TNH FTW! A final post and a question for you.

Ed. Note: Boing Boing's current guestblogger Clay Shirky is the author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. He teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, where he works on the overlap of social and technological networks.

As I hand off the magic wand of guest-posting on the last minute and second of my tenure here, there's one Boinger I want to thank in particular: Teresa Nielsen Hayden. I remember, early this decade, when bB turned comments off because the haters and random trolls were simply too much, and it is a testament to TNH and her folks that the comments are back on and as good as they are, at an audience scale several times what it was in those days.

TNH gets this medium like Gretsky, which is to say she skates to where the puck is going to be. You could see this with her invention of disemvoweling in 2002, which Time magazine flogged as a hot new (uncredited) idea in 2008. Oops. And, as has been Time's MO since Phil Elmer-Dewitt put bogus net-research on the cover with no consequences, Time won't update the story to reflect what TNH understood about the value of visible governance, half a dozen years ago. (Fck Tm mgzn, I say.) Because of all of that work on governance (not just disemvoweling), reading the comments has been a real pleasure.

So in honor of TNH, I'd like to try an experiment, making my last post here a question to you rather than a pointer elsewhere. Here's the question: what do you think you know about the future that few other people understand yet? What's going to happen in the next five years or so that will catch most of the rest of us by surprise, but not you? (And no fair faking the timestamp and predicting financial meltdown.)

Thanks to BoingBoing for letting me guestblog, and over to you in the comments...


  1. I think the college system will collapse. I’m right in the middle of it now, and dorm life was never meant to be lived on this scale, or for this length of time. Fewer people are finishing in four years, and colleges building “upscale” dorms set absurd residency requirements just so they can make their money back. So, 20-somethings who would like nothing more than to figure out their own independence might be stuck answering to some absent-minded RA until they’re 24. Schools are becoming financial institutions, and students are being driven into the psych floors of hospitals in alarming numbers because of it. To the schooling business, we’re livestock, not learners. We are market statistics and target demographics. We are profit margins. And someday, we’re going to realize our degrees were cheapened by their yuppy greed.

    I can’t even describe all the ways in which these universities screw their students coming and going. It literally makes me sick to think about.

  2. 3D Cinema. Everyone has been talking about HD, Blu-Ray, all of these incredibly limited forms of distribution, ignoring the next big thing.

    James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ is going to be the movie that kicks it off – it’s going to be enormous, a space masterpiece fifteen years in the making, and it’s going to sell everyone on how widespread 3D can and will become.

    After that, it’s going to be like ducks in a row. Mark my words.

  3. Lithium sulfur will emerge as the dominant battery technology, with applications from cell phones and laptops to plug-in hybrids to huge cells for wind power shaping. I’m amazed that my polymath friends keep themselves current in all sorts of technologies, few of which are nearing any kind of application, but when it comes to galvanic electrochemistry, they can’t name a single battery coming in to view.

  4. 22 years ago as a budding undergrad student of television and cinema, our class was asked by our prof (the department head) to make predictions for the future. Mine was that we would have multiformat video monitors that were thin, flat and could be hung on a wall like a picture frame. They’d take whatever format you wanted to put into them (NTSC, PAL, SECAM, computer, what-have-you) and could be updated with software.

    My prediction was giggled at by just about everyone. The prof only gave me a dismissive smirk.

    Tomorrow, i may have something for five years from now, after I sleep on it for a bit. Promise me you won’t giggle.

  5. I don’t know anything about the future. I am totally expendable, and can be easily replaced by at least a thousand people more qualified than myself in any field you care to mention.

    I’m just hoping that the future won’t involve a mass cull of useless human beings, because I’d be the first against the wall.

  6. There will be deflation of language. Words are a medium of exchange, trust is wanting. The less said, the better.

  7. The Singularity will be continually pushed back and redefined as we better understand what our vague conceptions of it are. Currently it’s a magical event that may happen. If it happens, it will happen gradually and without our ever acknowledging it as such.

  8. 1. That the iPhone and its successor technologies, which have been designed in such a way that they *appeal to non-geek women* will result in the large-scale engagement of women in the technosophere, which will have long-reaching societal implications, and

    2. That the seemingly unstoppable corruption and subversion of all electronic devices, infrastructure, all software, etc. by criminal elements and others, made possible by a total lack of security competence on the part of developers and architects will prove to be at least one of the answers to Fermi’s Paradox.

  9. Steampunk will eventually be commercialized to the point where brand name steampunks will be available through hot topic like shops, irritating all the people who are really into it because 90% SP stuff they can find will be over-commericalized garbage aimed at kids who wouldn’t know what steampunk was if it bit them in the butt. You know, like what happened to the goths.

  10. An explosion of popular interest in the Victorian world, of which steampunk is just the vanguard, the tip of the iceberg. In the future it will no longer be necessary to inflect one’s interest in Victoriana with irony, as steampunk does. There will be a concurrent explosion of popular interest in silent films, those flickering echoes of the Victorian age. Finally, Arthur Freed will be considered an auteur producer of equal rank with Walt Disney and val Lewton.

  11. The republican party will fracture after losing the next election. The split will occur along the already unstable libertarian/social conservative divide. The first signs of this will be a massive power struggle between Sarah Palin, and a true, old school, economic conservative. The loser will not take the loss well, and speak out against the party and their supporters will jump ship.

    Not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s my prediction.

  12. Big budget films will become like opera: vanity projects created by and for the rich in a form of potlatch, buoyed up by a high-flown rhetoric of cultural preservation.

  13. 1) The music industry will be entirely advertising driven. As a result, it will more responsive to audience taste and more creative but also more ethically dubious.

    2) Steampunk? People will be like ‘Ha! Steampunk! Remember that?!’ and other people will be like ‘No’.

  14. Storing renewable energy sources as hydrogen to “burn” in fuel cells will become commercially feasible. Hydrogen will fuel your car, eventually.
    The first countries to seriously invest in wind and solar will be the first to reap their rewards and see their economies rise.
    The first practical application of current research into anthropomorphic walking robots will be in prosthetics.
    The weather will be warmer than you were used to.

  15. Listen guys, I know the last 50 times they were predicted they didn’t happen, and I know there are multiple sound economic, societal, legal and physical reasons why they don’t happen but I’m sure that this time, this time, there will be flying cars and jet packs.

  16. The existing music biz will collapse totally, and replaced by something that’s bottom-up rather than top-down. There will be far fewer over-hyped megastars, and far more cottage-industry artists with cult followings; no musicians starting out will have ‘get signed’ as an ambition.

    There won’t be a mainstream as such, more a whole load of overlapping subcultures.

    And there will be no professional music critics. Their role as gatekeepers (at which they have failed utterly) will be replaced by the internet-based wisdom of crowds.

  17. Faustus – you beat me to it – but we will also live in silver foil suits and eat three pills a day instead of food.

  18. Ties will become obsolete as they will be viewed as dangerous, non practicle items of vanity.

    More men will decide to opt for obedient robot wives to do cooking, cleaning and other stuff that will appeal to the misogynist, creating a mind shift in the western female.

  19. The polar bear will become extinct, the Amazon basin will begin to suffer huge bushfires, low-lying parts of many populous nations will flood extensively with any storm surge or king tide, wars will begin over land once though marginal but now considered valuable because of its elevation, and several non-renewable resources will suddenly become scarce as new deposits fail to be found.

    And the world’s leaders will wail “Why didn’t anyone tell us this was going to happen?!”

    Sigh. But we all knew all this, didn’t we?

  20. The massive failure of the Motorola Krave ( will lead to the disemvoweling of the Motorola corporation.

    Also, an epic Heroes-like television series about loss, redemption and irreconcilable inner struggle based around LOLcats.

  21. China will have a major environmental disaster with acute and highly visible effects on hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.

    We’ve become used to reading about ‘major’ disasters – the benzene slick in the Songhua River at Harbin, the contamination of Lake Taihu and the loss of safe drinking water supplies for 400,000 people in the city of Wuxi spring to mind – but the Peoples Republic of China has, so far, escaped anything on the scale of the Bhopal disaster.

    I am certain that they have many, many unpublicised disasters on the scale of the Minamata tragedy, and a cursory Google for China “Contaminated Water” shows a steady stream of stricken villages with a hundred people or so poisoned.

    But, so far, they have kept the lid on any major public disorder or economic dislocation and, so far, they have dodged the bullet on an incident that would cause acute poisoning in a major city.

    So far. The Chinese people display a fatalistic acceptance of chronic environmental poisoning; barring something like a massive upsurge in birth deformities or a rumour of feminising hormones affecting boys and male fertility, it is entirely conceivable that they always will.

    But what will happen to China – and the World economy – when a city of a million people has the sick and the dead lying in the streets, with refugees streaming out into the countryside and massive rioting?

    This is ‘when’, not ‘if’. The only part of it that’s uncertain is the prediction that we’ll see it in the next five years.

  22. As the economic recession becomes a true depression, colleges and universities will be unable to keep pace with the exorbitant and ever-increasing cost of professional knowledge creation: salaries, research funding, journal subscriptions, etc. When it gets to the point that major institutions like Michigan, Stanford, UNC, Washington, Cal, etc. are in a position where they would theoretically have to choose which disciplines to support, the professoriate will say “enough is enough” and either abolish tenure or revamp it to take meaningful account of scholarship outside of traditional avenues.

    Instead of publishing in The Journal of Sleepytime Studies, scholars will write for and respect peer-reviewed online journals, blogs, etc. This currently happens to some degree in some fields, but it’s not universal. Faced with greater visibility, some scholars will shrivel and some will flourish — but for good or for ill, scholarship will on average become more relevant as it’s scooped up by various content providers and search engines.

