Robots with Wings? Next Year in Review: 14 Trends for 2013

Can you see a new camera in my future? The last photo I took with my 5D before the mirror fell off

New camera in my future? The last photo I took with my 5D before the mirror fell off

Do you ever have a strange dream and wake up to read about it the next morning in the newspaper. The following visions of the future aren’t as rigorously derived. For the third year here are my predictions and trends:
1) It’s increasingly possible to become happier and richer through your investments. Now, you can be a capitalist with a conscious by trusting your intuition and following your values. Being green or socially responsible is gaining momentum and as more people shop, fund and support, what they believe in – valuations increase too. The book Conscious Money shows you how to become a self- reliant benevolent investor so you could become richer in spirit and balance sheet.

2) When natural disasters inevitably strike we will see faster and more direct response to those in need. The web provides democratization of charity as giving shifts to small and local organizations. Lost with the tide are economics of scale and the experience of seasoned relief workers from large central organizations.

3) It’s been said that “on the internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog” but it may increasingly be known what neighborhood you log in from, your income, the type of car your drive, what schools you attended, or your shopping habits, allowing the sellers to adjust their prices and offerings accordingly. Whether you’re a social media butterfly or not, your degree of influence may begin to affect the way you are treated by customer service representatives when you try to return your defective dog dish.

4) The concept of retail is forever changing. For deciding what TV to buy, or if you needed a gasket yesterday to repair a leak – retail is the way to shop – but increasing what you find at the corner stores are limited selections and last year’s models. If you know the model number of the chef’s pan you must have, or the brand and quantity of vitamin C, or the size, color, and degree of insulation for a new hot tub cover, then you will increasingly find availability and the best prices online. Even for small items like halogen light bulbs, lasagna pans, or shampoo. In the near term, we can expect to see more hybrids. Apple provides advice and demos in their stores and encourages you to place your orders online. No checkout lines at Toys “R” Us the Saturday before Christmas, for their sake, I hope the customers are all on line online.

5) Unfortunately, you will be spending more time proving who you are, not at the security line at the airport, but at home. Even our own computer, printer, or toaster doesn’t seem to believe it’s us without our secret password. Proving you are the “genuine you” will drag on your productivity but at least with plenty of practice entering your keystrokes, you can memorize ItsMe123 and our ink jet printers will be safe.

6) Walk down the street and everyone is looking down at a screen. Same in the office, the gym, or even at home. Soon we won’t have to be only looking down as screens will encroach washing machines, breakfast tables, and replace bulletin boards everywhere.

7) Not just calorie count but more info on your food will be available such as which farm your potatoes are grown and pasture where your steak once roamed will be recorded and tracked to control disease and authenticate attributes like organic or Angus.

8) Watch the skies for robots with wings as drones will be used for more than military purposes. Unmanned flight will seek new applications in gathering information and delivering goods and services.

9) Less DVDs, less physical data, less printouts, less 4×6 photos, More storing and exchanging data through cloud computing.

10) A sense of design will be increasingly valuable. Everyone with a smartphone is a digital photography, every computer serves as darkroom and over the internet, our amateur photos can be seen by more people than ever. At times when it’s necessary to stand out like the launch of a new product or to promote a brand, it’s more important than ever to get help from a pro. Expect a re-emergence of the great photographers who hone their craft. Professional website developers too.

11) Entrepreneurs will find opportunities for Innovation where they look to improve inefficiencies, especially related to underutilized resources, boats, exercise equipment, cars, land, or wedding dresses – people will find ways to utilize and monetize all the stuff we have sitting around our closets and garage. Ebay helped us sell our stuff we no longer wanted; Now entrepreneurs will help us rent our stuff we rarely use.

12) The best meals will be prepared at home. We once went to restaurants for celebrating special occasions – now we often go for convenience. However, with cost control and increased everyday demand the quality of the experiences is washing down the drain. Learn to cook your favorite foods, make friends with cooks, shop at farmers markets, buy fresh ingredients and you will surpass the quality and healthiness of all but the finest restaurants.

