Robot wars, robot ethics

Posted in blindspot, digital, emerging issues, ethics, science, technology, warfare by thenextwavefutures on 31 August, 2007

Let’s face it, futurists mostly love robots. The word (from the Czech robota, meaning servitude or drudgery, coined in the 1920s), the history of the idea (back to the Greeks, through Leonardo, to Frankenstein), the associations. So maybe it’s not surprising that one of the most intriguing stories I’ve read recently – and meant to blog before now – is about the rapidly emerging issue of robot ethics, courtesy of SEED magazine.



Cracks in the China dolls

Posted in affluence, business, consumers, economics, global, trade, trends by thenextwavefutures on 28 August, 2007

I’ve blogged here before on the likely limits to China’s growth (environmental pressures, food and resource shortages, poor financial infrastructure, increasing inequality). But I hadn’t imagined that the list would include simple production failure – or worse.


Quick service note – search facility now added

Posted in Uncategorized by thenextwavefutures on 17 August, 2007

Obviously if you’re reading this on the blog you’ll have seen that I’ve added a search box – but if you get the updates via the RSS feed I thought it might be helpful to know. Some readers have been saying that it’s hard to find things they’d read before and wanted to revisit.

William Gibson – the novelty of ‘non-mediated’ experience

Posted in digital, emerging issues, future, technology by thenextwavefutures on 14 August, 2007

There’s an interview with the writer William Gibson in the Q3 futures supplement of New Media Age (subscription only) in which he’s asked, “You’ve written that the web provided a magnificent opportunity to waste time. What else is it good for?”

Sadly, given the wording of the question, he passes up the chance to do an Edwin Starr impersonation and say, “Absolutely nothing”. But his reply is worth reading:

All of the questions we used to ask about cyberspace are now more rewardingly asked about ‘non-mediated experience’ – those increasingly rare moments when we disconnect from all media. The digital is now the rule, while the non-mediated becomes ever more the exception.


The slow death of long-format music

Posted in business, culture, digital, economics, media, music, retail, trends by thenextwavefutures on 14 August, 2007

There’s so much ‘noise’ coming out of the music industry sector, pun not intended, that it is still hard to discern what the trends are, but one seems to be becoming clearer by the day: the half-century long boom in long-format music, which has made the industry so profitable, is coming to an end. We’re going back to the days of the song.


More articles in ‘selected articles’

Posted in history, Uncategorized, wild cards by thenextwavefutures on 5 August, 2007

A note to say that I’ve added a couple more articles to the selected articles page:

  • One, “The Architecture of the Future”, explores the ways in which cities are changing – at least in Britain. It was published in a book which Camelot commissioned last year on the impact of the lottery.
  • The second is an updated version of a chapter I wrote several years ago, on innovation in the creative sector. It’s longer.

Foresight and scenarios in the voluntary sector

Posted in future, scenarios by thenextwavefutures on 4 August, 2007

Back in January I took part in an event for the NCVO (which supports community and voluntary organisations in the UK) on good practice in foresight and scenarios. They’ve just made available online a summary of my introduction and the lively discussion which ensued. It’s a good introduction to the issues about doing foresight and scenarios work in the non-profit sector.

Mid-life (crisis) markets and the guitar business

Posted in business, culture, digital, leisure, social, trends by thenextwavefutures on 4 August, 2007

My favourite data point about our ageing but apparently ageless population is that the average age of the first time buyer of a Harley Davidson motor cycle in the UK is (from memory) now 52 years old. It’s been going up over the last decade. (Which means incidentally that the average buyer was 13 years old when Steppenwolf released their biker classic Born To Be Wild).

This came to mind because of an amusing exchange in an interview with the chief executive of another counter-cultural but expensive brand, Gibson Guitar. It turns out, though, unlike Harley Davidson, that the company’s success has more to do with youth trends than boomers.


Airlines, collusion, and carbon

Posted in aviation, business, climate change, emerging issues, energy, environment, transport by thenextwavefutures on 3 August, 2007

Obviously, I’m as opposed to companies colluding so as to gouge the customers at least as much as the next person. Equally obviously, it’s a bad thing if airlines gang up to pretend they’re competing when they’re not, really. And, therefore, it’s A Good Thing when British Airways is fined £270m for running a cosy little deal with Virgin to keep their prices up (even if it’s also a bit of a mystery even on close readings of the story as to why Virgin escaped unscathed.) But buried in all of this is an idea about how to reduce the volume of air travel while not destroying the aviation business in the process. Competition economics is not, typically, good for the long-term health of the planet.


The future of the creative economy

Posted in culture, digital, emerging issues, media, technology by thenextwavefutures on 2 August, 2007

I spoke in June at the ‘Creative Summit‘ in Bristol – the event was hosted by the South West Regional Development Authority and designed to help develop the creative sector in the region. As well as doing the presentation, I was asked to contribute an article to the website, summarising my argument.