Thinking about the future

Thinking about the future

Alex Barton  Posted by Alex Barton, Apr 28th 2014, 11:25

I led a discussion last Friday about future trends.

It was fascinating preparing as it was the first time I really had to think (I mean really think) in a long time.

It's pretty easy to predict future trends as extensions of current trends (e.g. big(ger) data) but that's where it stops being so obvious.

Extending current trends is pretty much how I go through life. I react on the information in front of me and it's all fairly straight forwards.

However, the more I think about it, the more I realise I'm being reactive, short sighted and pretty stupid.

When Kasparov was asked how many moves he thought ahead, he replied: "Normally, I would calculate three to five moves. You don’t need more….but I can go much deeper if it is required. In a position involving forced moves, it’s possible to look ahead as many as twelve or thirteen moves"

I should be thinking, "OK, if this is true, what does that mean? Then what does this result mean?" and so on.

So here's my attempt at thinking.

For me, this is the future:

It's a new category to PirateBay (read here about it) called Physibles and it's 3D printing designs that can be reproduced if you have a 3D printer.

The manufacturing revolution that is going to take place in the next 10 years is going to change the world and change it in a way that will make pirating music and films seem like a quaint inconvenience to a handful of companies.

As 3D printing becomes more sophisticated and new materials are added, it will become easy to download your favourite Nike trainer design from Pirate Bay and print it out for much less than the £120 price tag.

It's probably not too far a leap to then print your own circuitry and build your own computers and so on and so on.

This leads me to think that there are two interesting consequences: the decline of physical distribution and the growth of cryptography.

If everything is getting instantly delivered, then the decline of distribution is fairly obvious and what's left is probably going to get mopped up by Uber.

This then leads me on to think about how large product companies would react to this.

There are two options that spring to mine: 1) adapt and adopt a Spotify model or 2) react like Hollywood et al did and try and legislate against it (which The Pirate Bay shows doesn't work).

I'm not sure how much a single product line is worth to a company like Nike but it's probably tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars. A large percentage of this potential revenue could be removed by a disgruntled employee uploading the designs Edward Snowden style.

Which leads me to think that the security, and ultimately cryptography, industry will explode.

This has been an interesting exercise. I haven't really done any research into these statements, it's simply the exercise of thinking (and only thinking) that's interesting.

For the Month of May, I'm going to make sure I think every decision through to three moves.