THE BLOG
01/05/2015 05:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Predictions, Predilections, Prophecies, Punditry... and Future Babble

2015-01-05-FutureImage.jpg

How do you end one year and begin another without the onslaught of future gazing by the experts who know...

There was a time when looking forward was a function of truly challenging imaginations: Leonardo DaVinci imagining flight -- parachutes, airplanes, helicopters, even retractable landing gear; or centuries later, HG Wells writing "Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought," where he codified his projections of what was to come that he so eloquently developed in his novels and that Hollywood continues to produce in film.

Then of course there were those who, when actually confronted by development, were unable to see beyond their own sadly myopic, biased vision; and I refer you to BuzzFeed (no doubt never predicted) to view a list of some of the best.

When reviewing this list and reading others, it's funny (in retrospect) to see leading scientists dismiss everything from X-Rays to Telephone to Space Travel; music experts deride rock and roll and the Beatles; social commentators be sure that democracy would fail; business mavens be positive that radio could never be commercially sold, the iPhone was a fad or that Japanese cars would never be successful; military pundits be positive that tanks, planes and torpedoes would never be feasible methods of warfare; transportation technocrats be sure that the locomotive and the car were doomed to fail; and of course computer whizzes who knew they had it right that no one would want a computer in their home or that anything more than 32 bits was a waste.

I leave it to you to follow the links... here is another one.

And explore the sources -- some might even surprise you... or not, and please share more!

On the other hand there have been fairly recent predictions that weren't wrong in the sense of no imagination -- they were wrong in believing that somehow we had conquered it all: "We can close the books on infectious diseases." -- Surgeon General of the United States William H. Stewart, 1969, speaking to the U.S. Congress. Yet Ebola is still ravaging Africa and the fear of a global pandemic keeps many awake at night.

What troubles me is that when I look at the predictions for 2015, I find them sorely lacking in inspiration and vision while awash in buzzwords, rehashed/recycled thinking and the notion that what is pontificated is new and has never happened before.

Let me save you the time and trouble -- copy these down and sprinkle them in your conversations and correspondences: wearables, mobile video, connected home, personalized, content, from real-time to preemptive, content distribution strategy, happiness gets quantified, tech to help disconnect, family robots, omni-device, targeting, more intimate visual stories (point of view from helmets, goggles, etc.), hyper-segmentation, post-demographic consumerism, selling ads based on time spent....

For example, "I woke up this morning as my connected home targeted me with personalized content, preemptively delivering me mobile video on my wearable...."

So it goes.

Don't get me wrong, that could happen and some form of it will be the norm -- but enough with the buzzwords.

Then of course there are the astounding predictions of what we can expect this year. I present them, linked to their sources, and leave the comments to you. Some are in my opinion "duhs," as in obvious; some show no sense or understanding of what is actually happening in the world; some are actually insightful and some just make you wonder....

