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Running in the Ottawa Citzen, Vancouver Province and other papers today is this article, which offers more food for thought about what the future will be like for babies born in 2014.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.
“– American author and cultural critic Neil Postman


Carroll admits he’s only guessing, but says the child who is raised thinking, ‘Mom, dad, get off that device and talk to me,’ could conceivably grow up rejecting personally intrusive types of technology

Almost 400,000 Canadian babies will be born in 2014, a small portion of 140 million who will join the human race next year.

In Canada, those babies will be born to the first generation of parents totally consumed by devices with glowing screens — the chronic tweeters, the obsessive email users, the web surfers, the social media addicts.

And when it comes to predicting and imagining what life has in store for the babies of 2014, it is there we should begin, says Canadian futurist Jim Carroll.

“The kids today aren’t getting the attention that I gave my kids or the attention my parents gave me,” says the 54-year-old Carroll. “Their parents are completely wound up in their mobile devices and social networks. They have no attention span. Those first two or three years are formative, so somehow what they learn during that time is going to help shape their view of the world.”

How might that happen?

Carroll admits he’s only guessing, but says the child who is raised thinking, ‘Mom, dad, get off that device and talk to me,’ could conceivably grow up rejecting personally intrusive types of technology — despite the absolute certainty they’ll grow up in a world with more technology than their parents and grandparents living today can only dream of.

There are already many hints of what technology will bring Canada’s 2014 babies. Just a few weeks ago, Sony applied for a patent for the SmartWig, still a concept but an innovation in wearable computing devices that would capture and broadcast sophisticated images and contain minute sensors capable of monitoring bodily functions such as blood pressure and temperature.

Aside from galloping technological advances, today’s Canadian babies will have to grapple with a deteriorating natural environment and increasing social and economic inequity in one of the world’s richest and most desirable countries.

Carroll and fellow futurists in the United States and Europe have plenty of theories on what life will be like for 2014’s children, at least those born in Canada and other affluent nations. The Citizen gathered some of their thoughts and attempts to imagine the lives of next year’s babies.


In the early 1990s, when British futurist Ian Pearson predicted a method of communication now known as texting, his idea was dismissed as ridiculous. Why would people write on mobile devices when they could just punch in a number and talk?

With Sony now flagging its SmartWig, Pearson has pondered the notion of computerized contact lenses that would flash images to our eyes — maps, road closures on a usual commute, people whose names we forget at parties. But it’s difficult to know where this might lead.

Even technology futurists admit that ideas that seem ridiculous can become massively popular in the wink of an eye. Just consider the rapid ubiquity of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Are driverless cars just around the corner? Will plastic soon become redundant as direct payment options move to fingerprints or eyeballs?


By the time children born in 2014 are 50, futurologist Raymond Hammond figures they could be living in a world virtually unrecognizable to those living today, a world in which climate change has been by replaced by climate control (and thereby eliminating TV and radio weather predictors as a career choice).

Less fanciful is the United Nations prediction that by the middle of the century, at least two billion people will face severe water scarcity and/or the contamination of drinking water, a condition already faced by millions in developing countries. Heat trapping gases will cause radical climate change and extreme weather conditions that will equal or exceed the power of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005.

In his acclaimed 2003 book The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery wrote: “We must be under no illusions as to what is at stake. If humans pursue a business-as-usual course for the first half of this century, I believe the collapse of civilization due to climate change becomes inevitable.”


After education that will be increasingly impacted by e-learning, some futurists believe the concept of a career as we know it today will be replaced by constant change.

Learning is what most adults will do for a living,” says Carroll. It’s already underway. As robots continue to eat away at much of our traditional labour, jobs that people once saw as career paths will continue to disappear and be replaced by jobs that are as unimaginable now as the high-tech industry was at the dawn of the last century.

Babies born in 2014 will be members of a workforce that will be increasingly untied to their employers’ office desk. With 3D holographic conferencing and 3D contact lenses presenting pertinent information before your eyes, the office will be wherever the worker is.


