My Book (Predictions)

“This book contains various forecasts and scenarios but its aim is not to predict the future. Anyone that says they can do this is either a liar or a fool.” This is the first line of the preface of my book. The trouble is everyone that’s read the book so far wants- you’ve guessed it- various forecasts and predictions. OK, to keep everyone happy here are some foolish predictions (and I’d be lying if I said they were all in the book).

1. In the future there will be a law passed in Europe that requires married men to be at home by 9.00 p.m. on Thursdays or else they will be fined 500 euros.

2. Patina will be big in the future. Women with facial lines will be highly desirable.

3. Eating watermelon becomes socially unacceptable.

4. Europeans stop buying Australian wine on the basis of ‘food miles’ and carbon footprints.

5. Australians boycott European food products on the same basis.

6. Intelligent packaging ‘networks’ will allow packs to speak to each other in your kitchen.

7. By 2050 Hollywood, the computer industry, neuroscience, and the pharmaceuticals industry will all have merged into one. This will enable people to spend days inhabiting what are quite literally other worlds.

8. We will discover that Osama Bin Laden was found dead years ago.

9. Carbon footprints will be a passing fad.

10. We will invent new things to worry about.

11. My book about the future will be a massive hit.

The Book (food for thought)

Does this mean that the Internet fridge will finally take off? Probably not because there is no real customer need and the computer usually gets old and out-of-date before the fridge, but some way of alerting people to what food you’ve got in your house, what you can make with it and ordering what you need but don’t have could be a winner.In Japan the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation sells a kitchen appliance with the snappy name of the Umasa Vitamin Zoryo Hikari Power Yasai Shitsu fridge. It’s the first fridge in the world that increases the vitamin C content of the food contained within through a process of photosynthesis. It’s a good example of how technology will be used to increase the healthiness of what we eat.

The Book…

The date is the 14 April 2047. It’s 2am at a garage in downtown Los Angeles and I’m with a small group of eight men ranging in age from seventeen to seventy-five and we are all looking in awe at a 1949 Mercury Sedan. The vehicle is a museum piece but that’s not why everyone is here. The owner (we’ll call him Steve) is planning to do an illegal run up the highway running the car on petrol. These days petrol is pretty rare but you can still buy it from various illegal sources. The petrol for tonight’s run has come from a guy in outside San Francisco that has discovered how to extract gasoline from vintage plastic shopping bags dug up from a Mexican landfill. It’s pretty rough stuff but it will do the job, not least because the car’s engine is unrestricted (now illegal). If we’re caught using petrol we could face six-months on a prison island. Steve starts the car up with a key. The engine sounds unlike anything most of the assembled crowd have ever heard. You can buy software to make otherwise silent electric cars sound like old petrol engined sports cars from the last century but it immediately appears that these are pale imitations of the real thing. The exterior of the car is made of metal and is painted. Inside it smells of oil and leather.

Book ‘snacklets’…

There’s another problem with older people too. As I’ve said already, developed nations have ageing populations and older people tend to be conservative and less productive. In contrast, developing nations, particularly those in Asia, have a vast surplus of younger people who by most historical measures are the most likely future innovators. One reason that it’s now fashionable to outsource R&D to countries like Thailand, Brazil and Eastern Europe is because it’s cheaper. But it’s also to do with the lack of skilled workers in developed nations. In 2005 for instance the US graduated 220,000 engineers. China, in contrast, graduated 660,000 and according to a Booz Allen/NASSCOM survey there are now as many as 6 million engineers available for hire in emerging markets like Asia. But low-cost is only half the story. Young brains drive innovation. They are hungry and in certain circumstances adversity drives invention too so these regions will become the new powerhouses of innovation and change.

A bit of book blog

Something from the media chapter…

We are all becoming digital nomads. We read, listen and watch what we want when we want. We no longer have the time (during the working week at least) to read newspapers and readers are shifting their eyes and ears to online sources of information delivered via everything from mobile phones to iPods. Online news is especially useful because the content can be controlled and personalised. If you’re of the active (or exhibitionist) persuasion you can comment on the news too through your own blog or send your own homemade documentary to YouTube, which is currently the 11th largest country on earth population-wise. People don’t even trust newspapers these days. Only 59% of Americans believe what they read in the newspapers compared to 80% in 1985. (Amazingly, 36% of US high school students also believe that newspapers should get government approval of news stories prior to publication but that’s another story). In short, what used to be a passive one-way conversation is thus turning into an active relationship. Content flows both ways and consumption has time shifted and place shifted.

