Never make predictions, especially about the future. —Casey Stengel
I’ve met a lot of shysters and con men over the years. I hate to admit I’ve even been taken in by a couple of them. Those who know how to read people well can easily manipulate them. One of the most common, and obvious, cons is predicting a person’s future. We know when we sit at the small, sparsely-adorned table that what we’re about to hear is fake, but still there is a part of us that wants it to be true, especially when the fortune teller says things we want to hear.
There have been a few times, though, I have come across people who seemed to have an unusual amount of insight, and at least a couple of them were wearing suits. They had an uncanny sense of the future; where markets were heading, which technologies would live, which would die, and the unexpected ways in which those technologies would affect society. The business world prefers to call them futurists. Then, there was that strange person who walked up to me at a Starbucks in Atlanta, unprovoked, and said, “You’re going to lose everything.” Yeah, that’ll leave an unsettling feeling in your stomach.
Even futurists don’t get everything right, but I think there are some things that are more certain than others and we can tell simply by watching trends and adjusting our actions accordingly. While there is still no accurate indicator of when you’ll find love (scam, every time), we stroked the fur of our black cat this morning and came up with some predictions for the future we think we pretty accurate.
- Men’s Fashion Week is doomed and androgyny will slowly take over fashion. In some ways, the handwriting would almost seem to be on the wall with this one. An article in this morning’s WWD discusses yet another major label, Gucci, combining both men’s and women’s fashion on their runways. To some degree, the move just makes financial sense. However, over the next few years what this is likely to set up is a greater amount of androgyny across fashion. We’ve already started seeing it in some of the younger, more “street” labels such as Public School and Alexander Wang, but don’t be surprised when the transition reaches the point that couples can shop not just at the same store, but off the same rack.
- A major South American war seems inevitable and the US will largely ignore it. Yeah, that’s a little vague, because there are multiple countries where revolution seems ripe. At the moment, food shortages in Venezuela have that country high on my list. People who are hungry do desperate things and Venezuelans seem to be reaching that tipping point quickly. They’re not the only ones, though, as both Brazil, for whom this summer’s Olympics may be an economic bust, and Columbia, where unrest among cartels and the government is simmering, could erupt as soon as this fall. Unfortunately, and somewhat inexplicably, the United States has never taken the interest in South American humanitarian conditions that it does with Europe and elsewhere. One might almost think we’ve forgotten our neighbors to the South. I don’t see that attitude changing.
- Straight, monogamous sexual relationships will become the minority preference. We’re already well on our way toward this one. As social acceptance of gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered lifestyles reaches a sense of normalcy, other “alternative” sexual preferences inevitably begin to rise as well. New York Magazine published an article last week with findings from a Kinsey Institute study, the largest of its kind, showing that roughly 21 percent of adults in America have engaged in “consensual non-monogamy and kink” at some point in their lifetime. Kat and I talked this one through a bit and feel that this surprisingly high number is tilted toward younger generations where alternative lifestyles in general face less social stigma than they do with those my generation and older. Combine these people with the LGBT crowd and, even allowing for some overlap in the two groups, that number is likely nearly 40% already. Upcoming generations are likely to embrace that trend and grow the numbers even more. The social and political impact of this will be considerable.
- Children currently under the age of ten are most likely to be affected by a full-scale cyber war during their lifetime. Yes, it’s easy to make such projections on the very young, but the future almost seems inevitable on this one. If you’re not familiar with the term “Internet of Things (IoT)” then you might want to start reading. The basic concept is that soon everything will be connected digitally, including manufacturing. While that may be a challenging concept to comprehend, one of the side effects is that wealth and power and likely to become even more concentrated, which means when they are primary targets in the future of warfare. Those who successfully hack the IoT will be able to disrupt food supplies, access to basic services, and completely shut down banking, leaving people stranded from their money. Traditional warfare with Marines landing on beaches goes out the window and a handful of people will have the ability to bring mighty countries to their knees.
- Religions will fall out of social favor and will be seen more as cults. This is a pendulum swing that seems to happen every few hundred years and we can see it coming. Nearly 30% of Americans now list themselves as religiously unaffiliated. Again, the trend is being driven by younger generations who are less accepting of religious precepts and totally deny any religious authority. Historically, this ushers in a period of severe secularism where those espousing any form of visible religious observance are labeled as extremists and religions themselves as cults. This trend isn’t just among Americans, either, as similar trends have been noted in Europe and Australia and is driven not only by violent extremists in the Middle East but right-wing political involvement as well. The arc historically takes 200-300 years to complete and by my estimation, we’re still at least a generation or two from that arc reaching its apex.
Now, all that being said, we are obligated to add the caveat that the future is never written until it is past. Are there actions that could disrupt these predictions? Sure, but these are strong trends and I’m giving these predictions around a 90% chance of coming true. If I’m wrong, you are more than welcome to remind me. However, when I’m right ….
Yeah, I’m going to say I told you so.