Summer musings on the future

“The Futurist” magazine gathers opinions and prediction from many different sources. Here are a few trends analysts and researchers see beyond 1999.
How do they compare to your experience?
World affairs
Birthrates will fall world-wide as poorer countries develop although no one knows how quickly this will happen. A new imbalance will be evident–aging population in the world’s northwest; young population in the southeastern hemisphere.
Could wisdom and languor be pitted against ignorance and energy?
Business/economy
Retail stores and wholesalers will be in trouble as more people shop electronically. The convenience of on-line ordering and home delivery appeals to older people to whom mall prowling is less attractive.
Buying via the Internet also appeals to busy career people.
Education
The virtual university and virtual college will gain major ground. Adults will commonly get extra courses and degrees via the Internet, at much lower fees than they pay now.
To compete, the building-based institutions may make their experience ever more sociable and entertaining.
At lower levels, more parents will exercise control on quality and safety through charter and community schools.
Crime/justice
Shame and restitution may become the punishment of choice for non-violent crimes such as drunk driving, absentee parents, juvenile theft, prejudicial acts, and aggression.
It is seen as more costs effective and rehabilitative.
Civil lawsuits will abound as long as some settlements are large. But these have little to do with crime or justice, and much with opportunity and threat.
Environment/resources
Hydrogen will become competitive with oil as a fuel. Solar and wind power will become options to fossil fuels though not likely in Northwestern Ontario.
For many resources (e.g., forest), win-win solutions for sharing will be sought and found.
Society
The Internet is producing a new type of consumer–the “N-Gen” (’Net generation) demands more options, customization, and flexibility. They are unimpressed with glitzy advertising.
New religions
Mainstream religions tend to address socio-political and socio-moral issues more than they do the quest for immortality.
As a result, more people are turning to a “mix-and-match” spirituality. They meld elements from eastern thought, mystical and traditional western religions, and aboriginal traditions.
But while pursuing “rainbow religions,” many may miss the moral teaching, life discipline, and world community building that the major faiths impart.
Work/jobs
Sabbaticals will become standard practice in many professions, especially high-stress fields. And more work will be done by individual contractors, small businesses, and professionals who work at home some or all of the time.
Health/longevity
“Nutriceutical” foods will be healthier as well as medicinal. Genetically-engineered additives will fight cancer, prevent osteoporosis, and more.
“Biotechnical” solutions will combine technology such as pacemakers and artificial limbs with regeneration techniques, biofeedback devices, and electronics to restore functions lost through illness and injury.
Technology
“Micro-flyers,” tiny flying robots, will gather data in dangerous or inaccessible areas.
Their uses will include measuring smokestack emissions, killing harmful insects, tracking animal herds in the wild, and rescue preparation.

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