There are at least eight trends which should be taken into consideration in all of your longer-range business and personal planning:
1. NOT-FOR-PROFITS, NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) AND OTHER TYPES OF "ALTERNATIVE FORM" GROUPS WILL RISE IN PROMINENCE AND INFLUENCE:
The profit motive, e.g., the drive for the acquisition and accumulation of wealth, has historically been the dominion of large corporations and powerful monarchs. Corporations have generally thrived as income- and wealth-creation vehicles because of various types of legislated insulation from directors' liability, favorable tax treatment and ready access to the capital markets to fuel expansion and increase value for stakeholders and certain insiders; monarchs, usually by a megalomaniacal claim of divine entitlement coupled with a promise of protection (most often from their own brutality), have simply collected tax or tribute from every person too slow to run and too powerless to protest.
With Sarbanes-Oxley, increasingly vituperative prosecutions of corporate officers and directors, increased regulatory reporting and accountability, and a growing public perception that corporations are faceless devils wholly bereft of sensitivity or morality, the for-profit corporation (especially whose shares are publicly-traded) is looking less and less appealing as a form of business entity.
Anticipate a significant increase in the number, wealth and power of such alternative not-for-profit organizational forms as public foundations, charitable trusts, cooperatives, informal clubs, religious groups, fraternal orders and membership societies during these next five years. These groups will dominate the political process (domestically and internationally), the legislative processes (domestically and via international treaty), consumerism, and ultimately, the re-allocation of wealth internationally. They are easily created, not tightly governed under a particular body of law (with the exception of public foundations, some charities, and a few others), free of the need for shareholders, able to maintain some level of privacy, and are unfettered by the outward semblance of a "for profit" motive.
We are already witnessing a tremendous increase in the activity levels of internet-based networking groups and online communities, which are become a social and business milieu unto themselves. They are relatively unregulated, inexpensive and simple to form and operate, and fabulously efficient int terms of accelerating the contact-formation process. You might want to contribute your Rolodex to the Smithsonian.
2. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION WILL BECOME MUCH MORE CHALLENGING:
Mechanical and "organic" search engine optimization can be expected to become far more difficult as search enginesrobots, crawlers, and other sensory organs become more sensitive to recognizing meaningful words in relevance and context, and more discriminatory against contrived approaches to SEO, such as "invisible ink" programs, keyword stuffing, excessive word repetition, and other approaches. Ultimately, prominence in the search engine rankings will have to be obtained by increasing readership through compelling and high-utility website and blog content.
Increased readership (e.g., clicking activity) will be gleaned through recognition, recommendation referencing and old-fashioned campaigning. As search engines become "smarter", and develop greater discriminatory capabilities, expect an increase in the content quality of the top-ranked sites, and an increasing gap in terms of success between well-constructed sites and catchphrase-laden "exhibitionist" or "novelty" sites. Advancement in search engine rankings based upon merit might actually replace technological darwinism. (Note: Have you noticed that I have switched shades of blue in this text? I did it quite by accident, and I think that I will just leave it as it is, since this is my blog -- I only hope that I don't invite "blog text color consistency regulations" on the off-chance that some literate legislator sees this post.)
3. BE "GREEN" AND EARTH-FRIENDLY (LEST YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION BECOME COMPOST!):
Mother Earth is our friend (in between tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados and the occasional outbreak of an epidemic or the visitation by a plague). Some savvy folks, without mentioning Al Gore, by name, as well as an increasing number of environmental protectionist groups have made the public (and, by the power of polling) extraordinarily fearful of "environmentally unfriendly" activities. The environmental lobby is growing rapidly, and pervasively.
Both regular civilians and companies (as corporate citizens) are increasingly taking actions to be designated as "green" or "environmentally-friendly," through recycling, re-foresting, creating re-usable items, and a host of conspicuous public relations ploys. Whether or not you believe this is merely political hokum, you had best make efforts to become recognized (like Starbucks) as being environmentally conscious, and green.
Consumers will give you preference (especially younger consumers with a higher level of social consciousness and unjaded idealism), and regulators, protectionist groups and other well-intended (albeit meddlesome) parties will not be as readily inclined to do damage to you. On the bright side, some of these groups might even commend you. It is becoming socially fashionable to be environmentally conscious. Most of what you read today is post-consumer content... Oops...what I meant is that it is printed on post-consumer material.
4. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL MAKE QUANTUM STRIDES
Artificial Intelligence (which, ironically, has as its earliest descendant the human intelligence that initiated the first AI programming) will make tremendous advances during the course of these next 30 to 50 years, largely due to breakthroughs fueled by new insights into intelligence theory, complexity theory, nanotechnology and commercial and government applications and refinements of data mining and information analysis technology (a combination of pattern recognition, rule creation and generalization, outcome prediction and recursive system corrections and modifications based upon validity of results).
My guess is that at some time between 2050 and to 2070, AI, in all of its applications and guises, will replace the human intelligence that wished it into being and nurtured it. It will be perceived as more reliable in every aspect than its fallible and emotionally-driven flesh and blood counterpart and grandparent, as it will be shown to be a powerful tool with limitless energy and no need for cigarette or coffee breaks. Without referencing any work of science fiction in particular, the issue will eventually become that of who is the servant and who is the master? I will not share with you how I would bet, if I were a gambling type of fellow.
Bruce Klein writes a wonderful blog which can be accessed at www.novamente.net/bruce_blog, which addresses many interesting issues and developments in the field of AI. He is conducting a poll about when (in terms of decades) AI will achieve parity with the basic functionality of the human mind. Read his blog, track his poll results, and draw your own conclusions from his collected data. I enjoyed participating in the survey, and was honored to be asked for my opinion. View his blog and let me know what you think. He has a very intelligent and articulate readership. As do I
5. MARKET AND IDEA TESTING AND POLLING WILL BECOME MORE SOPHISTICATED, MORE INTERACTIVE, MORE EFFECTIVE, AND FAR MORE COMMONPLACE:
Test marketing and trial runs based upon free samples, giveaways, intuition, conventional marketing wisdom, "breakthrough ideas" and individual innovation will be supplanted by a very different fundamental approach to testing and pre-marketing: interactive polling and surveying through the e-media. In this way, the targeted consumer market (e.g., the prospective cusomers) will actually have a say in the development of the product, and will actually have an emotional investment and a feeling of proprietorship in the finished product. This psychology is exemplified by the "wiki" phenomenon. For an eloquent example, just put WIKIPEDIA into any search engine.
It is delightful and ironic to think that the consumers will ultimately be the designers and suppliers of the product which they themselves will pay for. (I apologize for ending the preceding sentence with a preposition).
6. EXECUTIVE (PRIVATE LUXURY) AIR TRAVEL WILL BECOME FAR MORE COMMONPLACE:
Due to the increasingly time-consuming and humiliating experience of going through airport security prior to boarding any commercial airlines flight, executive air travel by privately-owned and operated executive transport companies is already on the rise. You can expect this trend to continue as world markets become more competitive, and airport anti-terrorist security protocols become increasingly stringent and unpleasant.
7. THE FOCUS ON THE TREATMENT OF OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY WILL CHANGE:
At present, the treatment of overweight and obesity is focused on diet (nutrition), exercise (fitness), medication (diet pills and nutritional supplementation) and bariatric surgery (gastric or duodenal bypass surgery), for both adults and children. These are "generic" means of addressing the symptoms after considerable suffering has already occurred. Within the next three to five years, the focus will shift to:
- earlier-stage testing (genetics and endocrinology);
- metabolic typing and testing (look at www.sotmary.com and www.manhattanmetabolic.com);
- non-invasive and endoscopic approaches to digestive tract reconfiguration (a company called Obesity Technologies, Inc. is developing one of these technologies);
- finely-targeted electrical stimulation or suppression of various parts of the brain which are involved in appetite (i.e., the hippocampus), and parts of the stomach and digestive tract (i.e., various nerves controlling endocrine and other functions);
- hypnotherapy and NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming).
From a humanitarian perspective, I think that it is a wonderful idea to 1) predict and determine causality and apprehend the problem through early intervention, and to 2) stop shaming and blaming the victims or sufferers for certain aspects of their overweight and obesity which might truly be beyond their ability to control.
8. ASTROLOGY AND ASTROLOGICAL PLANNING WILL RISE TO PROMINENCE AND BECOME AN ACCEPTED MEANS OF PERSONAL AND BUSINESS PLANNING:
Famous former first lady Nancy Reagan would not let former president Ronald Reagan attend meetings, schedule appointments, make policy decisions or use the executive washroom (perhaps a slight exaggeration) without first consulting her astrologer as to the optimality of the timing. Today, a number of major fund managers and advisors make buy and sell decisions for their portfolios valued at (in the aggregate) hundreds of billions of dollars based upon the alignment of the heavenly bodies. Some of these managers have actually become quite open about it. Expect more utilization and open recognition of astrology as a decisionmaking tool in business. "Astrology -- it's not just for matchmakers anymore."