The Future According to Those Who Know
John Perry Barlow-self-proclaimed cognitive dissident, co-founder and vice chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He is also a Berkman Fellow at Harvard Law School.
Gerald Celente-founder of the Trends Research Institute and author of the influential book Trend-Tracking. Its follow-up, Trends 2000, was a national best-seller.
John Dvorak-author, columnist and editor who writes about technology for Forbes.
com and PC Magazine. Dvorak also hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and ZDTV's Silicon Spin.
William Gibson-author of the seminal cyberclassic Neuromancer. His latest science fiction masterpiece is All Tomorrow's Parties.
George Gilder-chairman of the Gilder Group and editor of the Gilder Technology Report, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of Men and Marriage, Wealth and Poverty, Microcosm and, most recently, Telecosm.
Bill Joy-co-founder of and chief scientist at Sun Microsystems. Led Sun's technical strategy, spearheading such projects as Sparc microprocessor architecture, Java programming technology and, most recently, the Jini-distributed computing technology.
Rodger Lea-renowned computer scientist and vice president at Sony's cutting edge U.S. Research Laboratories in San Jose, California.
Nicholas Negroponte-co-founder and director of the MIT Media Lab, where he also holds the title of Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Technology. Author of 1995's Being Digital.
Ray Ozzie-founder of Groove Networks (groove.net), an innovative start- up company in Beverly, Massachusetts. Creator of Lotus Notes, the defining groupware product now in use by nearly 50 million people worldwide.
Faith Popcorn-best-selling author of Clicking and The Popcorn Report. Founder of BrainReserve, the futurist and highly successful marketing consultancy.
Jim Rogers-co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros and author of Investment Biker. Runs the jimrogers.com website.
Todd Rundgren-esteemed songwriter, producer and "multimedia messiah"; has an innovative website at tr-i.com.
John Sculley-partner in Sculley Brothers, a venture capital firm that invests in and helps build Internet business-to-business and businessto-consumer companies. Former chief executive officer of Apple Computer.
Gilder: The most common personal computer of the new era will be a digital cellular phone as portable as your watch that will recognize speech, navigate streets, conduct transactions and collect your news and mail and read them to you. It'll have an infinite number of functions, some of which we can't anticipate today. It may not do Windows, but it will open your front door and the door to your safe.
Negroponte: There will be computers with common sense, of which dogs and cats have more than any computer today. Computers are getting more complex, not less, because of creeping features and options, most of which go unused. Future computers will configure themselves based on acquaintance with a specific person.
At the end of the third millennium, we may achieve some forms of teleportation, if only for food products-not people or cars.
Celente: In the short term, the most dramatic changes will come about from a simple improvement of what has been already invented-the videophone. With the advent of broadband, we'll soon see the face behind the voice.
This means more people will be working out of their homes full- or part-time, able to interact with their colleagues wherever they are.
Ozzie: The next 100 years will be shaped principally by advancements in biomedical sciences, materials sciences and global telecommunications. The chemical, genetic and physiological bases of human health and behavior will be well understood. Radical new drugs and treatments will be used for disease control as well as human enhancement, including alteration of emotion, memory, sensory acuity and learning ability. Smart materials that will sense and respond to light, temperature, stress, odors and chemicals will be developed. Additionally, there will be major advances in packaging, fabrics and synthetic bones and organs.
Sculley: The Internet makes the leap from useful technology to indispensable service. Digital wireless PDAs (e.g., mobile data phones, organizers, digital wallets, e-mail clients, digital video cameras, digital business cards, etc.) will become ubiquitous.
Popcorn: Shopping of the future: We'll be watching Ally McBeal (or another show), like what Ally's wearing, put our hand on the screen to stop the program, and order the clothes, furniture, even the dog right off the screen. Ally will show it to us in all the colors available, we'll order, our credit cards will be billed and the clothes will be shipped to us the next day. We'll have microchips implanted in our brains to become versed in subjects that would take years of traditional schooling to attain. In the new millennium, if you want to be trilingual, just have the language chips of your choice implanted. Chips in every subject-from 18th century Russian history to molecular biology-will be available, but expensive.
