A Review of Past Forecasts – Technology

April 11th, 2017

Last week I took a look back at forecasts made here about media. This week we look back on forecasts made about technology. Again, as a futurist I post forecasts on my web site, what I forecast and when that forecast was made.

February 2008

“We now have “smart” phones. In the years ahead everything will become “smart”: clothing, infrastructure and our homes. All will be connected.

 Well, this has certainly become true in the past few years. I remember making this forecast in numerous presentations in 2008 and 2009 and people did not see how quickly this would become a reality. We live in a big data driven connected, smart world.

This was the first step. With AI/machine learning we now move to the next level where our environment and interfaces are not just smart and connected but intelligent and able to learn based upon our behavior. As written here, this will be a top disruption to our current reality.

March 2011

“Manufacturing is about to be redefined for the 21st century. Custom will replace mass. 3-D printing will start this transformation”

 This has obviously begun. One of the single biggest changes in the 21st century is the redefinition of “manufacturing”. 100 years ago, Henry Ford created the assembly-line mass manufacturing model and we have accepted that as the definition of manufacturing ever since. While there will still be mass production, we now move to custom manufacturing which will ultimately allow a single item to be produced at the same or lower price as if it had been mass produced.

This is an example of using words created in the 20th century that become part of out of date legacy thinking. This move to custom manufacturing will have significant consequences in the areas of supply chain management, future designs of manufacturing zones and the reality that manufacturing waste will be minimized as what is needed is what will be produced. To a great degree we move from lowest cost production to highest custom design production.

July 2011

“Augmented Reality will transform much of society by 2016”

Well, I was a bit optimistic in my timeline. The transformation of society by AR has begun but is not at the level of critical mass. Pokemon Go certainly brought AR mainstream in 2016. AR glasses and apps are now proliferating. The ability to combine the physical reality with the screen reality – a duality all now have to live with- has great power and will only grow. It has great potential for education, training and travel to name just a few areas.

October 2011

“Big Data will create real time sociology and anthropology and will transform most of society”

Well this is now obvious. As we give up ever more of the details of our lives through social media, use of apps that have location and shopping on the Internet we are creating the first real-time data base of what people are doing right now. Live and universal market research. Add on to this sharing of personal information the Internet of Things, then mapping human behavior is real time.

Data is largely without bias. Humans may analyze it with bias. Decades ago I was in the television time sales business. The joke then was that if everyone who said they watched only high-brow shows on PBS actually watched the network, it would be the highest rated rather than the lowest rated.

March 2015

“For the next several years we will continue to live in a “hacked world”

Obviously true. Oddly, in the months after I made this forecast many people asked me why I thought so. Ah, the naïve days of only two years ago when hacking was still small scale and small impact.

Unfortunately the part I got wrong was “several years”. Hacking connected technology will continue for years, if not forever. Escalation on both sides will continue. The old saying of “a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link” will truly be manifested in the IoT when devices with little or no protection from hacking will be the entry points for hackers into entire grids and systems. We must always keep this in mind.

On a more positive note, we have entered the age of hacking DNA and the genetic codes of humans and animals. This is part of the coming medical revolution of the next few decades. CRISPR/Cas9 is the first major breakthrough that will ultimately allow humans to, within a generation, obliterate genetic diseases. Humans can move toward an accelerated evolutionary timeline. While nature is, in a way perfect, what is perfect about someone having to suffer a debilitating disease because her grandparents did?

Next week a look back on forecasts about energy and resultant economic consequences.

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