13) Never easier to go with the flow as social media allows for ideas to gather supporters to correct errors and promote justice. However, never has it been more important to make up your own mind, check the facts, and guard against mob rule and global lynch mobs.

14) Your phones, computers and even cars will be rendered useless not by a coffee spill or a collision but from those seemingly helpful automatically installed software updates. New codes may require newer hardware… so Beware of the update!

What do you think about these and what trends have you spotted and do you predict?


Are Forever Stamps 4ever? 9 More Predictions

fortune sticks

Pick your fortune

Got to the post office to mail some gifts just before the holidays and even a futurist like me was surprised by the short line. Then it made sense when a piercing alarm went off from the overhead speakers. The cashier at the counter said: “oh no! not again!!” “The siren has been sounding constantly all week!” It seemed nobody was authorized or capable of turning it off and I was second in line so I held my place and covered my ears.

When it was my turn, I was barely able to hear the clerk try to sell me insurance for packages going just a few miles – Maybe I need to recheck my crystal ball to see if the packages will be delivered. Signing my credit receipt the pen she handed me didn’t have any ink so I scratched my signature on the thermal paper. With the alarm sounding at the post office, perhaps it was a mistake to buy all those “Forever” stamps, like a lifetime membership in the gym that won’t be around next year. With so much of our mail going by email, what will happen with fewer visits from our friendly mail carriers?

With so much happening in the east, it seems fitting that we shake some Fortune Sticks 求籤 求簽 to see what unfolds. The cylinder is shaken until one stick falls out. Each stick has a number that corresponds to a prediction but these are no fortune cookies and many omens are NOT good.

Like last year’s “9 Things That Could Happen ”(my inbox is so overloaded from your thank yous, that I can’t respond personally) it’s difficult to know what happened yesterday and predicting the future is anyone’s guess. Here are some long range guesses mostly related to arts and entertainment.

1) Our economy is shifting from an information economy to a creative economy. Jobs and growth will be driven by big creative ideas for new products and services in health care and energy and these will put more people to work.

2) Health care will begin to become more automated. Using devices to examine people remotely is only part of the picture. Getting proper treatment is based on the experience and specialized knowledge of practitioners, however much of this is routine. Databases for diagnostics will help identify the unusual and also use our genetic makeup/age and lifestyle to predict our personal risks – leaving experts to the more difficult cases.

3) The future of books, board games, songs, movies and everything under threat from digitization will survive by providing sensory experiences that are superior to their e-counterpart. Books printed on fine paper, games with wooden pieces, concerts and movies that provide a live experience are the future.

4) This year passive television will get a big push from Youtube, Apple, Google and others who want to give you entertainment on your own schedule. A wider assortment of on-demand entertainment will continue to fracture the audiences providing fewer resources for each program causing overall quality to be reduced and we will have to search a million channels to find Seinfeld and Cheers.

5) Calls for transparency in government and business is opening those closed door sessions and clearing those smoke filled rooms. With social media and blogs giving anonymous freedom of speech a greater reach, some calls for transparency, will lift the veils calling disclosure of real identifies and affiliations.

6) Video games are reaching across demographics and will become more popular than movies and television. As corporate training budgets are reduced while, more specialized skills are required at work, expect to find gaming technologies to be used to teach through simulations for everything from accountants to welders.

7) More regulations in the finance sector will continue to be seen as expensive overhead without adding security, and finance will continue to flow to less regulated and lower cost centers.

8) Those with the greatest need have the greatest incentive to innovate. Asia with its choking pollution will lead the way with green energy technology.

9) Less frequent mail delivery will put weekly magazines printed on paper on the endangered species list. Decline of the post office will be the biggest boon to e-readers.

Did you get the packages? Do you hear an alarms sounding? What happened to number 8? What do you think will happen next?


Looking into the Sun

Almost a Miracle on 57th Street

You foresee hazards when you are driving; you anticipate vacations while at work, but do you try to predict opportunities to be creative? Two atmospheric phenomenons happened yesterday in NYC and each was predictable and provided an opportunity.