My (Glib?) Book

Oh that’s nice. I just received the first pre-publication copy of my new book and took it home to show my wife. She says it’s glib. If that means fluent and easy that’s fine, but I suspects she means deceptive. She has a problem with the fact that the book doesn’t list sources for any of the ‘facts’. This is because adding 200-300+ sources would double the size of the book, so I’ve put them on a website instead. This seems to bother some people but I think hyperlinks are far better than static sources. We’ll see who’s right in the future.

Anyway, here’s the latest installment…with no sources.

Fifty years ago 80% of Americans read a daily newspaper. Today the figure is close to 50% – and failing. Globally it’s much the same story. Between 1995-2003, worldwide newspaper circulation fell by 5%. In 1892 London had fourteen evening papers. Now it has just one (or two depending on your definition of a newspaper). Also in the UK, a staggering 19% of all the newspapers delivered to retailers in the first quarter of 2006 came back as returns and three national newspaper titles had return (non sale) rates approaching 50%. If these trends continue the last physical copy of a newspaper will probably roll off a press sometime in the year 2040. Only they won’t.

More of the book…

As usual, the early signs of change are here already if only you take the time to look. Anecdotally I know of people in the UK that are so tired of carrying around coins that they are starting to give or throw them away. This is clearly a signal of prosperity but it’s also one of convenience. The average person now carries two to three times as much weight in their pockets and briefcases as they did two decades ago so personal weight loss programmes will soon have to appear unless someone invents a lightweight alternative or micro-payments become more widely accepted. Coins and banknotes could also disappear almost overnight for another reason. There has been a lot of talk recently about the consequences of a global pandemic but it appears to me that one important implication has been missed. Namely that bank notes and coins tend to be dirty so people will refuse to handle them if they think that they could be a conduit for disease. In Japan some ATMs already heat bank notes as a precautionary hygiene measure so in an age of anxiety ‘hot money’ could be a very cool idea.

The Book

At the East Sutton Park Young Offenders Institution and Open Prison in Kent (UK) gardening is used to treat offenders with low self-esteem. Even something as simple as raking fallen leaves on the prison lawn has an instant effect. If they are stressed or disorientated gardening, especially outdoors, delivers instant satisfaction. As twenty-year-old Leah says, “If I’m angry I dig.” Gardening will enjoy a huge surge of popularity in the years ahead because it will be an antidote to the future. It will deliver the solitude and peace and quiet that will be so lacking in peoples’ lives. It will be a way of dealing with too much technology. Washing dishes by hand and baking your own bread will similarly become popular again for the same reasons. They will provide physical results and people will feel that they’ve achieved something – by themselves.

Bits from my forthcoming book…


“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology”
— Carl Sagan.

Singularity is the term used by futurists to describe the point where machines have developed to the point where humans can no longer fully understand or forecast what they are capable of. The idea of artificial intelligence (AI) goes back to the mid-fifties, although Issac Asimov was writing about smart robots back in 1942 (the word robot comes from the Czech word for drudgery).
The true test for artificial machine intelligence dates way back to 1950, when the British mathematician Alan Turing suggested that we would be able to submit statements and not be able to tell whether the responses came from another person or a machine.
The sixties and seventies saw a great deal of progress in AI, but real breakthroughs failed to materialize. Instead scientists and developers focused on specific problems, like speech recognition, text recognition and computer vision. However, we may be less than ten years away from seeing Turing’s AI vision become a reality.

That book again…

A taste of the technology to come…

Future developments will include other brain enhancing foods (initially using omega 3 oils), foods that aid relaxation (for example chocolate with added amino acids), anti-ageing products, anti-tiredness foods, foods that send you sleep and foods that wake you up. We could even see dream enhancing foods and foods that are designed to trigger specific memories of childhood.

We’ll also see more foods targeted at older people. One of the biggest trends affecting people in developed nations is ageing — particularly the rapid increase of those aged over sixty, many of whom find it difficult to chew or swallow or have very specific dietary requirements. As a result we’ll see more foods like ice cream specifically developed for seniors or crossover foods like easy to eat vegetables and fruit purees that can be eaten by babies and seniors alike.

For people over about forty-five, food will increasingly be linked to well-being and medicine, which means body repair and longevity. For those under the age of forty-five eating will be about the control of body shape and appearance. Thus we will see more products like Norelift (a French jam that contains anti-wrinkle compounds) and perhaps more faddish products like Bust-Up — a Japanese chewing gum that allegedly firms up and improves the appearance of your breasts (honestly this exists). For anyone aged over forty-five the name of the game will be not dying too soon so foods that promise increased longevity or, for example, increased brainpower or memory will start to appear in increasing numbers on supermarket shelves.