Dvorak: Moore's law and its observation that everything doubles in power every 18 months means that every 15 years there is a quantum (1000 times) change. So by 2015 every technological thing you have will be 1000 times more powerful, 1000 times more compact. By 2030, what you have today will be 1 million times more powerful (1000 times 1000). This kind of change will result in everything from cars that drive themselves to toys that think. Imagine a Furby 1 million times more powerful for $29.95. Practical robots should appear by the year 2030 and be part of society by 2045, when the changes (1000 times 1000 times 1000) reach a trillion-fold.
Lea: The major technology trend in the early part of the new century will be the marrying of advances in genetics with those in software. This will lead to a new type of software technology that will support evolution and adaptation in the same way as today's biological systems. Software systems will adapt to the world around them and the changing needs of their users. As the century progresses, this evolutionary software will move from being human-created to being self-created, eventually resulting in machines and devices that create and evolve themselves. While they are unlikely to reach the same level of complexity as human beings, increasingly we will rely on machines and devices that are autonomous and of which we will have little understanding of the inner workings.
Rogers: Even if we find no life beyond the planet earth, physical and biological changes from space will create undreamed-of ways and forms of life. Meanwhile, the wars of the future will be so destructive that many cultures will disappear, as they have been doing over the past 100 years.
Rundgren: Before the year 3000, the trendy concept of technology will evaporate, replaced by ubiquitous knowledge, efficiency, productivity and a restored belief in magic as the only technology worth developing. After all, what is the unified field theory but the alchemist's Rosetta stone?
Barlow: The current main thrusts of technology are communication and expanding the senses vastly beyond the body. This will continue. We are creating a shared nervous system for the planet. I believe that before Y3K every neuron on earth, living or manufactured, will be continuously connected with every other neuron. The world will become a giant brain.
Gibson: I suspect that we will hit a technological singularity some years up the road that will change everything, bringing about, literally, the end of the world as we know it. What the next one will be is anybody's guess. I sort of like that, but I don't have a hell of a lot of choice in the matter, so I might as well.
sports and entertainment
Gilder: Television dies. The only thing that sustains television is politicians. Television is a dog technology and politicians are always the dog's best friend. Television will be replaced by infinite choices of programming of all descriptions that can be summoned from anywhere around the world. Choice is important because choice enhances quality. Lowest common denominator media is always going to be aimed at lowest common denominator tastes and will miss the aspirations, curiosities and creativities of individual human beings. I predict that about half of the programming on the Net will be educational as time passes, because education will be the key wealth creator in the new economy.
Joy: In the next decade we will see the emergence of lifelike quality in immersive entertainment and interactive storytelling, involving characters we can relate to emotionally. With luck, we will see an increasing interest in puzzles and learning at the expense of games and diversions. In the next century new sports should emerge that use some of the new man-made networked objects as an integral part of the game, and which allow players at different levels to compete more closely.
Celente: Today's big-three sports-baseball, basketball and football- will decline in national importance. Not only will fewer youngsters participate in them, spectators will cast their eyeballs toward soccer and the extreme games for their viewing enjoyment. Aging boomers and a new crop of golf enthusiasts will pack the courses beyond capacity. On the entertainment front: a hot new wild club scene. Live music and theater will flourish.
Negroponte: There will be a diminishment of spectator sports in favor of vicarious sports-those in which the average person can compete at Olympic levels from his home. The competitive and exercise aspects of sports will be achieved through simulation. The experiential side, like outdoor touring, will be a highly sought-after luxury, using the likes of real mountains and real outdoors. Entertainment will get bigger and smaller, like all things digital. Epic movies, amusement parks and opera and theater (like archaeological events) will dominate mass media, whereas everything else will be personalized and on demand. Our great-grandchildren will be astonished at the lockstep obedience with which our generation has watched TV in such a highly synchronized manner.
Ozzie: Information technology advances will significantly impact entertainment-from live-looking yet synthetic actors in movies to "better than being there" interactive Net-based live-event coverage. In sports, undetectable prenatal genetic therapy and enhancement will breed generations of superathletes, changing the nature of competition and turning most sporting events into X Games.