  23. Speed cameras will become orders of magnitude cheaper, and correspondingly more common.

    Your typical speed camera today contains a Doppler radar which costs tens of thousands of dollars. As digital cameras continue to become cheaper for constant quality (or higher quality for constant price) and processor power (particularly for parallelizable tasks) continues to become radically cheaper, it will become cost-effective to build a speed “camera” (though it will probably contain several actual cameras, possibly distributed across an area, possibly wirelessly networked) that uses machine vision instead of radar to calculate speed. Once the software is written, the marginal cost will be so small that it makes sense to install a vast number of cheap speed cameras, instead of a small number of expensive carefully maintained and guarded units.

    It will also be tempting to add software so that the camera tries to observe anyone it thinks might be about to vandalise it…

  24. Global warming will have come…-and gone, and now we have global cooling which will mean the beginning of a new ice-age. People will be encouraged to fight against this since it’s man’s fault and our children’s children will stand to inherit no trees, but glaciers instead. I will continue to know that both of these trends are some monstrous weather-cycle that scientists have yet to figure out.


  25. If I knew of something, I would not tell you, I would be madly trying to find a way to profit about it.

    Having read the comments so far I can safely attest that such is really the case in general.

  26. I agree with so many of the above comments so I’ll try and refrain from stealing their genius.

    Crowdsourcing on the internet will change the way policy decisions are made, pop stars are born and wars are fought in totally unforseen ways.

    The first self navigating automobiles will be sold on the public market. Their illustrious safety records and split second accident avoidance will herald in a new dawn of transportation in the public sector.

    Pollution and natural disasters will uproot many entrenched populations leading to massive migrations and atrocity ridden refugee camps.

    The technocracy will continue unabated in its coagulation of resources into its corrupt and awful maw.

  27. Nuclear fule will become acceptable again and become “the” world enery source to replace fossil fules With massive development at the expense of renewable energy research.

  28. I think that personal services live in 3 parts, two of which are grossly unrealised:

    » Attention sharing (status) – as we currently see on facebook, twitter, etc.

    » Intention sharing – with limited scope, as in Dopplr, and I’m working on my suitcase experiment

    » Affect sharing – emotional or sentimental affection, an experiment I did with moonrise

    In general, status (I’m out for lunch) is a subset of presence (I’m online), and these might be entirely separate from affect and intention. I think the potential of expressive language that a machine can infer things about (in web communication modes) will go beyond what we have into something that works more like voice or face-to-face.

  29. This may fall into the trivial category, but my spideysense is currently tingling around couchDB as a scalable non-relational databases built for the internet and internet scale projects.

    I expect that couchDB or similar systems will do very well and become a big deal.

  30. I have two predictions.

    1. Radiolabelled cancer agents will be designed and tested to cure a wide variety of cancers. [A radiolabelled cancer agent is designed to have your body carry the radioactivity specifically to the tumor. Isotopes with a half life of hours are incorporated to delver a high specific dose that lasts a period of days. Note: I am a Ph.D. chemist working in a laboratory which develops these cancer agents.]

    2. The legal community will start the process of accepting lie detector tests based on blood flow imaging of the brain. [It has been shown that different areas of the brain are active when one lies or tells the truth. It appears to be infallible!.]

  31. In the future people will double check and make sure they’ve made absolute, not relative, links to webpages like wikipedia, particularly when referencing ‘disemvoweling.’ ;)

  32. Obama will enter office and bravely set about dealing with the mess he has been left. His popularity will stay high at home and it will soar even higher abroad. His beautiful family will inspire from their very presence in the White House……and then he will be shot and killed by a racist or racist group.
    Nothing makes me sadder to predict. On top of the event’s own sadness….the event will forestall some of the other predictions made here.

  33. The surveillance state so greatly expanded under the Bush Administration will retreat from public view under the Obama Administration – but it will not disappear. In fact, the actual machinery and policies necessary to make the Bushies look like pikers will slowly and methodically be put in place, through a partnership of the gov’t and major media/net access private corps. The public – so very concerned with The Children and Piracy – will never even notice it.

  34. A flying car and a jet pack will be introduced to the waiting world, after which they will suffer a terrible mid-air collision resulting in property damage and many fatalities. Both will be made illegal, except for use by government and the very rich.

  35. A smartphone worm will temporarily disable voice services on a cellphone network.

    You account information on some social networking sites will be verified against a government database, most likely the DMV. This practice might first be popularized in the UK.

  36. The only one I have left:

    Google’s systems will host the Singularity.

    But I think most of us suspect that anyway.

  37. Male and female clothing will continue to overlap and even swap. Skirts and heels for men will become trendy.

    Driver’s licenses will cease to exist.

  38. Harvesting water from air using atmospheric water generators will become more affordable as more necessary as population growth continues in areas with limited resources such as Florida.

  39. Personal/Social services live in 3 parts, two of which are grossly unrealised:

    » Attention sharing (status) – as we currently see on facebook, twitter, etc.

    » Intention sharing

    » Affect sharing – emotional or sentimental affection

    In general, status (I’m out for lunch) is a subset of presence (I’m online), and these might be entirely separate from affect and intention.

    The potential of expressive language that a machine can infer things about – in web communication modes – will go beyond what we have into something that works more like voice or face-to-face.

  40. In our zeal to prevent “failed states” from being a global menace, we’ll start “passing” states that ought to have failed. Better a regional hellhole than a global menace, eh?

    Tech wise? We’ll see less innovation in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 10 because no one will have funded innovation, and even if they do, people will be too broke to buy whatever services are being used.

  41. I’ve already predicted this at a handful of conferences, but:

    As the publishing industry continues it’s slowmotion collapse, driven by the same media hubris that killed the music and movie industries, we’ll see a rise in the popularization of serial literature of the style a la Dickens and HG Wells.

    An increasing number of readers are conditioned to consume print in short-form bursts, and the rise of blog-style writing will continue to become more and more popular. At some point the publishing industry, in an attempt to forestall their dropping profits, will realize that ad revenue from serialized lit can help float them for another decade or so, and will jump on board, subsidizing ebook readers or cell phones in order to get their content in front of readers.

  42. Maturin: I’ll one-up you by predicting that there will be attempts on Obama’s life, but that he will survive them.

  43. The main point of social Internet services will be to enable meeting face-to-face and provide a platform for people who already regularly meet face-to-face.

    This will be called “web 3.0”.

  44. Unlike the claims of the ‘publish without perishing’ post, the printed book isn’t about to go away. Instead it will enjoy a renaissance within the next five years as a result of ubiquitous print on demand technology like the book espresso machine. Books with any digitised content will be available at ‘book shops’ instantly, and that will mean any outlet with the right machinery.

  45. longform writing (especially longform magazine articles) will become like opera, but publishing won’t die. I don’t know why it won’t, but it won’t.

  46. OK, I won’t make any “predictions” about the ongoing econocataclysm. Predictions are about the future, after all, and that one is firmly present tense.

    I will predict, however, that this will be our last economic crash. Once the global economy has been shaken to its foundations due to the evaporation of nearly $100 trillion in funny money that was never really there, the ‘Net will help catalyze the self-organization of human society and the means of production into a radically new form. The hierarchies of capital and control known as corporations will collapse and be replaced with an ever-shifting network of participation, innovation, and logistics. As a result, the massive concentrations of capital that characterize our current age will become impossible. It will also be impossible to maintain the fictions of scarcity that our current system is predicated upon.

    Life will be very different.

  47. The “invisible wires” that are all around us will prove to be harmful – tumors/cancers/mental disorders will be caused by carrying wireless devices around, and eventually proven (like how long it took for cigarettes to get busted), and the industry will undergo a paradigm shift.

    ACTUAL novel content will appear in ‘new media’ that will go mainstream.

    The disconnect between obvious oxymoronic advertising will be seen through by the masses – example: right now there are high-production-value ads out with a bunch of Macho hunks driving pick-ups thru obstacle courses of virtually no purpose, saying cool things like “this is how we ride” – while the companies that own these gas-guzzling products are BEGGING (indirectly) the viewers to prop them up with a bail-out.

    Video games will be seen for what they really are, a waste of time, and an excuse to not grow up.

    Physical violence will increase as a result of blood-sport being mainstream.

    Something very simple will occur in the ecosystem that will be the butterfly that flaps its wings and is felt around the world. A SARS-like thing that can’t be contained.

    I will eventually pass away, and the world will realize they never really needed me anyway!
    Until then…….

  48. the last residue of the middle classes will be swept away by a burgeoning new poverty with a heavily guarded elite squatting in their ultimately indefensible fortresses. Something unpredictable will gel to unite a new generation that refuses to accept hopelessness and the center will rise again.
    They will curse us for our shortsightedness.

  49. We will discover that we weren’t as rich as we thought we were. (No, this is not about the existing financial crisis, the worst is yet to come.)

    America will default on its debt.

    Hope and change will not replace credit.

    Americans will be very, very unhappy about this.

    Living in America will still beat living almost anywhere else, especially China.

  50. As a disciple of Nostradamus I alone will be unsurprised when Lindsay Lohan, in response to divine inspiration, becomes the Prophetess of the New World Religion that sweeps the globe in three years.

  51. The broadcast television networks will drift farther away from relevance to most people as they continue to rely on the content-for-attention-for-cash transaction that underlies advertising. Networks with other sources of funding will become the sources of the world’s television. This will lead to some cultural colonization on the part of the UK.

  52. Five years? Couldn’t say. Within the next ten-to-twenty years, though – organized armed revolution within the borders of the US, along with a general collapse of the democracy/free market idea.

