Predicting the Future Is Hard
Considering that 2017 is now upon us, I thought that it might be fun to repost those predictions and see how close I came to reality.
Please feel free to comment, highlight and let me know how close (and far) I came to reality. As I’ve said once before, being a futurist is a lot like being a meteorologist, you are usually right, but at the wrong time.
LIVING & LOVING ONLINE
Toronto, Canada & San Jose, CA: When this professional couple met at a conference in Silicon Valley a few years ago, it was love at first sight. The only problem: he lived in San Jose, and she lived in Toronto, and they both had lucrative careers, and could not possibly move to be together. They began a long-distance relationship and suffered from the travel to see each other once a month.
“It was challenging,” said Kimiko Satou, who is based in Toronto and is the VP of Marketing for Expound, Inc. “Totally” agrees Theo Theodorakis, the lead engineer for Startlr.com. Neither was able to move immediately due to work and visa restrictions, since the time it takes to get a US Work Visa has tripled from 4 to 12 years in the last ten years. Luckily for the pair, Kimiko’s company specializes in virtual reality experience technology, and they were able to use the technology to simulate living together. Installing full wall panels at each of their apartments, with full sound support connected over the internet, the couple “live” together virtually.
“Since I work from home a lot, I can watch Kimiko driving up to her house, and meet her at the door, give her a virtual kiss and hug.” In addition to the virtual walls, Expound has provided the couple with a new product, the RealVatar™, a life-size human shaped doll which is covered with SoftScreen™ — the flexible liquid crystal display, SoftSkin™ the new wonder plastic used in skin reconstruction and RealSensors™ which can transmit a sense of touch. When Theo squeezes Kimiko’s RealVatar, Kimiko can “feel” the hug transmitted to her RealVatar of Theo. His smile is projected onto the SoftScreen of the RealVatar in Kimiko’s arms.
Before these advances in remote technology, a couple like these two would have to use something like Skype, suffer alone and possibly break up. However, these technologies have enabled Kimiko and Theo to have what amounts to a near normal relationship. They have even married remotely. While they are planning to have children, those would still need to be conceived in person — until next year, when Ovula’s Home Pregnancy Kit is released to the general public. “We do plan to be together in person eventually, but these technologies have made the wait so much more bearable,” says Kimiko, “virtually” holding Theo’s hand.
These technologies are also a boon to military couples, especially with the new longer deployment periods in Syria, Iran, and Africa.
THESE MICROBOTS DON’T LET DIRT LIE
Tehran, Iran: Courtesy HGTV: When you step into Amita’s large house in this wealthy neighborhood in Tehran, one is struck by the peace and serenity. A sizeable expansive home, Amita had lived here all alone since her husband’s death last year. Speaking to Amita, you feel a sense of calmness. As one of the oldest women on earth, you wonder how she finds the energy to maintain her immaculate home. “My house is beautiful, isn’t it,” she says wistfully as she looks around at the antique rugs and furniture. “I don’t even need help to clean it.”
You see, Amita is one of the first customers of ImmacuBots Inc. ImmacuBots produces microscopic cleaning robots, which are so tiny you can barely see them. About a year ago, ImmacuBots contacted Amita about using her home for an experiment. While Amita and her husband were curious and concerned, they needn’t have worried. Hal Novak, President of ImmacuBots, says “Amita’s house is a perfect place for us to trial our ImmacuBots. We decided 10,000 Microbots would be sufficient. We then programmed the Microbots with the parameters of the outside of the house, and where they should take the waste products. We also set up alerts for Amita in case a critical number of Microbots were destroyed during the cleaning process and more needed to be released, and provided her with another 10000 just in case. We expected to release self-repairing Microbots, but since these are so cheap to produce, we may not pursue that.”
While we are sipping tea with Amita, she demonstrates how they operate by spilling hot tea on the antique wooden coffee table. While I react with shock, she merely smiles, sits back and says “Watch.” Within moments the spill and stain slowly disappear, as if it was evaporating, only quicker. “We experimented with timings and impressions; at first people freaked out if things just immediately disappeared,” says Hal “so we improved the user interface to make things seem to evaporate. It works great, and we are almost ready for launch.”
