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June 2013 • Volume 14, No. 6

In this issue:

McKinsey Global Institute Ranks Most Disruptive Technologies to 2025

What technologies will most radically transform human life in the next twelve years? The McKinsey Global Institute looked at more than a hundred possible candidates across a variety of technology fields and narrowed the most potentially disruptive down to a dozen. They are, in order of size of potential impact:

  • Mobile Internet defined as "increasingly inexpensive and capable mobile computing devices and Internet connectively."
  • Automation of knowledge work or "intelligent software systems that perform knowledge work tasks involving unstructrured commands and subtle judgments." An example might be IBM’s Watson system.
  • Internet of Things or "networks of low-cost sensors and actuators for data collection, monitoring, decision making and process optimization."
  • Cloud Technology or "use of computer hardware and software resources delivered over a network or the Internet, often as a service."
  • Advanced Robotics or "increasingly capable robots with enhanced senses, dexterity, and intelligence used to automate tasks or augment humans." This category is perhaps most famously personified by the Baxter robot (profiled in the May-June issue of THE FUTURIST magazine).
  • Autonomous and Near-Autonomous Vehicles.
  • Next Generation Genomics or "fast, low-cost gene sequencing, advanced big-data analytics, and synthetic biology."
  • Energy Storage.
  • 3D Printing
  • Advanced Materials defined as "materials designed to have superior characteristics." Much of what we today call nanotechnology would fall within this category.
  • Advanced Oil and Natural Gas Recovery
  • Renewable Energy

Of the above, the Mobile Internet, which could change the lives of more than 5 billion people around the globe, the automation of knowledge work, and the Internet of Things would have by far the largest economic impacts, according to McKinsey. All together, the above technologies could generate $14 to $33 trillion. But the authors caution that much of that growth will be at the expense of older technologies and even entire industries falling into obsolescence.

"When necessary, leaders must be prepared to disrupt their own businesses and make the investments to effect change," the report’s authors write. "By the time the technologies that we describe are exerting their influence on the economy in 2025, it will be too late for businesses, policy makers, and citizens to plan their responses. Nobody, especially businesses leaders, can afford to be the last person using video cassettes in a DVD world."

Source: Mckinsey Global Institute [PDF]

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The World Future Society's annual conference, WorldFuture 2013: Exploring the Next Horizon, will give you the opportunity to learn from others in many different fields, and to explore actions affecting our futures in as yet unimagined ways.

The conference will feature nearly 100 leading futurists offering more than 60 sessions, workshops, and special events over the course of two and a half days. Speakers include MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, visionary author Ramez Naam, Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly, and geosecurity expert John Watts.

And for those who want to take a deeper dive, into key studies of interest, the preconference Master Classes allow for an in-depth look in a small group setting.

Learn more and register, today!

Species Extinctions Happening on Farms, Too

Think farm animals are safe from extinction? Think again. Some 22% of domestic animal and plant breeds are in danger of dying out in full, according to recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization data that shows steady declines in the genetic diversity of the world’s livestock.

Various animal breeds cease to be bred at replacement rates when their characteristics no longer fit contemporary demands, explained Zakri Abdul Hamid, newly elected head of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and a former science advisor to Malaysia’s prime minister, at a May 27 IPBES gathering.

Crop diversity today is a mere quarter of what it was a century ago due to the propagation of a select few genetically modified crop strains: 30 crops now fulfill 95% of human food-energy needs.

Zakri made his remarks in the context of a larger presentation about both domestic and wild life across the globe. Just as declining genetic diversity within an animal species makes it more vulnerable to changes in the environment, the declining diversity of farm life puts human consumers in greater danger of hunger. Given spiking demand for food production and increasingly volatile planetary climate patterns, crops and animal life need to be genetically diverse to adapt, whether they are captive or free, says Zakri.

Source: IPBES

Programming Ourselves for Better Behavior

Good habits may be more important than self-control, in the long run. That’s according to five studies, the results of which were published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers concluded that after enough repetition, good habits can become our "default" behaviors, and we will engage in them without having to will or plan them—even if we’re not in the best of moods.

We have only limited reservoirs of self-control, the researchers explained, so when we get stressed, tired, or otherwise emotionally or mentally preoccupied, our ability to will ourselves to eat properly, be polite, etc., wanes and we resort to ingrained behaviors. Oftentimes, they’re unhealthy ones—e.g., we’ll overeat or go on shopping sprees. But they can be good behaviors, too. The researchers surveyed college students and found that when the students were tired or stressed, such as during final exams, they would default to old habits of any kind—good or bad.

