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ARTICLES AND THINKPIECES

FUTURISM

The Future Is Now

October, 2006

The World Future Society conference in Toronto earlier this summer was a good opportunity for us to remind ourselves of the importance of thinking ahead, and understanding the past, the present, and the science of processing future trends. Trend analysis helps us understand the manner in which various factors interact with each other, and what kinds of scenarios play out when these different factors collide. It is a truth that, in order to be an effective attorney or consultant in emerging technologies, one has to understand the law, the business and the technology. There's a bit of futurism in understanding where any business and/or social trend is going to go. Here are a few examples of questions we can ask, if we have the information with which to put the questions:

If it's true that 60% of the world will be without reliably clean water by 2025, what does that mean for the water filtration industry? If many of those places will also be without sufficient electricity, what impact does that have on the types of filtration systems that can be effective? What implications does this have for the portable solar power industry, not just with regard to water, but also, cell phones and all manner of electronic communications devices?

If Middle Eastern Muslim countries are averaging 6 children per family, and the economies of these countries will continue to struggle, what does this say about the unemployment rate in the region in 2020? And, what does an overabundance of unemployed young male adults say about the implications for war or peace in the region? Further, what does a large US military presence in the region say about the possibility of sustained US military entanglements in the region? What implications does all of this have for fossil fuel supply and pricing? For travel restrictions for Americans around the globe? For business between Americans and Muslim countries? How does global climate change affect all of these issues?

If the human genome database is now expanding using Moore's Law, and the average life expectancy is starting to jump in industrialized countries as a result, what implications does this have for the 65 year retirement age? What happens to Social Security when sizable chunks of the populace start to live beyond 100 years? What are the implications for growth in health care, and for the growth of the national debt? What sectors of these health care markets will find themselves underserved? What happens to the nature of the job market when people are working effectively into their 80s and beyond?

In these rapidly changing times, all successful business people must be at least one part futurist. The service industries (consulting, law, etc.) must be especially cognizant of this fact. We believe that we had better make policy and business decisions with an understanding of the near future, as that future has a habit of showing up a lot sooner than we expect, and it is dependent on the decisions we make today.