Kevin Kelly and Brian Eno's "Unthinkable Futures"

Fifteen years ago in Whole Earth Review, Kevin Kelly and Brian Eno ran a list of outrageous future scenarios. Kevin says it was "a small game Brian Eno and I played to loosen up our expectations of what might happen in the near future."

Kevin republished the list on his blog, Conceptual Trends and Current Topics. Here are the first few from the list:

* A new plague seizes the world. As fatal as AIDS, but transmitted on a sneeze, and spread by airplane travelers, the virus touches billions within a year.

* Computer power plateaus. The expected doubling of power and halving of chip size slacks off. More computer power can be had, but it costs.

* Computer screens (both CRT and flat screens) are found to be dangerous to the health. Working at a computer is viewed as a toxic job.

* Alcohol is so severely restricted that people need "licenses" to drink it. Tobacco is, of course, prohibited from being sold. You can grow your own, though, and some do. The underworld moves to North Carolina as cigarets become contraband.

* American education works. Revived by vouchers, a longer school year, private schools and for-profit schools, the majority of Americans (though not the most disadvantaged) get the best education in the world.

* Japan is eclipsed by the Asian tigers. The success of Japan subverts itself: women rebel, the young drop out, the workers play, and the system declines.

* Catalog direct marketing dies. Inherently private electronic money and stricter privacy laws kill the hopes of bar-code dreams and direct marketing in general.

* Nobody wants to be a doctor. It becomes an over-whelming bureaucratic job with low status. Women and minorities become working doctors; men do medical research.

* The human genome project is halted by activists. Placards at demonstrations say: "Our DNA, Our Selves."

* Third World nukes become commonplace. Everybody has one, because everyone has nuclear power plants.

* Mass advertising is restricted. Billboards are categorically banned; advertising in subways, buses, removed. Towns take up "Advertising-Free Zones."

* People begin leaving the U.S. Many arrivals to the US keep resident status but choose not to adopt citizenship. The world sees more people without allegiance.

* It costs half a day's pay to drive your car into the downtown area of a big city, and a day's wages to park.

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