Welcome to Outlook 2008, the World Future Society's roundup of thought-provoking forecasts, trends, and ideas from the past year. These brief items are drawn from articles and news stories originally appearing in THE FUTURIST.
The forecasts should not be interpreted as "predictions" of what the future will be like, but rather as glimpses of what may happen or proposals for what should happen. They are intended to provoke thought and inspire action. However, the opinions and ideas presented here are those of the authors or sources cited and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the World Future Society.
For more information about any of these forecasts, please refer to the original articles cited. Back issues of THE FUTURIST may be ordered using the coupon in this report or online at www.wfs.org/backiss.htm. As always, we welcome your feedback. Please e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS
* The world will have a billion millionaires by 2025. Globalization and technological innovation are driving this increased prosperity, according to James Canton, author of The Extreme Future. But challenges to prosperity will also become more acute, such as water shortages that will affect two-thirds of world population by 2025, he predicts.--Patrick Tucker, "Managing a Future of Extremes" [book review], May-June 2007, p. 54
* Counterfeiting of currency will proliferate, driving the move toward a cashless society. Sophisticated new optical scanning technologies have been a boon for currency counterfeiters, so societies are increasingly putting aside their privacy fears about going cashless. Meanwhile, cashless technologies are improving, making them far easier and safer to use.--Allen H. Kupetz, "Our Cashless Future," May-June 2007, p. 37
* Cashless transactions will mean the end of "grace periods." Cash exchanges will gradually be replaced by real-time "fractal" transactions--i.e., instant automatic payment to everyone involved in a purchase, from producer to distributor to retailer. Wireless handheld devices will process and distribute money to all of the recipients instantaneously, splitting the transaction like a fractal and avoiding the delays of non-cash money transactions such as checks and credit-card payments.--Thomas Frey, "Fractal Transactions: Launching the Future of Money," Jan-Feb 2007, p. 11
* The U.S. fiscal imbalance will worsen. At current spending levels, U.S. federal deficits will reach unsustainable levels in as little as two decades, at which point, without significant policy changes, deficits could reach 10% or more of the U.S. economy.--David M. Walker, "Foresight for Government," Mar-Apr 2007, p. 20
* Sharing risk through "microinsurance" could help communities rebuild after natural disasters. The world's poorest people often live in the places most likely to be struck by natural disasters--and they are the least likely to have insurance. Now, they are increasingly turning to microinsurance programs, which, like microcredit, allow participants in a community to pool their risk and hence lower their premiums to as little as $2 per year.--World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2007, p. 16
* The United States will see a shrinking labor force and growing income disparity by 2050. Both trends will affect the nation's long-term fiscal health as the economy continues to move away from manufacturing jobs and toward services and high-tech occupations. Such work typically requires more-expensive education that is out of reach for many working-class families.--World Trends & Forecasts, July-Aug 2007, p. 9
* Socially responsible investing may get a boost from venture capitalists. Investment in "green" or clean technologies such as alternative fuel development is gaining momentum. This new interest by venture capitalists follows a trend led by individual investors and mutual funds to weigh social values alongside financial reports. …