Archive: trends

July 22nd, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Drivers Wanted – Will Teens Really Disdain Cars Forever?

For several years I have been following the trend away from an auto-centered culture. This trend is reflected in fewer miles driven and even more dramatically in the declining interest of teens and young people in driving or owning a car at all. This trend is dramatic, and has been sustained now for several years, indicating that it may be a true emerging trend that will stick.

Mustang2015Here are some of the more recent numbers. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that the number of American teens getting their license is dropping fast. Between 1982 and 2010 the number of 17-year-olds who got a driver’s license fell from 69 percent to 46 percent. For 18-year-olds the numbers declined from 70 percent to 54 percent.

It was not that long ago that teens dreamed of their first car, and certainly their driver’s license, and their ticket to freedom and to social mobility. No longer. Teens now see a car not only as unaffordable due to cost and insurance, but as more of an albatross than a means of breaking free.

Older people are quick to assume that high costs and a bad economy are the reason that teens and young people no longer covet cars, or even suggest that today’s teens are too lazy to drive. But they have this quite wrong. There is a profound cultural and technological shift underway in which driving is seen at best as a nuisance and something to be avoided. Young people are more likely to see driving as an interruption of their lives than a means to live. I expect this trend to deepen, until the car companies become truly alarmed. There is evidence they are already concerned, mostly in the way that advertising has skewed almost completely toward trying to convince young people, even children, that cars are cool and that they should want one. I do not think it will work.

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December 31st, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy, Innovation, Science & Tech | 1 Comment

To 2014 and Beyond

Happy New Year to all our visitors and fans.

Looking ahead, here are some thoughts to add to the endless lists of 2014 anticipations – if you like these things see Mark Anderson’s top ten for 2014, or Thomas Fry’s 33 for 2030, or David Brin’s speculations on the year ahead. Brin is an exception but most of these kinds of articles are lists of technologies and anticipated developments. I know these lists ‘sell papers’ as we used to say, and provide a certain kind of infotainment. But I don’t take them too seriously except as brain teasers. Check them out if you want.

Me? I expect the big stories of 2014 will include…

…a shift in politics to debating how and how much to increase Social Security in the United States. This meme broke through in 2013, and moved the Overton Window over by a surprising margin, away from “how to cut Social Security” and at least to ‘how to maintain it.” This shift in the political winds cannot come too soon as we face an impending retirement crisis and looming wave of elder poverty.

…a dawning realization that fracking, however successful in the next decade or two at tapping previously hard to get oil and gas, has not fundamentally changed the longer term (21st Century) energy picture in which conventional (and thus cheaper) oil has peaked, and thus we face a mostly more expensive future in energy. Cheap gas is the exception but the energy picture still demands that civilization prepare for the fossil fuel phase out to come. Negotiating this passage will literally determine whether modern civilization is maintained.

…a continuation in the downward curve in solar energy cost per watt generated, meaning that it becomes more likely that solar will become a dominant supplier of electricity sooner than later. The electrification of the transportation fleet will gain momentum in 2014.

…space exploration and exploitation will proceed more aggressively in 2014. The success of China on the moon, and the amazing drive of SpaceX and other private companies in space will make the next half-decade a likely dawn of the next era in space, the era that leads to truly occupying space.

…it is hard to know when or if a weather event will tip the balance of public concern toward a crash effort to mitigate, slow down, and prepare for global warming. The latest, and most dire, predictions suggest that this had better happen soon.

Photo Credit: Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and Mother Jones

Photo Credit: Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and Mother Jones

…finally, a global struggle with and about the deep issues of privacy versus security, continued drift to richer and poorer society, and the future of employment and work, will likely heighten in 2014. There is a reason, which is more than artistic or admiration of the actors, that the Hunger Games series has already placed its first two films in the top 20 grossing films of all time and is a world-wide phenomenon. There is a hunger for change that is rumbling. The fact that life imitates art in way that reeks of parody but is all too real just adds to the pressure. (In this case activists hanging a banner to protest a proposed pipeline were charged under an absurd terrorism statute – thus precisely proving the point of the banner.)

2014 will be a year of great opportunity and great challenges – not all that different than 2013 or, I suspect, 2015.

Let’s have a great year!

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November 15th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Media, Science & Tech | Comments Off

The future is not all technology

I had a very interesting experience this week as I gave the closing keynote to the annual meeting of the Virginia Cable Television Association, in Williamsburg, VA. My topic was the events, trends and developments shaping the industry looking out over the next decade. You can view my slide deck below, with some of the imbedded video that I used, now available at SlideShare. Before too long we will have a video of my full presentation from the Association.

But back to the experience. In the program, as I usually do, I discussed the Millennial generation, who comprise all the new workforce now age 18-31, and their oft-cited moniker as the “digital native generation.” They are the generation most deeply imbedded in what I call the full-on network society. They are, currently, unplugging from Cable and going “over the top” as the industry likes to call it. When I was finished, among the people who gather around to chat was one young woman, one of about a half-dozen Millennials in this audience of mostly cable executives. She put a challenge to me, expressing frustration with being, essentially, stereotyped as technology obsessed. Instead, she asserted, Millennials are as likely to become less enamored of and imbedded in technology as the other way around.