The interesting seeming dichotomy of using futuristic Microbots to clean antique rugs and furniture seems to be a non-issue.
FIRST “REPLICATOR” ROLLS OFF THE ASSEMBLY LINE, RODDENBERRY ATTENDS
Shanghai, China / When Star Trek first hit the TV screens back in the late 60s, the act of Kirk walking up to a slot in the wall, asking for a chicken sandwich and coffee, and getting back a tray of Tribbles, was simply a figment of Gene Roddenberry’s vivid imagination. Later on, during Star Trek, the Next Generation, the idea of a replicator, a device which can take atomic particles and reassemble them into completely different forms crystallized. Even during the 80s, when the Next Generation ran on TV, no one could have predicted that merely 40 years later, an actual “home version” of a real replicator, would be available for purchase by anyone.
While this device cannot create edible food (despite the efforts since the “test tube burger” unveiled over five years ago — its programming has not advanced to that point yet), the hardware to produce nearly anything is already available. Rod Roddenberry, the son of the “Great Bird Of The Galaxy,” was on hand yesterday at MakeAnything.com LLC headquarters to watch the first “replicator” — known as M5™ (in homage to the Star Trek series, it was named after a supercomputer featured in the episode “The Ultimate Computer”)
Using nanotechnology, the replicator, true to its original design, manipulates matter on an atomic level to “create” things. Mark De Jung, President of MakeAnything.com LLC explains “You insert a block of nanomatter, a specially created generic block of matter which we have created with can be thought of as “pure” matter, a generic template which can be manipulated into any form. You then launch the included MakeAnythingDesigner™ software on your home computer or tablet. You use the software to create what you need it to, either from downloadable templates which you can freely modify, or create your own.
“For example, I was missing a Robertson screw from an antique dining room table I purchased in Canada. You can’t find these screws at your local Home Depot. I call up the Robertson screw template, tell it how many to make and voila, a few minutes later it’s done” Mark demonstrates by actually creating the screw. The process takes time, but the results are perfect. This reporter cannot tell the created one from the real one, except for the fact that it’s newer.
“Additionally, with the optional MakeAnything 3D scanner, you can duplicate almost anything. Let’s say you broke a plate of your Grandmothers china set, which can never be replaced.” Mark demonstrates by placing a plate into a scanner. A few hours later, the plate is replicated in perfect detail, even down to the subtle scratches on its surfaces “I can edit those out next time” he says.
When asked what this technology would do to the whole manufacturing industry he shrugs “Change it a lot, I should think” he says with a smile.
INDIA GROWS A FUEL TREE
Vedanta, Orissa, India: In this university town, something incredible is taking place. Researchers from Vedanta University have bio-engineered something out of the pages of a science fiction novel or a derisive comment, “Do you think money grows on trees?” Well, if that money is fuel costs that comment will no longer hold because, in this town, fuel does grow on trees. Dubbed “The Fuel Tree,” from all outward appearances, it looks like any other fruit tree, with fruit in shape similar to apples. However, you’d surely break a tooth or even a jaw if you attempted to bite into one of these “apples.” The “fruit” this tree produces is a highly concentrated fuel source — originally wood based, it has been bioengineered to provide 500 times the heat when burned. Simply place three of these “apples” into the fuel tank of your 2017 Jupiter, (with the bio-fuel option package selected), and you can power your car for approximately 300 miles of travel. Head researcher Balaji Kanapal explains “Think of it as an extremely large and highly concentrated wood pellet. Pellet fuel has been used for years as a heat source; we simply made the heat source 500 times more effective. Coupled with advances in automotive and home heating technology, our fuel apples should revolutionize the industry.” Despite heavy lobbying by the oil companies, plans have been made to plant vast orchards of these trees globally to continually reduce our requirements for foreign oil. Researchers from around the world have hailed this achievement, especially from such a young university. Vedanta was founded in 2008.