For example, students who habitually ate oatmeal instead of donuts for breakfast every morning continued to do so through exam week, while students who routinely ate junk food ate larger quantities of junk food. The key take-away from this, the researchers conclude, is that individuals who want to change their behaviors should focus less on motivation and self-control, and more on setting up new healthy habits.

Source: APA

Calculating the Dangers of a Manned Mars Mission

A manned expedition to Mars would take several years and expose crew members to high radiation levels, a sizable portion of the recommended lifetime exposure limit. Astronauts would face additional radiation exposure on the planet’s surface. Calculating the actual size of the radiation risk is a critical component of any future manned Mars mission.

A recent report by Cary Zeitlin at Southwest Research Institute and colleagues examines radiation aboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the potential impact on astronauts in future Mars missions. The MSL was an unmanned spaceship that carried the Curiosity Rover to Mars in 2011 and 2012. Because the MSL’s defense shield is comparable to shields that would be used on spacecraft in future missions, measurements taken from the MSL are a more accurate representation of future missions’ radiation environments than previous assessments, which used unshielded vessels and speculations about the solar cycles.

"Radiation exposure at the level we measured is right at the edge, or possibly over the edge of what is considered acceptable in terms of career exposure limits defined by NASA and other space agencies. Those limits depend on our understanding of the health risks associated with exposure to cosmic radiation," said Zeitlin in a press release.

The findings provide information necessary for minimizing health risks for a future manned Mars flight. However, radiation on the planet’s surface was not evaluated, and further study is required to fully gauge the threat posed.

Source: Measurements of Energetic Particle Radiation in Transit to Mars on the Mars Science Laboratory by Cary Zeitlin et al., Science, May 31, 2013

Special Event Notice: TEDx Rosslyn

TEDx Rosslyn

On June 9, 2013, FUTURIST magazine deputy editor and World Future Society communications director Patrick Tucker will offer a special presentation at TEDxRosslyn.

The theme of this year’s TEDxRosslyn is Imagining the Future. Today, innovation and technology are reshaping our city and our world. New leaders and thinkers are using emerging technologies and radical ideas to transform humanity and earth to a very different future than we could ever imagine. To encourage an active role in designing our collective futures, speakers will include visionaries from the DC metro area who are designing the future of science, technology, health, education – and are excited to share their ideas with our community.

Learn more here

The sold-out event will be live-streamed on the World Future Society and FUTURIST magazine home page

What’s Hot in THE FUTURIST Magazine?

Futurist Magazine


Robots at Work: Toward a Smarter Factory

By Rodney Brooks

Many fear that a robotic takeover of manufacturing jobs will keep humans out of work. But one inventor shows how tomorrow’s manufacturing robots will be smaller, smarter, and co-worker friendly—and they’ll let manufacturers stop chasing around the world for low-wage workers. Read more.

Highly Human Jobs

By Richard W. Samson

As automation takes many occupations out of people’s hands, there is still much that humans can do to stay occupied, well-paid, and even happy. By letting go of our search for tasks that robots and computers can do better, we should be developing and leveraging our hyper-human skills, such as caring, creating, and taking responsibility. Read more.

Pop Goes the Algorithm

By Christopher Steiner

When musicians like Norah Jones and Maroon 5 are "discovered" by a machine, it may be time to listen to the algorithms. But will engineers’ formulas make all music sound formulaic? A tech journalist describes how bots are not just picking the next great musical hits—they’re reaching for the musical stars. Read more.

Women 2020: Our Selves, Our Worlds, Our Futures

By The Futures Company

A strategic insight and innovation consultancy explores how women’s expectations and actions are changing their own futures—and the world’s. Read more.

Healthier Foresight Diets

By Alireza Hejazi

Staying well-informed about the future can be a challenge for the average consumer, given the ever-growing variety of information sources from which to choose. It’s likewise difficult for futurist authors and publishers seeking to create a foresight "menu" that draws audiences’ attention amid a din of rival information alternatives. Read more.

World Trends & Forecasts


And MANY more stories.

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Also check out Chapter One: We Are Responsible

FUTURIST UPDATE: News & Previews from the World Future Society is an e-mail newsletter published monthly as a supplement to THE FUTURIST magazine.
©2013 World Future Society • 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814 • Voice: 301-656-8274 • Fax: 301-951-0394 • Email: • Web site: • Editor: Patrick Tucker • Contributing Editors: Cynthia G. Wagner, Rick Docksai, and Keturah Hetrick • Publisher: Jeff Cornish

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