Ways of seeing (which I didn’t see)

Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 14.44.09Someone at the Imperial Tech Forecast event last Friday said that the new emerging tech map reminded them of an eyeball and an optic nerve. My lines (bottom right of third diagram) were merely making the point that the five key forces, or disciplines, are to some extent merging. Thinking about though, the optics thought is a good one. Bringing elements into focus, new ways of seeing, inversion of data (images) and all that.

Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 14.43.51Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 14.49.32

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Amazon Dash

Screen shot 2014-07-02 at 09.59.14Worth a look (although what we really want is the whole house wired up so you can talk to your house – and not mislay yet another tiny device). Watch the Youtube video.

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Strategic Trends

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Last night I attended the launch of Global Strategic Trends (issue 5) out to 2045.

If you don’t know it this document describes the future context for defence and security out to the year 2045, although it’s useful for general global operating environment too.
PDF (18 MB, 100 pages is on this link)

Posted in Strategic foresight, Strategic Threats, Trend watching, War | Leave a comment

Slow media

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 08.46.10

Writing in my book Future Minds, which was published in 2010, I stated that a “Slow Thinking Movement will emerge, with people celebrating slow reading, slow writing and other forms of old-fashioned paper-based communication.” (Page 171). Seems that it’s here already. First there’s Delayed Gratification, a slow journalism magazine, which is like The Week, but slower and which takes it’s cues not from the previous week’s news but from the previous month’s reflections. Now I see British Airways has announced that passengers bored with the latest Hollywood movie can watch a train journey from Bergen in Norway to Oslo, second by second for a full seven hours. It’ called “Slow TV.”

Slightly reminds me of the VHS tapes that you could buy in the 1990s that ‘played’ a fish tank or a crackling log fire.

So what else that’s fast could we make slow? How about a slow sex movement?

Posted in Slow, Thinking, Thinking spaces, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Emerging tech timeline

Screen shot 2014-06-27 at 16.15.27

If you want to print, this is the file to use. Also very final version. We are printing one 3m x 2m for an emerging tech conference at Imperial so good for larger sizes. PDF download here (3.8 meg) EmergingScienceTech-FINAL

Posted in 2014 Trends, Data visualisation, Horizon scanning, Maps, Mega-trends, Predictions, Science & technology, Technology Foresignt | Leave a comment

Timeline of Emerging Science & Technology (2014 to 2030+)

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Here is the timeline of emerging science & technology created in conjunction with the technology-forecasting folks at Imperial College London (especially Alex Ayad, but a big thanks to Chris Haley in the later stages too). Above is an image of the finished map. We had a long discussion about whether to have ‘Mobile phones outnumber people’ as ‘Present’, but at 6.9 billion phone subscriptions it’s close enough.

Click at the end of this paragraph to download a high resolution PDF suitable for printing (Colour A3, or larger, recommended). If you’d like a printed paper hard copy these will be available in a week or so. At the bottom of this post are a few images showing how the map was created and how the image evolved. EmergingScienceTech-5

In terms of what’s on the map, there are 5 key mega-technologies, which are Digital-tech (Essentially Info-tech), Bio-tech, Nano-tech, Neuro-tech and Green-tech (sometimes referred to as clean-tech).

We have split the map into 3 time zones. The first is ‘Present’, which we are defining as now or thereabouts (2014-2015) with at least 1,000 working examples where appropriate (events can be one-off occurrences, but innovations generally need at least 1,000 working examples to be included). ‘Probable’ is the second zone and this is defined as 2015-2030. The third zone is ‘Possible’, defined as being potentially available from 2030 onwards. Most of the map is serious, but we couldn’t resist having some fun in a few areas :)

Hope you all enjoy it and do please pass it along if you find it interesting or useful. Note that the timeline is published under a Creative Commons license so you can use it commercially or make versions of it without asking, although we would be grateful if anyone using it links back to our original version.

As for what’s on each line here’s a list.

Green-tech present
Cheap concentrator solar
Aerogel building insulation
Vibration energy harvesting
Community grids
Demand responsive domestic appliances
LED street lighting
Electric grid-scale storage
Domestic power plants (CCHP)
Smart meters
Algal biofuels

Green-tech probable
Ultra capacitor vehicles
Consumer spot-pricing of electricity
100% phase out of incandescent light bulbs
Artificial photosynthesis of hydrogen
Synthetic jet fuels
Ambient RF energy harvesting
Beamed energy for ecological monitoring & military UAVs
Large scale carbon capture & storage
Transparent (organic) solar cells on skyscrapers
Biodegradable batteries
Motorway lanes for autonomous vehicles
In-road inductive charging for electric vehicles
Synthetic meat in supermarkets

