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Future Files

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Future Files

A Brief History of the Next 50 Years

Nicholas Brealey Publishing,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

What will life be like in 50 years? Hint: You’ll have a self-driving, flying car, but not in Belgium (bye-bye, Belgium).

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Overview
  • Inspiring


In this bold, entertaining book, futurist Richard Watson reports the results of decades of thought about the future. He identifies more than 200 separate trends, which he helpfully winnows down into five overarching themes illustrated with real-world and hypothetical examples. His breezy style weaves these themes into the major areas of life: work, finances, politics, science, health care and entertainment, among others. Watson’s vision of the future covers all aspects – literally everything from taking baths to artificial intelligence – and the sweep of his ambition is impressive. He augments his text with good graphics, some perhaps tongue-in-cheek (his “Extinction Timeline” has Belgium biting the bullet around 2049). The book’s one weakness is that, while Watson tells readers what will happen in the future, he doesn’t always explain why. This caveat aside, getAbstract recommends this engaging book to leaders, innovators and all those interested in the future.


Future Planning

Forecasting the future is impossible; making specific predictions, absurd. However, to learn all you can and plan for change, you must look beyond the limits of your discipline and short-term goals. Consider a broad host of factors, and let your forecasting influence your present.

Five trends will “shape the next 50 years.” First, much of the industrialized world’s population is getting older. Second, political and economic power will move from the West to the East, and military power will follow. Third, “global connectivity” will continue: More people will go online, and economies will become more interwoven. Fourth, a quartet of technologies – “Genetics, Robotics, Internet and Nanotechnology” (GRIN) – will create “self-replicating machines,” artificial intelligence and genetically modified people. All these trends will interact with the fifth trend, the increasing importance of ecological concerns.

How Lives Will Change

Though broad trends will sweep across the globe, people will not lead uniform lives. Instead, they will inhabit “multiple futures.” Societies will polarize, pulling people in opposite directions. Globalization will spread...

About the Author

Richard Watson is a futurist for the Future Exploration Network, and author and publisher of the quarterly What’s Next.

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    B. T. 1 decade ago
    Many of Watson's "future trends" seem to have already begun - for example, "buy local" or "eat local" movements are well under way. But some of his predictions, like the advent of robot soldiers and emotional machines, seem quite fresh.
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      1 decade ago
      Emotional machines already exist as well. Check out this article:

      Also, they use "social robots" in autism therapy. They are still testing it, but apparently autistic children have been responding really well to it.
    • Avatar
      1 decade ago
      A fascinating article - thanks. It seems simple enough to design robots that emulate human emotions, but I wish the article described more how these robots actually "develop" them. That's where the true breakthrough in emotional machine technology lies. Human emotions can hardly be a simple algorithm.

      Perhaps this point of "singularity" that Watson and other futurists predict is closer than we think!
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    R. M. getAbstract 1 decade ago
    Watson remembers me to Orwell's Book 1984. While I do not agree with all his visions, is entertaining to read his thoughts.
    • Avatar
      getAbstract 1 decade ago
      1984!? It's not THAT bad, is it?
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    K. G. getAbstract 1 decade ago
    Watson is right in putting the demographic trend (aging world population) first. The effects of this are totally underrated. getAbstract should produce summaries for the elderly, with font size 18!
    • Avatar
      getAbstract 1 decade ago
      Get good reader app in itunes

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