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.

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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

Roadmap & Timeline of Emerging Science & Technology



We are still waiting on revise 2 of the map, but in the meantime (meme time?)
I thought I’d share a few of the entries that we thought about, but which didn’t make it onto the final map. This was usually because we didn’t think that these things were really possible by a certain date, might exist, but not in significant enough numbers, or because there just wasn’t room to include everything on the map.

Notably, whilst we are including a few ‘events’ on the map (e.g. number of mobile phones exceeds human population) we have dropped the idea of having a sphere of ‘appear’ and ‘disappear’ events around the outside of the map.

Anyway, some things NOT on the map…

All windows become solar panels
Monetary policy set by algorithms
Growing coloured finger nails
All roads individually priced
Pilotless cargo aircraft
Smart teeth
Ingestible robots
Crop pollination robots
Invisibility shields
Personal data as an asset class
Uploadable skills & experience (we had downloadable too)
Online vehicle theft
End of road traffic accidents
Internet search engines than can answer any question in real time
Programmable body cells
3D printing of high end consumer goods
Fabrics that change colour and texture on demand
‘Supervision’ contact lenses
Spider-silk textiles
Synthetic wombs

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

New timeline of emerging science & technologies

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Almost there!

BTW, had a brainwave this morning. In Future Files (2007) I used ‘GRIN Technologies’ to denote the key emerging trends in science & technology (Genetics, Robotics, Internet and Nanotech). So how about using ‘BINNG Technologies’ ? These are at the heart of my new timeline with Imperial (Bio-tech, Info-tech (currently Digital), Nano-tech, Neuro-tech, Green-tech). Could use DINNG, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring!

Hopefully have the finished thing up by end of next week. Above is just a rough of the middle (with mistakes).

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When the past is another country


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It is sometimes said that the past is uncertain. Here’s a classic example. Louisa Lim, a correspondent for US National Public Radio in Beijing, showed 100 Chinese students the image above in 2013. Only 15 of the 100 students could identify it correctly.

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Back in the Day

Picture 10








Love it. Date anyone?

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Fear of Missing out (FoMo)

Worth a read (<10 minutes). From Aeon magazine.

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(Update) On the Future of Public Libraries

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I’ve done an update to my thinking on public libraries called ‘Novel Spaces: The Future of UK Public Libraries’, which can be found here. It’s for Quadrapheme, an online literary magazine. Apparently, the next issue features an essay arguing that public libraries are dead – or should be. Can’t wait for that!  Also on the site at the moment is a lovely essay about the importance of paper called ‘Surface Matters: Why I Buy Books‘ by Alexander Monro.

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