Back to the Future: A Retrospective of our Future Scan tool

Perhaps we’re becoming nostalgic about the past-future, or the future-past, but…

We dusted off our innovation predictions from 2015 to see what we could learn about tomorrow.

In 2015, we put our heads together to ideate about the future. The goal was to come up with 200 possible scenarios and turn it into a tool that could be used during our clients’ brainstorming sessions. This lead to the creation of our Future Scan ideation chart.

 

It looks rather like a mind map of a science fiction writer. In several predictions, fear played a role (children suing parents over their education, flying drones to protect property), as did excess (1,000 payments per day, alcohol without the negative effects), and quite a few involved idealism (men getting pregnant, leasing children for short periods).

When we made this future scan, we weren’t claiming to be visionary explorers, or innovation prophets, or trend psychics. In fact, we have an aversion to calling ourselves thought leaders.  Some of the scenarios came true, such as satellite terror defense systems, the digital transfer of smell, and robot police and military. Others are approaching the twilight years, or have gone by the wayside. A few ideas, such as synthetic blood, have made considerable headway, but are still being developed.

Reading our 2015 edition, very few of the scenarios seem hopeful for the future, with perhaps the exception of working 20 hour weeks, being paid not to own a car, or a ban on disposable packaging. This raises the question: Are we shaping the future we want, or are we following a prescribed notion of it based on the worst of what is going on today?

What our divining rod got right.

Ratings for your friends.

Peeple was created in 2015 as an app to judge friends, bosses, coworkers, etc. The app was rather like Yelp but for human beings, but took until March, 2016 to go to market due to widespread criticism. Unfortunately for the app creators, the app’s rating on iTunes is less than two out of five stars. But we’re guessing they’re not the types to take things personally.

The Chinese government went a step beyond this with a Social Credit System, a ranking of citizens that both punishes and rewards according to score, putting an ironic modern spin on “cultural revolution”.

Crowdsourced insurance.

Peer-to-peer insurances, otherwise known as friendsurance, the moniker created by the German startup that created the concept in 2010, has since taken off and exists in countries all over the world, with large insurance companies turning to this model. Our projection was that it would be normal for children born today. Check.

Biocouture.

Biocouture – clothes made from mushrooms, fermented tea, bovine collagen, bacterial cellulose, yielding a sort of eco-leather that is made in a similar manner as beer and cheese. Low waste and extremely versatile, this substitute for animal leather has water-repellant and insulating properties, and can be composted. It has yet to convert the major fashion houses, but this niche stands a chance amongst conscientious fashionistas.

Genome-based dating.

Texas-based matchmaking company Pheramor is using science to help people find love. The service uses a person’s DNA and mines their social media data to pair a person up with an attraction sequence that crosses all the T’s (and As, Cs and Gs).

Robotic insects.

Robotic insects do exist, but have not yet replaced their live counterparts. Rather like mini-drones (with a variation on the real-life buzzing sounds), the insect is laser-powered, but there are still some hurdles to overcome until it can pollenate.

Synthetic blood.

Synthetic blood is getting closer, too, with PolyHB and Erythromer (polymerized hemoglobin) by encasing it to stop the toxic effect. At the moment, the most beneficial aspect is that it buys about 24 to 48 hours of time to give a patient a blood transfusion.

Digital seed database.

Digital seed database – It isn’t surprising that the Dutch have led the way on this one, what with their historic agricultural background and proclivity for tulip cultivation. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t become a way for Monsanto and Bayer to get their hands on heirloom seeds.

e-Games.

eGames, which our future scan predicted would be a long-term future prospect, were first hosted during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While not connected to the Olympics itself, eight national teams participated, with Canada emerging the winner. Since then, the explosion of the online video game Fortnite, released in 2017, led to a 125-million-player following in the first year. Its Battle Royal tournament in March of this year drew 42 million viewers, more than double that of the NBA finals.

Ban on disposable packaging.

The European Union revealed in October, 2018 that it was rolling out a measure to make single use plastic illegal by 2021. This includes plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, and drink stir sticks. The sea turtles will be happy.

More future trends

Are you interested in more future trends and insights? ​

Thanks!

I’m Jeanie Keogh, In-house journalist @ Board of Innovation. Spreading innovation culture is in our DNA – if you liked the read, contribute to our mission by sharing this article.

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