Geektime contacted several of the world’s foremost futurists, writers and thinkers with a proven track record of forecasting tomorrow’s trends: Here are their predictions for 2015.
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” quantum physicist Niels Bohr once said. Nevertheless, we human beings have an insatiable craving to know what lies ahead.
To that end, Geektime contacted several of the world’s foremost futurists, writers and thinkers with a proven track record of forecasting tomorrow’s trends, and asked them to offer a few predictions for 2015. Though most of their insights are technological, including mixed views about 3D printing’s potential, they also wax philosophical, with Douglas Rushkoff discussing how transgender issues will play a more important role in public discourse.
Here are their full predictions about what awaits us this year.
Tim O’Reilly: Predictive notifications, niche social media, and government-focused tech will grow in 2015
Tim O’Reilly is the ultimate tech thought leader. He is a publisher of computer books, runs conferences, invests in startups, writes about innovation, and was a key figure in the Web 2.0 movement following the dot.com bust. His conferences include the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, Strata: The Business of Data, and the Velocity Conference.
O’Reilly shared three predictions with Geektime.
“First, notifications based on predictive analytics (think Google Now) will become ever more important, and will deeply change what people expect of computers and devices; as the ‘Internet of Things’ becomes a bigger part of the computing landscape, the data to drive predictive analytic services will become even more widespread. My question: Who will provide the predictive analytic platform to app developers for their own use, rather than simply consuming app data to drive the platform service (Google Now, Siri, Cortana)?
“Second, people will begin to give up on the hamster-wheel of large scale social media and will replace it with smaller, more intimate, truly social channels, especially as the ‘public’ social media space becomes more and more intertwined with marketing rather than true social activity.
“Third, there will be many more startups focused on the government market, as entrepreneurs realize the size of that market (around 20% in the U.S.), and that fixing or competing with government services is a great way to make a contribution to society.”
Douglas Rushkoff: Tech may be hard to predict, but one thing is clear – transgender issues will take front stage in the U.S.
If anyone deserves the title of futurist, it’s Douglas Rushkoff. As a Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens and author of a dozen bestselling books on media, technology, and culture, Rushkoff is widely credited with coining the term “media virus” or “viral media.” His 1994 book Cyberia, which predicted the coming centrality of email and the Internet, was initially cancelled by a publisher who thought these topics were too obscure for a general audience.
“Not sure what’s going to happen this year,” Rushkoff wrote to Geektime. “Things might be getting temporarily stable enough financially for people not to make some necessary changes. The only thing I can see happening this year is the issue of gender and transgender coming center stage as it hasn’t before. Most people still don’t get it. I think it’s easier for people to talk and think about than race, though, so it may be a good way in to the real conversation American needs to have with itself.”
Hod Lipson: The robots are coming – and will be more artificially intelligent
Hod Lipson’s research straddles two cutting-edge fields that are predicted to see enormous growth in 2015. He is a professor of engineering at Cornell University and a co-author of the recent book Fabricated: The New World of 3D printing. His work on self-aware and self-replicating robots, food printing, and bio-printing has received widespread media coverage, including in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, CNN, and National Public Radio.
“In the world of AI and robotics,” Lipson told Geektime, “I believe that ‘deep learning’ algorithms – a new form of AI – will find their way into new applications, disrupting areas that have been traditionally AI-proof.”
Deep learning can be defined as gathering data and turning that information generation into concrete commands. This ability is at the heart of getting robots to do more advanced functions, such as cooking.
“In 3D printing, I think we will see an increase in printing of end-use parts, instead of just prototypes. In other words, the technology will mature.”
Robert Levine: TV will continue to thrive, in large part because tech companies supported the boom. Also, 3D printing is overrated.
Robert Levine, a former executive editor of Billboard and features editor at Wired, is the author of Free Ride: How Technology Companies are Killing the Culture Business (2012). The book systematically examines disruptive change in the music, film, television, and journalism industries.
One of the things that has surprised Levine the most is how healthy the television market has become, and like others, he expects that it will continue to thrive in 2015. It doesn’t take an expert to notice that TV is experiencing a golden age while music has never been in worse shape, and part of those results can be explained by the simple fact that, well, TV is just a lot better than music right now. But it does take someone like Levine to give some context behind this divergence in outcomes.
“I think the main [reason] is that there’s a market there that involves technology companies funding content,” Levine tells Geektime. “The new boom in television, or perhaps the second part of the current boom, is driven by tech companies bidding on television content: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc. That never really happened for music or film.”
Simply put, YouTube heavily harmed music’s revenue model because it’s so easy to pirate music, making it difficult to keep music releases exclusive. Though, “TV can be pirated … the relatively large size of the files, as well as the episodic nature of the medium, makes this less convenient,” Levine explains, making TV easier for consumers to pay for.
TV is also more attractive to buy because of the live nature of the medium, such as award shows, news, and sports broadcasts. For example, Levine notes that,“ESPN gets more money from a cable bill than any other channel.” So, “If you are used to paying $75 a month for cable, paying $7.99 a month for Netflix is quite a bargain,” whereas if you are used to stealing music, it’s more difficult to start paying for it.
On a completely unrelated but interesting note, Levine voices skepticism about 3D printing’s consumer potential: “In terms of 3D printing, I am going to make an unpopular prediction that it never takes off in the home to the degree that many people predict. I think it’s an incredible and fascinating technology that will have many applications, some of which we can’t yet guess at. But I think most will be business uses.
“I don’t think the fact that people CAN make their own stuff necessarily means that most people WILL make their own stuff. Right now, for example, most people have the ability to grow at least some of their own food. And yet they choose not to, since it’s easier and more efficient to buy it in the supermarket. The same goes for beer; people can brew their own beer – I did it when I was in college, and it’s not so hard – but it involves more effort than most people prefer to put in.
“I think the same will be true of 3D printing. I am not down on the technology, which I think is awesome. I’m just not sure that it will end up in the house of the average person.”