Rundgren: A millennial shift represents an opportunity to clarify the distinction between entertainment and performance and to attain a greater understanding of the characteristics required for each. With time on our hands and so many artists offering their talents to the public at large, what standard of greatness do we apply? The distinctions between athleticism, art and entertainment that have been so effectively blurred by professional wrestling will spawn a renewed interest in the circus and in circus performers as superstars. Referring to a sporting event or concert as "a circus" will be high praise and signify that a superlative professionalism has been achieved.
Popcorn: There will be no such thing as a television program guide in the future-we'll be able to watch whatever show we want on the day and at the time we feel like it (on our watches, if we want to). We will simply use our remote controls to type in the name of the show, and there it will be. Also, if we miss a portion of it or want to replay a funny scene, we'll just stop and rewind right from our remotes-no need to record it.
DVORAK: Right now there is no reason-other than corruption-for umpires to be behind a baseball player calling balls and strikes when a computer can do it more accurately. Officiating technologies will be implemented after one too many bad calls forces change. As for entertainment, many actors will be replaced by realistic computer images. Nonexistent people will have fan clubs. Online entertainment will continue to grow and become a primary form of entertainment for everyone.
LEA: Consumers will have interactive, highly personalized TV and web content delivered to their homes. Broadcast TV will alter radically as television sets become smart enough to mix and match content sourced from traditional broadcasters, in-home storage devices and the web to provide personalized TV. Traditional sports will lose popularity as consumers increasingly stay home for their entertainment or participate in virtual shared sports via their TVs. Both trends will manifest themselves in a population that is more and more fractionalized, lacking the major broadcast or sports events to provide a common theme. This will have profound effects on the notion of society and community within America. In the middle to late 21st century a backlash against this trend will occur, driven partly by the human desire to socialize and partly by technology changes that will lead society into a more community-oriented model. Such a move will result in sports and entertainment returning to their roots as social events, albeit with far more technological support.
ROGERS: No teams or leagues have ever survived 300 years. The games we know will disappear over the next 1000 years and be replaced with new concepts.
BARLOW: We won't watch the quarterback. We will be the quarterback (or whatever the equivalent becomes). Also, humans have always liked to scare the shit out of themselves. Adrenaline is one of our favorite drugs. Through advances in engineering we will get better and better at approaching and perhaps even crossing the precipice of death without actually dying. This will be important since genetic redesign will make death harder and harder to achieve naturally.
GIBSON: Entertainment will be even more like politics than it is now.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
NEGROPONTE: Today, countries tend to be the wrong size. They are too small to be global and too big to be local. In the future, governance will be both bigger and smaller, attending to the well-being of the planet in tandem with local and cultural needs. In the next millennium, the nation-state as we know it will be far less meaningful. Nationalism will need to disappear.
JOY: The Internet will increasingly cause major functions of society to be performed by self-organized communities unconstrained by physical geographies. These communities will evolve new forms of democratic action on both small and medium scales. As technology increases the abundance of material goods, the Net will also act as a strong force to deconstruct centralized government, which should devolve to be a simpler guarantor of basic liberties and principles such as equality of opportunity, and to thereby protect us from the excesses of global capitalism.
CELENTE: A third-party movement, combining progressive economic and social philosophies with laissez-faire libertarian approaches to personal privacy and foreign policy, will gather steam and overtake obsolete Republican and Democratic machines. The U.S. government will become more democratized as the Internet brings the town hall, the state capital and Washington into the public's living rooms. Rather than put their future in the hands of politicians, people will vote in elections and will cast their votes on specific issues.
OZZIE: Decisions will be influenced, formally or informally, by electronically assisted referenda. Strife will continue to occur due to enormous gaps in prosperity between developed and developing countries, and among the ranks of citizens within any given region.
Because of biomedical advances and lengthening life spans, age will be as significant a societal issue as any encountered in America during this century. Religious institutions and governments worldwide will be forced to confront the moral, ethical and legal consequences of advances in the biomedical sciences, as the question "Can we?" becomes "Should we?" over and over again.
