailed from Mexico, through the Panama Canal, and on to port in South Korea. The 20,000 kilometre journey of the PRISM Courage, an ultra-large carrier made by Hyundai, marked the first time a large carrier vessel had made a transoceanic autonomous voyage.
- Japan successfully tested a giant deep-ocean turbine that could provide an endless supply of clean energy. The 330-ton turbine, created by IHI Corp, converts deep ocean currents into electricity, and has been tested in the waters surrounding the Tokara Islands in southwestern Japan.
- According to the FT, the story of our species is mostly the story of disorder, not too much order; of anarchy rather than tyranny. Even now, the state, a recent invention, is patchy and provisional in much of the world. Western liberals should adjust their nightmares accordingly. Worrying about strongmen will continue to make sense as long as e.g. Donald Trump ponders a comeback. But the larger trend of events is towards fragmentation and chaos. The FT adds that perhaps it is because there is no face or voice to put to it that such entropy goes under-discussed, under-dramatised and under-feared, even as it accounts for the greater share of human history.
- Scientists unveiled a self-propelled robo-fish that can eat microplastics out of the ocean. Researchers at Sichuan University said the tiny robots, just 13 millimetres in length, are made of materials that attract and absorb microplastics.
- China wants to find another Earth. Chinese scientists will survey planets outside the Solar System in an attempt to find an Earth-like planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a star.
- 64% of workers say they’d consider quitting if asked to return to the office full time. That’s according to a survey of 32,000 workers across 17 countries by the ADP Research Institute.
- "Malignant Manicheism" has been described as the most crucial characteristic of populist leaders and their propaganda. It is the notion that the political spectrum is divided into the “good” and the “bad,” according to an analysis of recent elections by the LSE.
- Synthetic fuel could start replacing traditional petroleum and plant-based biofuels by as early as the mid-2030s, helping to decarbonise long-distance air travel, according to Qantas, which explained that power-to-liquid technology (which manufactures synthetic hydrocarbon fuel by extracting carbon from the air and hydrogen from water via renewable energy before mixing them together) could prove the “nirvana” of sustainable aviation fuel, because it would not compete with food production as crop-based biofuel does by taking up valuable arable land.
- The concept of online shopping is expanding, as the rise of the metaverse and shared virtual spaces transform how consumers interact with people and businesses. In the not-too-distant future, shoppers may be able to craft entirely personalised digital shopping experiences - from consulting with virtual advisors, to customising physical and virtual goods, to seamlessly moving between devices and platforms.
- The secondhand apparel economy is growing at a rapid rate as consumers increasingly embrace used goods. Driving this expansion is the growth in resale, which is primarily concerned with high-quality items. While marketplaces have led the trend, brands and retailers are investing in resale-as-a-service and recommerce tech solutions to launch their own resale channels.
- A US startup raised $17 million to develop a smart gun. Biofire Technologies said the gun will use fingerprint recognition to ensure only registered users can pull the trigger. Guns were the leading cause of child death in the US in 2020, according to data.
- Spain’s cabinet approved legislation granting paid leave to women experiencing severe menstrual pain, making it the first European country to advance such a bill.
- TIGER - a global index tracking global economic recovery and set up by the Brookings Institution and the Financial Times - warned that stagflation might affect most economies in 2022 as the war in Ukraine exacerbates a slowdown in the global post-pandemic recovery. The International Monetary Fund meanwhile lowered its growth forecasts for 143 of the world’s economies, representing 86% of global GDP.
- Mushrooms appear to talk to each other. Scientists catalogued a “vocabulary” of 50 electrical signals fungi exchange via underground tendrils.
- As we shift to a bio-based rather than fossil-fuel-based economy, seaweed could provide a lot of the compounds we need. Seaweed plantations are beginning to pop up all along Europe’s Atlantic and North Sea coasts. Plant-based or lab-grown substitutes to fish could offset carbon emissions and restore aquatic ecosystems affected by commercial fishing. While Europe is home to the most alt-seafood startups (43%), Asia is a key market - by 2050 it will account for two thirds of world consumption.
- A metaverse startup called Somnium Space announced plans to offer users a ‘live forever’ mode. The service would collect massive amounts of data on a participating user, including their conversations, gestures, and travels inside the Somnium world. It would then create an AI-fuelled avatar of that user, intended to be a mirror image of the real person.
- Businesses are using AI to monitor the emotion of clients and prospects during online sales calls. A range of startups are building software systems to support this, and Zoom reportedly said they planned to offer emotion recognition services in future.
- The world’s first flying car airport opened in the UK. Called a “vertiport,” the hub will also accommodate drones and other eVTOL (“electric vertical takeoff and landing”) aircrafts.
