Forecast for 2008
This is the second year for Evolution Shift to present you with a general forecast and somewhat more specific predictions for 2008. The forecast for 2007 is here for those wanting to check out the accuracy of what was predicted for last year. In addition I made some transitional 2007/2008 predictions last week, tying up the year end.
We are now leaving the Information Age and entering the Shift Age. The transition between these two ages began in 2006, gathered speed last year and will be even more fully felt in 2008 and 2009 when it will generally be understood that we in fact are living in a new age. This is the underlying dynamic that is shaping most of the general trends and some of the specific trends and predictions below.
General Trends and Dynamics
1. The Flow to Global will continue to accelerate. Humanity is now entering itsâ€™ global stage of evolution. Ultimately the only boundary will be planetary. The global economy is the first stage of this dynamic. This flow is the underlying force of many of the changes, disruptions and reorganizations that are going on. It is also why many of the traditional terms, measurements and definitions used for the past few decades no longer seem quite right. Barometers and cause and effect relationships of the recent past seem less valid year by year. We are no longer in the 20th century or the Information Age, therefore new terminology and reference points are needed..
2. The Flow to Individual is another of the major dynamics of the Shift Age that is reorganizing our society and economy. As stated last year â€œThe power of the Individual will increase. As choice continues to increase, as loyalty between institutions and individuals continues to decline and we all get more connected, the individual has ever more freedom to decide when, where, how, what and with whom to live their own lives.â€ This is clearly true in the U.S. and is developing in such rapidly growing economies such as India and China.
3. The ever growing electronic connectedness of humanity will not slow down but will accelerate. The majority of this growth will occur in Asia, South America and Africa. As we approach 3 billion cell phone users and more than a billion computer users globally, and as broadband continues its rapid expansion, the speed of communication and content dissemination will no longer be just a technological growth curve but will become a force in and of itself. This force will spawn new forms of communicating and social behavior building on the early developments such as social networks, text messaging and file sharing.
4. The disintermediation, powered by the Internet, that was such a powerful economic force of restructuring in 2006 and 2007 will not only continue but will start to create a shift in behavior that will cross many different and varied markets. All four of these general trends and dynamics will be reflected in the specific predictions below
Specific Forecasts and Predictions
- The U.S. Economy will not go into a recession as it has been traditionally defined. There will be a bumpy ride, particularly in the first six months of the year. The traditional conversation will be an either/or discussion: will there be a recession or not. While there will most certainly be economic indicators that will point to recession, there will be others that do not. The problem is not whether there is or is not a recession but rather the symptoms of a reorganization that is going on due to the flow to a global economy. The view of the economic landscape is still too often looked at through traditional, increasingly less valid historical national measurements that seem to no longer apply. There will be pockets of recession, such as in the state of Michigan, but the economic bumps in the road in 2008 will not fit into traditional national recessionary measurements.
- Housing will continue to be in a terrible slump for 2008. It will drift lower during the first six months. There will begin to be pockets of recovery by the fourth quarter, but the national market will not turn around until 2009.
- Stock Markets. While I was correct last year, I have a bit less certainty this year. That being said, there will be even more volatility than last year, particularly in the first half of the year. In the second half of the year, the U.S. stock indexes will rise dramatically and will finish up for the year.
- Gas and Oil prices: A year ago I correctly predicted a sustained price of gasoline above $3, with certain cities experiencing a $4 price. In 2008, gas will, for a period of time reach $4 on the national level. A year ago I predicted that oil would rise above $80. Three months ago I predicted that the price would rise to $100 and that the trading range for oil will be $80 â€” 125 a barrel for the next year. There are few things that will drive the price below $80 but there could be several situations that could drive the price above $125 as I have suggested in a recent column.