Green-tech possible
Travelling wave nuclear reactors
Fuel cell powered light passenger aircraft
Drone delivery of pizza
Commercial ocean thermal energy conversion
Micro-scale wind and water harvesting building facades
Wave disc engines for vehicles
Thorium reactors
Iron fertilisation of oceans
3D printed soil for vertical agriculture
High-speed pedestrian walkways
Insect-burger food vans
Hyper-loop mass transit systems
Tokomak nuclear fusion for power generation
Satellite beamed space-solar power

Bio-tech present
DNA dating agencies
Gene therapy
Synthetic organisms
Genetic testing for inherited diseases
Body hacking for sensory augmentation
3D printed orthopaedic implants
Commercial pet cloning
Plastics from crops
Pre-emptive medical interventions based on genome
‘Pharming’ humanised animals for medicines

Bio-tech probable
Prophylactic antibiotics banned in animals
Personalised micro biome therapy
Ubiquitous bio sensing
Animal-free leather
Over the counter genome test
Stem-cell treatment for Parkinson’s disease
3D printed bio-nano scaffolds
Human organ cloning
RFID implants for personal data storage
Last antibiotic discovered

Bio-tech possible
Artificial muscles from spun Nano-fibre
DNA based data storage
Microbe-sensing food packaging
Malaria eradicated via introduction of GM mosquitos
Human genetic engineering legalised
Tattooed circuits (video tattoos on the human body)
Cloned human being
Pandemic by synthetic organism

Digital-tech present
Mobile phones outnumber people (shift end of present?)
Crypto currencies
Internet connected toothbrushes
Augmented reality glasses
Crime prevention algorithms
NFC fingernails
QR scanable gravestones
Facial recognition CCTV
Avatar girlfriends
Basic brain-computer interfaces for gaming
Intercontinental robotic surgery

Digital-tech probable
Real-time language translation
Quantum computers for crypto cracking
Analytical underwear
AI in GP surgeries
Unassisted robotic surgery
Internet of things exceeds 50 billion devices
Lip-reading CCTV
Cyber attack causes citywide power cut
Battery-free wireless communications
Autonomous electric taxi fleets
Physical credit cards become obsolete
Haptic clothing
Mood sensing moods
Insect-sized surveillance robots
Holographic data storage
AI in autonomous drone-drone combat
Solar flair knocks out GPS network

Digital-tech possible
Hacking of implanted neuro-devices
Cities ban human drivers
War forecasting algorithms
Commercial aircraft highjacked via smart phone
Warfare merges with gaming
Robots outnumber human beings
Internet of things exceeds 1 trillion devices
Lifelong avatar assistants
Recording of entire human life from birth to death
Domestic fridges sense use-by dates
Fully autonomous battlefield robots
Quantum computers used for material design

Nano-tech present
Antibacterial nano-particles for clothing
Nano-particles in cosmetics and sunscreens
Plastic printed electronic circuits
Quantum dot televisions
Nanoparticles for cancer imaging and treatment
Scaffolds for growing stem cell body parts
Templates for protein crystallisation
Self-healing paints and surfaces
Nanotubes for synthetic neurons and neural implants
Methanol fuels cells for consumer electronics

Nano-tech probable
Meta-material antennae
Scrunchable screens and devices

Nano-tech possible
Lab demo of optical meta material cloaking
Polartronics enables computing near speed of light
Room temperature superconductors
Quantum dot night vision windows
Autonomou data density
Graphene super capacitorss self-replication of crude non-biological systems
IBM makes feature film from animated atoms
Fully plastic transistors
Nanotubes for synthetic neurons and neural implants
Next generation super-light composites
100 atoms per bit data density

Neuro-tech present
Cochlear implants
Brain fingerprinting used in court
Nootropic drugs for medical and recreational use
Prosthetic limbs controlled by thought
Neuro imaging of active brain areas

Neuro-tech probable
Thought controlled wheelchair
Eye tracking in mobile phones
Intention decoding algorithms
Adaptive electronic assistant to prevent information overload
Artificial retina implants
Hangover-free alcohol substitute

Neuro-tech possible
Hacking of implanted neuro devices
Brain-computer interfaces widely supplement keyboards
Routine brain finger printing of air travellers
Dream imaging and recording via fMRI
Communications devices widely embedded inside the human body
Artificial neuro-writing of basic thoughts
Brain prostheses to enhance or erase memory
End of dementia

Design development
The design is loosely based upon my previous 2010+ trends and technology timeline. (Click here for PDF). The first rough was created with a pencil on an A3 sheet of white paper on the kitchen table and then progressed through numerous versions (about a dozen from memory). The circles were originally drawn using kitchen plates and large bowls and the coloured lines were originally created using a mixture of highlighter pens and my children’s marker pens. The final version – prior to professional design input -was drawn on A3 tracing paper so as to get things aligned and connecting. Design credit also belongs to Lawrence Whitely and a big thanks is also due to Kereen at Imperial College.