Many futurists confidently predict that health care will be tipped on its head during the 90 or 100 years our 2014ers can expect to live.

Along with health gadgets such as smart toilets to monitor waste for early stages of disease and health sensors embedded in our bodies, clothing or homes to monitor well-being, doctors will conduct back-to-the-future-style home consultations without leaving their office or the patient leaving home.

But the biggest overall change, predicts Carroll, will be the perfected ability of people to know with certainty what might ail them before it actually happens.

I can look at a couple of strands of your DNA and know what you will have, or what you’re likely to have,” says Carroll. “We won’t be talking wait times in a system where we fix people after they get sick. The entire system will be based on prevention and deciding what a person has to do to avoid specific illnesses.”


This remains one of the more complicated, unpredictable areas of future human activity to forecast.

On one hand, it’s clear that the screens we use for entertainment will become more sophisticated. British futurologist Frank Shaw imagines a future where walls, floors and ceilings will be interactive screens for video games, movies and TV. On the other hand, the 2014er is being born at a time when vinyl records and the turntables needed to play them are making a comeback.

Just consider the confident predictions of the early 1950s that television would kill radio and you have the conundrum of being reasonably sure that technology will offer options but unsure as to whether people will actually embrace it.


Futurists admit that most predictions are subject to change, but some aspects of human behaviour are predictable enough for them to be relatively confident about some things. Wars, for example. Our 2014ers and their children will face wars, but drones will be ubiquitous both as weapons and quite possibly as (unarmed) toys for the more affluent.

In his 2006 book, Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See The Future, American futurist John Naisbitt took a plus ça change, plus c’est la même, relatively optimistic view of what’s to come.

Whether cellphones can display television and calls are made via the Internet, your bathtub filled by taking off your clothes, or your refrigerator opened by a rumble in your stomach, these are just other ways of doing what we do — easier faster, further, more and longer — and not the substance of our lives. We go to school, get married, and have kids and send them to school. Home, family, and work are the great constants.

It’s a fair question. You might not think about it much, but I do.

I’ve been talking about the concept of perfect microwave popcorn since at least 1995. Heck, I wrote about it in a variety of books in the 90’s. And still, it doesn’t quite exist….

If you try to make microwave popcorn, chances are it will go like this. What if appliance manufacturers used Internet connectivity to redesign the microwave.

So here’s the latest October article from my CAMagazine column.

Maybe I have an obsession with this, but the concept does provide interesting ‘food for thought,’ if you pardon the pun.

Your appliances are getting smarter
By Jim Carroll

Perfect microwave popcorn. I thought by now we’d have mastered this but, for all its successes, the high-tech industry still has not figured out how to make perfect microwave popcorn.

The problem with making popcorn in a microwave is that every oven has a different power output, so all you can do is listen carefully to the popping pattern to figure out when it might be finished. There has to be a better way.

Back in the early 1990s, as the concept of Internet-based home automation started to appear, I figured there would one day be a perfect microwave popcorn machine. While on stage talking about the future, I would tell the story of perfect microwave popcorn — predicting that I’d have a device in my home that would read the bar code on the popcorn bag, query a database through the Internet, and figure out the exact timing for that particular microwave device.

Orville Redenbacher would partner with appliance manufacturers and come up with a really cool automated system that would provide perfect popcorn every time. Internet-linked appliances, back-end databases and a marriage of consumer food products to the Internet and technology. It seemed like a pretty simple idea.
Well, as far as I know, it hasn’t happened — yet.

But this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were glimmers of hope. Clearly, there were two big trends on display — tech/connectivity in the car, and tech/connectivity in the home.

A lot of the news sizzle surrounds tech in the car; the tech-in-the-home field isn’t getting as much attention, because it’s just not as exciting as wheels. But there are glimpses of what is going on: Whirlpool has announced that in 2011, it will have produced one million smart-grid-compatible clothes dryers that utilize smart connectivity to become more efficient. And imagine having a dishwasher or clothes dryer that sends you a text message when the cycle is finished — that’s going to be a regular part of our lives soon, too.