BARLOW: Governance will replace government. In a world where everything and everybody is connected to all else and other, we will respond to problems as organically as the body (or, for that matter, a beehive) responds to damage, automatically rushing the appropriate resources to the point of injury. This will be done on a self-organizing basis, as it is in nature, and indeed as it already is in society to a greater extent than we recognize. Things will get weird, and yet some essential qualities of the human condition may remain, particularly the eternal struggle between the seven deadly sins and the three graces.
SCULLEY: Government as we have known it is an anachronism. One can only hope that the old institutions that have been until now immune to change (e.g., schools, IRS, health services and other bureaucracies) will give way to innovators and entrepreneurs. Today's political organizations will become increasingly irrelevant, with Generation Y inventing entirely new ways to create communities of interest and support for solutions to societal challenges.
POPCORN: We'll vote at ATMs, through e-mail, on the TV screen-anywhere but at the polls. Our voyeuristic fascination with the private lives of politicians will be taken to new heights: Nothing will be off-limits. Imagine MTV's The Real World, but with a cast of politicians, interns and staffers. More and more, Hollywood and government will blur. If Jesse Ventura can be governor, imagine who could be president! (We're predicting a Hispanic female in the White House in the early 2000s.)
DVORAK: Online voting will happen. Serious experiments will begin by 2015, and it won't be considered unusual by 2030. In some ways today's politics, which are poll dependent, are operated this way. Unfortunately, this idea does nothing to encourage the old-fashioned ideal of leadership. It's instead a true democracy and essentially leaderless. The cynics will see it as mobocracy. In fact it will result in new kinds of leadership in which opinion makers and propagandists will be the true leaders, as they will sway the real-time voters.
LEA: The growing trend toward single-issue politics will drive government in the next few decades. This will accelerate as global communications allow pressure groups to rapidly form to promote issues. On the positive side, voters will have a more direct influence on government. But this will be offset by the stagnation that such politics causes. The reemerging megacorporations will come to dominate politics and government in the latter part of the century and will replace nation-states by attracting the allegiance of their workers. These megacorporations, because they transcend physical boundaries, will cause a blurring of nations and will effectively become the constituents in a de facto global government.
ROGERS: I doubt Plato's basic four types of government will change significantly over the next millennium, since they have changed little over the past 3000 years. Cycles of oligarchy, democracy, tyranny and timocracy (aristocracy) will continue. For better or worse, most of world history has been government by tyranny or oligarchy, and that will certainly continue. Greed and power are too basic and exhilarating to disappear. The smart and the strong will nearly always seize control, whether it is disguised as divine right, the good of the nation or simply the nature of things. Recurring periods of democracy and timocracy will recur, but they will be as brief and scattered, and probably as few, as they have been over the past 3000 years. Technology and telecommunications make it harder and harder to lie to people by justifying tyranny and oligarchy. On the other hand, they make it easier to dupe people. Clever charlatans in one guise or another will rouse mass hysteria, the maddening of crowds and waves of national passion.
GIBSON: Politics will be even more like entertainment than it is now.
SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS
GIBSON: Say that technology (medicine) makes it safe, once again (or as safe as it once seemed), for anyone to sexually put anything anywhere, as often as they want, whenever they feel like it, without resorting to barriers or VR or any of the rest of it. The final decades of the 20th century seemed like a grim time indeed-the Plague Years-but the sheer fun of it all, paradoxically, will bring about a return to the ancient quest for monogamy (serial monogamy, anyway) and spiritual meaning. "The more things change. . . ." Viagra, folks, is just the beginning.
LEA: Relationships will increasingly be conducted in virtual space. In addition, the breakdown in social skills brought about by less human interaction will lead to significant changes in human relationships. Relationships will become simplistic, short-term and unsatisfying, often conducted on a virtual level. Families will become fragmented further and the relationship between parents and children will deteriorate. These changes will drive a return to basics that will occur in the latter part of the millennium as the U.S. seeks to return to a "lost" era of community.
Sex, meanwhile, is such a basic human drive that it will change little during the next century. The most significant changes will come about as we discover how to stimulate the sexual aspects of the human body and mind via chemicals and direct mental input. However, this will continue to affect only a minority of the population.