As for future updates we are already thinking about an animated version and perhaps positive and negative versions (utopian and dystopian versions). If you have any ideas about what should/shouldn’t be on future versions (or spot any silly mistakes do please tell us!!!).


Posted in Data visualisation, Maps, Predictions, Science & technology | 2 Comments

Emerging socks & technology

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Saw these in a secret underground bunker. OK to say what they, but not where they’re from. Blast proof socks – presumably part of an emerging line of blast-proof underwear. Thing is that when soldiers step on mines and IEDs they can get there feet blown off. These socks are made from kevlar (plus a few other things) and stop the foot being blown off or, at least, keep all the bits in one place. They could do with a wash though.

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The Return of Vinyl (on the 13.58 from Brussels)


Whoever it was that once accused me of being a “reluctant futurist” got me exactly right. I love looking forwards, but I also rejoice in going backwards.

I’ve just been to Brussels again and this time ended up in Autoworld. I didn’t even know that this place existed until I stumbled upon it on TripAdvisor. It’s housed in a lovely old building and full to the brim with old skool mechanical cool. There is just something about the smell of old engine oil and cracked leather that sets my pulse racing.

I also had dinner at Vincent’s, a restaurant that dates from 1905 and which I last ate at as a child 30 or 40 years ago. It was like re-living the 1970s all over again. Formal waiters, tomato crevette to start, followed by pepper steak, all washed down with a bottle of old red.

The following morning, walking around the centre of Brussels, I came across upon a brilliant record shop called Veals & Geeks. I have been thinking about buying some albums again on vinyl, but this was the excuse I needed. I walked out with an original UK pressing of Dark Side of the Moon, an unopened Japanese issue of Wish You Were Here, Making Movies and an obscure album by America. I was soon sitting on Eurostar (listening to music on my iPhone!) and wondering why I didn’t buy Back to Black, The Velvet Underground & Nico and The Band.

So here’s the thing. I’m not against music downloads. Far from it. I’ve got a large library of tracks downloaded from iTunes and the convenience and portability of digital music is a wonderful thing, especially when you stick them all on an iPhone with more computing power than Apollo 8.

But people who say that all music will be digital in the future underestimate the importance of cycles and sensory pleasure. They also underestimate the impacts of history and nostalgia, especially for an ageing demographic. When you get older you become more human. You connect with things, especially mundane things, at a much deeper level. Time matters more too, which means that you relish every minute of certain experiences. You might think that the less time you have left the faster you would want things to happen, but with me at least it’s the complete opposite. I want things to happen slowly so that I can really remember them.

This is surely an example of the future being about and, not either/or.
The future, in other words, is not binary with one thing being replaced by another. It is multi-faceted, complex, contradictory and confusing, with the very old often existing (annoyingly for some) alongside the very new.

Thus, with music, if anything will die in the future it will surely be the middle ground of CDs. Music in the form of a beer-mat offers neither the practicality of downloads nor the sensory pleasure of Vinyl. I’m sure at some point the current micro-trend for vinyl will be partially offset by an illogical interest in CDs and cassettes, but to my mind these really are inferior technologies. For example, scratches on CDs are annoying, whereas scratches on vinyl are somehow part of the overall experience.

Vinyl appeals to the eyes as well as the ears. The cover artwork can be a feast due to scale and there is tactile pleasure to be had in carefully removing the disc from its fragile sleeve and placing it upon a turntable. There is somehow more ritual to it, although I have re-discovered recently that you do actually have to get up and turn the record over when one side is finished.

With downloads (and other things accessed via screens), speed and convenience fuels a mind-set that is rushed and fragmented. The ease with which digital tracks can be skipped often means that I jump between tracks before the tracks are finished. This can preclude listening to a whole album in one sitting, which is a shame if that’s what a musician intended. With music on mobile devices there is also the temptation to start doing something else, such as looking at emails or searching the internet, whilst listening to music. This isn’t a bad thing, but it sometimes means that you don’t listen quite as deeply or don’t get lost in the music to quite the same extent. The fact that music on vinyl has not been compressed, and is therefore of a much higher sound quality, is just an added bonus.

Here endeth today’s sermon.

Posted in Digital culture, Music, Where's Watson | Leave a comment

Emerging tech map

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So close now. This is my final tease – I promise.

Where it all started below.



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Roadmap of Emerging Science & Tech

Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 08.57.33Getting closer, but we’re not quite there. The debate is no longer about context, but style! The lines and colours aren’t quite right (that’s a design background for you).

Posted in Data visualisation, Maps, Science & technology, Technology Foresignt | 1 Comment