New book – no end in sight

I’ve had a terrible couple of days doing nothing whatsoever of apparent value. But today inspiration stuck and I suddenly thought of a great line to finish off one of the two books I’m finishing of. It’s a spin on the old William Gibson classic.

The future is already here, but it’s unclear what we’ll decide to do with it.

Things we know for sure

Here’s a book some folks may be interested in (if you liked Future Minds or Alone Together you may like this…). The Tyranny of Email: The Four Thousand Year Journey to Your Inbox by John Freeman

BTW, just been thinking about a new presentation, possibly segmenting it along the lines of things we know for sure, things we think we know and things we haven’t got a clue about. The only problem is that once you move beyond some basic laws of science there seems to be very little we’re 100% sure about. For example, population trends are usually fairly accurate, even decades into the future, but even the UN recently had to admit that they misjudged fertility rates in Africa and may have got their projections out to 2050 and beyond serious wrong.

So, dear reader…

1. What do we know for sure?
2. What are we fairly confident about looking forward 10-20 years?
3. What remains highly uncertain in the medium to longer term?

Answers on a postcard please…

Unrest in Europe

Here’s a semi-serious prediction. High levels of youth unemployment in Europe will trigger unusually high levels of social unrest and crime and we will see a coup in a Western-European country (generals running Spain or Greece?) by year end.

Technology trends & predictions or 2012

Some nice bits in here – from Ajit Jaokar of FutureText (via Gerd Leonhard).


1)   No bandwidth crunch
2)   Decline and fall (and re-birth) of SMS
3)   A compromise on SOPA
4)   Facebook impacts beyond ads
5) and the business model of unbundling the set top box
6    Uptake of Smart cities
7)   Tech policy issues impact mainstream computing
8)   Social media ‘inside’
9)  Augmenting human capability through technology

Whole thing here.

Quick quote

“If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run — and often in the short one — the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.”
– Arthur C. Clarke


The blog is getting to be a bit of a struggle with two new books, both with the same deadline. Fortunately one is done, but I keep having ideas for things that should perhaps be included. And don’t anyone mention the stack of unread magazines or lost issues of Brainmail!

Anyway, it’s 6.05pm and I had enough of books for today, so here are a few snippets from my backlog of newspapers.

1. More than 25% of young people aged between 10 and 12 years of age in the UK now need a calculator to do basic sums. 33% don’t know how to use apostrophes either and their parents are now too busy to help them, with most parents spending less than 10 minutes helping kids learn per day.

2. A study from the University of Nebraska in the US says that right-wingers are more negatively inclined than liberals, who tend to look on the bright side. Reminds me of a quote that went something along the lines of left-wingers wanting to banish the past and right-wingers wanting to banish the future.

3. Another study (what do some people do all day?). This time it’s for Macmillan Cancer supports in the UK and it says that young people (thoseyoung people!) are surrounded by friends, but have very few that they can turn to in times of crisis. The survey of 1,000 people aged between 18 and 35 discovered that around 70% only had 2 or less real friends with 13% saying they had none at all. Apparently males are more likely to have fewer real friends than women.

The average number of Facebook friends remember is 130.

Reminds me of some research I quoted in Future Minds by sociologists at the University of Arizona and Duke University that found that Americans have fewer real friends than they used to. Back in 1985 the average American had 3 people to confide in about their problems. Now the figure is just 2. Fairly consistent then.

Indoor Play

According to Play England, only 20% of children in the UK frequently play outside near their homes. A generation ago the figure was over 70%. 33% of current kids have never climbed a tree or built a den and 10% have never ridden a bike.

Historical views of the future

Couple of good things today. The first is something I stumbled upon looking for a reference to the economist John Maynard Keynes. It’s an essay he wrote in 1930 about life in the year 2030. It’s a good read, especially when you stop to consider what was happening in 1930.

Here’s a tiny taste.

“We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterised the nineteenth century is over, that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down – at any rate in Great Britain; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead of us. I believe that this is a wildly mistaken assumption…”

Click here for the essay (7 pages).

The other tasty morsel is another view of the future, this a bit more fun and time from a newspaper looking at 2011 from the perspective of 1911 (via Buzzfeed, via Sonny in Germany).

Click here to read why automobiles will be cheaper than horses, why you’ll be able to travel from New York to Liverpool in two days and why wireless telephones and telegraphs will span the world….

Future Minds & Arthur C. Clarke

Nice review of my book Future Minds hit my inbox this morning. I like that I’m described as “….a humanist rather than a techie and a pragmatist rather than a dogmatic zealot.”

Blog review here if anyone is interested.The screen grab above is only a small part of it.

BTW, we’ve not had a quote for a while so here’s a good one.

“If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run — and often in the short one — the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Generational attitudes to work

A study by Adecco, a recruitment firm, says that 20% of employers in the UK feel that UK school leavers make better workers than university graduates. The skills that were found to be most lacking were soft interpersonal skills and, somewhat surprisingly, hard computer skills. Not surprising, basic numeracy and literacy were also cited as a major problem.

Overall, younger staff compared badly with older staff, especially in areas relating to timekeeping, teamwork and loyalty. On the plus side, younger staff did display entrepreneurial spirit and were drivers for change.

This more or less fits with other research I’ve seen (e.g. in Australia), although in the UK’s case it’s likely to be connected with the expansion of the university sector, which is putting to many people through the wrong courses and is devaluing degrees. I suspect the ‘because I’m worth it’ attitude of young employees is also linked to parenting, education and generous levels of state support, although this won’t last for long in the current economic climate.

The survey concludes that employers regard attitude and personality as being more important than qualifications. This reminds me of someone at Singapore Airline who once told me that cabin crew were hired for personality “because we can teach them just about everything else.”