Wednesday, 24 September 2008

I've seen the future baby

Yesterday was conference and lecture central.

The great Greengaged came to a close yesterday afternoon and from there we wasted no time at all in skedaddling from the Design Council to the RSA where we spent the evening listening to a lecture about the future, given by Richard Watson, author of Future Files The 5 trends that will shape the next 50 years.

I'm not a big futurology fan. It's only fair that I say that up front. There is something incredibly passive about the predictions of futurists which I find unsettling. They don't use their findings to tell us about what our objectives should be for a nicer world and what routes we should take to achieve them. This bugs me. It also bugs me that the only use trendspotting has is for businesses that want to profit from identified patterns. To my mind, it could be argued the whole premise of futurology is flawed because it is based on an economic and political paradigm that is (as we live and breathe) deeming itself redundant.

Now, having said all that, it's always great to hear ideas and theories - and I'm a big fan of some decent diagram action. I also absolutely adore the way future-folk contract two words into one. I remember with fondness such phrases as glocal and and the like. All good brain fodder.

Moving on, let's talk about last night. There was a lot to take in - but don't worry, I'm not going to share it all here. Instead, I thought I'd share some soundbites. And here they are:

  • People are increasingly experiencing time and sleep starvation. The future will cater for this with hotels/hospitals that allow guests/patients to sleep and recover from their strenuous lives.
  • Japan is the home of robots. They already have robots looking after the elderly, because there are too few young people to do the job.
  • Retirement will retire. According to Richard's extinction timeline retirement will be extinct by around 2018. As you can see in the pic above, blogging will be extinct by about 2022, so I'd best write my face off while I can eh?
  • The future will see flexible working patterns within a 14 hour work window
  • Women have introduced empathy into the workplace
  • Business development patterns have changed from: create>research>send to market to: create>send to market> hone or kill
  • If you make something of high quality people will buy it
  • Forecasters forecast a greater appetite for forecasting
  • There is a natural human desire for connectedness
  • The future is more honest, because when you lie it's no secret
  • Communities are redefined and are no longer about geography but about interest
  • Voluntourism is going to get huge. As the name suggests, this is where people go on holiday by volunteering for a worthwhile cause or trying something new.
  • Travel will increasingly polarize - economy class will get shoddier and business class will get awesome(r).
  • GenY is not the audience with the most opportunity, the aged are. GenY= no time or money whereas retired folk have lots of time and money.
  • China challenges democracy as contingent for capitalism
  • Religion will flourish because it offers certainty

What do you think? Is it a case of "No shit Sherlock"? Or "Wish I'd thought of that"?

I've love to know your thoughts, so please share.

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