  53. International cooperatives trading secure food supplies will form.

    Mass migration of refugees by container ship will be routine, as the global financial collapse continues and ship owners try to find something to ship that pays up front.

    There will be a pause in the mass movement to cities as food security becomes more important. In some places, parents will send their kids to relatives on farms just to ensure they stay out of the violent and hungry cities.

    There will be a series of financial, social and technical failures in China which will drive the country into decades of instability. The AIDS timebomb will play into it as people with AIDS are scapegoated and killed.

    Middle class liberals will find themselves purchasing guns. Gun club membership will see steady year over year gains for the next five years.

    Heritage seeds will be big business.

    Global climate instability will cause many people who are wealthy to relocate on the basis of taking the current climate modelling information and determining the safest and most secure place to live. This will cause perturbations in local economies. Think about Florida…

    Marijuana will be legalized and regulated all over the western world as governments finally do the harm reduction math in the face of a pressing requirement to raise more money. The unfortunate corollary is that they won’t legalize everything, and crystal meth will get a second wave, especially in North America, as drug lords try to squeeze the last bit of money out of their constituencies.

    Water access will become more important than oil access.

    Virtual money will buy even more real things.

    Banks and credit unions specializing in particular kinds of customers, rather than regional customers, will come into being.

    Barack Obama will survive his first term in office. People close to him won’t be so fortunate.

    Technical innovation will not be stalled; the innovations that are least expensive to implement will get the cash.

    The Hadron machine will assist in the forging of new physics, and the world will be too screwed up to pay any heed.

    Infrastructure across the US and Canada will fail, sometimes two bridges in one day, as decades of salt application takes its toll.

    Cell phones will become like tv in the 50s. You’ll get the content, but you have to watch the advertising. This will be the only way some people will be able to afford having a cell phone.

    Murder suicides will rise in the US and Canada. Almost invariably it will be a man killing his family, especially if there are disabled children or parents living in the house.

    Community kitchens will form.

    Current local regulations about occupancy, density and agricultural zoning will start to relax, and in some places just stop being enforced. For example, chickens and bees will start becoming urban denizens.

    A ‘united way’ for various media outlets will form as being the most effective way of raising and allocating money for advertising free media.

  54. Vowels will disappear altogether. TNH will be suspect #1 and chased around the world. She will find refuge in Israel. She will change her name to Dot.

  55. People will wear big hoops or rings on their clothes that stick out at odd angles. Gold and silver lamé will be popular.

  56. Why should our content be seen through flat screens forever? I predict digital detonations and spinning screens.

  57. The Over-Certification of America will begin to slow as a populist, internet driven movement of curiosity and learning continues to pick up steam. The number of college applicants and graduates will begin to decline, and technical schools will once again be seen as a viable career path for young people. Learning, education, and actual skill will gain value over pieces of paper handed out by old men in silly hats.

    Once Democrats are proven to be as corruptible and crooked as Republicans (to the public at large), people will either take a greater interest in how they are governed, or they will throw up their hands and stop caring altogether.

    Abused and neglected for the last ten years, Iraq War Vets will begin to metastasize as a fairly vigorous political force, mainly through protest and demonstrations demanding that they receive what they were promised. Their ranks will feed the homeless problem in the country, breaking many of the already overburdened charities that service the homeless.

    As the recession moves into the morass of a depression, hatred will make a marked comeback in the daily lives of Americans, at the same time that the country collectively, “gets religion,” again. The world depression will deepen, as the Americans who usually bought the world’s way out economic difficulty can no longer afford to purchase anything other than the most basic necessities. (bonus** In about 20 years, the loss of manufacturing across the world, due to lack of demand, drives local manufacturing back into existence, out of sheer necessity.)

    (1) Human long-term memory will continue to be augmented by cheap and ubiquitous technology allowing us each to record externalized memories of most aspects of experience, continuing our species’ long history of self-expansion by offloading cognition onto the environment. The first generation of humans to have, from birth, robust multi-faceted first-person recordings of their experience which they routinely review, will differ from other humans in ways I can’t predict.
    (1a) The primary problems of memory will increasingly shift from ones of encoding to ones of organization and retrieval.
    (1b) It will be as important to maintain and safeguard your outboard memory as it is your central nervous system. (I believe this is already increasingly becoming true, and am stupefied by people who still don’t take backing-up seriously.)
    (1c) Sousveillance: “privacy” will be a quaint and irrelevant luxury, just as anonymity has become.
    (2) Human “working memory” (limited capacity to hold things in mind and perform operations on them [analogous to RAM]) will be recognized as the most important bottleneck of human cognition, and will be artificially expanded (be it through nanotech, stem cells, implants), enabling superhuman intelligence which will include the ability to mentally run complex models and thus better understand complex systems, and how to harness them. This will also enable changes in the subjective experience of the passage of time.

    Solar power will be the major source of energy, just like it is for almost the entire biosphere (excluding human activity). New ways of storing energy (e.g., better batteries) will be an enabler here.

    (1) There will be a greater emphasis on the need to establish a foothold/backup/colony outside our solar system, in order to preserve some kind of continuity of conscious experience in this largely inanimate universe. This may be accomplished by retreats into new/different universes rather than physical travel in our own.
    (2) Living microbes will be discovered on Mars, probably deep under the soil.
    (3) A robotic submarine mission to ice-shrouded Europa will discover life on the floor of its liquid water oceans. Some of it will be macroscopic and ambulatory. It will be utterly alien yet also exhibit some adaptations similar to those of some Earth creatures, thanks to convergent evolution.

  59. A few:

    Good news: within ten years, there will be commercially deployed biotech converting cellulose into liquid fuels that can be deployed through existing delivery systems. (Ventner’s got some bacterium that secretes trace amounts of octane; there’s also a fungus discovered by a different group that can be made to produce something like diesel.)

    Bad news: also within ten years, the value of the dollar will shrink to, at best, purchasing power parity with the rupee, etc. This could happen very suddenly.

  60. Email communications, once a way for businesses to communicate faster and more efficiently, will be sent in such large volumes that they will slowly eat away at all the productivity gains made using IT over the past 20 years.

    All Fortune 500 companies will slowly go broke trying to manage the useless data being zipped about via Exchange, and the loss of productivity managing said useless data will eat away at profits over a number of years thus creating a calculable drag on national GDP that will impact the US’s international bond rating even further. People will carry this burden through less innovation and increased costs of goods.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft Sharepoint, designed as a solution to help mitigate this, will only make matters worse as not only will communication be stifled, the message will be buried in an obtuse interface only supported by IE. Bandwidth usage will soar, forcing businesses to not only have to manage a glut of useless memos, but to spend millions of dollars per year containing bandwidth costs. This will create a further drag on profitability.

    The Open Source community will knowingly snicker as they have for 25 years while still remaining totally irrelevant to the enterprise end-user.

    Cisco (via WAAS), NetQoS, and other companies in the “netflow” business will make a killing during this time period.

    I still haven’t found anything that helps deal with the glut of email.

  61. The Millennials will be turning 13, and we should fear the coming age wars…

    I might be being overdramatic, but I’m honestly quite scared of the newest generation (and I’m usually quite optimistic about the future). That’s not to say that I think there’s going to be anything wrong with them , per se, but rather that they’re going to be completely unrelatable to the rest of society. As much as I try to integrate the newest technology into my life, I still have to live with the baggage of experiencing my formative years in a completely different era (and I’m only 23). This newest generation will have grown up as internet natives. They will think in terms of Google and Wikipedia, they will interact in terms of services like Facebook and Digg, they’ll hang out in virtual worlds, and they’ll do it without ever thinking of these things as tools. For them, it will all just be environment, and the means they use to extract and change information will be extensions of themselves.

    You might be thinking to yourself, “I already think like that,” and to be fair, there are plenty of tech-savvy people who see where things are going, and are consciously trying to adapt. But there’s a huge difference between learning how to surf and growing up in the ocean.

    In a nutshell, I guess you could say that my vision of the near-future is sorta like the Author C. Clark novel, “Childhood’s End” without the whole ‘ascending to another place of existence’ part (except in the most metaphorical sense).

  62. Governments will be rendered progressively less relevant as internet organizing tools become easier to use and accessible to more people.

    Governments will respond by establishing stronger centralized control over internet access within their borders under the auspices of fighting terrorism, pedophilia, and foreign organized crime. Internet access will become linked even more strongly to one’s legal identity.

    Ultimately, there will be conflicts over criminal groups setting up unauthorized physical trunk links to nearby countries via satellite, terrestrial radio or covert fiber optic cable.

  63. DNA sequencing will become cheaper and cheaper. In the next 5 years the cost to sequence a person’s genome will be about $10,000. Celebrities will have their genome sequenced. Once genome sequencing gets to about $10,000 then the cost/benefit will favor sequencing the genome of a many children because over a person’s lifetime they will get more that $10,000 worth of health benefit from having their genome.

    The United States will become increasingly like the movie GATTACA, as forensic DNA tests will be able to reliably identify race, hair color, height, and eye color of the suspect, and government DNA databases of individual will be extensive. About 20 years in the future, companies, universities and government agencies will be forbidden from using DNA sequence results for hiring purposes, however some they will use these results anyways.

    In response to #27 posted by Tzctlp, I am working like mad to make DNA sequencing affordable.

  64. There will be another counter-culture in the 2020’s, just as there is every 60 years.

    1960’s: Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out/Little Red Book
    1900’s: Cosmic Circle/Magic Mountain
    1840’s: Communist Manifesto/Mormonism
    1780’s: Illuminati/Reign of Terror
    1720’s: Fable of the Bees/Invisible College

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” G. Santayana (1905)

  65. Wow, I think that the US will at some point invade Canada to seize natural resources, but WOMBATS101, you’re talking out of your ass.