AIR POCKET ALERTS WARN YOU ABOUT CONTAMINATED ZONES
Houston, Texas, United States: Everyone is familiar with needing to map out your drive with Google Maps before getting in your car to avoid pollution contaminated zones. Well, WMI (Waste Management Inc) has announced a new product which makes it a lot easier to determine whether you are not heading into a contaminated zone. Instead of having to map out your route around the region before you leave, WMI’s new product, AvoidIt! ™ will automatically send you an SMS just before you driving into a contaminated zone. Unlike widely available wireless phones with integrated atmospheric sensors, WMI’s AvoidIt! will track your location via GPS and alert you via a text message or phone call if you are about to drive into a contaminated area. Also unlike atmospheric sensor phones, AvoidIt! can also alert you if you are about to drive into an unsafe neighborhood with undesirable populations, so its an excellent safety choice as well. “I signed up all of my family on AvoidIt!, says Cynthia Khan. “While all of our phones have atmospheric sensors, I like the fact that I can track all of my families movements as well” Cynthia set up an alert for her husband’s cell phone which alerts her if he ventures near his ex-girlfriend’s apartment as well “It’s a great tool,” she says.
PFIZER HEADS TO CICERO TO TEST NEW LIFE EXTENSION DRUG
Cicero, Illinois, United States: Pfizer announced the winner of the opportunity challenged city where it will be testing its new life extension drug, Extenda™. Extenda, which promises to eradicate between 2–5 years of cellular damage from sources such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, will be widely available for free in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago. “We feel that of all the cities who applied to win the trial, Cicero was the most representative of the key ethnographic we were looking for,” said a Pfizer spokesperson. Maude Adams, 53, a resident of Cicero, was thrilled. “I knew that if I could just hold out a bit longer, a miracle would happen” Maude, who has lung cancer from years of smoking and diabetes from obesity, couldn’t be happier. “I’ve always wanted a few more years with my family, and this will help” Cicero beat out nine other cities for the Extenda trial, which will be distributed for free, as long as the recipients provide test results, blood samples, and complete symptoms reports.
COMMUNITY COMES TOGETHER TO REBUILD BRIDGE
Harrison, Idaho, United States: What happens when the bridge connecting your community to the nearest city collapses and the city government is too under-resourced to help? The local community comes together to rebuild it. About a year ago, the town of Harrison, Idaho was cut off from their nearest city Coeur D’Alene, by the collapse of the bridge over Anderson Lake (Route ID-97). When after a year has passed with no action from the city, state or federal government, the Harrison Chamber of Commerce decided to take matters into their own hands and pulled together a group of citizens and local businesspeople to fund and rebuild the bridge on their own. Says Rich Dombrowski, President of the Chamber “We’re tired of waiting around for any government to pitch in. We’ve been passed from the feds, to state, to the city, and gotten squat. Our taxes are going to fund bums and needle exchange programs in Coeur D’Alene instead of to real infrastructure we need. I blame all those Californians — bringing their socialist ways with them!” Rich continued to add that the bridge would be rebuilt in half the time and at less than a quarter of the cost of the estimates provided by any government agency. It seems like here, as in most of the rest of the country, citizens increasingly take matters into their own hands as governments are proving less and less effective at maintaining necessary infrastructure and focus their efforts and financial resources on social programs.
50% OF AFRICAN NATIONS SURVIVE ON MICROFINANCE
N’Djamena, Chad: Courtesy Yahoo! Finance: In this landlocked nation, which used to be one of the poorest countries in all of Africa, businesses are thriving, people have jobs, AIDS is on the wane, and the people are indexing happier. What happened? In this country, and the rest of Africa, microfinance, or microloans provided directly to businesses directly from first world citizens, are supercharging this formerly lagging economy.