- Close to 30 million Europeans had secured work through digital platforms by 2022, and the EU said that could rise to 43 million by 2025.
- Quartz's Next 10 Years series examied the near future of business, which will almost certainly involve autonomous robots using artificial intelligence as key tools for changing the world. In fact, robots that automate recycling, run indoor farms, and help nurses on the front lines of healthcare are already out there, doing their thing. Quartz analysed how industries marked by rapid change are preparing for tomorrow.
- The world’s largest online library reportedly fired 700 book reviewers and replaced them with AI. NBD Biblion selects and distributes books to most of the public libraries in the Netherlands. Its reviewers categorised and wrote short descriptions of new books as they arrived. The organisation said human reviewers are no longer needed.
- Investors expect that seniors (people aged 65+), pushed online during the pandemic, will permanently embrace e-commerce, social networks, and other aspects of the online economy.
- Running out of planet? Terrestrial traffic slowing down deliveries? A company called Inversion Space believes these are just two of the concerns it can solve by essentially using space as both a warehouse and a highway, The New York Times reported. The startup, which secured $10 million in funding by early 2022, developed flying saucer-like capsules in which items - founders say these could include anything from artificial organs to pizza deliveries - could be either transported at supersonic speeds or stored in orbit and parachuted back to Earth when they’re needed.
- By the start of 2022, one in 10 jobs in the UK were advertised as “entirely remote working”, with 74% of those roles paying above the average annual salary of £31,000. Analysis from business adviser Hazlewoods suggested that employing remote workers widens the pool of potential candidates, an attractive option at a time when many companies were struggling to fill vacancies.
- Despite its recent rise to fame, the term metaverse was first coined thirty years ago in 1992 by science fiction author Neal Stephenson. His novel Snow Crash depicted the metaverse as a 3D virtual world where people walk around as avatars and socialise/interact with one another and AI-generated characters. Fast forward 30 years, and the definition has come to mean different things in various contexts. Put simply, the metaverse is a virtual world where people can socialize, work, shop, and play.
- Farm equipment giant John Deere launched a new autonomous tractor. The large tractor can plough fields and plant crops without the need for a human driver (for more, see What's Changing? - Automation).
- Xenobots are microscopic living machines, made by scientists who stack stem cells together ‘like lego blocks’ to create an entirely new organic entity. They were invented in 2020 by researchers at Harvard, Tufts, and the University of Vermont. At the end of 2021, the team responsible announced that the Xenobots have learned how to reproduce. These tiny cellular blobs are an entirely new kind of living being. To create Xenobots, AI supercomputers were used to ‘simulate a billion year’s worth of evolution in just a few days’.
- Meta Reality Labs announced a haptic glove that will enable wearers to “feel” virtual objects in the metaverse. Actuators in the glove inflate and deflate tiny air pockets in the fingers and palm of the glove to create a sense of touch. The glove collects and stores data about user movements.
- By the end of 2021, over 1 billion people across 25+ countries were suffering from double-digit inflation of their currency. At the minimum listed 10% inflation, their purchasing power would halve in just 8 years. As many countries experienced high inflation, people would be likely to increasingly look for other stores of value, which according to CB Insights which may drive crypto adoption.
- Further reading:
- New World Same Humans claimed we should examine the creation of new frameworks, models, and methods that can allow us to analyse the complex social and planetary systems that humans are embedded in. We might start by modelling not only people, but also the oceans, rainforests, and atmosphere as agents with their own needs and values. We recognise the legal personhood of corporations, so perhaps we could do the same for ecosystems.
- Facebook announced plans to create 10,000 new jobs in the European Union over the next five years to build products that will serve the metaverse - an interconnected virtual world enhanced by augmented and virtual reality around which online avatars and digital goods can move seamlessly. The company said its products will be interoperable with those from other tech firms in order to build a cohesive cyber space.
- Further reading:
- A structured look of the Metaverse as the next phase of the Internet's evolution - EY
- How business can make the most of the metaverse - Financial Times
- Life, the metaverse and everything: a quick guide - Curio
- To Build the Metaverse, Meta First Wants to Build Stores - The New York Times
- What is the metaverse? And why should we care? - WEF
- What parents need to know about the coming metaverse - Quartz
- OpenAI shared plans for a global universal basic income. Lots of people didn’t like what they heard. The new project is a cryptocurrency called Worldcoin, plus an innovative plan for rapid worldwide adoption: the currency is intended to be ‘collectively owned’, and everyone on Earth can claim a share, but to claim Worldcoins, people would have to first to stare into a metal sphere called the Orb, which will scan their eyes. Having registered their unique human identity, they’d then be allotted their coins.