  66. The only thing that’s likely to change in the near future is the sense of entitlement that Americans have gotten so used to.

    We’ve just about used up all our financial resources and are working hard on wiping out the last natural resources. And we’re exporting this poisonous mindset to the rest of the world!

    At some point there won’t be anything left to take.

  67. The Great Depression of 2010, along with SomewhatMoreUniversal healthcare will have the unintended consequence of creating another baby boom. We will realize too late that the primary cause of planetary warming, polution, starvation, and war is overpopulation. This will be denied for decades more by every religion.

    MRSA (or TB, or SARS) will take hold in a major hospital complex. As hinted at by the anthrax cleanups of 2002, and Chernobl, there will be no affordable way to clean or make the facility safe other than abandonment and entombment.

  68. Three trends will converge — absurdly increasing digital storage capacity, a realization of the true cost of building and shipping heavy things like books and CDs (and any other number of commodities), and ubiquitous wireless network access.

    The result? People will own fewer objects, and be more selective about the physical objects they do own. I already see this with younger people, whose lives center around the laptop, cell, digital camera and iPod. They dump all their textbooks at the end of each term. My son (who is 23) exhorts us at every gift-giving opportunity that he doesn’t want any more “unnecessary objects.” Give him his gadgets and a suitcase full of clothes and they’re good to go.

    A corrolary — again fueled by technology and the crippling cost (financial and ecological) of transport — decentralized manufacturing and food supply. This isn’t just an ‘aint it cool’ trend; it’s a necessity. Food miles aren’t just for foodies any more.

  69. Digital signatures, aka secure electronic signatures, will hit the mainstream.

    We will see a rise in free-form “meeting of the minds” electronic contracting, with both digitally signed IM and digitally signed email offer-and-accept contracts being accepted as valid and binding.

    This will also give rise to bank-less electronic payments, local currencies, etc.

    PKI-based and PGP-based systems will coexist, with some PKI-based systems supporting trust brokering for limited-community GPG-based applications.

    PKI-based (central authority) will arise in logistics and shipping industries and expand into financial and accounting from there.

    PGP-based will arise in geek-friendly industries, e.g., offer-and-acceptance and payment for all-digital consulting services, delivery of geek-friendly paraphernalia, etc.

    They will merge where shipping/logistics companies opt to serve the geek market.

    From there, we will get PKI-PGP-based mobile phone payments and the credit card will disappear.

    In 20 years time, digital signatures will be so ubiquitous we won’t even remember what all the fuss was about and pen-and-ink signatures will be archaic, and eventually retro.

  70. 1. Due to the unavailability of jobs in the US requiring them, the value of a US college degree will decline, followed by a decline in tuition as universities have to compete for the fewer interested students. Tuition for training schools in non-offshore-able positions such as plumbing will show a corresponding increase.

    2. Most content will become low-cost with embedded advertising. As usual, geeks/hackers will develop algorithms to bypass the advertising – but also as usual, only those who really dislike advertising will bypass it.

    3. Journalistic organizations will embrace bloggers, ex-reporters, and indeed anyone who has a ‘reputation of credibility’ in reaction to the overabundance of happy-talk- and celebrity-following- news

    4. “Newspapers” will be delivered on e-paper-like thin, clipboard-sized, screens. Maybe with video. There will be no advertising, instead they will charge monthly fees like cell phones, and give away the device (the precursor may be the Radio Shack $99 computer deal with Asus or Acer whichever one it is).

    5. Someone following the model of the VW Bug in the 60s will produce a “Folks’ Wagon” which is cheap to operation (hybrid or electric), designed just for in-town use, and easy to repair your self. It will sell for US $7995 (or less, depending upon the economy) and will be an instant success. Unfortunately this will also cause a huge increase in the number of SUV carcasses parked, inanimate and rusting, in front yards across the nation.

  71. Generally speaking, the future looks bright. Things will continue to improve, as they always have, especially now since our tools to solve problems are much better now than they ever have been. The idea of a guestblogger asking us what we think could be taken as a small sign of this.

  72. @ #24 The social upheavals will in fact be televised. But no-one will be watching because they’ll all be watching re-runs of Lost.

  73. We will misuse Nanobots and Nanotechnology like we misuse antibiotics.

    And suffer the consequences.

    Mobile robotic spying will become the norm.

    The vast, leaky, exploitable government databases will become ever more vast, leaky and exploitable and we will be reduced to a medieval/early modern situation whereby identity is a matter of who you say you are and who agrees rather than who you really are.

    Perkin Warbeck anybody?

  74. Hrmph, I confidently mispredicted both the 2000 and 2004 U.S. presidential elections, and I’ve abstained from predicting things ever since. But since you asked…

    – Maybe we are due for a world history event. The financial crisis is a big deal, but it isn’t WWII, you know? Note that I’m not talking about a war, necessarily, but something of that size and importance and lasting impact on the human world in terms of technology, politics, and so on. It feels to me like we’re past due. OTOH this might be just my secular gloss on the old human impulse to eschatology.

    – Neural interfaces, currently under development for things like prosthetics and being researched for lie detection, etc. will become more advanced and mainstream. While public discussion of this will center on bioethics, common practice will outstrip both the law and moral convention. Neural connectivity to the ‘net will lead to a bevy of technologies that give fits to traditionalists, such as offsite storage of your long-term memories, hardware expansions for your short-term memory, co-processing of your thoughts (both with hardware and cooperatively with other humans), mental access to networked services like language translation and calculation and predictive analysis, and eventually some group minds. These technologies will have fantastic benefits but will be very disruptive to traditional ideas of identity and selfhood, and users of these technologies will spread out across a spectrum with super-formalism at one end (with a rigid code of behavior and public ethics designed to maintain selfhood despite neural connectivity) and anarchic dissolution at the other end (people who have lost or purposely discarded all sense of self and whose identities, if they can be said to have any, are totally alien to standard humans). The mass of neural connectivity users will be casual, though, and will see themselves as basically similar to the previous generation except better connected. Unfortunately, these centrists will have to deal with the inevitable societal ills that follow, including DDoS attacks on individuals’ thought processes, occasional server outages that leave you unconnected from important memories, serious virus issues, wire addictions, and mental rape. The cryptographic arms race between libertarians and surveillance agencies will be epic.

    Errrr, it turns out I could go on all day about that. I’ll stop typing now.

  75. Vernor Vinge already said anything I might say here in Rainbow’s End, which I predict should become more or less true in all the particulars over the next 5-10 years. Rather than Scoochi fans and Hacek fiends I suspect immersive mediated reality and massive multiplayer businesses guilds will bring a little noticed group already among us into power.

    I, for one, welcome our new Furry overlords.

  76. I see that apocalypse chic is dominating this thread. I am not quite as pessimistic. It is obvious that there will be big, big bumps in the road ahead, but I also see ways to mitigate a lot of problems through gains in efficiency and the use of creative thinking and innovation. We will have less, but we will know how to use it more effectively.

    And now, my predictions:

    1) The “digital transition” this coming February will hasten the demise of television. It will be replaced by file-based delivery of video programming in whatever format the end user desires. The broadcast model will evaporate as a viable business.

    2) Mining of landfills to recover metals and other materials will begin.

    3) Reduced power consumption in domestic appliances and electronic gadgets will finally make home power generation realistic and economically viable. A pack solar cells and high efficiency batteries will be affordable enough to use for computers and LED lighting, leaving grid power to do heavy lifting like refrigeration and HVAC.

    4) A massive solar storm will overwhelm satellite communications, causing large disruptions in electronic communications. There will be a shift back to terrestrial networks for data distribution.

    5) The manufacture of short-lived, disposable goods will fall out of favor, finally seen as the hideous waste of materials and energy that it is. An emphasis on durability and long-term use will return as something to be valued.

    6) Food production will shift back to local and regional farms. Corporate monoculture farming and long distance imports will be seen as wasteful, inefficient and impractical, especially as petroleum becomes more scarce.

    7) The Midwest will rise again. 1/3 of the world’s fresh water is in the Great Lakes. A huge amount of engineering and manufacturing talent, currently laying fallow, is waiting to be tapped. Thousands of acres of fertile land awaits those with the vision and drive to utilize its potential. Conversely, the increasingly arid regions of the west will become wastelands. The Midwest is the future… you can count on it.

  77. #76 *Someone following the model of the VW Bug in the 60s will produce a “Folks’ Wagon”*

    We’ll be in big trouble if the future follows the (political) model that gave rise to the Volkswagen!

    (But if they do, I hope they don’t give it the name “Folks’ Wagon”–or its original name, the “Strength-through-Joy Wagon.”)

  78. Plumbers and electricians and other home repair services will become rarely used after initial construction, and become symbols of nostalgia, like milkmen or shoe repair shops. Plumbers are already using plug-in type valves and flexible, cold-resistant lines that any fool can install. Electrical wiring can be just as plug and play. As long as you know where the master switch is located, you already can save hundreds of dollars on any single service call if you can replace something yourself. What now seems dangerous and may require an expert can be rendered safe and easy, and it’s happening as simple modular elements are created. Gradually homes will be constructed or retrofitted so that just about every feature, sinks, toilets, doors, windows and roofs, you name it, can be bought and installed by the homeowner with “click on, click off” fasteners. Big box home supply stores will offer a “geek squad”-style service to the elderly or those who’d just rather have someone else do it. Not sexy, but inevitable and significant change that’s a lot farther along than most people realize.

