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Monday, February 6, 2012

Future Files: The History of the Next 50 Years


A Book Review of “Future Files: The History of the Next 50 Years” by Richard Watson

First, I am reviewing this book before it will be presented in front of the class by Ms. Marilou Zulueta. I decided to blog about this book because its mere title suggests something interesting; something which is both uncommon and revolutionary (to me at least).
As the sociologist August Comte said, “prevoir pour pouvoir” meaning to be able to predict is to be able to control. This book does a lot of that, predicting that is. But as the author said, his objective is not to predict per se, but to open up discussions about future risks and opportunities. Also, the author aims to broaden perspectives and widen horizons to make as many individuals and organizations as possible think twice about where they are going and what awaits them in the future. Moreover, his predictions are not without basis and are based on facts from different studies and references.
I find the content of the book very interesting because just by reading the lists given by the author per chapter of the different trends that will affect our future in the fields of Society and Culture, Science and Technology, Government and Politics, Media and Entertainment, Money and Financial Services, Automotive and Transport, Food and Drinks, Retail and Shopping, Healthcare and Medicine, Travel and Tourism and Work and Business, you will get the picture of what  the author wants to point out and just supplements the lists per chapters with details and examples for further understanding of the reader. He also included fictional letters that supposedly would be written by people in the future which reflects the changes that will happen then which adds jest to the wisdom of his work. Another feature of this book is the “update” part which discusses the current trends and events that tend to lead to the predictions he made per chapter.
I will focus on the lists of trends given by the author for easier understanding of the book through this blog.
Here are the lists of trends given by the author of what he thinks will affect the next 50 years:
The 5 most important trends for the next 50 years
1.    Ageing – the world’s population is growing older which will have implications on pharmaceuticals plus a general interest in well being, medical tourism and healthcare planning. Research and development on possible medical operations like memory recovery and replacement of worn-out body parts is expected.
2.    Power shift eastwards – The center of economic, political and military power are shifting from West to East. Emerging markets like China and India are no longer just sources of cheap supply and demand.  They are increasing global hubs for capital and will become important centers of upstream innovation.
3.   Global connectivity – Grater connectivity brought about by technology, deregulation, globalization, low cost travel, and migration is changing how people live, how people work and how people think. The bad news is that technology speaking, privacy is dead or dying. The good news is that all this connectivity is increasing transparency and hence our behavior may actually become honest. We may even get smarter at making decisions, because our connectivity will allow instant polling and the wisdom of the crowd is nearly always greater than the intelligence of any single member. We will thus be a subtle shift from “me” to “we”.
4.    GRIN technologies – GRIN refers to Genetics, Robotics, Internet and Nanotechnology. Machines will be a dominant feature of the future. Computers will eventually become more intelligent than people, which make the possibility of them taking over humans. This will be possible because downloading of human intelligence will be accompanied by downloading human consciousness into these machines. Sounds impossible but impossible is nothing in the future.
5.    The Environment – Global warming and climate change is influence and will continue to influence how governments, corporations, and individuals think and act together with economic collapse and global pandemics. Other issues include the finite nature of natural resources which will lead to us hearing more of the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle and sustainability in a more general sense.

While the book as a whole considers the 5 most important trends for the next 50 years, the author gives the 10 mini-trends to look out for in the shorter term which are:
1.    Globalization
The most likely scenario is that despite getting the global economy back on track, nationalist sentiment will take over.Resource nationalism is hardly a new idea. It refers to governments shifting control of key resources away from foreign and private interests, but it could also mean governments refusing to sell certain resources (e.g., farmland or rare earth minerals) to other nations, regardless of price, citing national security reasons.
2.    Re – sourcing
Companies (critically their customers, but also their employees) are starting to question the high cost of low prices – specifically, the social, ethical, and environmental policies behind what they buy.Having looked into these issues, many people don’t like what’s happening and they starting to insist that things are made closer to home (in most cases at home) where they have more control. Hence the emergence of terms such as re – sourcing or industrial repatriation.
3.    Expecting less
In theory, “enoughism” is in full swing. We have seamlessly shifted from greed to good – from me to we – and we are now at the start of a new era in which social, environmental, and ethical considerations are central to any discussion, issue, or idea. In developed economies this means buying less, consuming less, and perhaps fixing or mending things rather than replacing them. It also means doing without certain things.
4.    Conspicuous non – consumption
The idea here is that some people not only want to be green or good, but want others to see them doing it. It is externally directed. In some ways this is no bad thing. But it can be more selfish, where people are not simply content with doing their bit but want to be seen as either a trendsetter or someone who’s better than everyone else.
5.    Unsupervised adults
Collectively, we are now so afraid of the unknown that adults (primarily men) are seen as predatory until proven innocent – that is, adults cannot be trusted and need supervision.
6.    Constant partial attention/stupidity
The idea here is that we are so busy monitoring the digital environment with mobile devices that our attention is becoming fragmented. Furthermore, the explosion of digital information means that our memories are becoming atomized too, because there is just too much to remember. The result is a lack of quality thinking and an increase in avoidable mistakes.
7.    Digital isolation
Expect to see an increase in feelings of aloneness and depression. Also expect people over a certain age to drift away from social networks and digital friendships in favor of their physical equivalents. Finally, expect to see an increased amount of interest in physical gatherings, live events, and the thought that life is about of interest in physical gatherings, live events, and the thought that life is about quality not quantity.
8.    Flight to the physical
No virtual experience can match its physical equivalent and people will crave for quality not quantity.
9.    Hunger for shared experiences
Shared experiences are booming, such live music and theater going, book clubs, writer’s festivals, family meals, father/son camping trips, and communal tables in fast – food joints and top – end restaurants.
10.  Fear Fatigue
At some point people figure that things are so bad that they can’t possibly get away any worse, or else because so many of these warnings and predictions have not come true that you really can’t believe anything anyone says – especially anything uttered by politicians, journalists, and scientists.

            After giving these lists of trends that will affect and ultimately change our future, the author also gave a list of the 5 things that won’t change over the next 50 years:
1.    An interest in the future and a yearning for the past.
2.    A desire for recognition and respect.
3.    The need for physical object, actual encounters and life experiences.
4.    Anxiety and fear.
5.    A search for meaning.
This book truly is an engaging read for people interested in what the future has in store for us.  Both an amusing and visionary work in my point of view.

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