Please see below recent emerging trends.
- 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.
- 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.