  79. Geographic boundaries are becoming less important – and corporate / social allegiances now define who we are, more than our nationality / homeland. This trend will continue, leading to the development of a new kind of feudalism.

    Britain will abandon the pound and join the Euro.

  80. Think about it. Only computers will have changed in the small window of 5 years. And Ray Kurzweil will still be waiting for the singularity.

  81. Nanotechnology and biotechnology will allow us to:
    A) Cure all diseases
    B) Forgo external viewing surfaces (optic nerve taps for all!)
    C) Remove a large percentage of the toxins we’ve dumped all over the planet.
    D) Completely annihilate ourselves
    E) All of the above

  82. Nearly every surface will be a video display. It will be as ubiquitous as paint, using cheap and flexible organic display material that comes in rolls.

  83. five years?

    Buckaroo Bonzai will enter the eighth dimension in his rocket car.

    I’d be happy with cheap solar panels and cheap windmills.

  84. Shirts, shoes, and trousers will still be worn.

    Most things will change, but no one thing will change everything.

    No extrapolated trend will continue ad absurdum without modification by other influences.

    At any given moment, every year of the preceding fifty to one hundred years is still current somewhere.

    When you’re thinking about what life will be like at some date in the future, subtract 70-75 years to get the range of birth dates of people who will still be around. That’s living memory: the set of directly experienced events that inform the worldview and decisions of the people that lived through them.

    Intermediate technologies will always be where the rubber meets the road. Even when everyone can see the direction technology is taking, new breakthroughs can only be realized via incremental developments in implementation, manufacturing, and distribution.

    Exporting our manufacturing without exporting our standard of living will turn out to have been a serious mistake.

    New power-generation systems must exceed, not replace, our current capacity. We’ve got a water supply problem coming up, and we’ll need more energy to deal with it.

    If we can’t lick the problem of cheap power for personal vehicles, there are large built-up areas of the United States that will be cheaper to abandon than maintain.

    There are going to be interesting developments generated by the increasing power and accessibility of smaller-scale precision machining and fabrication systems. (3D scanners will also be involved.)

    One of these developments will be the ability to make replacement parts for older manufactured items, or even replicate the entire item. The material culture of the industrial age amounts to a vast body of largely unclaimed and unrecorded “intellectual property.” This didn’t matter when the prohibitively high setup cost of manufacturing components for the Sunbeam T-9 toaster was an effective bar to casual reproduction. Like copyright, theoretical ownership rights have been enforced by the technology itself. The increasing ease of physical replication may make that a live issue.

    Other potential issues arising from small-scale precision fabrication technologies depend on how cheap it gets and how easy it is to use.

    Early fears about the misuse of biotechnology will turn out to have missed the point in much the same way that early fears about the misuse of computers did. The street will still find its uses. More to the point, the quietly conformist Silent Majority will turn out to have rich inner lives they can now do something about.

    The future will understand that in 2008, online marketing techniques were in their infancy.

    Fugue-state nonstop online research for its own sake will be recognized as a disorder.

    The last generation before practical immortality will all write memoirs. The next generation will ignore almost all of them.

    The most complex, sophisticated user interface will continue to be language.

    Most of the people in the world will be able to speak something they regard as English. Some versions of it will be mutually incomprehensible.

    If the United States continues to prosper, being able to pass as a native English speaker will continue to be valuable.

    The publishing industry’s expertise is in finding, editing, packaging, and selling interesting texts. How those texts get reproduced and distributed is always changing anyway. Electronic text is just one more new to do it.

    Proofreading will increasingly be automated. Copyediting will continue to require trained, talented human beings.

    (Here endeth the serious part.)

    Religion will not disappear. Neither will atheism. However, mainstream Mormonism will fracture into multiple tendencies, syntheses, and groups subscribing to private revelations, which will have a broad range of theologies. Their internecine squabbles will be enlivened by debates about (1.) the contents, provenance, and import of the General Authorities’ secret stash of historical documents; (2.) whether the Doctrine of Free Agency applies to acts of prophecy; (3.) ditto, acts of divinely inspired translation; (4.) whether the Doctrine of Eternal Progression applies to Jehovah; and (5.) whether Mars is overseen by a different God.

  85. well,I was with you until you got to the loony bit:
    “Fugue-state nonstop online research for its own sake will be recognized as a disorder.”

  86. Fugue-state nonstop online research for its own sake will be recognized as a disorder.

    Oh. I see.

    And this is how you chose to tell me.

    Can I have a hug at least?

  87. Mixed-martial arts and professional wrestling will fully converge with the hybrid keeping the flamboyance and flash of rasslin’ and the full-contact combat of mma, e.g. masked men in boas beating the hell out of each other in a cage.

  88. Nehemiah Scudder will not be elected in 2012. However, at least one author will publish a Heinlein inspired novel featuring Scudder, or a character based on or easily recognized as Scudder.

  89. 1) We will discover, to our embarrassment, that the Singularity happened at 3:21 am, April 1st, 2003, and that our strong godlike intellegences have kept the rest of us running in simulation as a sentimental gesture.

    2)Nanotechnology (and this is a long shot), will come to be seen as quaint as Captain Nemo’s submarine, once it is realized that making industrial age machines, but very, very tiny, is kind of a silly idea in a world that already contains biotechnology.

    3) Google’s attempt to digitize the world is actually the win condition for the god-game that is our space-time, and upon completion, the entire universe is replaced by a Hi-Score screen, and the winner’s initials are A-S-S.

    4) As the scarcity economy collapses, people will be kept busy by making World of Warcraft a mandatory 9-5 job. Unions will form for each race and class, collectively bargaining not to be nerfed in the next patch.

  90. india and pakistan will go to war ( due to the false flag operation in mumbai), thereby causing the bush admin to declare martial law, keeping obama from being sworn in as president. the u.s. will join india in the fight, china will join with pakistan. this war will turn nuclear. internal opposition to bushes martial law will create a radical, u.s. insurrection which will cause many of our citizens to be arrested and placed indefinitely into fema camps. documents will slip out proving that the u.s. govt was responsible for the attacks of 9-11, just as they were responsible for the ‘gulf of tonkin incident’, and the ‘sinking of the Maine’. as our money and system of govt. starts to become worthless and begins to eat itself from the inside, the N.A.U. will be created by the partnering up of the mexican, canadian and u.s. govts. thereby making the u.s. constitution null and void. around 2010 a new star will appear in the southern sky. it will appear brighter and brighter with each passing year. at first we will be told that it is nothing to worry about. around 2012 this new “star’ will be revealed as the planet nibiru making its annual 3060 year return to the inner solar system, it’s massive gravity causing tsunami, earthquakes and massive volcanic eruptions which will literally change the face of the earth. the ones that survive will have to find a whole new path to planetary repopulation. enjoy!

  91. The higher education bubble will burst. College tuitions have been going up and up in relatively recent years, without a comparable benefit. Both employers and employees will start to question what the hell students get for their four (or more) years. Stanford and Harvard will stay pretty much the same, but applications at a large number of non-elite but ridiculously expensive schools will decline. Some pretty good but not great schools will fail, and some excellent teachers will struggle and suffer for a while before they find a better career path than the publish-or-perish tenure track. Students will miss the social life. Knowledge and learning will be better off in the end.

  92. Climate change will not end the world. This is because:

    -the the globe has warmed much less than screaming headlines would lead you to believe, and

    -models relying on atmospheric forcing are woefully underpowered and consequently inaccurate

    I am not a “denier”, an inaccurate and slanderous term. I have a long history in the experimental physical sciences and have spent a lot of time looking at the data instead of the output of models. I believe that a large majority of open-mined people examining the data in sufficient detail would conclude as I have that there is virtually no evidence to support the current hysteria over climate change. We are using historical records and even current data that are almost wholly unsuited to the task, and are paying the price.

  93. 5 years is little short but we should at least see the early signs:
    human beings will become the most valuable capital on Earth and there will be a rush to have them in your community (collective business, group, collaborative space); there will be a race among those groups to save and care for people and keep them in good health. Minds, experiences, pattern recognition and interpretations will become the main currency.

  94. Countries and nations will be made up of small “colonies” or “villages,” that rely on themselves for food stuff (local foods) and clothes and other forms of subsistence. The ability to travel around will be limited for a while (unless we figure out some form of reliable energy source), but — worry not! — we’ll also be on the internet a lot. We’ll be kinda like high-tech Amish people.

    ~ e-Bomb

  95. 1. As the difference in services and opportunities between urban and rural areas becomes greater and greater, rural areas will depopulate to minimum levels needed to sustain localized industries (e.g. forestry, mining, tourism) and cities will see growth rates closer to rates of immigration and national population growth rates. The nasty result will be that democracies that fail to recognize this shift and maintain political positions (seats in the whatever) based on land area, and not population, will vote in governments even less representative of actual majority interests than they do today.

    2. The mega-corporations of music, movies, and other media will be in danger of bankruptcy as a result of failure to adapt to the market after 20 to 30 years of opportunity to do so. A financial crisis will come around at the same time (current or future) and they’ll demand a bailout. Don’t if they’ll get one, but it will be scary regardless.

  96. Skynet will become self-aware, launch a nuclear first strike, the machines will begin to exterminate the humans, etc. etc.

  97. Along the same lines as Machineintheghost’s, personal learning environments will boom and become the last form of social networking. I really see students designing their own curriculum and expanding every form of literary/knowledge canon there is. Of course, debates will emerge as to this new form of learning not being “legitimate” because it will not be done within the confines of a school or bureauratic education system. Also, thanks to spell check and google, dictionaries will cease to be printed and spelling bees will DIE!