Massive pervasive interactivity on a grand and unimaginable scope will soon be upon us — and the younger generation, weaned on a diet of connectivity, will begin reshaping their world in fascinating ways. Already my 16-year-old son reminds me to stop one car length behind the normal spot at a red light — because he knows I’ll be on a pressure pad that will force an automatic green turn light.

What happens to our world when everything around us plugs in? Fascinating things, including perfect microwave popcorn. Buy the intelligent microwave, bring it home, and plug it into the wall. The microwave will use the basic Internet connectivity found in your home to establish a connection.

The package of microwave popcorn you purchased includes a bar code that uniquely identifies it. When you press “cook,” the microwave will read the bar code. It will then use the Internet connectivity to send a query to a central database. There, it will ask, in effect: “For this particular model of microwave and for this particular package of popcorn, how long is the cooking time?” Receiving the answer, it will proceed to provide you with perfect popcorn — every time.

Farfetched? I don’t think so. I believe we are destined for a future in which everyday appliances and technologies will be linked to the Internet; often through the home network or a wireless Internet connection that is set to invade your home. As this occurs, devices will emerge with capabilities that are quite unimaginable today.

Analysis of Apple's revenue shows extent of innovation

This is from my January 2011 CAMagazine column.

The article was based upon a blog post by Asymco in October of 2010, and includes some commentary from a previous blog post I made on fast changing product life-cycles.

When Apple reported results last fall that blew past analyst expectations, there was a lot of talk about how this innovation juggernaut continues to redefine the technology market.

Yet much of the discussion overlooked a significant factor: 60% of Apple’s revenue came from products that didn’t exist three years prior to the earnings release, according to an analysis of Apple’s revenue by mobile app developer Asymco.

Think about that in the context of your operations. What if you had to replenish your product or service line every two or three years? It could become the new normal in many industries.

One of the most profound changes to come about during the past decade has been the collapse of product life cycles. Think about the graph in your marketing textbook from years or decades ago when you first learned about the concept of product life cycles. Remember how it showed a product coming to market: sales increase, reach market maturity and eventually begin to drop off. That’s been the model of product life cycles as taught in business schools for the past 100 years or so.

The rule of thumb was that companies would innovate and introduce a new product. If it succeeded, the company would experience growth. At some point, sales would peak. The product would then become obsolete or overtaken by competitors and sales would decline. That might involve a time period of 10, 15 or even 25 years.

What a quaint model. Too bad it bears no resemblance to today’s reality. The product life-cycle model today is being turned on its ear by instant obsolescence. In some industries, that product obsolescence now occurs during the growth stage; in the high-tech industry, the decline phase caused by instant obsolescence can occur during the introduction of a product or even before a product makes it to the marketplace.

For example, last year Lenovo pulled the plug on an iPad-like product even before it was released because it was obvious that its limited feature set had already made it irrelevant and obsolete in a very fast-paced market. The product simply had no chance of competing against the iPad. It was killed before it was even produced.

If you want to master innovation, you need to think about how your own product life cycle is changing. Look at the numbers: it took two years for Apple to sell two million iPhones; it took just two months for it to sell two million iPads. And, as my 17-year-old son pointed out when we were chatting about this at the dinner table, it took but a few weeks to sell a million iPhone 4s.

Clearly Apple is on a very significant innovation roll here, but there are lessons to be learned for other organizations. If product life cycles are collapsing in your industry, do you have the capability and wherewithal to generate revenue where revenue hasn’t existed before? Are you prepared to bust into new business models so you can enter markets where you haven’t participated before? Do you know how to add service and other revenue streams to commodity product lines so that you can generate additional revenue from previously stale product lines?

For years, I’ve been preaching to my clients that their ability to survive and thrive in the future is going to come from their ability to generate new sources of revenue and adapt — I covered the issue about a year ago in a column on the concept of chameleon revenue (Netwatch, December 2009). Apple’s numbers indicate that the trend might be picking up steam.

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