December 5, 2011.
Bethesda, Maryland - The World Future Society is pleased to release the top ten forecasts from its most recent Outlook report, published in the November-December 2012 issue of THE FUTURIST magazine.
THE FUTURIST magazine examines key developments in technology, the environment, the economy, international relations, etc., in order to paint a full and credible portrait of our likely future. Each year since 1985, the editors of THE FUTURIST have selected the most thought-provoking ideas and forecasts appearing in the magazine to go into our annual Outlook report. Over the years, Outlook has spotlighted the emergence of such epochal developments as the Internet, virtual reality, and the end of the Cold War. The forecasts are meant as conversation starters, not absolute predictions about the future.
The Society hopes that this report, covering developments in business and economics, demography, energy, the environment, health and medicine, resources, society and values, and technology, will assist its readers in preparing for the challenges and opportunities in 2012 and beyond.THE FUTURIST Magazine Releases its Top Ten Forecasts for 2012 and beyond.
Learning will become more social and game-based, and online social gaming may soon replace textbooks in schools. The idea that students learn more when they are engaged—as they are when playing games—is helping educators embrace new technologies in the classroom. In addition to encouraging collaborations, games also allow students to learn from their mistakes with less fear of failing.
Commercial space tourism will grow significantly during the coming decade. By 2021, there will be 13,000 suborbital passengers annually, resulting in $650 million in revenue. Many companies are currently working to make commercial space flight a viable industry, according to Melchor Antuñano, director of the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute.
Nanotechnology offers hope for restoring eyesight. Flower-shaped electrodes topped with photodiodes, implanted in blind patients’ eyes, may restore their sight. The “nanoflowers” mimic the geometry of neurons, making them a better medium than traditional computer chips for carrying photodiodes and transmitting the collected light signals to the brain.
Robotic earthworms will gobble up our garbage. Much of what we throw away still has value. Metals, petroleum, and other components could get additional use if we extracted them, and robotic earthworms could do that for us. The tiny, agile robot teams will go through mines and landfills to extract anything of value, and then digest the remaining heaps into quality top soil.
The dust bowls of the twenty-first century will dwarf those seen in the twentieth. Two giant dust bowls are now forming, in Asia and in Africa, due to massive amounts of soil erosion and desertification resulting from overgrazing, over-plowing, and deforestation, warns environmental futurist Lester R. Brown.
Lunar-based solar power production may be the best way to meet future energy demands. Solar power can be more dependably and inexpensively gathered on the Moon than on Earth. This clean energy source is capable of delivering the 20 trillion watts of power a year that the Earth’s predicted 10 billion people will require by mid-century.
Machine vision will become available in the next 5 to 15 years, with visual range ultimately exceeding that of the human eye. This technology will greatly enhance robotic systems’ capabilities.
Advances in fuel cells will enable deep-sea habitation. Fuel cells such as those currently being developed for automobiles will produce electricity directly, with no toxic fumes. This advance will eventually make it easier to explore and even colonize the undersea world via extended submarine journeys.
Future buildings may be more responsive to weather fluctuations. “Protocell cladding” that utilizes bioluminescent bacteria or other materials would be applied on building facades to collect water and sunlight, helping to cool the interiors and produce biofuels. The protocells are made from oil droplets in water, which allow soluble chemicals to be exchanged between the drops and their surroundings.
The end of identity as we know it? It may become very easy to create a new identity (or many identities) for ourselves. All we will have to do is create new avatars in virtual reality. Those avatars will act on our behalf in real life to conduct such high-level tasks as performing intensive research, posting blog entries and Facebook updates, and managing businesses. The lines between ourselves and our virtual other selves will blur, to the point where most of us will, in essence, have multiple personalities.
All of these forecasts plus dozens more were included in Outlook 2012, which scanned the best writing and research from THE FUTURIST magazine over the course of the previous year.THE FUTURIST has also made public the contents from Outlook 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 more than 300 forecasts in all relating to 2012 and beyond. http://www.wfs.org/forecasts.htm
THE FUTURIST is a bimonthly magazine published continuously since 1967 by the World Future Society and is a principal benefit of membership, read by 25,000 members worldwide. The magazine is also available in newsstands throughout the United States.
Among the many influential thinkers and experts who have contributed to THE FUTURIST are Gene Roddenberry, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Buckminster Fuller, Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, Hazel Henderson, Robert McNamara, B.F. Skinner, Nicholas Negroponte, David Walker, Lewis Lapham, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Kurzweil.
The focus of THE FUTURIST is innovation, creative thinking, and emerging trends in the social, economic, and technological areas.