On this page:
More Local Living Low Energy Lifestyles Crowdsourcing Dematerialization Design for Repair
Vertical Farming Resources from Space Life Extension More Women in Authority The Death of Economics
When faced with fresh challenges and the opportunities and threats posed by technological innovation, the human race has always evolved to live, work and explore in new ways. Listed below are some of those rising social, industrial and organizational phenomenon that look set to trigger many changes in our lives and belief systems over the coming decades.
Please note that trends specifically linked to particular technologies and their development are included in the future technologies section.
Due to Peak Oil and wider resource depletion, within a few decades it is going to be impossible to trade globally in most foods and many basic goods. We therefore need to start preparing for a world focused far more on localization and far less on globalization. For more information, please see the more local living page.
The 'net energy' output of all alternative energy sources is far lower than that of petroleum. This means that, while wind, wave and solar technologies may be able to power the world of tomorrow, they will not be able to fuel a clone of today. We will therefore soon have to start investing in low-power devices, as well as learning to live in new, more energy efficient ways. For more information, please see the low energy lifestyles page.
The Internet offers the opportunity to help us collectively solve problems and develop products in new ways. Already 'open source' computer software, 3D printers, cars, prosthetics and robots are being created by online communities. For more information, please see the crowdsourcing page.
In the face of Peak Oil and wider resource depletion, we have an urgent need to become less materialistic. In part we may do this by further transitioning to digital products, and by reducing manufacturing waste. Far more fundamentally, we will also need to question the wisdom of mass consumerism. For more information, please see the dematerialization page.
Today, far too many things get thrown away only a few months or years after they have been purchased. In part, this is because so many products cannot be repaired. In the face of resource depletion, we therefore need to return to a bygone age in which designers and manufacturers sell us items that we can maintain and evolve for long periods. For more information, please see the design_for_repair page.
Vertical farms are future skyscrapers in which we will grow crops and even raise animals. The idea behind such future 'agritecture' is to move at least some of our agricultural production to urban areas. This would reduce the need to transport food long distances (hence reducing food miles) and could make cities at least partially self-sufficient in terms of their food requirements.
Vertical farms could achieve year-round crop production, with no crop losses as a result of weather-related problems. Because they would grow crops without soil using either hydroponics or aeroponics, future vertical farms would use far less water than traditonal agriculture. They could also even use plants to purify brown water contaminated by human and other waste. In addition, future vertical farms may be used to harvest biofuels, bioplastics, biomedicines, and other products created via genetic engineering and future synthetic biology. For more information, please my Future Cities video, the great website verticalfarm.com, or this great video.
Most of the trends listed on this page may be associated with "sustainability", or in other words with measures intended to help us consume fewer resources, and so to lessen the impact of current generations on people in the future. While this is a laudable goal, in the long term we will have to move beyond sustainability to not just consume less, but also to find more. And the only place we can go to find more resources is out into space. Such an idea is also no longer a pipe dream, with several pioneers now working toward the realisation of space-based solar power, asteroid mining and mining the Moon. For more information, please see the Resource from Space page.
Across history, improvements in healthcare, diet and the infrastructure of civilization have fairly consistently resulted in an increased average human life span. Today, potential measures for future life extension include the "re-programning" of our natural of biology to slow or prevent the ageing process, the augmentation of our natural self-repair and immune systems, transgenic and/or synthetic organ replacement, and cybernetic upgrading. In the very distant future the possibility may even exist for individuals to transcend natural biology entirely and to achieve potential immortality in cyberspace. For more information, please see the Life Extension Page or watch my Life Extension Video.
The first industrial convergence occured as the computing, communications and content industries all adopted digital technologies and started to work in the same kinds of ways with the same kinds of tools and infrastructures. Today, we stand on the brink of a more more radical "New Industrial Convergence" in which traditional manufacturing, medicine, and the already converged media industries are starting to share some common ground. This is occuring due to developments such as nanotechnology, genetic engineering, synthetic biology, 3D printing and bioprinting, and which are all leading engineers, doctors and computer scientists to start working with the same kinds of technologies at the same kinds of scale. For more information, please see the New Industrial Convergence page.
Women are vastly underrepresented in humanity’s decision making mechanisms. This is despite evidence that companies with more women in senior positions are more likely to succeed. Testosterone-fuelled risk taking may even have caused the credit crunch. The community building and social skills at which most women excel are also soon likely to eclipse head-on competition. We therefore need to start capitalizing on the talent of the entire human gene pool. For more information please see the More Women in Authority page.
Economics has somehow obtained a stranglehold on our common sense, with the pursuit of constant economic growth now putting at risk the health of the planetary ecosystem that keeps us alive. Economic principles also regularly trample many other human values, lead to exploitation, and ignore the requirements of future generations. We therefore need to stop relying on traditional economic logic as the primary decision making mechanism of human civilization. For more information, please see the Death of Economics page.