Trending the decade

Karen Birch

Karen Birch

As we start a new year, indeed a new decade, thoughts tend to turn towards what will happen in the future.


The ten years to 2009 saw profound changes. The rate of change increasing exponentially, what more can we expect from now to 2020?

As I was pondering the future and looking for answers in journals as diverse as The New Statesman and New Scientist I came across a fantasic short piece by Ross Dawson, who is globally recognized as a leading futurist.

So here is what Ross thinks:
1. Information Intensity
We will soon consume more media than there are waking hours, by virtue of multi-channeling at most times. Billions of people and places will be media producers, including video streaming from most points of view on the world. We are just at the dawn of an incomprehensible daily onslaught of news and information – some valuable, much useless.

2. Collective Intelligence
Yes we are swamped by information. But we are now creating a collective intelligence that will filter and respond to what is worthwhile. Reputation measures will drive who we meet, do business with, and date. Machine translation will enable the people of the planet to communicate. A key question is: If human society is now a global brain, how do we cure our schizophrenia?

3. From Organizations to Networks
The pace of growth of virtual work is phenomenal. By the end of the decade close to half the workforce will be working independently, often across national boundaries. Companies will function on social networks and gaming platforms, professionals will work for many firms or clients. Traditional organizations will be gradually supplanted by shifting networks of expertise and resources.

4. Energy Shift
We don’t know what the climate of the 2010s holds for us. But we do know that the way we use energy will change faster than ever before in human history. Renewable energy sources, electric cars, and strict energy accounting, driven in part by carbon taxes on fossil fuels, will transform large chunks of the economy and how we move about.

5. Culture Jamming
Remix culture will surge, with everybody taking and jamming up slices of everything and anything to express themselves, while intellectual property law fails to keep pace. Every culture on the planet will reach everywhere – the only culture we will know is a global mashed-up emergent culture that changes by the minute.

6. Global Economic Shift
The sheer weight of China’s burgeoning economy together with India’s rise will change the business world’s center of gravity. The Far East will fund the continued profligate spending of the West. The weightless economy based on innovation, media, and professional services will dominate growth.

7. Exponential Bio Technologies
Now that biological and genomic technologies are largely driven by information technologies, they are on the same exponential trajectory. Medicines personalized to the individual, genetic modification of our children, drugs to increase intelligence, and life extension will all become commonplace.

8. Robotic intelligence
Many decades of predictions will finally be matched by technological developments in fields such as language recognition and spatial navigation to create a world in which physical robots and virtual agents interact with us and do our bidding. Household robots, voice conversation bots, and emotional robots that we bond with will be part of our everyday lives.

9. Augmented Humans
More than ever before, we can transcend our human abilities. Traditional memory aids are supplemented by augmented reality glasses or contact lenses, thought interfaces allow us to control machines, exoskeletons give us superhuman power. Machines will not take over humanity… because they will be us.

10. Haves and Have Nots
Across communities, nations, and the world, there is a keen risk of increasing separation between those who have access to technology, tools, and basic needs, and those who do not. This is not inevitable. However it will require concerted action around the world to avoid an increasing schism between us.


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