- The word metaverse has its origins in a 1992 sci-fi novel called Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. The book depicts an anarchic, post-collapse United States in which many live primarily inside a giant VR world. For New World Same Humans, examples of an emerging metaverse are everywhere. Jeff Bezos cited Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic Mars Trilogy as having helped inspire his Blue Origin space startup, rapper Akon’s plans to build the hyperfuturistic Akon City in Senegal; he calls it ‘the real-world Wakanda’ after the country of that name from the Marvel universe and hardly a week goes by without a tech news item raising comparisons to some episode of Black Mirror.
- Athens appointed a chief heat officer, becoming the first European city to do so. The move follows closely behind Miami’s CHO appointment announced in early 2021. As we experience more extreme weather, we may see other new roles created specifically to mitigate the impacts of a warming planet.
- Regenerative methods that conserve and rehabilitate our planet are taking root across the globe, and progressive brands are joining the movement. This is what Trendwatching calls the age of "terrapy", in which consumerism goes hand-in-hand with climate activism.
- The Pegasus Project, a consortium of journalists and news outlets spanning 10 countries, discovered that, without even clicking a link, someone can gain access to your messages, photos, and calls and even control your phone’s microphone and camera.
- Author Liam Heneghan drew on his experiences returning to his motherland, Ireland, to understand what it means to be "allokataplixic", that feeling of newness we often carry with us when visiting a new place.
- Launched in Atlanta, the Illuminarium offers high-definition video projected onto walls 22 feet tall and 350 feet wide, enhanced with multisensory features such as floors that vibrate and smells that permeate the space. The first experience is an African safari, and a Moon walk experience is in development.
- Funded on Kickstarter, Terra Project aims to create a network of devices that track migration while letting people livestream nature's soundtrack into their home. After being placed in a backyard or other outdoor setting and hooked up to a wifi network, Terra's weatherproof, saucer-shaped device picks up bird calls and other wildlife sounds and broadcasts them to a user's speakers or headphones.
- The extended reality (XR) industry, which includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), which involves both virtual and physical spaces, is projected to grow from $43 billion in 2020 to $333 billion by 2025, according to a recent market forecast. Much of that growth will be driven by consumer technologies, such as VR video games, which are projected to be worth more than $90 billion by 2027, and AR glasses, which Apple and Facebook are currently developing. But other sectors are adopting immersive technologies, too. A 2020 survey found that 91 percent of businesses are currently using some form of XR or plan to use it in the future. The range of XR applications seems endless, according to Big Think.
- The carbon price was heading to $100 a ton by the end of 2021 this year, said traders, The key aspect here is the speed and timing – it’s happening several years earlier than expected, and fast.
- ‘Ghost kitchens’ - also known as ‘dark kitchens’ or ‘cloud kitchens’ are multiplying fast. This growth is driven by the evolving business model of the delivery giants that are using their vast troves of customer data to enable disintermediation - in this case the cutting out of restaurant middle-men - to maximise their own profits.
- A prototype flying car completed a 35-minute flight between international airports in Nitra and Bratislava, Slovakia. The hybrid car-aircraft, AirCar, is equipped with a BMW engine and runs on regular petrol-pump fuel. Its creator, Prof Stefan Klein, said it could fly about 1,000km (600 miles), at a height of 8,200ft (2,500m), and had clocked up 40 hours in the air so far. It takes two minutes and 15 seconds to transform from car into aircraft.
- New World Same Humans pointed to signs of a possible "post-human" future:
- New genetic technologies raise the prospect of genetically modified humans with physical and cognitive characteristics substantially different from our own. In 2018, Chinese biologist He Jiankui shocked the world with claims that he had created the world’s first CRISPR-edited babies. Genetic modifications to human embryos raise the possibility of permanent, heritable changes to the human germline.
- Meanwhile, the emergence of new forms of human-machine interface – see Elon Musk’s Neuralink for an example - point to a future in which we merge with our technologies. Will we see the rise of humans who are equipped with extra limbs, or possess the ability to see infra-red light, or brains augmented by AI?
- Geoff Mulgan affirmed that we are in the midst of an Imaginary Crisis, a moment defined by a deterioration of our shared social imagination, by an abrading of our ability to beam positive yet tenable futures into a shared space of the possible.
- Q-commerce, (short for quick commerce), is the next evolution of e-commerce that’s sweeping across cities. Instead of waiting days for your delivery, people get their groceries, gear or gifts in a matter of minutes. In satisfying today’s connected consumer, speed, rather than quality, is of the essence. E-commerce and Q-commerce had been growing steadily over recent years, and were given a huge boost by the Covid pandemic. Locked-down, or just fearful of going out, more-and-more people started ordering takeaways and essentials to be delivered to their doors.
