What’s up ahead?

Each new year reminds us to look back, and ahead, to get a sense of “the bigger picture.”
The dilemma is always whether to try predicting the long term, which becomes an exercise of wild imagination; or the short term, which is an extension of what already exists.
Here are some “in between” forecasts for the next decade:
•Voters will be able to cast ballots over the Internet.
Implications: we can vote and contribute to surveys on many issues; the results will be known and can be acted on almost instantly.
•Locator devices (GPS) and marketing techniques will combine to track where you go and what you buy.
Implications: major erosion of our privacy, and further commercialization of special occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.
•Cloning and other ethically debatable science will increase. Some of the reasons are profits, status, and curiosity.
Implications: people will rally to prevent this. Philosophical and ethical topics will become popular subjects for study and discussion; we will see new laws and major legal wrangles.
•More and more people are shopping, browsing, working, and making friends on-line. That lessens involvement with their family and local community.
Implications: in a decade, people will be fed up with substituting virtual life for real life. A backlash against facelessness will promote a resurgence of real get-togethers.
•Aging North Americans are learning more about maintaining good health, and the possibility of living long and well. Vegetarian diets, exercising, and better stress coping may raise average life spans into the 80s.
Implications: myriad! Enough for several future columns.
•Water supplies will become a big issue, especially in the southern U.S.
Implications: international disputes and treaties, water hogging, more curtailment of uses like lawn watering, new suburban landscaping, water therapies, “water is good business”–not free!
•Our phone numbers will stay with us wherever we go; and they may be a lot more important than our S.I.N. numbers. Also, our phones may be worn like a wristwatch or earring, or even be implanted under our skin.
Implications: tremendous convenience but also further loss of privacy.
•As a guard against harassment charges, many interviews and discussions will be videotaped, e.g. police interrogations, performance reviews, certain consultations, etc.
Implications: reduction in costly and sometimes frivolous lawsuits; still more invasions of personal space.
•Private foundations (partly to avoid taxes) built from huge business profits will replace some government funds for social, humanitarian, and environmental services.
Implications: new “rules,” and possibly more inequitable access to funds.
•In five years, government will be substantially out of many services we traditionally have relied on. In 10, that may be reversed again. Meanwhile, “deregulation” in many areas means not fewer rules but different rules.
Implications: while the changes cause controversy, they also cause a lot of positive exploration and discussion. Many new local and regional solutions are in the making.

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