JOY: The Internet is leading to a rebirth of many communities of interest-
unconstrained by physical locations. It allows families and friends to connect in new and interesting ways. This process will accelerate. Within the next century we should be able to electronically reincarnate great and interesting people from the past, through their writings and regalia from their life, to allow interesting conversations and relationships with these "ghosts."
NEGROPONTE: People will have much more prime-time, face-to-face interaction, which today we waste in meetings. More will be done off- line and in unreal time, which will thereby change the rhythm of human relationships to include better interaction in the presence of humans as well as through telecommunications.
CELENTE: We see the birth of new millennium families. The 21st century family will not conform to the cherished 20th century stereotypes. Family will be defined in the broadest of its dictionary definitions, "the collective body of persons that live in one house." As the population ages, as economic conditions change and as social conditions dictate, the 21st century family will come in a variety of models: traditional nuclear, single parent, communal, his-his, hers-hers and, as part of the retro movement, the extended family.
OZZIE: Amid the chaos and uncertainty that will consume our tele-lives, we'll come to value the simplicity and essence of a fleeting glance, a fragile touch, a reassuringly strong embrace.
RUNDGREN: What is realistic to expect from another human being? From yourself? What would do the most to bring someone to the point of self- love that you could endure, even enjoy, their company? This is more advice than prediction: Forget God and worship your children. Put aside the self-centered fear that causes you to worship God and to forget your children. In Anglo-Euro society the greatest benefit of the passage into a new millennium will be the failure of the Apocalypse to materialize and the attendant reconsideration of the true meaning of causation-the thoughtless expression of love that comes most naturally to the young.
BARLOW: If we can experience being the quarterback, it is trivial to experience being the other lover. I've always wanted to know what it's like to experience sex as a woman. Between neurological implanting, genetic engineering and reversible surgery, this will become possible. If the foundation of our economy is relationships rather than things we can own, we will value them appropriately.
I asked a group of bankers whether they would rather give up all their material assets, organizational and personal, or all their relationships. Not one of them chose to keep their assets. Perhaps some of them were lying. But still, I think most knew they could rebuild their assets from their relationships, but not the other way around. We need only to create a looser system of accounting that includes what actually motivates us.
SCULLEY: Internet users will learn to have meaningful relationships with people who are physically separated from them by large distance and may in fact never physically meet. Time is the only scarce commodity left, and "time-shifting" will become one of the most efficient means for people to maintain regular contact, sometimes communicating on the Net a dozen times a day.
POPCORN: Technology will continue to foster relationships: Think e-mail times infinity. We'll go into our virtual reality chambers in our homes and have conversations with our ancestors and forecasters. We'll talk with holograms of our grandparents, great-grandparents, 19th century presidents, writers, explorers-all the historical figures important to us. Technology will give us the relationships time and space didn't permit.
DVORAK: More and more people will spill their guts out online and it will become a primary form of human interaction. The for-pay matchmaking sites that already hook up thousands of people every day will be the bar scene of the next 1000 years. By 2015 it will be the primary way of meeting people. By 2030 it will be the only way.
ROGERS: Relationships have changed little in the past few thousand years, and they basically will stay the same. The quick-witted will dominate the dull, and the strong will dominate the weak. A serious shortage of females is developing in the world, especially on the continent of Asia, which means women are becoming more valuable again. We have only begun to see what will happen to the status of women as this profound demographic change develops. As the shortage intensifies, women will be more selective, will delay marriage, will divorce more readily and will demand and receive better treatment. Courtship will return and so will genteelness in male-female relationships. Unfortunately this will not last forever, since all those horny guys eventually will fight wars over women. The propaganda will say the wars are for loftier reasons, but basically men will be trying to get more wives. Then, of course, the imbalances will correct themselves as men foolishly slaughter one another in the name of democracy, their god or some other ideal. Once a shortage of men develops, men's treatment of women will deteriorate yet again.