- Geographers are concerned about the spread of fake, AI-generated satellite imagery. Such pictures could mislead in a variety of ways. They could be used to create hoaxes about wildfires or floods, or to discredit stories based on real satellite imagery. Deepfake geography might even be a national security issue, as geopolitical adversaries use fake satellite imagery to mislead foes.
- Exponential View warned that post-pandemic growth and recovery aren’t going to amount to much if the global economy struggles with shortages. As wealthier countries emerged from the pandemic, there weren’t enough of some goods to buy. The Economist noted that many advanced economies have been structured to focus on inadequate demand (in the wake of the global financial crisis) and then they were faced with shortages of everything from timber to cars and semiconductors. There were shortages of labour and people too in some countries: US companies like McDonald’s and Amazon boosted pay to attract workers in an extremely tight labour market. Added to which, there are declining birth rates in several of the world's largest economies.
- The technologist and novelist JM Legard proposed an interspecies currency: a digital currency “that could allow several hundred billion dollars to be held by other beings simply on account of being themselves and no other and being alive in the world”.
- The International Energy Agency dramatically revised its forecast for solar and wind energy. The IEA now says that solar energy will offer “the cheapest electricity in history”, which will lead to a “new normal” with exceptional levels of ongoing deployment. Meanwhile. researchers at University College London explained why solar and other renewables are on this path. However, the declining cost of renewable energy is accelerating political fissures between cities and national governments around the world. As cities seek to carve out more independence, some are securing their own power supply outside of the confines of national political dynamics, according to MIT Technology Review.
- Generative AI is used to create all new creative works to evoke whatever mood you desire, noted Future Today Institute. Want to hear a “new” Rolling Stones song? Generative AI creates a song in the exact style and sound of The Rolling Stones that matches the mood it predicts from your biometrics, including physiological data, galvanic skin conduction, facial expressions and activity data.
- Antiscience has emerged as a dominant and highly lethal force, and one that threatens global security, as much as do terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Scientific American warned that we must mount a counteroffensive and build new infrastructure to combat antiscience, just as we have for these other more widely recognised and established threats. Antiscience is the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods or their replacement with unproven or deliberately misleading theories, often for nefarious and political gains. It targets prominent scientists and attempts to discredit them.
- The School of Life (TSOL) believes that, nowadays, almost all of us wish we could be calmer. It’s one of the distinctive longings of the modern age. Across history, people have tended to seek out adventure and excitement. But most of us have had a bit too much of that now. The desire to be more tranquil and focused is the new, ever more urgent priority. A lot of agitation is caused by an unrealistic sense of how unusual difficulty is. We are oppressed by unhelpful images of how easy it is to achieve and how normal it is to succeed. The stories that officially circulate about what relationships and careers are like tend fatally to downplay the darker realities, leaving many of us not only upset, but upset that we are upset, feeling persecuted as well as miserable. TSOL argues that we need to change our points of reference about what life is like. We need - in the broadest sense - better art, a kind that takes us more truthfully into the realities of relationships, the workplace and our 3am panics. We need to make sure we are surrounded by accurate case studies of the ordinary miseries of daily life.
- Pollution is reportedly causing babies to be born with smaller penises, which could be a problem for human reproduction. Meanwhile, a fertility specialist warned that fertility trends are declining so rapidly that most couples may need to use assisted reproduction by 2045. While many factors are in play, decades of research on endocrine disrupting chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenols has led her to conclude there is strong evidence that they play a major causal role. These chemicals are widely used in plastics and coatings and common household products and are present in most processed foods and drinks – so almost everyone is exposed to them. They are also persistent and accumulative, building up in the animals and fish we eat, and in our own bodies.
- Technological solutionism is a phrase coined by the technology thinker Evgeny Morozov, who used it to describe a worldview - common, he said, in Silicon Valley - in which the conditions of human life, including our greatest individual and collective challenges, are seen as only a set of technical problems to be engineered away. The world, said Morozov, doesn’t work like that. We need to unlearn the lesson that technology can always solve our problems.
- Microsoft won a contract worth as much as $21.9bn to provide the US army with at least 120,000 augmented reality headsets, to bring the next generation of computing to the battlefield. Microsoft would provide the army with “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” headsets, which would help soldiers train, home in on targets or be aware of nearby threats by overlaying contextual information on top of the real world, according to the Financial Times.
- According to SingularityHub, we’re already living in a world where many people prefer to live life online; we’re glued to our phones, computers, and smart TVs for the vast majority of our waking hours, and our interactions with chatbots, AIs, and digital devices like Alexa may soon catch up to our interactions with other humans. So it seems there’s a very real danger that once the "metaverse" becomes widely accessible (even it that is many years if not decades away), people will prefer to live there.