By an accident of city planning twice a year, the east/west cross streets perfectly align with the setting sun making what is called the Manhattan Stonehenge Effect. You can mark your calendar for May 30th and June 12th and find a spot to watch and take your own Stonehenge type photo.

I tried the corner of 57h street and 10th avenue, (pictured) however; it was not ideal since a building across the river in New Jersey blocked the horizon during the suns descent.

The other event happened earlier in the day. If you dial down the power on your crystal ball to low, rainbows can be predicted too. When the clouds part after late afternoon showers, the sun shines through distant raindrops and if you look around, you can usually find a rainbow. Yesterday storm yielded a strong double rainbow over midtown as seen from my kitchen table. (someone’s better rainbow photo after the same storm)

Where Trouble Melts Like Lemon Drops

Photojournists and sports photographers anticipate action. Often we can predict an event like a sunset, a rainbow or fireworks and than add an interesting background or foreground to create more interest. Whatever your medium, do you predict occasions to be creative?


Live Longer by Eating, Drinking and Relaxing: 2 Books 2 Save Your Life

No time to be a crab.

John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Vincent Van Gogh… unfortunately the list goes on and on – what else could they have created if they had lived longer? If you cut out some of your vices, does life become longer or does life just seem longer?

Today, the number of centurions is growing by 7 percent a year. Will you be one of them someday? For a living history, talk with one and learn how they adapted to a world that changed from long trips on horse and buggies to long waits at the airport, from silent movies to cell phones with streaming ads, and from deciphering Morse code to miscommunicating by SMS texting.

The greatest innovations weren’t air conditioning, TV remote controls, or microwave popcorn as many suspect, but instead came from improved health and nutrition that actually kept us alive and increased our life expectancy.

Thankfully, we no longer have to worry about being eaten by dinosaurs, falling out of chariots or freezing in an ice age, and OSHA standards have reduced workplace accidents to mostly paper cuts and burning our lips on coffee, but will our life expectancy continue to increase with our seemingly poor diets and increased stresses? While technology focused on making things convenient, and marketing focused on making things affordable, has anyone been concerned with our well being?

Sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands. Although they are no spring chickens themselves, here are two books that can help you to live happily ever after. the Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson M.D., shows how an easy to learn and simple to practice form of meditation can reduce your stress and reduce a host of nasty physical ailments.

The second book was given to me as a present and became a true gift. In general, the medical community has a predisposition to prescribe drugs and the Department of Agriculture has a mission to promote farmers. Who has the incentive to promote your longevity? Not the governments who pay out entitlements, the answer is YOU. In Eat Drink and Be Healthy
by Walter C. Willett, MD, the author provides practical advice about remaining healthy that is designed to enrich your body instead of enriching special interests. Both books have a long shelf life and I won’t spoil the endings.

When I was packing to move to Hong Kong, I sent thousands of my books into storage, but these are two books I brought along. What books would you bring to a tropical island?
What books will you share that you think could help others stay healthy?


Destructive Criticism

Past to the future

Past to the future

It’s amazing how many people are commenting on the controversy sparked by the book about eastern parenting styles called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Like most people, I have no experience raising teenagers girls of Chinese decent in America and did not read the book – but read an excerpt called “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”- and some of the reaction are taking on a life of their own.

The theme of the debate is not whether tigers eat their young but instead can be simplified as: eastern (discipline, academics, and obedience) verse western (self-esteem, independent thinking, play) methods of parenting.

In the 1980s, there was a mystique surrounded the principles of “Japanese management,” and today we start to look toward Chinese values (could happen #3) because of the mystique  surrounding China’s Asian miracle of growth and  lifting their people out of dire povertyis admired.  It’s also amazing to watch a sprouting bamboo  grow an astonishing 24 inches a day in the spring, but this is unsustained and the plant levels off before summer.

