Nostalgia for the present

You’re going to ask who said this aren’t you? I’ve lost the name. South American writer. Female. Contemporary. Anyway, she nails it. I think it’s a mixture of everything happening too fast (the future arriving all at once if you like) plus a lack of historical anchor points and then a lack of future vision or narrative. It’s like we’re all chasing ghost cats in thick fog in the middle of a zombie apocalyse.

The extreme present

I’m just going through a pile of newspaper cuttings, magazines and journals for the next issue of my What’s Next report. Towards the top of the pile I’ve discovered a little gem from Douglas Coupland in the FT.

” …the future was always something out there up ahead of us, something to anticipate or dread, but it was always away from the present. But not any more. Somewhere in the past few years the present melted into the future….I feel like I’m clamped into a temporal roller coaster…Help! I want a pill called 1995.”

Map of Global Mega Trends

Here you go then. Use this link to get to a high resolution version. A3, A1 and rather wonderful AO sized copies on paper are available upon request (no charge except for print, post and a cardbaord tube). See you in the future.

Trends are not where the future is found

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I’ve had a bit of an epiphany. I was talking to someone last week about what the future of retail might look like…in 2020. That’s right, how the future will look in 48-months. Such a timescale automatically pulls anyone back into now and the projection of current trends and technologies forward. This is when reality destroys your thinking. I was polite and hopefully helpful but that’s me done. I’m no longer interested in the year after next or anything less than a decade away. As far as possible I am going to stop using trends as an excuse to talk about the future and think about the real future instead. From now in it’s timescales of 2030, 2040 and 2050 .

Historical books about the future

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Just going on a tour of the science fiction library at Imperial College. Coincidently, I’m getting rather interested in acquiring original copies of old books that consider the future. Sci-fi obviously, but there are also a good number of non-fiction works around. For example, I’ve just ordered a copy of Looking Backwards 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy for the crazy low price of £12.95. A notable idea contained within this book is the concept of “Universal Credit” – a card that would allow future citizens to carry a card rather than cash, which allowed for purchases of various goods and services.

Timeline of Future Events (From Speculative Fiction)


This is truly lovely. Gordon Gray has just sent me a link to a blog called Brain Pickings, which is, in their words: “a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.”

Anyway, an Italian designer called Giorgia Lupi recently created a visual timeline of future events, as predicted by famous novels, for an Italian newspaper called Corriere Della Sera. Brain pickings then asked her to do an English language version which she duly did. Click here for the link to the  whole timeline. I’ve attached some close-ups to show what bits of it look like and also an eraly rough drawing on the idea.

How it started…

Past views of the future

I’m researching a few ideas for one of my new books and just came across an old book called Looking Backward: 2000-1887. The book was written in 1888 about someone that falls asleep in 1887 and wakes up in the year 2000 to a socialist utopia. Here’s a bit of it.

“It was the sincere belief of even the best of men at that epoch that the only stable elements in human nature, on which a social system could be safely founded, were its worst propensities. They had been taught and believed that greed and self-seeking were all that held mankind together, and that all human associations would fall to pieces if anything were done to blunt the edge of these motives or curb their operation. In a word, they believed — even those who longed to believe otherwise — the exact reverse of what to us seems self-evident; they believed, that is, that the antisocial qualities of men, and not their social qualities, were what furnished the cohesive force of society … It seems absurd to expect anyone to believe that convictions like these were ever seriously entertained by men …”

What’s quite interesting about this, and other books like it, is they seem to go to one of two extremes – utopia or dystopia. Why is that do you think?

Interview on ABC Radio


If you are interested (you probably aren’t) here’s a one hour ABC interview with me about ‘the future’ complete with five of my all-time favourite songs (they didn’t let me include rock music otherwise I’d have had ACDC, The Killers and The Angels).

Clickable link is in comments below….

Fifty Things We Might Say in the Future

1. It was called blogging. It was hugely popular.
2. We used metal and bits of paper to pay for things back then.
3. People would dry the leaves, roll them up in paper and set fire to them.
4. Quite the opposite. The life insurance was in case you died.
5. You couldn’t sail across the ice caps back then — even in summer.
6. People would save up until they could afford it.
7. You had to type in a query about what you were looking for.
8. C-60, C-90, C-120. It must be some kind of ancient code.
9. We called them developing nations.
10. Marriage was contractual but with no rolling six-month break clause.
11. Oil? Yes it was cheap. Around $175 a barrel.
12. So you had to write out the amount by hand and then sign it?
13. Twitter? It was a bit like sending a postcard.
14. You could take pictures of your kids without permission.
15. Huh? So you actually had to show up in person to vote?
16. Yes, Belgium was a country back then.
17. It was a fixed household bill. You didn’t pay for it by the litre.
18. We’d all sit down in the same room and watch a single screen.
19. You mean that people used to read every word in a linear fashion?
20. Trade Unions you say. What were they for again?
21. At that time we thought that we were the most intelligent species.
22. Yes, both the textbooks and the exams were still on paper.
23. What do you mean you got lost? How can you possibly get lost?
24. Never mind the price. What’s the carbon footprint of it?
25. Have you seen the kids? Are they playing with the invisibility suit again?
26. Let me get this right. Some people had more than one house?
27. We had to travel to an office and all sit there for eight hours straight.
28. European Union? That was an amalgam of diverse regional hatreds.
29. That’s because the world was largely run by men back then.
30. That’s because the link with mobile use wasn’t proven.
31. No, the screen was only in two dimensions.
32. Is there anything the Chinese don’t own?
33. People used to stop work when they reached the age of sixty-five.
34. Indeed, the phone number used to belong to the house.
35. And you could read all that for free on the internet?
36. Mum, I’m suing you for negligence.
37. You know, emerging markets like Britain and the US.
38. Sure. We used to do other things by hand too.
39. Do you want to try one of those new sleep hotels?
40. What do you mean she failed? Then I want the school fees back.
41. What? And you could drive it yourself on the open road?
42. So each country had their own army?
43. That’s before autocratic government became wildly popular.
44. You can’t stay in until you’ve finished your homework.
45. We used to fly there.
46. It was called copyright.
47. We used to drive right into the city.
48. The Beatles? Never heard of them.
49. Someone just stole my medical identity. Again.
50. Cher is still alive?