- Future Today Institute imagined a scenario under which, by 2026, the COVID pandemic may have been the catalyst for countries to establish health passports, but over time, the systems morphed to verify broader aspects of a traveller’s health status. “Sanity passports” emerged, driven by AI scoring of personality and mental health markers. Escalating domestic incidents, stemming from increased polarization and loosened gun controls, led the US to be the first country to initiate this new criteria. Under a veil of national security, the government and its contractors blocked release of any information about the data or algorithms being used. People who had visited the country just a few months before were suddenly refused entry with no way to find out why or appeal the decision. Whole countries seemed to be blocked from visiting the US, and even US citizens began to fear that if they left, they might not be allowed to return.
- The application of genetics to medicine in a systematic and transformative way - not just in understanding the pathology of diseases but in tracking their spread and curing and preventing them - could underpin what's becoming known as “natural security”: the task of making societies resilient in the face of risks stemming from their connection to the living world, whether because of disease, food insecurity, biological warfare or environmental degradation. The pandemic showed that biomedical science has the tools and the enthusiasm to improve the world, argued The Economist.
- The Economist described how sudden, concerted action against COVID-19 brought together decades of cumulative scientific progress. The spate of data, experiments and insights has had profound effects on the pandemic - and, indeed, on the future of medicine. Around the world, scientists put aside their own work in order to do their bit against a common foe. The first year of COVID-19 led to some 350,000 bits of research, many of them on preprint servers that made findings available almost instantaneously.
- Mark Zuckerberg claimed that by 2030, people could use advanced smart glasses to “teleport” to work or to other people’s homes, and speak to them as if they’re physically present. This would enable in-person meetings to be replaced by a headset-based digital experience, which could fight climate change by reducing commutes and travel.
- Roblox Corporation’s CEO David Baszucki is clear about his vision: he’s not creating another video game, but a version of the metaverse: a massive, shared virtual world in which millions will hang out, play, talk, and collaborate. For the teens and tweens already immersed in games such as Roblox and Fortnite, that vision requires no explanation, noted New World Same Humans.
- Northwestern University published Data Leverage: A Framework for Empowering the Public in its Relationship with Technology Companies, asking what ordinary people can do to win back some of the power being amassed by the big digital platforms. One answer, noted New World, Same Humans, is what the researchers call data poisoning: intentionally sending false or meaningless data to Google, Facebook, and others in order to confuse the algorithms they use to make sense of our online behaviour.
- A scientist claimed the universe may be a giant neural network. The core idea is that every observable phenomenon in the entire universe can be modelled by a neural network and that means, by extension, the universe itself may be a neural network. Professor Vitaly Vanchurin said his theory may explain the apparent inconsistencies between classical and quantum physics.
- The eventual end of the pandemic will demand conversations around how and when workers will return to the office. For many, the answer may be never and that could shift where many work from. A recent article argued that remote work will be combined with extended stays at hotels, hostels and the like, changing the face of hospitality. Some hotels have caught on, offering subscription services for nomadic workers. Countries have even begun changing laws to give remote workers visas to bring in revenue for battered hotels and stores.
- Diminished Reality (DR) digitally removes or reduces unwanted features of the real-world environment. It's like augmented reality in reverse. DR has wide-ranging applications in health and medicine (taking away stimuli), city planning (reducing noise), retail/dining/ travel (customising consumer experiences), manufacturing (worker focus), and sports (reduce the sensation of impact) to name a few. DR is a feature of what Future Today Institute calls the You of Things, the set of connected wearable devices that use our data to optimise our daily activities. For companies that have chased (and given up on) personalisation, DR and AR will give consumers more direct control over their experiences.
- Facebook is making a bracelet that lets you control computers with your brain. Facebook’s new product would enable people to navigate through augmented reality (for example selecting menu items) by simply thinking about which one they want.
- New World Same Humans wondered whether, inspired by 20th-century success stories such as Hong Kong, the later 2020s will see a new wave of charismatic founders establish charter cities: independent city states intended to attract itinerant knowledge workers and reimagine government for the 21st-century. Many will be born, first, as decentralised cities in the cloud, which bring people together based on shared values, interests, and skills.
- New World Same Humans also points to the emergence of the Sovereign Individual. Mainstream lifestyles in the 20th-century were built around the need to live close to a place of employment. As that need falls away for many in the 2020s, fundamental questions about the relationship between individuals, places, and governments emerge into view. The decoupling of knowledge work and location, and a proliferation of one-person, creator economy businesses, fuels a new global class of itinerant workers who hop from city to city while working for the same employer, or themselves. To which country should these workers pay tax? Who funds their healthcare? A new conception of citizenship - as a bundle of rights, responsibilities, and benefits that citizens can take anywhere with them - may begin to emerge.