  98. Suburbs jammed with mini mansions will start vanishing from the landscape, as more and more people lose their homes and the ones left struggle to pay heating costs.

    Communities that had hitherto banned clotheslines, will demand them. Victory gardens and backyard chickens will be everywhere. Neighbors will get to know neighbors again as driving and shopping cease to become the focus of their lives.

    Television will lose more and more audience, as fewer people will be willing to pay the fees for a medium which exists to convince them to buy that which they cannot afford and do not need and no longer want.

    Lawns will revert to meadows. Bird watching will be big. Hiking, camping, cycling and rollerblading will all increase in popularity. People will get back in touch with nature.

    Kids will still play videogames, but without the funds to buy the latest games and consoles, and without the constant reinforcement from television and trips to the mall, the popularity of electronic games will diminish. However geocaching will become enormous.

    As more and more of the food supply affordable to a general public becomes increasingly processed and crappy, people rebel and grow more of their own food. People actually learn to cook again. Monsanto starts RIAA-like raids on home gardeners. A radical wing of the heirloom seed groups retaliates with violence.

    Local independent farmers become folk heroes.

    Non essential goods will not longer be manufactured in such great numbers. People who no longer are affluent, but who have attics and basements full of crap from The Christmas Tree shops start a barter economy.

    And no one will be drinking water out of disposable plastic bottles.

  99. riffing the Pip: someone will make a pile converting McMansions to apartment buildings. Time to start working on the reno tricks to make it work cheap and well. Six families where one was, salvaging entire neighbourhoods.

  100. I see this happening about 10-20 years out. Some have already been mentioned, some not.

    * The newspaper, television and movie industry collapses. Local reporting is done with blog-like tools. Very few regional newspapers exist (Bye-bye Denver Post). Only one of the big four/five TV networks keeps free over air broadcast. Movies are made as low budget flicks, distributed online. Thankfully, “Reality TV” goes away as viewers get bored with them.
    * The Music and Radio Industry continues their major shift. Bands sell their music directly to consumers — CD’s are antiques.
    * Some major colleges do collapse, but students still desire the in-person learning and socialization that happens within and outside of the classroom.
    * Rich People get operations so they can plug in their iPhone/computer directly into their brain (through a USB port?) so that they can have direct brain to brain communications. The Borg will exist, but only those who can afford to join that network.
    * Microsoft goes belly up as companies reject the annual upgrade costs, and use free OS’s and productivity tools.
    * GM only sells Chevy’s and Buicks. They drop Pontiac, GMC, Hummer and Cadillac. Saturn is spunoff. Lines from Frod and Chrysler also dropped.
    * More e-books are sold than the dead-tree versions.
    * Kodak and Fuji stops making film of any kind. There is a run on film and hoarding by 60+ year old film camera enthusiasts.
    * Race becomes much less of an issue in social relations (and politics?), since it is just as easy to be friends with someone from China or Africa, as it is to be friends with someone from across the street.
    * People will carry a copy of their DNA profile in a secure chip somewhere in their body, or in their cell phone.
    * GPS and RFID chips for human bodies.

  101. happy extended families that share food, swap clothing for the kids, hold work bees,provide babysitting and form a nucleus for village community long lost. First by traditional affinity groups (ethnicity, religion etc.) then later more by ideology as the pinch bites deeper. Tenements were owned by someone else, a six-way blended mortgage for a fire-sale price will create something new. Banks will resist but it’s too much of a natural problem solver for government for it not to be forced through by coupling bailouts with relaxed municipal zoning and flexible financing. Stupid lazy banks should have gone this way to begin with. All they had to do was look at older societies and admit that was the future.

  102. The energy and water crises will force the beginning of a radical re-localization in the suburbs, endo-burbs and cities.

    Internet mediated telepresencing will allow fewer white collar commuters per day. Though the numbers of white collar jobs will probably remain somewhat the same but in different industries. The re-localized communities will increase their self-sufficiency. Blue collar jobs will also re-localize into smaller, “smarter” manufacturing plants. Energy costs are going to eventually defeat off-shoring trends. Good old fashioned automation is going to return as the biggest threat to blue collar jobs.

  103. OpenGrid takes off, allowing denizens to directly link their own hardware to the Grid. Many netizens leave Second Life behind for a system where there is no intermediary entity holding your compute cycles “in trust.” Creative uses of the Metaverse explode as people pool money together to increase the rez capacity of their own sims beyond their current limits. That is to say opensims will be capable of rezzing in near-Crysis level graphics within 5 years. Linden Labs can either become a cornerstone in this process or become irrelevant.

    The triumph of the OpenGrid will be the final “vindication” of the open source development as it becomes clear that the Grid could not exist any other way. The FOSS model becomes the dominant mode of software innovation (in terms of funding).

    Oh, and Perl 6 gets released, takes over world :D

  104. As the financial crisis spirals into worldwide depression, state socialism returns as the dominant mode of government throughout the world. However, this contemporary form of socialism uses sophisticated mathematical models running on very fast computers for central planning. As such, it is very successful and popular. Capitalism comes to be seen as old fashioned and somewhat ridiculous

  105. Open Source Singularity development, pioneered by , will become the dominant focus of AI geeks.

    My book “Hel’s Bet” is going to recruit an army of geeks to hack our cybernetic offspring. My game “HeloWorld” will be a playground for baby AGI’s to grow up in.

  106. A modest prediction: Standby power will be addressed with better mainstream solutions. As things stand, people aren’t going to give up the ability to turn on the TV with a
    remote, they aren’t going to unplug the microwave (etc) when they aren’t using it, and they need standyby power for things like DVRs.

    So I believe a mainstream, nearly user-transparent solution will be found and will quickly make its way into homes and/or a wide array of electric devices.

    A possibly related, sketchier, longer-term (10-15 years) prediction: DC in the home. This will mesh more easily with on-site green power tech (solar, wind, etc) and with increasingly efficient home electronics. Essentially, the power utility would still send power in AC, but most wall plugs would be DC within the house. Indoor AC slowly disappears except where necessary, somewhat like 220VAC is only for laundry rooms and maybe refrigerators.

    And a final, related, likely 10-year prediction: Community power. Cities, municipalities, and even neighborhoods will be built around green power. A roof’s worth of solar power won’t get a house far on its own, but imagine replacing a couple of the less-desirable lots in a suburban neighborhood for a fair-sized wind/solar array the neighborhood gets to share.

  107. Zepellins.

    Algae Biofuels.

    The beginning of the movement towards offworld resource extraction.

    The State of Jeffersonia.

  108. Heck with food pills, the future will bring us pill food — food genetically tweaked to provide useful medications. Your doctor will write you a prescription for Prozac pork chops or Viagra vinaigrette dressing.

    1. I ate at a Chinese medicine restaurant in San Francisco. All the food on the menu was medicinal, which for those of you unfamiliar with Chinese medicine, usually means painfully bitter and fetid. The snake was pretty good but the moss looked and tasted like an old merkin.

  109. What I think will happen to newspapers: What people need is good journalism. Newspapers were just a delivery system.

    What you need, then, is the front end of the operation — reporters, mostly, plus an editor, maybe a rewrite person, a managing editor, an irregular bunch of researchers and stringers, and a tech person to keep the site running. They concentrate on reporting the news. If the AP keeps insisting on no links back to the original story, they do without the AP. They outsource Accounting and HR. If they don’t want to mess with ad sales (and collecting from deadbeat advertisers), they can get some outfit like Federated Media to handle the ads for a cut of the take. Website ads won’t bring in enough to support a conventional daily newspaper, but it could be enough to support the a stripped-down front-end operation.

    If I’d predicted that Tim Quinn @63 would make me laugh out loud, I would have been right.

    Allegra @62:

    There will be a pause in the mass movement to cities as food security becomes more important. In some places, parents will send their kids to relatives on farms just to ensure they stay out of the violent and hungry cities. …

    Middle class liberals will find themselves purchasing guns. Gun club membership will see steady year over year gains for the next five years.

    I’ve been hearing that one at intervals since the 1960s. It never happens. All it does is keep people from emotionally investing in their own lives, neighborhoods, friends, careers, etc., because they don’t have faith that those things will persist.

    Uniace @67, I instantly fell in love with “sousveillance” because I thought it meant “self-tracking systems you set up yourself so you can ask them where you left that paperwork and what you were supposed to be doing with it.” They should exist. There’s a need for them.

    Sfazzios @70, you can lose track of this fact when you hang out on Boing Boing, but a great many citizens are less computer-savvy than you. Did you know, for instance, that GWB was the first touch-typist in the Oval Office? Obama will be the second touch typist and the first Mac user there, as well as the only national-level officeholder who knows the Zero Wing dialogue. So don’t worry. Console yourself that the center of gravity is still in the meat world. You are a part of the installed user base; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.

    However, you should master Twitter, so the Zombie Apocalypse won’t take you by surprise. I’m just sayin’.

    Broussardish @93, I absolutely agree that more intelligence will be built into the hardware, reducing the need for skilled craftsmen; but I think there’s a professional opportunity there for someone knowledgeable to show up, have a look at the repair or improvement, and confirm that the homeowner did it right.

    Takuan @102, Arkizzle @103: Dear friends, how do you think I know it’s a syndrome?

    Arkizzle, we’re still working on the hug transfer protocol. Can I give you an IOU?

    W000t @130:

    A modest prediction: Standby power will be addressed with better mainstream solutions.

    Huh. I’ll bet you’re right. That’s a very astute suggestion.

