Futurists Forecast Eight Trends for 2018

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Social Technologies, an international foresight, strategy, and innovation firm, has identified eight catalysts for change that will shape America's future over the next 10 years and beyond.

An international foresight, strategy, and innovation firm has identified eight catalysts for change it believes will be shaping America's future over the next 10 years and beyond.

Don Abraham, a futurist with Washington-based Social Technologies, a division of UTEK, presented "Eight Catalysts for 2018" at the recent IIR Future Trends Conference in Miami, which was attended by more than 150 business leaders from global companies. Abraham provided an overview of eight trends which signal deep shifts in gender relations, how Americans see their role in the world, and new attitudes about education, privacy, and consumer values, among other topics.

"These are the trends that we see early signs of," he said, "but that will manifest much more strongly over the next decade. These shifts will be key catalysts in creating the next wave of iconic products: the next YouTube, iPod, Facebook, and BlackBerry."

The eight trends are as follows:

  •     In search of "enoughness"--Consumers rethink their life goals and what they work for.
  •     New Americanism--America reconsiders its place in the world.
  •     Sensing consumers--Technology exposes hidden aspects of daily life.
  •     The transparent self--Biological and other advances reveal the body and mind's inner workings.
  •     Just-in-time life--Ubiquitous information flows reshape how people socialize, work, and shop.
  •     Women in charge--Women overtake men educationally, leaving them better prepared for the 21st century workforce.
  •     Virtual made real--Boundaries between virtual and real worlds become more porous.
  •     Education revolution--Ivy-covered walls go virtual and modular.

Rethinking consumption
Global technological, social, economic, political, and other forces all come together to create these trends. Abraham notes that "in search of 'enoughness,'" for example, is driven in part by environmental concerns that may compel more people in the developed world to weigh quality over quantity in their lives. Socially, the boomers are nearing retirement, which may induce more of this huge cohort to adopt new perspectives on consumption.

"While some people might reject 'shallow' consumerism, this still leaves companies with routes to providing more fundamental kinds of consumer satisfaction," Abraham said. Instead of rejecting advertising out of hand, he pointed out that some consumers might prove susceptible to messages pushing particular kinds of "enoughness."
New Americanism
In addition to rethinking consumption, Americans are also rethinking their identity as a nation, he said. "American prestige has taken a huge hit in recent years, undermining the country's role as a global leader in international affairs, values, and economics." Abraham forecast both an increased US receptiveness to cultural influences from other countries, particularly in media and design, and potential resistance to "all things foreign" by some groups threatened by the change.

"A values shift this large would be tied to other values shifts--it could affect how people feel about themselves and their lives at all levels. This changes the consumer landscape," Abraham said. "To be optimistic, it could also cause a surge in innovation and new product offerings. If complacency is the result of being the undisputed leader, and necessity is the mother of invention, a slight drop in our stature in the world could propel a new drive to be the best. Again."

Monitoring the invisible
"Consumers will increasingly be equipped with small sensors for use at home or outside, as standalone devices or integrated into mobiles or PDAs," Abraham said. These new technologies will give them insights into formerly invisible aspects of their environment. Networked sensors, for example, could enable real-time monitoring of pollutants or the spread of disease, and provide that data to organizations or governments. "What people or NGOs discover will frequently be broadcast to the larger world," Abraham noted. He also pointed out that consumers will naturally want to clean up the things they detect. "This could drive a market for specialized filters, cleaners and decontaminants," he said.

Revealing internal landscapes
Technological change also largely drives the "transparent self," trend. A critical mass of genetic and neurological knowledge is illuminating more about our bodies, our minds and even our futures, Abraham said. He referenced genetic testing available to the consumer, scans that enable the observation of thought processes in action, and the falling price of genetic sequencing. Abraham forecast that consumers will increasingly gain practical information about how to learn, how to stay well or get well, even what someone might be good at.

As a result, "Demand will rise for products and services catering to genetic differences. This will happen in all areas, from food to career planning. Some will be based on science, while some will be pseudoscience at best," he said.

Don Abraham ) Futurist
Don manages the marketing and expansion of Social Technologies' custom and multiclient projects. He is very involved with the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), where he serves on the board of directors and is leading the association's efforts to expand internationally. As a certified New Product Development Professional since 1999, he regularly speaks on product development, idea generation, and strategic innovation. Don received his BA in Political Science from Franklin & Marshall College.

About ) Social Technologies
Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington, DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world's leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. A holistic, long-term perspective combined with actionable business solutions helps clients mitigate risk, make the most of opportunities, and enrich decision-making. Visit http://www.socialtechnologies.com. Social Technologies is a division of UTEK Corporation. (NYSE Alternext US & LSE-AIM: UTK)

About ) UTEK Corporation
UTEK® is a leading innovation services company. UTEK's services enable clients to become stronger innovators, rapidly source externally developed technologies, create value from their intellectual property and gain foresight into marketplace and technology developments that affect their business. UTEK is a business development company. For more information about UTEK, please visit http://www.utekcorp.com.

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