- Information technology has made us more resilient in the face of organic viruses, but it has also made us far more vulnerable to malware and cyber warfare, warned Yuval Noah Harari. People often ask: “What’s the next Covid?” An attack on our digital infrastructure is a leading candidate. It took several months for coronavirus to spread through the world and infect millions of people. Our digital infrastructure might collapse in a single day.
- Research indicates that consumer wearable devices can help flag new cases of COVID-19 prior to molecular diagnosis. Accepted for publication in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the institution's Warrior Watch Study provided Mount Sinai Health System workers with an Apple Watch and a custom study app. The results highlighted a significant differences in a heart rate variability metric during the seven days before a PCR COVID-19 diagnosis and the seven days after.
- Apple's App Store’s reach has become very extensive. Users spent $1.8bn on apps between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in 2020. New Year’s Day saw a single-day spending record of more than $540m on the platform. Given the exponential growth in sales, the platform’s implied economic value is expected to hit $1 trillion within two years, noted Exponential View.
- Police in Dubai used a ‘memory print’ to help crack a murder case. Brainwave mapping technology demonstrated that one of the suspects remembered the knife used in the killing. In recent years, researchers have started to better understand the brainwave patterns associated with memories, noted New World, Same Humans.
- Manmade materials now weigh more than all living things. The discrepancy is only likely to get worse. According to a paper in Nature, in 2020 the mass of all human-made objects worldwide exceeded for the first time that of the living biomass, which includes all plants, trees, animals, and insects.
- NASA selected 18 astronauts who will head to the moon. The group, which will blast off in 2024, includes the first woman who will set foot on the lunar surface.
- After spending hundreds of millions of dollars, Uber threw in the towel on its self-driving car project. Yet the sector is making clear progress forward, with e.g. the team at Cruise revealing its first self-driving vehicle.
- Humans have long domesticated other species but, in what might be a first, a non-human vertebrate has domesticated another animal, reported Exponential View.
- Xin Xiaomeng, is a virtual newsreader developed by Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency. Unlike a human newsreader, Xin can read the news millions of times per day, and deliver a different bulletin to each viewer depending on their interests.
- With large areas underserved by public transportation, and urban car ownership often more trouble than it’s worth, Quartz analysed the rise of the micro-mobility industry, whose ethos is: small is beautiful - referring to both the trip and the vehicle. This undersized focus could have an oversized impact on the way we move, the sustainability of our transport, the way we design our cities, and how we move from point A to point B.
- Some things come back full circle, With content fatigue now a thing and people unable to decide what to watch, Netflix trialled a more traditional linear channel programme. Perhaps with too much choice and too many decisions to make in everyday life, we actually don’t mind someone else programming and suggesting what we watch,
- SpaceX launched four astronauts into space. The successful lift-off marked the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which was scheduled to dock with the International Space Station after a nearly 28-hour trip. The mission marked a major step towards commercialising space travel.
- Remote working could lead to more prejudiced views as people fall into "isolated silos" when not meeting others from different backgrounds in the workplace, suggested a study by the Woolf Institute of 11,701 workers in England and Wales which showed that work plays a significant role in people meeting and establishing friendships with others of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. The data showed unemployed people are 37% more likely to only have friends from their own ethnic group and that three-quarters of those employed worked in ethnically diverse settings.
- Business travel may never fully recover post-pandemic, according to a survey across nine countries by Oliver Wyman. 63% of respondents planned to travel for leisure at least as much as before the pandemic. But 43% expect to travel less for business due to health concerns and the effectiveness of remote work. Even in its most optimistic scenario, the management consulting firm didn't see business travel recovering before 2023.
- Big Tech offered us a deal and we took it, claimed New World, Same Humans - e.g. Amazon launched a range of new services, including an autonomous mini-drone for the home. At the heart of those services is a deal. We customers get convenience, Amazon gets unprecedented access to our private selves: homes, conversations, even heartbeats. That deal runs through much of what Silicon Valley has done to transform our lives across the last 20 years. There’s even a name for all this: surveillance capitalism.
- Couples are increasingly adding fines for breaching coronavirus rules to their wedding budgets, according to Greater Manchester's deputy mayor for policing. In England, weddings are limited to 15 guests. Fines start at £200 for the first offence but are halved for prompt payment. It has led those organising wedding celebrations to factor the charges into budgets.
- Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has been leading a radical overhaul of the city’s mobility culture since taking office in 2014, embraced the notion of reshaping France’s capital into a 15-minute city. The concept, which was developed by Sorbonne Professor Carlos Moreno, advocates the creation of a city of neighbourhoods, in which workers find everything they need in terms of work, retail and leisure within 15 minutes of their home. In a work context, this would see offices added to neighbourhoods that lack them so people could work closer to where they live. There would also be local co-working hubs, enabling them to come together for meetings and to collaborate when necessary.
