The value I try to bring to audiences and readers is to be as accurate as possible about the future five years out and directionally accurate 10-15 years out. That said, as a futurist I am always asked about the near-term future as well. The closer in, the more individuals and single events can affect forecasts. With that caveat, here are some forecasts about this year and what may well happen in the next 11 months.
Finance and Economics
There will certainly be a significant stock market correction. This column is being written right after the US stock indices had their worst week in two years. This may be the beginning of a correction, or, more likely, the beginning of volatility with large daily drops to offset the recent ever upward march of the indices.
There is an old Wall Street saying: “sell in May and go away”, meaning that investors cut back their holdings and traders largely get out of their short-term positions as they begin a summer vacation. Given the palpable nervousness around when the markets will reach their top, I forecast that if a 10% or greater drop is to happen, it will happen by end of May.
In a controversial column published here in October, I wrote:
“I am suggesting a real possibility of a significant financial disruption within the next 30 months. It could start next week or in 2019. It could start with a couple of small “market corrections” that then cascade ever downward. It could start with a series of massive debt defaults.”
I think that the beginnings of this significant financial disruption could begin in late 2018 or early 2019
I also think that there will be some sort of economic downturn during the second half of 2018. While the economic headlines are strong and are being touted by the President, I see a lot of debt and geo-political underpinnings to the global economy that will trigger problems. It may not be a recession technically, but a definite rough patch for markets and economies, showing that all is not wonderful and good in the debt based global economy.
2018 will be a very significant year for Crypto Currencies. As the market grows and prospers beyond Bitcoin, it will become clear that these new currencies will have a future. The mashed-up topic of Bitcoin/Crypto Currencies/Blockchain will become more individuated. Bitcoin was a first and set a standard. New forms of Crypto Currencies will have ICOs that embrace other issues than just the potential for speculation.
Blockchain technology is a truly new and transformational economic reality that could well have the long-term potential for the disintermediation of the banking and financial sectors. In 2018 there will be successful efforts to significantly lower the extremely high energy usage of blockchains, which is one of the major problems with this new technology.
Facebook and the rest of social media
2018 will be the existential year for social media and particularly Facebook. Social media will be perceived differently by the end of the year. I have long thought that, at some time, which looks to be now, Facebook would have to deal with the problems of its’ own business model.
Facebook and other social media is based upon personal sharing, with “friends”. Dropping intrusive advertising into something perceived as a personal sharing place will lessen intimacy. Now that we know that there are bot friends, we cannot even trust “friends” on Facebook. So, the loss of intimacy and trust will severely challenge Facebook and other social media that, until 2017, have had kind of a special criticism-free zone. It may be that the Spotify model of free with advertising or paid with no ads will become the new social media construct. Would you pay $1-2 a month for Facebook to guarantee no ads or bots?
As always in this Age of Disruption, there will be new technologies developed and introduced into the market place. Most are parts of larger technological developments. Here are a few for 2018:
The rate of development in this sector is truly amazing. Practically every major car company and several tech companies are developing driverless vehicles. 2018 will be the year they come to market for consumers and communities. When will you be able to ask someone for some Grey Poupon?
AR and VR
These highly touted technologies will have market altering developments in both hardware and software that will validate the hype around them.
I am the Futurist in Residence at the Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, FL. In the fall of 2017 Ringling announced that they would offer a major in Virtual Reality, the first college or university in the world to do so. Other colleges may well follow. In the fall of 2018 the first freshmen will enter the VR major at Ringling.
This year, additive manufacturing will grow well beyond its first stage of 3-D printing. Housing, furniture and joint replacements will all be produced with this transformative technology. The ability to produce low numbers of anything at the same unit cost as producing at scale in the old manufacturing model, is one of the first technologies to help move us to a spaceship economy.
In 2018, the market will greatly expand beyond the Alexa and Google Home. Gadgets in all categories will become voice activated. One of those places where science fiction has become reality.
Ah, the circus in the main tent of mainstream media coverage. Well, it is pretty obvious that the Mueller investigation and the fall elections will be overhanging everything in Washington D.C. It does look like there is a high probability of a “wave election” with Democrats sweeping away Republicans at all levels of elected officials. It could well be a watershed change years in American politics.
As stated here, we have entered a 20-year period when reality itself changes. 2018 is just the next year of this transformative journey.