  1. "Local Love" - In 2015, as time-limited branded spaces (pop-ups) become so ubiquitous, consumers will reform their expectations of what brands can and should do, make lasting commitments and real impact through "lasting spaces." (Southwest Airlines revitalizes public spaces, VANS opens up London's only indoor skate park, and Australian Health Insurance Medibank opens outdoor play space for children.) - Trendwatching.com
  2. Evolution of ephemeral - Digital/physical (like the app Spayce that allows you to match digital memories to physical locations). - Trendwatching.com
  3. Content will be ever more important. - Forbes
  4. Marketers will finally realize that there are two core pillars of a content marketing strategy: publication and distribution. While the content marketing buzz continues to pick up steam, marketers needs to remember that a distribution strategy for that content is just as important, if not more important, than the content itself. - LinkedIn
  5. Happiness gets quantified - The Happy for Life app serves as a digital rubric by which one can increase overall happiness. Through nuggets of suggestions - "Go for a swim" or the underused "Have a good cry" - users can log how each activity stacks up on their totem pole of bliss. - PSFK
  6. Preemptive technology - 2015 will see things go a step further, from real time to preempting. Google Now has offered a glimpse of how this will work with information, but there will be much more. Content providers will get better at predicting what we want to watch or read with improved recommendation engines, or even by analyzing our voice or biometrics through wearables. Our connected homes will know when we're on the way home and when to switch on the lights. Marketers will need to respond to this and learn how to spot trends before they happen so they too can preempt what their customers want. - The Guardian
  7. The Humanization of Technology - "All brands - whether tech-oriented or not - should aspire to offer an integrated, holistic product that's aware of data trickling in from the surrounding environment." - Iconoculture
  8. "Personalized means better personalization" is expected to become a widely adopted practice in 2015, leading to the growth of 1-to-1 marketing. - Inbound Now
  9. Glanceability - The promise of smartwatches is that users will get the info they need (without asking for it) with just a subtle (and socially acceptable) nod of the head toward the wrist -- easy on the eyes. Android Wear is one of the first smartwatches to deliver this experience. - Iconoculture
  10. Point of view - "The love affair with our own point of view isn't over. Thanks to technology, it's just getting more intimate. Now we take photos from ski masks, surfboards and the collars of our four-legged friends. The visual stories of 2015 bring us unexpected perspectives, up close and personal." - Digiday
  11. "Uber Replaces Tesla as Chief Disruptor" - "Uber is the envy of the technology community as it transforms transportation and explores the potential scope of its widening expertise....Uber can tap into product delivery, navigation, routing and e-commerce. About the only opportunities not immediately on the table are mapping and search, but maybe Uber can have an impact in these applications as well." - LinkedIn
  12. Massive security breaches challenge the enterprise platform -- 2014 will go down as the "year of the massive security breach." Target, eBay, J.P. Morgan, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, P.F. Chang's, Michaels, Goodwill, Sony. This next year will be defined by how enterprises respond to the breach. - LinkedIn
  13. Content-free user-generated content. - LinkedIn
  14. "Brands will be more like Kim Kardashian." - LinkedIn
  15. Mobile games will play an increasingly central role in a brand's growth and development. - LinkedIn
  16. Robots will play a bigger role in daily life - The Fellow Robot retail prototype, as one instance, is an information kiosk that has the ability to navigate across big-box store interiors in search of customers requiring assistance. - PSFK
  17. Employees will finally gain the upper hand - Companies may be tempted to exaggerate how cool their workplace is. - LinkedIn
  18. Kids will rule the Internet - You will see some of most exciting inventions sparked in the digital world by kids. - LinkedIn
  19. "Silicon Valleys Will Spring Up Around the World" - "The world has been trying to replicate the Silicon Valley for years. 2015 is the year when it will happen and the world will be a better place." - LinkedIn
  20. Walmart becomes your health care insurer - "With a store within five miles of 95 percent of all Americans and retail transactional data from its consumers, Walmart can provide tailored population health services and incentivize healthier shopping decisions to prevent diabetes and heart disease." - TechCrunch

My favorite is the Kim Kardashian comment - does that mean that every brand exposes its butt?

I think it's also instructive to look back at prior year predictions to get a sense of where we might be going...for example, in 2013, "Buzzwords will die.... Words that implied new and disruptive just a few short years ago will disappear. They include 'mobile,' because everything new is mobile; 'social networks,' because all new apps will have a social component; and 'cloud-based,' because it's all going into the cloud, as well it should. By the end of 2013, we just won't be using those words to differentiate products anymore." - Forbes

WOULD THAT THEY HAD...but so it goes.

Some, though, had vision, imagination and openness, and understood where the world was going. For example, during an interview with Omni magazine (I miss that book!) in 1987, Roger Ebert predicted video-on-demand services Netflix and Hulu: "We will have high-definition, wide-screen television sets and a push-button dialing system to order the movie you want at the time you want it."

Going back to the '60s, I found the following prediction from TIME to be both narrow and insightful, not to mention sexist: In a 1966 article about 2000 called "The Futurists," TIME predicted that "Remote shopping, while possible, would never become popular because women like to get out of the house, like to handle the merchandise, like to be able to change their minds."

Maybe start with sexist, as they missed the point -- it wasn't one or the other, one gender or the other; BUZZWORD alert -- we now call it OMNICHANNEL.

And then there were those who missed it in round one but quickly jumped in and brought imagination, vision and innovation to the new, making it even better. In 1916 Charlie Chaplin opined: "The cinema is little more than a fad....It's canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage."

Need I say more -- his contributions still resonate.

So we can be like the legendary Thomas Watson of IBM who, in 1943, said: "I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers," or like Albert Einstein: "I never think of the future - it comes soon enough," or even perhaps like Niels Bohr, who said: "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."

My crystal ball is cloudy. But personally I'd rather model after Peter Drucker, drop the Babble, look hard at our world and get with the program. Listen:

The best way to predict the future is to create it. - Peter Drucker

So if your future is linked to following behind Kim Kardashian... or is it following her... there are plenty of predictions, no lack of prophecy, tons of predilections, mucho prognostication, endless punditry and sadly a sea of Babble.

OR you can predict and create and really change the world.

What do you think?