Futurist proved correct! …and today describes the extraordinary social technologies of 2016 (release)


This morning Future Exploration Network issued this press release (excuse the hyperbole 🙂 ) I have already done several radio interviews on the forecasts in the release with quite a few more radio, newspaper and TV interviews lined up for the next days – the ideas seem to have struck a chord.

Futurist proved correct! …and today describes the extraordinary social technologies of 2016

Seven years ago, in his prescient book Living Networks, global leading futurist Ross Dawson accurately described the networked world of today, anticipating social networks, Twitter, corporate blogging, crowd-sourcing, personalised advertising, virtual personal assistants and much else that is now familiar to us.

Today, he offers insights into the extraordinary world of technology we will experience seven years into the future.

Ross’s forecasts for 2016 include:

• Many people will wear video glasses as they commute and walk around, experiencing new forms of television, news updates, and detailed information about the world around them and people they meet.

• ‘Lifestreaming’ will be commonplace, in which we capture, store and share on social networks almost continuous videos, photos, sounds and conversations from our everyday lives.

• We will have natural telephone conversations with computers, with almost all call centre staff replaced by automated systems.

• Public measures of individual reputation will guide who we hire, do business with, and go on dates with.

• Over 40% of adults will work independently rather than as company employees, many providing services to organisations all over the world instead of commuting to an office every day.

• A next generation of ‘thought interfaces’ will allow us to control our computers just by thinking. While the technology will still be relatively basic, we will have begun to merge machines and humans.

Ross’s second book, Living Networks, published in 2002, opens with a description of corporate blogging, and discusses the idea of social networks years before MySpace or Facebook existed, as well as the rise of “micro-messages,” anticipating the Twitter phenomenon.

The book describes in detail how to create success in the hyper-connected world we live in. Living Networks was recently launched in an Anniversary Edition, as its insights are just as relevant today as when it was first published. Every chapter in the book can be downloaded from www.livingnetworksbook.com.

As Chairman of leading international future consulting group Future Exploration Network, Ross works globally speaking and consulting about the future of business.

His break-neck speaking schedule takes him regularly to exotic locations all over the world, with keynotes given in every continent except Antarctica.

Ross’s recent media appearances include ABC TV, SkyNews, New York Times, USA Today and The Guardian. His Trends in the Living Networks blog (www.rossdawsonblog.com) is ranked as one of the top business blogs in the world, and is used as a source by journalists everywhere.

  • All very cool – but when will computers be able to adjust to variation in demand 1% as well as human beings? (cf Seddon).

  • The rapidly evolving boundary of what people can do and computers cannot will define us. And I believe there will always be capacities that will set us apart, though others don’t…

  • I like your forecasts. They are fun and I agree with the general direction.
    The one forecast I disagree with is 40% of the work force will be self-employed (I assume this is what you mean by “instead of working for companies”).
    I’m not sure what region of the world you are refering to, but in the US about 11% of the work force is self-employed; in Europe it is about 14%.
    There is almost no chance this will grow to 40% over the next 7 years. Economic shifts of this magnitude simply don’t happen in that short of time frame – nor is there any indication of a shift of this magnitude happening.

  • These are all interesting forecasts – some of them more provocative than others.
    What about combinations of these forecasts? Will we be wearing video glasses that show us an augmented reality, and augmented virtual profiles of the people we meet? If so, people may think twice before leaving the privacy of their homes.
    Regarding the natural telephone conversations we will have with computers, we’ve come a long way already. Automatic speech recognition and text-to-speech synthesis get more accurate and more robust every day, and speech analytics already allows us to capture basic emotions in telephone speech. The combination of automatic speech recognition and machine learning/meaning-based computing even allows computers to form a basic understanding of customer requests, and to look up appropriate answers in databases around the enterprise and on the internet.
    I doubt whether call centre staff will be fully replaced in the near future, though, because there is one important detail that will still set us apart from computers in 2016: the ability to experience genuine emotions and to show empathy. Although I do believe in the use of automated telephone agents for repetitive tasks, enquiries and problem-solving activities, I think I’d rather speak to a live agent for more complicated enquiries and complaints. I don’t know whether we will ever be able (or whether we should even try) to convince the public otherwise. Efficiency is a good thing as long as the customer experience prevails.

  • Thanks Steve! It does depend on definitions, but most sources say that “independent workers” are more than 30% of the US workforce – 40% by 2016 is not a bold prediction.
    Christophe, the prediction re video glasses includes augmented reality info on people we meet and much else. Not much of a stretch of the imagination.
    There are an array of technologies required to make human-computer voice conversation work seamlessly, so the timeline is highly uncertain. This is not to say that people will not be involved, but an increasing proportion of calls will be handled without human intervention.
    This may be more of a stretch for some, but I believe robots will be able to express (though perhaps not feel) empathy better than many humans can. Robot pets are already used very effectively in therapy.

  • So what is the definition of “independent workers?”

  • The easiest way to think about it is that independent workers are those without a permanent employment contract, since that encompasses a variety of categories including self-employed, contractors, temps, and casuals. However an increasing number of companies allow their permanent staff to do freelance work for other clients, which even further blurs the boundaries…
    PBS has some nice (though slightly old) stats on the sector and some breakdowns:

  • Thanks Ross. Interesting stuff.

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