IFTF + You
The Technology Horizons program combines a deep understanding of technology and societal forces to identify and evaluate discontinuities and innovations in the next three to ten years. We help organizations develop insights and strategic tools to better position themselves for the future. Our approach to technology forecasting is unique—we put people at the center of our forecasts. Understanding humans as consumers, workers, householders, and community members allows IFTF to help companies look beyond technical feasibility to identify the value in new technologies, forecast adoption and diffusion patterns, and discover new market opportunities and threats.
2013 Research Agenda
The Future at the Intersection of Creators, Context, and Computation
Science and technology has the power to make and remake society. As Marshall McLuhan once said, “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” Technology can profoundly improve society and our quality of life, but it often creates more uncertainty, leading to massive disruption. At the same time, it raises the stakes of the choices we make and the roles we play in our communities and organizations.
IFTF’s approach to technology forecasting takes a holistic approach to understanding the three factors that shape innovation:
New groups, individuals, and even non-human agents are driving advances in how things are made, how processes are designed, and how innovation is achieved. These creators and makers are leveraging open software and systems, lowered barriers to entry, and new crowdfunding models to democratize technology, tinker with what already exists, push the limits of what’s possible, and accelerate innovation.
What drives these creators? What influences their ideas about how technology can and should be used? What social and organizational factors drive, or limit, their maker mindset? What new forms of collaboration and what collaboration tools connect and empower them globally? How are the demographics, identities, and kinds of roles people play in innovation changing?
All technological advancements are a product of certain conditions, but once they are introduced into the world, these technologies can create new contexts and conditions that amplify or disrupt people’s lives at home, in communities, and in organizations. Economic and funding factors, political and regulatory climates, energy and power systems, intellectual property regimes, culture and aesthetics, and many other factors dramatically influence the course of any new technology. Indeed, for technology forecasting to add value, we must consider these often subtle and complex conditions, and avoid missing the trajectory and speed of change.
What are the larger contextual factors shaping the demand for new technologies? What urgent problems or challenges are their creators responding to? What resources and constraints support and accelerate the pace of invention and innovation? How do ecosystems of technology and users interact to shape future possibilities?
Computing power is growing rapidly and becoming near pervasive in the tools, interactions, and environments that shape and give meaning to our everyday lives. Computation, whether contained in our computing devices, or embedded in living and non-living entities in the world, is driving a new way of understanding and interacting with things and with each other. Computation may be changing itself, as biocomputers using DNA, quantum computers, and non-traditional “smart devices” emerge from the laboratory. Computation provides the opportunity to re-program the world to achieve desired outcomes, to coordinate and move things around us, to manage the flood of digital information washing over us, and to navigate the blended reality of our lives. Indeed, the proliferation of cheap, embedded, and networked computation is perhaps this century’s greatest technological transformation. And it’s only just begun.
What new paradigms of computation are on the horizon? What previously intractable information processing challenges will yield to these new paradigms? How are new forms and theories of computation driving broader shifts in fundamental social, scientific, and technological frameworks?
Creators, Context, and Computation
This year, we will explore the future of science and technology within a framework of these three factors that are inextricably linked to the story of innovation. We will tease out the transformations and disruptions at the intersection of creators, context, and computation. Through a series of open forecasting events, client meetings, and research deliverables, the Technology Horizons program looks forward to immersing you in its forecasts by sharing ideas, practices, and connections through interactive experiences.
Spring › The Age of Networked Matter: How Interconnecting Everything Will Transform Our World
An astounding array of everyday objects—from food to furniture, from buses to bodies—are becoming connected and interconnected. As we’ve shown in previous research, the virtual and real are melding into a blended reality, novel tools for “programming” our world are on the horizon, and new species of robots will move out of the laboratory and into our cities, offices, homes, and schools. The culmination of this transformation will be a reignited revolution in networked Computation, much like we saw at the dawn of the web—but this time it will be atoms rather than just bits. Myriad forms of matter are moving onto the network beyond even the most grandiose visions of an “Internet of Things,” from objects that blog to social networks for robots, the secret language of cellular communication we don’t yet understand to the possibility of hardwired “telepathy” between people. In this foundational forecast, we will look at the emerging technologies in computation, sensing and actuation, wireless, materials science, and even biology that will underpin the coming Age of Networked Matter. We will interact with Creators that are not only advancing how things are made but are moving us closer and closer into this age as they reimagine and reinvent the Context and meaning of their lives whether it is their home, work, community, or even their own bodies.
- Forecast Map: The map will forecast the new age of networked matter, identifying the transformations and disruptions at the intersection of creators, context, and computation.
- Conference: Join us for an open and collaborative two-day experience to immerse yourself in the forecasts, identify strategic insights for you and your organization, get hands-on practice with emerging tools, and engage with a network of technology innovators, May 16-17, 2013, San Francisco Bay Area.
Fall › Maker Cities: The New Geography of Science and Technology Innovation
Cities have always captured our imagination; they are the nexus where ideas, people, and future possibilities come together. Whether they are imagined as high tech metropolises, models of ecological sustainability, or platforms for the sharing economy, cities are where we are making the future.
What is a Maker City? Maker Cities are the hubs where the interplay of Creators, Context, and Computation accelerates future possibilities. Whether makers are tinkering at the fringes of society or are embraced as part of its economic and regional advantage, every city has makers in it. But the real question is: how pervasive is the maker mindset and what are they making? Cities contain innovation milieus shaped by their unique social, cultural, economic, and urban conditions that drive local creativity, playfulness, desire, and aspiration for change. Whether they are defining new forms of collaboration and knowledge creation, or providing the platforms to mix and remix the tools of biology and life sciences, or pioneering new ways to live in the age of networked matter, maker cities are where people are inspired to change and remake the world around them.
Indeed, there is a new geography of science and technology innovation emerging in Maker Cities all over the world. This summer and fall, IFTF will begin an ongoing, on-the-ground exploration of Maker Cities. We’ll start this exploration by embedding IFTF in different Maker Cities and hosting 48-hour collaborative forecasting events to map the disruptions and innovations that will shape the next decade of science and technology. We’ll look beyond new inventions and incremental change, to identify the advances that will have far-reaching implications for people, organizations, and society.
- Atlas of Maker Cities: A map of the new geography of science and technology innovation emerging from Maker Cities around the world. The atlas will include a map of future possibilities and hotspots emerging from the interplay of creators, context, and computation, and a set of forecast perspectives and tools for deeper immersion and strategic action.
- Client Meeting: Invite us to your location in Fall 2013. Technology Horizons will present its 2013 forecasts and facilitate a Foresight to Insight to Action session with you and your colleagues to identify the opportunities and disruptions for your organization and markets.