Each fall a group of futurists from the World Future Society’s Minnesota Chapter, the largest and most active chapter of futurists in the world, get together to forecast future world events.
Futurists are mostly concerned with the future, projecting out five, 10, 20 years and beyond to long-term future possibilities. However, futurists are often asked for short-term analyses of what the coming year will bring.
In keeping with the desires of many to have a snapshot look into the future, the futurists analyzed more than 300 trend indicators as to the probabilities of what may occur in 2006.
The 10 subject areas that were analyzed were: urban affairs, education, medical technology, human relations, society, organization and management, technology, spirituality and religion, values and ethics, and the environment. From their long list, the potential trend indicators were ranked as to what is most likely to occur in 2006.
The futurists accurately forecasted 2005 would be a pivotal year, specifically in high-tech and surveillance systems, with mounting concern on the erosion of our civil liberties, which culminated in a public debate in congress last month.
If you have been a regularly reader of this column, you have been alerted to these trends, before they received national attention. Futurists also observed and forecasted the growing conflict between Christians and Muslims in Europe, long before the riots broke out in France.
Futurists realize short-term trends are always dictated and extrapolated by short-term influences. However, futurists look at change and the future through a much larger prism and see longer, far-reaching scenarios than recent current events would indicate, that reflect change for the immediate future, such as changes resulting from Katrina.
Economy’s dramatic decline
Therefore, you ask, "What does 2006 offer that will influence and change our lives?" First, 2006 will be a continuation of current trends with a much greater decline in the economy, negatively affecting other segments of society and industry.
Where 2005 focused on science and technology as the driving force of change, 2006 will effect us closer to home, in our pocketbooks, as jobs and the economy will dramatically decline, having a cross correlation – negatively affecting other segments, like the toppling of a roomful of strategically placed dominos.
This coming year, bringing with it change, will most likely affect the rest of the decade.
Businesses will continue to reduce labor costs and go offshore to increase profit margin, and management will move toward more virtual organizations.
As outsourcing increases, we will see the elimination of the middle class, and with it more separation between the rich and poor. The affordability of housing and health care is expected to decrease, the poor will grow in numbers as society becomes more class-based. Consequently, non-violent crime and identity theft will increase, as will internet hackers.
Demand for alternative energy
Increased fuel costs is the number one trend within the next 10 years, pushing the need for cheaper energy and more energy saving devices.
We will see an increase in the cost of barrels of oil, and as oil prices increase, so will solar cell efficiency, wind farms and nuclear power.
Due to this shift, there will be an increase in alternative energy having a long-term impact, leading us eventually to a hydrogen-driven system. The lagging indicator will be when Washington, Oregon, Vermont or Montana agrees to build a nuclear power plant.
Ocean pollution increases and becomes more of a concern as global warming is acknowledged outside of the scientific community. The focus on transportation will be on high-speed and light rail, with an increase in mass transit in urban areas.
The growth of globalization is another leading indicator, as wireless technology continues to change society. Education will offer more degree programs over the internet, and more people become life-long learners. There will be increased incentives for health-care prevention and more medical records will be available online.
Spiritually, people will question more their purpose as fundamentalism increases. Greater emphasis will be placed on ethics and values in school, and emergency preparedness rises at the local level.
2006 Minnesota forecasts
The 2006 forecasts for Minnesota parallel the national trend indicators, with a few noted additions.
As a corporate health-care crisis emerges in Minnesota and more jobs migrate out of the Twin Cities, Minnesota will see continued growth in medicine and in new types of businesses, such as in bio-tech and stem cell. Minnesota will also become one of the leaders in alternative energy.
There will be a growth of churches on the web as Minnesota churches advertise more online, and Minnesota schools will make more attempts to increase parental involvement, as more out-of-wedlock births take place.
Anything positive for 2006?
With all these negative economic impacts coming in 2006, you are probably asking: "Is there anything positive to look forward to in 2006?"
Anytime we have anticipated societal changes, like those being forecasted, it is an opportunity to make better choices that could positively impact the world. Our collective choices will set the tone for the rest of this century and beyond.
All of us will be forced to make decisions that impact the economy, the environment, health care, jobs, society and the vision of how we see ourselves in the world. For good or ill, the decisions we make as a result of the trends looming ahead will set the stage for what could be our final performance – or the beginning of Act I. Whether it leads to our curtain call or we all get an encore performance to make it a better world depends upon all of us.
One thing is certain, as the curtain for 2006 rises and the actors are set to walk on stage, the script is not set in stone. It can be rewritten moment by moment, day by day. Get ready. The band plays, and the curtain is going up….