At last count, 52.6% of African nations economies run on loans from individuals based in other countries, such as the US, EU, Japan, Korea, and other more prosperous African nations. This is in stark contrast to the scenes of starvation and violence of 10 years ago when aid came to the country via the UN and was kept from the people by the corrupt Idriss Déby Itno regime. Microfinance companies such as the VITA Micro-Enterprise Scheme in Africa and companies such as Prosper.com’s DNZ™ (Developing Nations Zone) specialize in connecting individuals in first world countries to entrepreneurs in developing nations. Loans as little as 30 Euros can fund a Chadian business for a considerable period of time and provide an excellent return. You should consider microfinance loans for your personal portfolio.
JENNIFER KATHARINE GATES INVESTS IN NIGERIA
Lagos, Nigeria: Most people used to think about Nigeria when they get a spam message slipping by their normally effective spam filters, weaving a tall tale about millions of dollars which a portion of is yours if you would only just provide your current bank account number, aka Advance Fee Fraud or a 419 Fraud. Well, in a strange twist to this tall tale, Jennifer Katharine Gates (yes, the daughter of “that” Bill Gates) has decided to base the engineering and customer service operations of her new startup Ping-oh! Inc. in Festac Town, (a suburb of Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria). President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan welcomed the news “I am very happy to hear that the Gates family is investing in our country. I have believed for a long time that our people are our greatest resource, and am glad to see that dream realized.” Ms. Gates, meeting with President Jonathan in the traditional Muslim burkha, had the following statement “I’m pleased that the Nigerian government and people have been so welcoming to us. In my father’s time, it would be unthinkable to base engineering operations in Africa, but with Nigeria’s increasingly online population, the culture of which began in the early-80s, the intelligent and resourceful Nigerian people learned both exemplary customer service and programming skills.” Ping-oh! plans to hire approximately 100 engineers and 50 customer service people to start.
INDIE MEDIA PRODUCERS SURPASS DISNEY
Hollywood, CA, United States: In this stunning report from Variety.com, which only a few years ago began to report earnings from what was formerly known as User Generated Content or UGC, and is now widely known as Indie Media, the combined earnings from independent video producers, for the first time ever, outweighed Disney’s reported earnings for Q3 2017. Disney reported revenues of $9.9B, which is the highest it has been since Q3 2007 when it began focusing on enforcement of copyright as opposed to creating new content. As the amount and quality of Indie Media have increased over the last 12 years since its wide uptake after the launch of YouTube and its competitors, the consumption of mainstream media has dropped, while the consumption of Indie Media has grown exponentially. Once the monetization of this media became commonplace in 2009, analysts have been predicting this day for years. The combined revenues from Indie Media from most known sources is $10.1B. Due to the distributed nature of Indie Media, it is almost impossible to track down a complete accounting of revenues, so it’s entirely possible that revenues for Indie Media in total greatly eclipse Disney’s revenues. Disney’s current president, Terry Semel, could not be reached for comment, and calls to other Disney representatives were not returned in time for the posting of this article.
NEW FOOD LABELS TO BE ONLINE ONLY
Washington, DC, United States: Everyone knows how difficult it can be to determine a foods carbon footprint from the labeling — what with nutritional information, pesticide, allergy, and carbon footprint labeling on each and every food product, either packaging sizes have to increase, which is anti-ethical to the reduction of waste, or another solution needs to be found. The FDA, in concert with a consortium of food producers, such a General Mills, Altria, and Coca-Cola, are teaming up to make food labeling much easier and less wasteful. In a number of test markets around the country, the current expansive food labels will be replaced with a simple barcode and ID number, which can be stuck on everything from an apple to a box of cereal. By using a scanning wireless phone, or simply by texting the ID number to the FDAINFO SMS robot, you can get a complete electronic food label sent back to your device. Product marketing folks are ecstatic “We can finally get back to real box design,” says Fred Miller of Philippe Becker Design, “What with all the government mandated product labeling, package design didn’t have room for anything but the label. This new sticker will finally let us design again.”