- Crowdsleuthing is the practice of internet users banding together, typically unbidden, in an attempt to solve mysteries and crimes (and occasionally to take justice into their own hands). The core concept isn't particularly novel, finding one of its origins in the anonymous tip lines like Crime Stoppers that gained popularity in the '70s, or the Unsolved Mysteries TV series, which premiered in '87. But with the emergence of social networks and digitised media, public involvement has increased exponentially, and has become more complex and consequential.
- Synthesis is an Amsterdam-based wellness retreat claiming to offer the world’s first commercial psychedelic depression therapy. The treatment is medically supervised by a leading clinical psychologist at Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, who uses psilocybin-infused truffles, which are related to magic mushrooms and legal in the Netherlands. Patients enter a 13-month course that includes monthly group therapy and a five-day retreat with two psilocybin sessions. Since the release of a groundbreaking study in 2016, more and more scientific research points at the medicinal and therapeutic benefits that psychedelic mushrooms can have on patients suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. A commonly cited reason for why psilocybin, the main psychoactive component of magic mushrooms, can be so effective is that it can ‘unshackle’ patients’ minds - enabling them to see things in a different way, consequently leading to lasting shifts in their mindsets.
- Vinyl records are more popular than compact discs. Sales of records in the US surpassed CDs for the first time since 1986.
- Consumers may start to seek an antidote to vast and toxic online communities and social media platforms. They’ll embrace smaller and more intimate digital spaces that facilitate respectful and meaningful connections, let them interact with like-minded peers and allow them to truly be themselves.
- When sustainable alternatives are widespread, affordable and just as good or better than the legacy option, then eco-consumption becomes less about the status of opting in, and more about the shame of opting out. That’s why in the future millions of consumers may seek out products, services and experiences that help them alleviate rising eco-shame.
- More young adults are moving back in with their parents in the wake of the coronavirus. 52% of young Americans live with their parents. The last time people cohabitated like this was during the Great Depression, noted Future Today Institute.
- 4D printing is similar to 3D printing but with the inclusion of materials that morph in response to time, temperature or additives. In 2018, Chinese researchers successfully printed ceramics that were capable of transforming over time in response to stimuli such as heat and light. There are practical applications of 4D printing that are tremendous. Imagine a heat shield that suddenly materialises during a fire, or a garden that plants itself when the ground has warmed to precisely the right temperature for each seed.
- As facial recognition and emotion detection spread, a fight-back is underway. These include a speech re-synthesiser that defeats emotion detection systems and an ‘adversarial’ patch on a hat that can fool state-of-the-art facial recognition.
- The Arctic is open for business. Its waters are poised to become economically viable as climate change clears the path for shipping, promising shorter trips than the southerly Suez and Panama Canal routes. Hundreds of permits are being issued for the Northeast Passage, which runs along the Russian coast, up from virtually none in 2010. In 2014 a cargo ship cleared the more fearsome Northwest Passage, which winds through the Canadian archipelago, without the help of an icebreaker. The possibility of trips straight across the top of the world is real.
- Governments are going big on biometrics: the global government biometric market is set to reach $7.9 billion by 2027, with more than 35% of that market led by fingerprint recognition, followed by facial recognition. China’s surveillance and safety industry is expected to grow strongly to 800 billion yuan ($116 billion) by 2020, according to Exponential View.
- Conscious consumerism is a mass movement under way across a number of different . . . markets, not just luxury goods, Leanne Kemp, founder and chief executive of Everledger, a London-based company that uses blockchain to track and authenticate the origins of diamonds and other valuable productsm told the Financial Times. The company works with certification houses to create unique digital thumbprints of diamonds, which are then written on to the Everledger blockchain.
- If an eco-tax doesn’t keep you from flying, maybe Flugscham will. It’s the sinking feeling you get when you realise your flight is a mighty contributor to climate change. Globetrotters are turning to trains, buses, and boats in increasing numbers in an attempt to limit the carbon footprints of their travels.
- Artificial intelligence is rapidly advancing, and pioneers are advancing beyond spot applications to implement AI at scale.
- Businesses are increasingly organised into multicompany “ecosystems” that defy traditional industry boundaries and blur the distinction between competitors and collaborators, and producers and consumers.
- Technology is beginning to redefine the nature of work, as well as the relationship between the company and the individual, as both employee and customer.
- The rise of China is challenging the global economic order and the institutions and rules that have defined it.
- Long-term global growth projections have been falling, driven in part by an ongoing deceleration in working-age population growth across major economies.
- Society is increasingly scrutinising the social impact of technology and the sustainability and broader contribution of business.
