Guest post

I’ve often thought of inviting guest posts, but never really got around to it. I’m currently up to me eyes writing the introduction to Future Files 2 (my new book) so any help is most welcome. Here’s something from a Frenchman living in China.

“Based on data from National Bureau of Statistics, China’s Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) market reached 515.6 billion Yuan in 2012, accounting for 31.24% of the total medicine industry.”

Source: Thibaud Andre at Daxue Consulting

BTW, if you’d like to submit something please note that it needs to be short (150-350 words is ideal), interesting and not directly selling anything.

Armchair geopolitical analysis

What’s going to happen in Ukraine? I think the most probable short-term outcome is that Putin will wait and see how things unfold, both politically and economically. However, if Ukraine shifts politically towards Europe I believe that it’s almost inconceivable that Russia will just sit back and let this happen.From my perspective Russia is driven by two key factors.First, psychologically, Russia is still traumatized by the loss of or, at least the dilution of, its empire and sphere of influence. Russia would like both back and I expect geographical expansion to be a real possibility. The fact that Russia’s Black Sea fleet is still based in Ukraine only adds to these tensions.

Second, Russia has demographic problems that could derail any economic promise. Since 1992 the number of Russians dying has outnumbered those being born by a massive 50%. Indeed official figures suggest the country has shrunk by 5% since 1993 and life expectancy is marginally lower than in 1961. By 2050, Yemen’s population will theoretically be larger than Russia’s. If Russia can add to its population by geographical expansion I’d expect it to do so. One might also add that Russia’s current economic and political power largely stems from its energy reserves. At the moment high oil and gas prices put Putin in a strong position – possibly to do nothing – but if energy prices collapse Putin’s legitimacy could be challenged and his response might be to indulge in diversionary tactics, such as invading Ukraine. Time will tell.

Innovation Best Practice

Just been reading The Department of Mad Scientists by Michael Belfiore, which is about the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US. If you haven’t heard of DARPA, and most people outside the US haven’t, these are the folks that more or less invented things like the internet (originally called ARPANET) and GPS.

Not as interesting as I thought it would be, although there was a little gem hidden inside. One of the secrets to DARPAs success as an innovator is that as well as minimal bureaucracy and low overheads the organization has strict term limits for its managers. This means that people have a maximum of 4-5 years to make an impact. This reminds me slightly of an ex-CEO of Unilever in the UK who would halve the budget and bring forward the deadline on innovation projects that had stalled. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but adversity often appears to be the father.


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Just back from Mexico (La Paz) where I’ve been blissfully disconnected from the modern world for a week. I was messing around on a boat, largely looking for whales, and one thing that stood out for me was the fact that we have perhaps lost the art of looking. If you live in a city, which globally 50% of us do, the furthest you generally look is the opposite side of the road. If you work in an office it’s probably down to 18 inches – the distance from the end of your nose to the screen you are reading this on. And we rarely focus on what’s to our sides.

Does this matter? I don’t know. It’s possibly not so much a loss of distance per se, but the fact we are less aware of and connected to our physical environment. I guess this links to two things. First emerging risks and second emerging opportunities.

BTW, if you want to see someone amazing whale images go here.

Spread the love (and the link)

Got back from San Francisco (San Jose actually) end of last week and now off to Brussels. Then it’s Mexico. No time to think, so here’s a secret password to get you into the premium parts of What’s Next.

Just go to What’s Next and type in vip and ticket (both lower case) as the username and password under Premium Features (left hand side of homepage). This will get you into an issue archive going back to 2004, two trend libraries (by sector) and the search function. The free love will be good for a while.

Could Death Ever Be The New Sex?

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Here’s a weird one – or perhaps not. Back in Victorian times death was a popular subject of conversation. How things have changed. Death is now sanitised and practically invisible, as opposed to sex, which seems to be everywhere. But things might be slowly changing again, especially with the rapid ageing of most Western nations, which would presumably create more of an interest in death and dying and less of an interest in sex. Enter Death Cafes. The Death Cafe movement started around 2011 and has already spread to the US. The idea consists of people sitting down to drink tea and coffee, eat cake and discuss death. Sounds creepy, but why not?

Formulae for future conflict

Some time ago I wrote about a formula that might predict future revolutions (essentially the number of men aged 16-24 in a population x the level of education x internet access x level of corruption/ bureaucracy/censorship x food prices x unemployment).

Anyway, a new formula has come my way via the magazine Nature, which is said to predict similar forms of conflict. The basic idea is that a hidden order underlies any conflict with the exception of conflicts that involve two sides of similar strength. The study, by Neil Johnson and colleagues at the University of Miami, says that time interval between attacks remains relatively constant, which allows for intervention.