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On the Horizon Futures Report

On the Horizon Futures Report
Curated by Pamela McConathy Schied, MS, Futures Studies in Commerce, College of Technology, University of Houston; Principal, Foresight Communications Group,

Robot Roundup: Rise of the Machines

Robot roundup: rise of the machinesAll of us will have to get used to working and living alongside robots as they become more and more a part of our daily lives. If you can think of a job that is physically demanding, you can bet robots will eventually take over or supplant that job. Some 47% of all U.S. jobs, blue collar and white-collar, could be automated by 2020. As early as 2016, robots will be patrolling the streets as “security officers.” The world’s first hotel staffed entirely by robots is scheduled to open in Japan this year. Robots are expected to lower U.S. manufacturing costs by 20 percent this year. Diagnostic robots will impact doctor’s services; and the coming new world of computerized cyborg finance will take on work formerly done by loan officers, stockbrokers and traders. (

20 Large U.S. Cities at Risk for Sea Level Rise

OTH APRIL 2015-2An independent study by scientists at the University of Arizona has identified and ranked 20 large U.S. cities that are most vulnerable to sea level rise over the next 50 years. (Houston ranked 19th on the list.) “We believe these are the first estimates of vulnerability to sea level rise covering each and every major coastal city in the Lower 48 – the places where Americans live in our highest concentrations,” says Dr. Benjamin Strauss , a national expert and author of numerous scientific papers and reports on sea level rise. Yet most of these cities are not actively preparing for the immediate and long-term effect of rising sea levels. According to Gary Griggs, Director of the Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, most communities treat the increased frequency of high tides as “nuisance flooding,” which trivializes the growing threat. Why? According to Klaus Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University who consults with New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority on the issue of climate change and rising sea levels, cities and other governments are not pursuing policies and projects, other than in a haphazard manner, because they lack the political will to deal with it. The main reason: cost. Jacob projects the cost this century to be over a trillion dollars, but warns, “if we don’t do anything, it’s multiple trillions of dollars.” (

Mars One Mission Moves Closer to Launch

OTH APRIL 2015-3In 2013, we told you about Mars One, a Dutch non-profit organization determined to establish permanent human life on Mars by 2035. In an update, we later reported that thousands of applicants were signing up for the one-way trip and organizers were hoping to turn the endeavor into a reality TV show to cover costs. The latest news from Mars One is they have narrowed down more than 200,500 applicants to 100: 50 men and 50 women — 39 from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa and 7 from Oceania. Skeptics and critics abound regarding the plan’s viability. And you might suspect the volunteer Martians to harbor death wishes, or be more than a little kooky. But interviews by the Washington Post reveal them to be fairly normal. Sixty- three have PhDs, and 12 are physicians. The list includes lawyers, pilots, veterans and business professionals. The youngest were 18 when they applied, and the oldest was 71.”They are people who want to leave a mark on our planet — by leaving our planet,” notes the Post reporter. (

Futurist Ray Kurzweil’s Take on the Next 25 Years

Futurist Ray Kurzweil's take on the next 25 yearsRay Kurzweil is a really, really smart guy (20 honorary doctorates, 5 national best-selling books and awards from three presidents) who is really, really good at predicting the future of artificial intelligence (says Bill Gates) and technology. For example, in 1999, Kurzweil predicted we would be telling our computers what to do by 2009. In 2005, he predicted that by the 2010s, words spoken in a foreign language would be translated into text for users of special glasses (Microsoft Skype Translate and Google Translate). So, what are some of his predictions today for the future? For one, Kurzweil believes most diseases will go away by the 2020s as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. In the same time period, he sees self-driving cars start to take over the nation’s roads as people won’t be allowed to drive on highways. By 2045, Kurzweil expects humans will be able to link their neocortex wirelessly to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud, multiplying their intelligence a billion-fold. (

Imagine the Futures of Your Business or Industry

Imagine the futures of your business or industryStaying competitive in today’s ever-changing marketplace challenges even the most successful businesses. Yet, one futurist believes any executive can draw from his techniques and learn to be more strategic, creative and forward-thinking in its business planning process. “It’s important to understand futurists explore plausible and possible futures — that’s future with an s,” says Sandjar Kozubaez, a consultant with Sparks Grove, who fuses design, economics and futures to help companies grow. “It’s not about predictions,” he says. It’s more about exploring potentials. “Think of futures as your imagination informed by data and science. Try looking for ‘weak signals’ — indicators that are so weak you wouldn’t even call them emerging trends.” Kozubaez also advises business leaders to take the long view — imagine your company and the world 10 to 20 years out. “This allows you to see the big picture, ask better questions, and be more conceptual and creative in your thinking.” He also says to look for weaknesses, sensitivities and dependencies along with opportunities. (


  • The Next Digital Growth Spurt…Will be Different
    The next billion consumers to come online will be making their digital decisions on a mobile device — very different from the practices of the first billion that helped build the foundation of the current Internet economy. However, know that world populations are traveling at different speeds on their journey toward a digital planet. (
  • The Value of Fresh Data Emerges with Internet of Things
    Over the next five years, most new data will be generated by the Internet of Things (IoT) — smart phones, traffic lights, smart energy grids and various appliances and other systems using sensors and processes to connect and communicate online. According to one data analyst, Big Data to date has been about organizing and managing large volumes of historical data or static data, in trying to understand past human behaviors as a predictor of future actions. “In the context of the IoT,” says Randy Bean, CEO of New Vantage Partners, a data and analytics consulting firm, “Big Data now is also about data in motion — the velocity and highly interactive nature of data captured by sensors and intelligence devices, in addition to data captured via unstructured content and social media.” Bean believes this fresh data, which is newly captured, highly interactive and reflective of the now has potential for being highly relevant and valuable to executives. (
  • Inside Your Home in 2020 and Beyond
    If the World Health Organization is right, most people will be living in increasingly crowded urban areas in the years ahead. As our living spaces shrink, our furniture will need to adapt. Marcus Engman, head of design for IKEA Sweden, believes multiuse furniture is the wave of the future. “A stool might be one of your most important pieces of furniture because you can use it as a bedside table, a seat, an end table, or a step ladder; you can also design them to nest or stack when not in use.” On the horizon for IKEA? Personalized mass-produced home furnishings — because furniture is still how we express our personalities. (
  • You Too Can Become a Futurist!
    So has all this chatter about the future got you thinking…about trying your hand at being a futurist? Well, that kind of opportunity is closer than you may think. In fact, the University of Houston offers a Master of Science in Foresight if you are really serious about it. However, if you only want to stick your toe in the water of imagining what tomorrow may bring, there’s always the popular 5-day, Foresight Certificate Course offered twice annually. Celebrating its seventh year, the program now boasts nearly 400 graduates. In the project-based, face-to-face workshop, participants learn to anticipate disruptive change and proactively influence the future of their organizations, companies and communities. In exchange, they receive a professional certificate and four Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from UH. The next certificate class begins May 11, 2015. For details, email Dr. Andy Hines at

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