CANCER PATIENT TURNS 90
Ciudad de México, México: Maria Fuentes, who was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer 10 years ago, and given 6 months to live at the time, welcomed family and friends for her 90th birthday yesterday. “I am so happy God gave Merck the ability to help me live with this disease. I love the extra time it has given me with my family. When I first agreed to this experimental drug, I was sure that I would not last this long, but here I am!” Merck contacted Maria right after she was first diagnosed, and she was one of the first patients to be given Pausivase™, a drug which is now commonplace outside of the United States but is still taking the arduous process of approval via the FDA in the US. Pausivase is the touted “miracle drug” which nearly halts the spread of many illnesses, turning terminal patients into chronic patients. As such, many patients can live much longer lives, even in their advanced conditions.
WHY SHOP ALONE: HOW BUYING WITH FRIENDS WORKS
Milan, Italy: When Rose Manetti shops, it’s never alone. This junior designer for Versace spends plenty of time perusing the shops, looking for that unique look for herself and for ideas for her designs. “I’m always out looking for ideas,” she says, “and not just at clothing shops, everything is my inspiration, art galleries, museums, even people walking down the street” But when Rose is ready to spend money, she goes online and buys in bulk. As one of the most followed people of TopShopper.com, she purchases everything through the group shopping service. “I never pay retail,” she says “and neither do my followers” TopShopper allows Rose to buy almost anything in large quantities, even have items designed and custom constructed to her group’s specifications. “For example, last week,” says Rose “I saw this awesome dress which looked great but was a little too long. I went online via TopShopper and redesigned it and then 150 of my followers decided to buy the same dress. We got it for a steal!” TopShopper has both a catalog of items as well as custom built items. “It’s lucky most of my friends are size 0” she laughs.
PUBLIC SHAMING RULED ILLEGAL
Des Moines, IA, United States: In this Midwestern town, one of the first cities which experimented with a new method of deterrence, the local city government today made illegal the new/old practice of public shaming. If you haven’t read the stories on this trend that has been sweeping the country, a number of smaller cities have begun using a form of public shaming as punishment for offenses in lieu of a more and more burdened local government which is increasingly unable to prevent crime. When a person commits a crime, their picture is posted with the details of their crime, allowed residents to treat that person accordingly. Chad Michaels, President of Take Responsibility (Des Moines Chapter) says “People think that this is an outmoded and uncivil practice, but in reality, it works. When someone lives in a community, they forget how often they need to interact with other members of the community. When they commit an offense against one person, they offend the community. This just lets the community know what the offense is, and allows the community to decide how to react. It’s amazing how people get in line when they think their crime isn’t private” The group has seen a very small number of inappropriate postings and or repeat offenders. Chad is not surprised that the Des Moines government has decided to ban the practice. “Governments can’t handle things that work and don’t cost anything. This won’t stop us though, it works too well.”
HOW I MOVED TO AFRICA & KEPT MY JOB
Gaborone, Botswana: When John Smith’s wife was transferred to the University of Botswana here as a Professor of Archaeology, he assumed that he would have to quit his lucrative position as Lead Engineer at IndieCaster, Inc, based in Silicon Valley, California, and find employment in Gaborone, which would not normally be an issue, as Gaborone has enjoyed the status as the fastest growing city in the world for more than 10 years. Fortunately for both John and IndieCaster and new virtual office technologies from There.com (formerly Makena Technologies) called VirtuallyThere™, John can remain a full-time employee and interact with co-workers like he never left. There.com installed their technology in an office at IndieCasters office in Palo Alto, CA, and in John’s home office in Gaborone. When a co-worker knocks on the door of the room in Palo Alto, the sound of the knock is translated to his home in Gaborone. When John walks into his home office in Gaborone, the sensory streams from each office are exchanged in real time. The images are an extremely high resolution. When a co-worker walks into his office in Palo Alto, his images are sent to Gaborone. “One time,” says John “I actually nearly broke my hand reaching to shake hands with a vendor, the resolution is that good” There.com, which was founded in 1998, struggled for years to find a working business model, dabbled in the virtual world space for a number of years before its government arm, Forterra Systems, perfected Ultra High Definition visual and auditory technologies, culminating in the VirtuallyThere product line.