- Investor activism and the role of private capital are rising in many parts of the world.
- The combination of these forces is producing multidimensional uncertainty, which confounds traditional forecasting and planning-based approaches for harnessing the future.
- In Corporate elites are overlooking deglobalisation, the FT warned that the recent market rout reflects investor worries about nationalistic politics
- Digital detoxing isn’t new, but the past year has certainly seen a profound shift in perception: for TrendWatching, our near-total digital lifestyles are seen less as simply a personal choice; instead people have been manipulated to become digital addicts, with all the negative social outcomes that entails - e.g. the World Health Organisation officially classified ‘gaming addiction’ as a mental disorder and France banned smartphones in school.
- If third sector, independent sector, voluntary sector or social sector all have their limitations, should we instead call it the humanity sector?
- Bionics: Technically they’re called neuroprosthetics. But researchers are making strides in cochlear implants, artificial retinas, deep brain stimulation for the treatment of neurological diseases and chips that allow the paralyzed to manipulate computers or robotic limbs. These developments also present a host of new policy and legal questions, including a provocative one a research paper recently posed: “Did my brain implant make me do it?”
- Internet of Things: We won’t just see more devices for our bodies in 2014. We’ll see more connected devices and sensors everywhere, in our appliances, cars, retail products and more. The so called Internet of Things has been discussed for years, but we’re reaching a point of mobile use and sensor saturation where it becomes a self-reinforcing trend: “Phones, chips, wearable computers and … cloud computing becomes more effortless and intuitive,” Canton said. “Devices will be aware of each other and aware of us.” Much like the quantified self, the Internet of Things will produce vast quantifies of data that individuals or businesses can use to improve efficiency in real time: Rerouting trips, reducing energy consumption and improving supply chain management. “The Internet is gradually becoming an extension of our brains, and mobile devices are already our external brains,” futurist Gerd Leonhard wrote last year. “Is the next stop the actual integration of the Internet in our bodies (iris implants etc), cyborgs after that … singularity, transhumanism? Not sure what to think of that, really, but … Ray Kurzweil is ready to tell you.”
- Quantified self: New, smarter devices are coming onto the market, wearable or even swallowable sensors that can collect more medical data – oxygen intake, blood sugar, blood pressure, temperature and more — and transform that raw information into relevant life advice. More importantly, as scientists anonymize, aggregate and analyze data from sensors and genetic tests for millions of people, there’s good reason to believe they’ll glean fresh insights into disease treatment and prevention. “And at that point, you now have, for the first time in history, a scientific basis for medicine,” said Larry Smarr, the noted UC San Diego computer scientist in an Atlantic profile. The ”Measured Man” diligently collects his own input and output data — down to the microbial content of his feces. Futurist Glen Hiemstra, founder of Futurist.com and author of “Millennial City,” said that in 2014 we’ll see the “mainstreaming of the ‘quantified self’ in health, meaning common and cheap access to and popularity of personal health status tracking technology, as more and more people monitor their health day to day.” “Prime examples are wrist-based exercise and sleep trackers, and smartphone-based heart rate and performance trackers,” he added. “We’ll see some breakthrough entrants into the market.”
- Regeneratives: In December 2013, the Methuselah Foundation, announced a $1 million “New Organ Liver Prize,” a five-year competition to produce an artificial liver. But it might not take that long. Later in the month, Organovo of San Diego said it expects to produce one next year — with a 3D printer. It’s merely one area in which we’re likely to see major strides in regenerative medicine in 2014, with more than 5,000 clinical trials using stem cells set for this year, said Dr. James Canton, chief executive of the Institute for Global Futures and author of “The Extreme Future.” “The most significant trends and breakthroughs in 2014 will be in regenerative medicine: The use of human stem cells to grow new organs, repair tissues (and) heal patients with numerous cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases,” he said in an email. Houle added that sometime between now and 2020, “our replacement parts will be superior to the parts we are born with.”
- Robotics; Google gave the industry a lift by gobbling up an array of robotics companies for reasons the company is not exactly explaining yet. The firms included Boston Dynamics, which builds advanced robots like Cheetah that can sprint nearly 30 miles per hour. Futurist David Houle, author of several books including “The Shift Age” and “Future Wow,” said these and similar events will finally tip the prevailing public perception of robots in the new year from job-stealing Terminators to life-and-labor-saving aides. That will begin to allow the field’s true promise to be realized.Middle-class children are on course to be the first in more than a century to be materially less well off in adulthood than their parents.
- At $72m, India's mission to Mars less expensive than many NY/London apartments - https://twitter.com/ianbremmer
- People invested 9,5 million years playing World of Warcraft during its first nine years of existence - Prof Dan Cable - #theisf #WoW