    1. Teresa,

      I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Drag queens on acid in the gutter on Polk Street. I watched sequins glitter in the dark near the Chinatown Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like old merkins in medicinal stew.

  110. Can I give you an IOU?

    You all saw it! As BoingBoing is my witness:

    Teresa Neilsen Hayden owes me, Arkizzle, A HUG.


    Watch out Patrick, I will collect.

  111. -Max Dublin’s “Future Hype” (1983, Viking) will be republished and become a much more respected, underground classic regarding the entire fabric of our techo-utopianist presumptions.

    -The command line interface will make a significant if limited comeback, facilitated as it will be by clever implementations of imprecision-tolerant heuristics and semantics, audio input, and multi-modal pre-emptive affordances (and such like). This will make it available to the mainstream user, augmenting various device or website interfaces.

    -Perhaps a little out from 5 years from the present, maybe closer to 10, the US space weaponization project will have orbiting nuclear missles – a provacative act which will be quickly repeated by a short list of other nations, igniting another arms race.

  112. The command line interface will make a significant if limited comeback, facilitated as it will be by clever implementations of imprecision-tolerant heuristics and semantics, audio input, and multi-modal pre-emptive affordances (and such like). This will make it available to the mainstream user, augmenting various device or website interfaces.

    In other words, the search field.

    Command-line -> search bar -> virtual assistant

    Searching is programming; that’s what all those namespace obsessed people such as Plan 9 developers (e.g. Rob Pike) and Hans Reiser (and database design generally) figured out.

  113. Antinous: If you could see what I’ve seen through your eyes –. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

    Arkizzle, so noted.

  114. Not much to add to all this.

    1) “The revolution will not be televised.”

    The television will not be revolutionised, and our evolution will not be recognised.

    2) The future will be even less futuristic than the present.

  115. More people willstart to understand that environmental issues aren’t just global warming. They’re global warming, plummeting fish stocks, algae blooms, land loss, deforestation and many more.

    The majority will continue to ignore these problems in favour of arguing about global warming and celebrity news.

  116. The academic left will be purged from cash-strapped universities as the uselessness of the modern humanities is made apparent.

    Right-wing culture warriors will increasingly become actual terrorists in desperate bids for attention.

    The anti-intellectual bent of our culture will wane, and the scientist and engineer will gain the credibility she had in the sixties, while the businessman will acquire a stereotype of buffoonery.

  117. A computer that doesn’t crash and does what you want it to, without making you jump through hoops, will continue to be an utter impossibility.

    Electronic voting machines will have a game of tetris included to pacify irate voters when their vote is screwed up for the 10th time in a row.

    The only thing broadcast on TV will be reality shows, game shows, home shopping infomercials, tabloid journalism and religious programming. Everyone will just download TV series with bittorrent. The only difference between this happening today, and it happening in the future, is that the MPAA/RIAA will have figured out how to make money off it and will stop bitching that downloading is the end of the universe. They will continue to rob both the artist and consumer, and they will go back to spending their ill gotten gains on hookers and coke, rather than lawyers.

  118. (Didn’t feel like setting up an account, but my name is Brian Siano )

    I suspect we’ll see a fascinating cultural crisis/shift/re-evaluation as the burgeoning middle and upper-middle classes of China and the Middle East grow, develop, and gain global influence. Once America as seen as a source of dynamism and affluence; now regions like Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, and industries like Bollywood, have become equally inspiring, tempting, and attractive to the rest of the globe.

    As this happens, I think we’ll see variations on the following;

    1) Other cultures and religions will adjust to lifestyles defined by affluence and cross-cultural exposure. There will be reactionary fanaticism, but for the most part, the common elements of affulent cultures will be accepted.

    2) There will be a nostalgia for previous period of empire and dominance: as there is some romance associated with the Victorian era, Americans will look back upon the postwar period with a degree of pride– as though to say to the rest of the world, “Let’s not forget the great stuff we did” even as the U.S. adjusts to a global culture it no longer dominates. (Conversely, this will also lead to a growing recognition of how many good things the West has created.)

    3) In terms of personal style and culture, we’ll become far more eclectic, taking elements from wildly disparate cultures and eras and mixing-and-matching. We’ll have Islamic steampunk, Space Age Hindu culture, revivals of Regency Britain among Hmong tribes… There may be a consensus of culture globally, but there will be a lot more room for eclecticism.

    4) Browser plug-ins will translate long, pedantic posts like this one into livelier and more entertaining commentaries. Soon, if you’d like, the entire web will read as though written by Gore Vidal.

  119. Personal computers will plateau in functionality. The point-and-click interface is a steering wheel: it’s good enough and there isn’t really money to be had in looking for much else. Video games will keep moving to dedicated platforms and the interesting and profitable areas of computing research will be happening in huge data centers. The computer you buy in 2010 will be clunky but completely serviceable in 2020, much like TVs were for decades.

    HD will come to the masses once 50″ screens are cheap and disks are totally outdated.

    Like rock and roll, much of what is currently created by independent crowds and communities online will be corporatized as the novelty wears off.

    Our attention spans will be shorter. Newspapers will die and the vacuum of information will not be adequately filled, as there will be no reliable source of money to pay someone with a reputation to do 100 hours of legwork on a story with a 1-week window of interest.

    There will be a big war. Over what or just how soon it’s hard to say, but looking at the history of humanity, it’s impossible to imagine it won’t happen. Nukes will be involved as sooner or later the most powerful weapons in the world are going to get used. It will be horrible but not the kind of extinction level event that some foretold.

    We’re going to start losing big iconic mammal species.

    Alternative fuels will flourish briefly, but new technologies for extracting oil will keep the CO2 pumping. Coal won’t be going anywhere.

    There will continue to be a mainstream, as many people don’t want to invest their lives in searching for and researching entertainment.

  120. China will take Taiwan. They’ll simply walk in with an overwhelming force and as little bloodshed as they can manage and present it to the world as a fait accompli – no one will want to start World War III over a tiny island.

    This will happen when we least expect it – I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it happened before January 20.

    However, that’s pretty minor (sorry, Taiwan). I agree with a previous poster that it now seems like a “World History Event” is going to occur. What it is, I’m racking my brain to guess.

    This seems inevitable because the rich and high and mighty have become fabulously wealthy by in essence writing lottery tickets and selling them without keeping the cash to back it up.

    The middle of the twentieth century saw a huge build-up of a tremendous infrastructure both tangible (roads, power lines, bridges, etc.) and intangible (financial systems, social services, etc.)

    Unfortunately, in America we’ve had thirty years of government looting this infrastructure to divert money to the permanent war economy and thirty years of financiers looting this infrastructure by assuming massive amounts of hidden, correlated (i.e. not diversified) risk and by encouraging unsustainable speculative bubbles. Similar problems exist in other countries.

    Africa is on the verge of collapse; China’s bubble is collapsing and we’re discovering that a lot of the companies that made those stupid plastic gadgets we have, really did make them at a loss in the long-term; Russia, sigh; and the economic tulip fever seems to have touched everywhere else.

    So I think we’re going to see systematic failures at a large scale. In America, perhaps Mr. Obama’s public works program will help, but I think we’re going to discover that the every department of the government is broken by President Bush’s systematic meddling and it’s going to take years and trillions to fix it.

    Let us pray for good weather. While I more or less believe in the theory of man-made global warming, a five year timescale is “weather” and not “climate”; however, everyone seems to agree that we’re in the middle of a rough weather decade.

    With the systems as broken as they are, one really bad harvest and millions might starve. With the infrastructure in poor shape, one bad storm might cause a great loss of life and property.

    These would in and of themselves be lamentable. But with the system so short of capital, it might literally “go into shock” where money would cease to flow freely. All the attempts to “inject capital into the system” aren’t going to make people give up their money if they’ve simply lost all confidence in the system.

  121. – Using the popularity of the iPhone for momentum, multi-touch displays will begin to see more share in the market. It may take more than five years, but eventually multi-touch technology will replace the mouse and keyboard in many computing situations, much like the Microsoft Surface project is positioning to do. PCs will continue to branch out into specialized, and uniquely different configurations.

    – The economy will stll have its challenges, but will have a better outlook.

    – A major breakthrough in particle physics will have been realized.

    – The Internet as we know it will go through a major sabotage via DNS poisoning. Many ISPs and DNS hosting companies will adapt, many will stay down for days or even weeks…spyware and malware will remain to be a huge challenge to overcome globally.

    – People in genera will begin wearing hats on their feet.

  122. One or more of the following:

    • – Dirty bomb in Manhattan
    • – Nuclear detonation in Manhattan or Washington
    • – First bio-terror attack with more than 10,000 casualties

    Collateral damage: NYC and DC real estate values will drop to near zero.

  123. Here is something I wrote over on BBGadgets regarding netbooks:

    I was thinking about this, and I reckon Intel are scared. Not of competition, as such, but of people realizing that the computers they are forced to buy (forced, in that with redundance comes lack of options) have wa-ay more horsepower most people will ever need – and as each year goes by the difference gets more pronounced.

    I’m a horsepower guy myself, I use every drop I can afford, but I know most people just aren’t. Most folks just want to browse the internet, deal with the photos from their digital camera, and reload their ipod. All possible with a fraction of the power and ram of today’s baseline models.

    There is definitely a GHz Gap (if you will) between the hardware we are encouraged to buy and the requirements of the use, to which it will eventually be put. Most desktop computers you can buy today – whether pro or consumer – are within a range of similarity, beyond which is the supercomputer at the one extreme, and something ‘dumb’ like a fax machine at the other. And there’s the thing. People really want ‘appliance’ computers, not workstations. They don’t upgrade their kettle or toaster or TV every 3 years, why would they update their internet-viewer?