There is not a single method for parenting and most reach a healthy balance between being demanding and being permissive, with an aim not to prepare children for our world,  but  for the world they will live in. Criticism can be constructive, but it can also stifle creativity and be destructive.  Use of creativity is needed by young adults to adapt to a world that will change beyond their parent’s imagination. Asia has not changed for centuries but is rapidly changing now. I wonder what kind of upbringing those leading the change in China had. Continuing with traditional parenting prepares children for a world that is confined to  (could happen #1) museums.

Perhaps a controlled upbringing with traditional Chinese values, may have been the best way to prepare a child for an agrarian/manufacturing society where collective rights are valued more than individual rights. Of course academics and discipline matter, but so does developing self-esteem and independent thinking to adapt to an unpredictable future. So do you stake-and-tie your tomatoes or let your chickens run free? What do you think?


9 Things that Could Happen to Arts and Entertainment

rocket car

made in china

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what happened yesterday and predicting the future is anyone’s guess. Here are some long range guesses mostly related to arts and entertainment.

1)      National styles will disappear and styles with no link to geography will emerge.  Renaissance festivals, reenactments, candle making, South Pacific dance, and Geishas will be preserved in  museum-like settings supported by some passionate individuals and subsidies.  What does it means anymore to be a “French” or “Cuban” style painter?  With global access to ideas (and materials) we no longer learn only from our neighbors. Traditions in food will be the last to fuse.  Common experiences and practices will become more global but also more fractured. You may find more in common with people scattered across the globe who shares the same hobbies and musical tastes, than with the other people at your bus stop.

2)      Aging population in western nations will create more of a demand of entertainment and have more of an influence on what is produced. Today, older people buy more music than teens. The key word is “buy” and the smart marketers will cater to the paying customers.

3)      China will be an emerging force in the entertainment world. As the Chinese gain wealth and leisure time, they will increasingly consume entertainment. Today, much of their entertainment is an import. As a country with a rich history, they have their own stories to tell. Expect the Chinese to start exporting their values by telling their own stories.

4)      E-readers will give traditional newspapers and magazines a run for their money, but paper books will endure and we will continue reading for enjoyment.   However, ebooks offer the opportunity to transform the media. They will begin to be designed with color, interactive features, hyperlinks to footnotes, 3D rotatable diagrams, audio and videos etc.

Books and movies may start to merge allowing the user to pause the action and to read more about a character or a situation. Imagine having the chance to affect a story by choosing a local restaurant where the characters will have their fight scene. While you watch you can check the Zagat rating, look at the menu and order your dinner, or see what else happening down the street, and overhearing what is happening nearby by scrolling to another table. Of course all this takes a lot of effort to create and will have to be paid for somehow. Will you tolerate an ad for soft drinks while in the midst of a page turner? Will the phrase page turner lose it meaning? What will we put on our book cases?

5)      Creating movies will be a new form of literacy. We all know how to watch, but do you know how to make and edit a video? Youtube type of sharing is here to stay, so much of the information we gather is through short sound bites. Making a video is more than pointing a camera and pushing the red button –  refining our ideas to a few words is more important than ever when using a format that can spread. Now anyone who has a computer and can type can make an animation with Extranormal software, but currently all the characters that you can choose have sarcastic sounding voices.

6)  Cloud computing have a chance of storms. Cloud computing allows data and software to reside on remote servers instead of your own pc. It has many benefits but may cause some problems especially related to automatic and unannounced upgrading. Its like every time you go to cut your lawn, you find a different lawnmower in the shed. Sometimes gas, sometimes electric, sometimes self propelled, sometimes your catcher fits, sometimes not.  Dynamic changes to software means you find a different tool each time you logon?  Will it be compatible, will the learning curve constantly throw curves?

7)      The spot light will continue to shrink and so will the message. News organizations don’t have the resources to cover more than the most entertaining newsmakers, increasing competition for attention. How do we get accurate and useful information that’s relevant to us with so many sources? This lifts the elevator speech to a higher floor. The shorter we can refine our message, the more effective it can be – as evident by all the attention paid to those 140 character tweets.

8)      When the economy recovers, sadly not every boat will rise with the tide. Some people will be left behind if they do not develop and maintain the skills to be competitive. Creativity is needed more than ever.

9)      What are your predictions?