- 2008 will be the year when the concept of â€œPeak Oilâ€ moves from the scientific, energy and futurist communities into the mainstream culture in the U.S. and other developed countries. This will have the effect of further accelerating investment in and development of alternative, renewable sources of energy. It will also begin to force government officials and policy makers into facing the truly dire consequences of anything less that an urgent national initiative to cut consumption of petroleum by 50% as soon as possible, certainly within the next ten years.
- Populism. As I forecast a year ago: â€œPopulism will become ascendant. Politicians that develop contemporary populist messages will be embraced by an electorate that will increasingly be concerned about fairness and taking care of ourselves. This will clearly be manifested in the campaign for the presidential nominations for 2008â€.This has clearly been proven to be true. Populism, now represented by that over used word â€œchangeâ€ will be the driving force in U.S. election politics in 2008
- The 2008 election. As stated here, is perhaps the most important election in a generation. The unprecedented problems the country faces, and the heavy sense of history will make us all feel this election is momentous. Voter turnout will be up and on the federal level it will be a Democratic landslide that could rival those of 1936 and 1964. Democrats will dramatically increase their margins in the House, the Senate and will take the Presidency.
- Technology. Wireless connectivity will be ascendant. It will cross all borders of media and connectivity. Up through 2007, phones were connected to each other and to the Internet, households and offices were wireless, and of course wireless remotes. 2008 will see the wireless interconnectivity of all media devices in the home, outside the home and across all platforms. TV into phones, computers into TVs all distribution boundaries of media channels will further crumble. The other big tech development is the changing computer/user interface. As mentioned here, touchscreen technology will come to market. There will also be visual user interface. This is Shift Age technology. The keyboard and mouse will start to feel like last generation Information Age technology.
- Broadband. Technological innovation will dramatically increase download speeds with high speed Internet connections so the â€˜time barrierâ€™ will be broken. Full length movies will soon be downloadable in minutes. This will clearly further disintermediate media and will be nothing less than a content revolution.
- Publishing. The transformational changes that digitization and the Internet have brought to music, video and news reporting will now begin to affect the book publishing industry in a noticeable way. The unstoppable process of disintermediation I have often presented in this space will now move to book publishing. The two most noticeable areas will be in ebooks and in print on demand. Amazonâ€™s launch of the Kindle will be the beginning of a rapid upswing in the sale of ebooks, albeit from a very small base. Amazon will come out with a redesigned 2.0 version of the Kindle in response to customer input. Apple could also jump into this market. Print on demand is the technology driven business model for the future of publishing that will be the way that the industry can best address the â€˜long tailâ€™ construct of the content marketplace. The number of titles that will be print on demand will continue to increase dramatically. This trend will lessen the gatekeeper value of the traditional publishing houses unless they embrace it. There will be brand name authors that will decide that they will be better off with a direct relationship with the consumer. This will mean that the author will go direct via the Internet.
- Shopping behavior will noticeably change. In the last 20 years, shopping has taken on an experiential and social aspect that almost equals the purchasing aspect. Young people meet and socialize at the malls, adult shoppers are attracted by service, sales and in-store experiences such as coffee bars and lounges, and upscale shoppers value that white gloved service acknowledgement of their wealth. These, as much as the actual purchase transaction has shaped shopping behavior. What is now going to be a trend in 2008 is that all this social and psychological part of the shopping behavior will continue, but purchases will go down per capita. This will due to belt tightening but also due to the effect of the explosive growth that on-line sales will now have on off-line sales. On-line shopping provides convenience, efficiency and the ability to comparison shop without geographical boundaries. What it does not provide is a social and physical experience. With an ever greater percentage of purchases made on-line the off-line shopping experience becomes a social and experiential counterpoint. There will be increased stories of shoppers continuing to shop but spending less.
- Historical Significance. 2008 will feel like a very historically significant year. 40 years ago 1968 was a year that had a before and after quality to it. 2008 will be similar in the sense that it will be looked back upon as a year that initiated a new direction for the world, for the U.S. and personally for most individuals. The Shift Age begins.