    I genuinely think Intel are realizing that a two tier hardware model could become apparent, beyond the more usual normal-computer vs overclocked-super-graphics-beast or real-computer vs mobile-device. Now it could be more like media-center (used by everyone) vs actual computers (only used by pros and hobbyists).

    I’m not sure how that affects Intels bottom line (do they care if they can just keep stamping out old chips, rather than innovate?), but perhaps it would be harder to keep up the innovation if everyday customers weren’t there to subsidise the constant speed increases needed by power-hungry industries who actually benefit from faster cpu’s (film / animation / games / architecture / design / music).

    In other words: If there was a significant divide between the computers pros used (industry) compared to the ones everyday people used (the masses), would innovation be as affordable to both Intel and the companies requiring that innovation.

    Anyway, just some thoughts I had. My models are probably way off IANAnEconomist..

    (Yes Kieran, I fixed my typo)

  124. Overpopulation will finally be acknowledged as the root cause of all significant social and environmental problems.

    And nothing will be done about it.

  125. I think that some of these predictions are actually quite plausible.

    However, only a few are likely to happen in the next five years.

    And this one, unfortunately, is pure wishful thinking.

    As for my predictions?

    I predict no sweeping changes. It usually takes far longer than 5 years for real, large-scale changes to take place. But here are a few predictions, based on my limited, biased knowledge of the world.

    Technology :

    Really only incremental changes here, mostly in the consumer arena. They’ll invent a few new gadgets that will be appreciated by the rich and people who are really into gadgets. People will get bigger TV sets.

    The iphone will become more popular. Its use among the over-30 set will plateaus, because the price will decrease to the point where everyone who wants one will have one. However, it will be a must-have for the younger generation, and this is where Apple will make most of their money. There will eventually be a serious competitor to Apple in this arena, but I doubt that anyone will seriously cut into their market share in the next 5 years. Apple just has too much of a head start here.

    Someone will invent some new social thing like Twitter that people over 30 will think is obnoxious, but the kids will go bonkers for. Expect the generation gap to widen.

    Facebook will continue to rise in popularity, but I suspect some other service will come and steal its thunder. It has happened before, and it will happen again. Whatever takes over will be heavily reliant on mobile devices.

    Solar power will continue to decrease in price. It’s decreased by a factor of ten in the last decade, and I can only see this trend continuing. However, I doubt that it will supplant hydrocarbons in any appreciable sense within 5 years. Ten years though? I’m willing to bet on it.

    Medicine :

    A female Viagra will be invented and successfully marketed. Antidepressants will lose some of their luster, as it becomes increasingly clear that regular exercise is just as effective if not more so. More people will quit smoking, and more laws will be passed to shame and humiliate smokers. Diagnosis rates of allergies, especially among children, will continue to increase, and an explanation will continue to be evasive. Measurable progress will be made towards curing cancer and AIDS. The US healthcare system will improve incrementally, but millions will remain uninsured.

    Society :

    Recession or no recession, people in Western countries will continue to wait until later in life to have kids.

    Political :

    Obama will do a good job, and it will be near-universally acknowledged. He will probably win a second term. But it’s doubtful that he’ll accomplish half of what he wanted to, due to massive budget shortfalls.

    Global :

    Oh jeez.. I don’t even want to guess at this, but I’m thinking that Iraq and Afghanistan will still be a mess. However, it will be less of a mess. I think that 5 years from now, we’ll be a lot closer to having stable governments in these regions. We certainly will have fewer troops abroad.

    I don’t expect any progress in Israel/Palestine.

  126. It won’t happen within the next five years, but long-term drought conditions will prevail throughout the American Southwest, resulting in regional economic collapse and depopulation. There will be a very large migration of people to the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes region where water is a more reliable resource.

  127. An American will be the top goal-scorer in the UEFA Champions League in the next five years — and even *that* won’t get Americans to care about soccer.

  128. There are actually some decent systems for analyzing future trends. The first is to look to who is serving under served markets.

    There’s the classic example of DEC and the mini-computers from the 70’s collapsing in the 80’s because (among other things) they were undermined by companies selling cheaper and lower quality tech (personal computers) to people who couldn’t afford computers. As the personal computer improved, it cut in to the mini-computer’s low end market and, ultimately, improved enough to cut into their high end as well, putting mini-computer makers out of business.

    Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson and Michael Horn addresses this extensively in “Disrupting Class.”

    So who is serving under served markets today?

    According to their model, companies like Chery, Zink and Skype are poised to disrupt companies like Toyota, Canon and Singular. Models that are cheaper and more accessible tend to win out in the long run over models that are higher quality and more expensive.

    In education, online classes aren’t usually as good as face to face classes, but for many under served students (students who don’t have access to certain courses because of budget constraints at their school; or small school size; or because they were expelled or dropped out; or because they’re homeschooled; etc), they are better than nothing. As the technology improves, more and more students will opt to take courses online.

    While I don’t think we’ll really see the full impact of this for maybe ten years, I think that the face of education will be profoundly changed even during the next five years.

    Or, to put on my full Cassandra garb, “Beware Teachers! Ye ignore online teaching at thy peril!”

    Anyhow, this same model can be used to predict a lot of things.

  129. U.S. predictions for posterity!

    • * Handhelds like the iPhone will become increasingly mass market and adopted by all segments of society.
    • * The Kindle become very inexpensive and turn huge profits for Amazon.
    • * Smaller web advertising networks will go out of business.
    • * A number of new web-based companies will emerge and thrive (instead of being acquired) despite limited funding from traditional sources.
    • * DVRs gain internet functionality. XMBC’s units and AppleTV-like devices will become much more commonplace. The internet-via-television moves toward ubiquity.
    • * Telecommuting will become more popular as companies look to reduce expenses, communication tools improve, and employees realize the benefits.
    • * Well known national and local newspapers will struggle to survive, a large number will close. Local websites powered by automation and citizen journalists will fill the void. Wire services for high value news will become more commonplace.
    • * Latent status updates (Facebook, Twitter) will be the most important function of social networking tools.
    • * Weblogs will continue to grow and thrive.
    • * Organic food will become less expensive and more desired after studies continue to show their nutritional and health benefits.
    • * At least one major domestic automaker will declare bankruptcy and be purchased by another one. Congress will prevent sale of the companies to foreign competitors. All three will restructure. UAW will be among the biggest losers.
    • * There will be at least one major terror attack on the mainland United States made by by Islamic fundamentalists. Hundreds of people will die and tens of thousands will be displaced.
    • * City centers will continue to gentrify, and American urban areas will become more European in terms of density and socio-economic distribution.
    • * The price of petroleum and other commodities prices will increase as economies recover. This will cause mayhem in third-world countries.
    • * Solar power will become cost-efficient first with government subsidies, then without. Panels will become common in sunny regions. Daytime power use will be less expensive than nighttime power use.
    • * 100% Electric vehicles will become a common sight in urban areas, but will primarily be thought of as a “second car.”
    • * Castro will die, and relations between Cuba and the U.S. will warm. Cuba will liberalize it’s economy, which will grow quickly.
    • * A variety of new, effective cancer treatments will become available.
    • * Genetic screening for known diseases and PET scans for at-risk individuals will become commonplace for the middle-class.
    • * Republicans will win back seats in the 2010 midterm elections. Barack Obama will win in 2012 despite a scandal and a rotating door for advisers and cabinet members.
    • * College tuition increases will level off and costs will be decreased by a shift away from expensive books
    • * The healthcare, benefits due to Iraq War veterans will spiral out of control. Major legislation will be passed at great expense to the taxpayer.
    • * There will be several wars between Iran and Arab states, and between Arab states themselves as the American presence in the region decreases.
    • * Afghanistan will begin to look like a quagmire. The United States will leave the region having accomplished very little.
  130. Probably not in the next five years, but in the foreseeable future…
    Garbage will become a bigger issue than it is now. Restaurants will be encouraged to sell their food scraps to composters. (Composting feeds pigs, the earth, microbial organisms that can maintain healthy crops without dangerous chemicals.) An industry will form around making “plastics” and other common packaging materials that are corn-based, or are more easily biodegradable. Cities will have to contract out for garbage removal services, passing the buck to the residents/ consumers. The high price of garbage disposal will mean recycling will become more or less mandatory. Vermiculture will become a popular trend. Industrial design will start paying attention to these concerns and built-in kitchen-composting and other such technology will be as common as having built-in cabinets. Stylish composting and waste sorting solutions will be pimped by Crate and Barrel. And if you read STIFF by Mary Roach, you know what our bodies are in for in this garbage-filled future after we die. I would like the freeze and shatter method for myself.
    The scenes of waste and rubbish in Wall-E made me cry a little. I work with someone that prints all of their emails. *sigh*
    Oh, and there will be jetpacks.

  131. geographical contiguity of sovereign areas will cease to matter.

    Obama will abolish term limits.

    Famines will abound.

    War will be a constant.

    humanity will either be plunged into a long lasting technologically driven fascism, or people will wake up and start taking responsibility for themselves and live like we all wish we could.

  132. Here’s what I can say absolutely reliably [date stamp 12:15 pm 12/25/08]

    1. “Disemvowelling” will be discredited and ignored in five years as the obvious Orwellian concept that it is — it is merely shredding commentary you don’t like, and most intelligent people understand that and don’t support it.

    2. If I’m wrong, and the totalitarians *do* take over, then in fact Clay Shirky and Teresa Nielsen Hayden will be among those swept up in the first round of purges, as Old Bolsheviks inventing the original Party line often are during such frenzies.

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