J. Tester talk at NEXT – notes

There were some great talks at NEXT conference last Friday.
Here’s my notes on Jason Tester‘s blurb about “Why the Future Needs Us. The Importance of Communicating What’s Next.”

Tester is Research and Design Manager at the Institute for the Future in California (check also their blog).

The Institute for the Future focuses on emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform the global marketplace. Their research doesn’t forecast what the future will be but tries to give a glimpse of what the future might be, focussing on consumers behaviour, technology, health, work and business trends. General time frame is 5-10 years. The research combines some core trends and ideas with the implication of the current issues to establish a “map of the decade” with sub-trends examples that embody the trend(s). The Map shows the complexity and the connections all at once (progressive disclosure) while what Tester called the “artefacts” provide the reader with more empathy and more gournding of the trends, they have a more immediate impact and help to understand the implications of the trends. They bring elements of a potential future into real life. See how people react to it, what they think might be the consequences of this potential future. The idea is not to predict the future but to describe what it could be like so that people can act now.


Examples of artefacts:
– The importance of networking is growing. We’ll become more social creatures. The IftF has imagined the Reputation Statement of Account, you’ll get points by participating to wikis, uploading pictures on Flickr, volunteer as a guide in the World of Warcraft III, etc. But will loose points each time you download data illegally from iTunes. Do we really want this? What about the loss of privacy?
– “This media is not covered by a Creative Commons licence and is thus subjected to supplemental tax” sticker on a CD cover. CC is born in the US but many people still do not know what it is.
– Decline of consumer culture, we want to be part of the creative process: new production methods will emerge.
– In the medicine cabinet. We’ll buy food as drugs, personality drugs, pills for sleep substitution (no-sleep drugs), lifestyle pills, etc. Ex: medication for claustrophobia could become big in a world that gets more and more urban, with less personal space.
– Mobile religion: download of prayers, online confessions, etc. 64% of Americans have used the internet for religion-related activities.
Iceberg: the only water bottle from melting glaciers,
price for a litre of Evian water, within 10 years,
– GAP promotion: buy one jeans and get a free pair of jeans for your favourite virtual character,
– automated pharmacy machines,
– On the cover of Newsweek. “Body hackers: everyday people are measuring and improving their own bodies. Why they do it, what they use, and how you can get started.”

Tester then gave more emphasis on what the “RFID world” might look like in 10 years. What will life be like if RFID becomes really ubiquitous?

– RFID will be pre-built in homes, other houses will have to be adapted,
– Each shelf of the medicine cabinets we would buy would have a RFID reader embedded into it,
– China would create its own RFID standard,
– we would buy tags to attach to our clothes before putting them into our RFID-enabled washer or dryer (the packet include 10 tags for delicate fabrics, 10 for hand-made garments, etc.)
– we could also buy RFID tags adhesives and encoders to stick in the streets and use as digital graffiti.

And of course there will be a backlash of RFID. He showed an example of “guerilla” action he made: signs of fake “required notification” of the presence of RFID readers on the doors of the institute.

My pictures from his talk.