[Note to scientific blogging readers: I posted the following column on my other blog, www.evolutionshift.com in the first week of 2007. Since I write here under Future Thought under the category Culture, I thought it appropriate that I should post these predictions. When people hear that I am a future thinker or futurist they always ask me for predictions.
I have made absolutely no changes to this column and am posting it exactly as I posted it in early January. So far these predictions seem to have some accuracy, but the real test is to read this column in December and call it out either way.]
As a futurist I am always asked to make predictions. Often somewhat in jest, people ask me who is going to win the election, how much will the stock market go up in the next three months, who will win the Super Bowl, things like that. While I have been accurate in such predictions, it is not what I do. My job is to analyze trends and the underlying dynamics that create them. Having developed a level of pattern recognition allows me to connect a seeming disparate collection of events and occurrences to discern the early development of a new trend or direction that will, in the months and years ahead prove to be true and be recognized by the wider public. I look at history, recent history, things going on today, around the world, and try to see the broad flows and dynamics from which new trends will emerge.
In this, the first post of 2007, I will list the large, general dynamics that will affect us in 2007 and beyond and then give a list of more specific trends that we will experience during the coming year. In subsequent posts, I will delve a bit more deeply into some of these predictions.
I am a futurist, not a seer or psychic. I do not suggest that specific events will occur or on what date they will occur. If you want the winner of the Super Bowl and the level of the Dow Jones on 12/31/07, please look elsewhere. Futurists openly make suggestions about what will happen, and what is coming, but we all acknowledge that wild cards, such as the tragic events of 9/11/01, can occur that will substantially alter the timing or change the course of a trend. With that said, I am confident about the general dynamics below and only a bit less confident about the more specific trend predictions.
General Trends and Dynamics.
- The move toward Global will continue. We are clearly in a time when most aspects of human life on earth are being reorganized around a new Global reality. This has most often been discussed within the context of the ‘new global economy’ and that is where the most pain is currently. Though there will be discussion of trade tariffs and the need to slow down free trade, these are only short term, reactive efforts, usually stirred up by politicians trying to serve a constituency. The globalization of the economy is the cause of much pain as the collection of nation state economies are reorganized into a larger, more globally integrated market. There will also be a continuing establishment of a global culture with media, art, fashion and music leading the way.
- The power of the Individual will increase. This Flow to the Individual is, along with the Flow to Global one of the two most dominant forces restructuring humanity today. As choice continues to increase, as loyalty between institutions and individuals continues to decline and we all get more connected, the individual has ever more freedom to decide when, where, how, what and with whom to live their own lives.
- In 2006 we finally reached a tipping point about Global Warming and alternative energy in the U.S. This will continue and expand in 2007. The experiential reality many of us now have about Global Warming, combined with an increasing desire to be less reliant upon imported oil from terror supporting states, combined with greater understanding of conservation combined with $3-4 dollar a gallon gas has brought about a larger social awareness of what is needed and vastly increased amounts of investment dollars will be deployed in the area of conservation and alternative energy.
- Disintermediation will continue to be a powerful force of economic restructuring. The prime agent is of course the Internet and the disintermediation we have seen in the travel, financial services and media businesses will spread to other industries such as residential real estate, insurance and consumer commerce. Humanity’s ever increasing connectedness, combined with numbers one and two above tie in very closely with this ongoing wave of disintermediation
Specific Trends and Predictions for 2007
- The middle will reassert itself. The recent mid-term election was clear in this regard. Politically, this means a return to a two party, give and take, government in Washington D.C. and, horizontally speaking, a move from ‘left’ and ‘right’ to the center, as people increasingly want solutions not positions. Economically this will also manifest itself vertically as the recent polarization of discount shopping at the low end or luxury shopping at the high end will to some degree give way to a re-emerging middle. Department stores will show growth, common sense and value brands will show growth and people will continue to want style, but at a reasonable price.
- The U.S. residential real estate market will essentially go sideways for the entire year. There will be both pockets of pain and minor resurgence, but overall this will be a flat year. This is primarily a natural market correction to the historically unreal value escalations of the past 5 years, and is not just related to interest rates as so often been written.
- The price of gasoline at the pump will climb over $3 a gallon nationally and over $4 in a number of cities during the summer months. The good news here is that it will further justify increasing investment in energy conservation, new products, and alternative energy technologies.
- The U.S. stock markets will continue to rise, though there will be more volatility and greater variability in stock markets globally.
- Private equity will continue to dominate the marketplace with an increasing number of mega deals.
- The current Internet boom, Internet 2.0, will continue to grow, with continuing new innovation as the number of households with broadband access crosses the 50% threshold. Advertising expenditures, eyeballs and influence will continue to migrate from the older established media to the Internet
- The Iraq War will increasingly be regarded as one of the major blunders in the last 100 years of U.S. foreign policy. The tolerance for any lingering of U.S. forces in the country will lessen greatly. The people will lead the politicians in this area, continuing the direction set in the mid-term elections.
- The Bush Administration will be the first second term presidency in recent memory to not have a positive bounce in its final two years. Scandals, investigations and unpleasant revelations will increase. This will only be tempered if; early in 2007 the Bush Administration makes major changes in policy and direction.
- Populism will become ascendant. Politicians that develop contemporary populist messages will be embraced by an electorate that will increasingly be concerned about fairness and taking care of ourselves. This will clearly be manifested in the campaign for the presidential nominations for 2008.
- There will be a noticeable increase in optimism about the future. After a number of years of perceived danger, anxiety and uncertainty people will want and need to believe that we can look to a better time in the not too distant future. While not a tidal wave in 2007, the early manifestation of this optimism will have effects culturally and economically.
In summary, 2007 will be another year of incredible change as the world as we know it continues to reorganize and realign. The speed of change has now become part of our environment and it is continuing to both condition and unsettle us. There will be a sense of duality between the messes and dangers that have consumed us during the past few years and that still linger, and a growing sense that better times might well be ahead. This will make 2007 kind of a schizophrenic year.