BUSINESS AND MONEY
GILDER: There's going to be a fabulous amount of wealth. When there is total material abundance, the pressures of scarcity evolve around the residual resource of time. When you can order the exact book you need from your office rather than driving to the bookstore and finding it's not there, you're saving time. Everything online is oriented toward saving the most valuable resource in the new era: time.
CELENTE: We won't see a new economy, as so many are predicting today. The world will experience new recessions and more depressions, along with good times and bad.
SCULLEY: In the old economy, producers were in control; in the new economy, customers are in control.
ROGERS: Anyone counting on the U.S. dollar as a means of transferring wealth to future generations should look back on the fate of every form of money over the past several thousand years. Even gold has had long stretches when it lost value compared to other things, and this will occur again.
NEGROPONTE: Disintermediation will abound to an extreme where all manufacturers sell directly to consumers. Payments will be made with digital cash. In the long run, it will be impossible to compute the balance of trade. Concurrently, the corporate world will flatten, hierarchies will fade and decentralization will prevail. Huge companies will find competition where they least expected it, and small companies will find great advantage in remaining small. By the middle of the next millennium, the world's largest employer will be selfemployment.
OZZIE: Global, instant telecommunications will bring about the collapse of producer-controlled markets. The individual will triumph. Auctions, group purchasing, differential pricing and other dynamic mechanisms will reshape the basic nature of commerce between and among businesses as well as consumers.
RUNDGREN: There will be a further collapse of the barriers to efficiency and productivity that keep vast parts of the planet artificially poor. Mankind, or at least the part of it that you and I are likely to run into, has an innate fear of poverty-always better to have too much than not enough. The Prozac for this anxiety has been capitalism. Capitalism, however, is a pyramid scheme dependent on cheap labor somewhere in the world market. Unless we plan to keep all those people artificially poor, we're going to have to redefine wealth and stop using yearly income or IPO windfalls as yardsticks of well-being.
BARLOW: Most of our business is in love, friendship, security, trust, pleasure, experience, ideas and other qualities impossible to quantify. As the root of economy becomes thought rather than things, we will give up trying to measure what is immeasurable and to start exchanging value on the basis of "what goes around comes around." The economy of nouns will be replaced by an economy of verbs.
POPCORN: The future of business and money is all about relationships. The female consumer will be the most powerful consumer, and she will reject the traditional, transactional way of doing business. She'll want relationships with the brands she buys and the companies that make them. She won't purchase what she does not connect with. Direct-to- consumer will be the future of retail. I predict that 90 percent of all consumer goods will be home-delivered by 2010. Consumers won't have the time to go to the store, to the gas station or car showroom.
DVORAK: In the never-ending trend toward better understanding the individual customer, a nonstop invasion of privacy in the guise of marketing will commence. Privacy-rights advocates will eventually be shouted down. Databases with massive amounts of erroneous information and mistakes will ruin more lives than ever. By 2030, money will become fully virtual with smart cards, whereby all spending will be tracked in one way or another.
LEA: In the early part of the millennium, an increasing trend toward small companies and individual consultants will appear to break the stranglehold that large corporations have on the world economy. However, as the complexity of a highly integrated world economy continues to progress, large corporations will reassert themselves. Rather than mimicking today's rigid structures, they will essentially be knowledge corporations. These will combine aspects of highly individualistic workers forming loose affiliations within an overall structure to achieve tasks. As the century progresses these corporations will come to dominate the world economy, widening the divide between the First and Third Worlds. For the majority of U.S. citizens such companies will replace the notion of state in terms of allegiance. Money will disappear as a tangible entity and will become one of many items bartered. Electronic transactions will allow bartering to flourish, enabling individuals to trade not only for money but also for goods and personal skills and services. This will lead to a reinvention of the notion of rich that will recapture the Greek notion of richness of spirit, thus allowing a shift from today's physical materialism to a more spiritual materialism.
GIBSON: Our singularity might well be some functional form of nanotechnology, which would in effect be the discovery of the philosopher's stone of the alchemists. If we can make gold out of shit, literally, and at no cost, and make hamburgers out of gold, or out of anything else, where will that leave the concept of wealth, or of value? Nowhere, probably. Remember the ancient (and perhaps apocryphal) Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."