Her comment immediately reminded me of the article I wrote the week before for, on the future of collaboration. They titled my piece “The Future of Collaboration is About Looking Backwards.” Check out the full think piece here, but using some stats from a study of the American workforce by Cornerstone OnDemand, in this article I was pointing out that while Millennials and other workers wish there was more collaboration in their workplaces, only 6% of Millennials and 5% overall would prefer to collaborate via phone of video conference. 60% of Millennials and 72% of all workers would prefer to collaborate in person. The remaining numbers would prefer to collaborate online. But, here were some numbers supporting my young Millennial questioner at the Virginia Cable TV show – don’t pigeon hole them as technophiles only, as they just might lead a move back to the future, in person.

See the Fast Company article here, and the SlideShare of the keynote below.

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January 30th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in New at | Comments Off

The Future in 50 Years, 100 Years, 200 Years

On January 9, 2013 Discovery Channel Canada broadcast a short interview with me on the show Daily Planet. The questions had to do with developments that I see in 50 years, 100 years, 200 years. I did a lot of thinking prior to the interview about these time frames, and I’ll be summarizing these ideas in blogs to come, perhaps one grand article.

One question was, “what will be a breakthrough similar to the Internet in 50 and 100 and 200 years?” My thoughts began with the idea of the disappearance in 50 years of the boundary between what we now think of as the online and offline (or real) worlds. In 50 years, devices we carry or imbed will have so completely integrated these two worlds that there will only be “the world” and that world will combine the real and the virtual in a seemless and constant way.

For now, link to the 3 minute video interview here. Discovery uses some nice graphics to illustrate our conversation.

Glen Hiemstra Interviewed on Daily Planet, Discovery Channel Canada 2013

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January 30th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch. 10-3

This is the final chapter of our forthcoming book, Millennial City, with the conclusion to follow in this initial serial blog version of the book. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 3 of Chapter 10. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

CHAPTER Ten – Part 3
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

It seems like we always want what we can’t have. We’re always chasing after something, right? No one has it all. There’s no such thing. The economy is tough. Everyone seems to feel as if they’re walking on egg shells.

People feel insecure about their jobs and with good reason. Apple assembles iPhones in southern China, outsourcing to a company called Foxconn who employs 230,000 workers. The Foxconn campus is referred to as “iPod City.” Do the math. The average manufacturing wage in China has been $2.00 an hour, a small fraction of American wages. That’s why we haven’t produced iPhones here.

But that may be changing. Companies, including Apple are waking up to the fact that issues of quality, higher energy costs, and delivery and systems management delays can eat into the savings from low wages (which are rising in China and other low wage countries anyway). Manufacturing offshore works when products don’t change much, but the most valuable products these days have short life cycles for features and models, necessitating constant change. A movement is beginning to shift some of the lost manufacturing back to the U.S. There will be fewer manufacturing jobs in more automated factories, but this is an important shift.

Still, we are not about to put tens of thousands of workers in rows and rows assembling some tech item. This is probably not your idea of a preferred future anyway. In ten years robotic machines will see, hear, move and manipulate objects at less than the cost of an average car. Robots are as inevitable as airplanes. That’s not so bad thing if you think people shouldn’t be doing repetitive and boring tasks.

But even if some manufacturing returns, we could still face a future where an unacceptable percentage of the American workforce is unemployed. Think about it. Where will the jobs come from?

All of us are going to spend the rest of our lives in the future. We can do nothing to change the past, but we have enormous power to shape the future. Between a hyper-competitive global economy and massive outsourcing, the world has changed. Many people will change jobs five or six times, the new “stint-based” style of working. If we don’t embrace a more innovative future, life could easily become an emotional rollercoaster.

“Transition Towns” are one global development through which people are coping with the changed world. The movement came out of the UK and has grown in countries around the world. People with foresight will find themselves thinking more about self-sufficiency and working cooperatively with nature and with each other. Some of these forward thinkers may look for ways to resolve global sustainability and justice. They might event decide that – if the planet makes it through the next 50 years – it will be because of some kind of Transition Town process.

Foresight tells some of us that the high-consumption, unsustainable road we’re on has a dead-end. We’re looking for the exit off to a low-growth or even zero-growth economy, a way to participatory democracy, away from an affluent society to one that isn’t driven purely by the desire to gain in material possessions. Foresight is looking for a simpler way that focusses on what’s best for cities and towns, rather than on what’s best for a few competing individuals. But foresight suggests we must be willing to live more simply, not in hardship but seeking a good quality of life. If we can do that, we will have built a new economy under the old one.

In the unlikely event that the old economy collapses completely, we would still be able to provide for ourselves from local resources and systems. Frankly, some of us don’t have that much to lose and a lot to gain. It’s happening already. All over the world, groups of people from all walks of life are coming together to search for ways forward. In time, resource scarcity may come looking for us all. Cities around the world know it. They’re in transition, doing all sorts of good things to make themselves great. Community gardens, food co-ops, recycling centers, farmers’ markets, urban agriculture are all part of the transition.

This is not a call for revolution. But, with or without us, the more this trend continues the more likely it is to create a new society within and around our cities. It’s up to you, but in the words of the Rolling Stones; “We can’t always get what we want … But if we try real hard, we might just get what we need.”

[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of, and curator of Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through]

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