IFTF has a nice theme for next year! I expect we'll have a few more members than last year!
2007 THEME: The Future of Work
The impact of emerging technologies on our daily lives is often felt the most, and the earliest, at the workplace. Emerging technologies continue to transform the way we work. Wikis and blogs are making their way into the workplace; Fortune 500 companies are launching products in virtual worlds. And this is just the beginning. New technological tools are introduced almost daily that help us identify experts in our extended social networks, develop "folksonomies" for knowledge management, unchain us from our desktop, and facilitate online collaboration. While shifts in work practices and work environments will be driven by technology, the effects of those innovations will be decidedly human. How will work styles change? Where will we work and when? How is the physical work environment being reshaped? What new skills will be required of tomorrow's workforce? And what new metrics will we use to measure success?
1) Abundant Computing: Observations from the Future
In our recent Science & Technology Perspectives, we forecasted that in the next two decades we will overcome limits in availability of computational resources. While today, high performance computing applications are mostly limited to capital-intensive industries like petroleum exploration, pharmaceuticals, and aircraft and automotive design, over time these capabilities will migrate to mass markets and eventually into hands of consumers. High-powered computing capabilities will be embedded in our physical environment, in living things, on walls, in furniture, fabric, garments, medicines, hand tools, utensils, toys and objects. What will we do in an era of digital abundance? We will try to answer that question through direct observations in environments that are already empowered with enormous computational resources—a few select university and corporate labs. Specifically, we will examine the variety of projects that these environments enable, the new types of work practices that are emerging, the expanding collaborative possibilities, and the new forms of interactivity that are emerging. These laboratories reveal that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Through direct observation at the facilities, we'll take our 2006 forecast on the evolution of abundant computing a step further: We'll not only describe the future but actually study it as it's being created.
2) Simulation: The New Literacy
Driven by the unbridled increase in processing power, a new language is emerging. Simulation literacy will become more important than computer literacy. Interactive computer graphics are becoming increasingly lifelike—soon, it will be hard to distinguish between what is real and what is "virtual." Our interactions with data, today mostly limited to Excel spreadsheets or relatively simple graphics, will take place in high-resolution simulations incorporating auditory, visual, and tactile inputs and outputs. The line between digital and physical will also blur—surgeons-in-training will operate on lifelike mannequins "programmed" with medical disorders, psychologists will treat real-world anxiety disorders in virtual space, and bricks-and-mortar companies will test entire businesses on the screen before any real money changes hands. In this research stream, we will take a deep look at the future of simulations and their impacts on a range of domains, from gaming to health to enterprise processes.
3) The Chinese Blogosphere: A Look Inside
By the end of 2006, China will be home to an estimated 120 million blogs, four times as many as existed the previous year. The Chinese spend more time online than anyone else in the world, an average of 18 hours per week compared to 13 hours in Korea and 11 hours in the United States. For most of us though, the Chinese-language Internet is a mystery, shrouded in government censorship, cultural differences, and, of course, the language barrier itself. By deeply mining a massive collection of Chinese blogging data, we'll gain our bearings in this powerful yet largely unknown online territory. What does the Chinese blogosphere look like? What are the hotpots in the Chinese Internet landscape? What can Chinese blogging tell us about new Chinese approaches to connective technologies, and their likely effects on the rest of the world in the coming decade?