Posts Tagged: technology

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I am a fan of Mars. I think people will live there one day. Really. So I was quite excited to watch the NASA/JPL live feed last night of the landing of Curiosity, the largest craft ever soft landed on another planet, and to share vicariously in the moment. Watch it here.

Then today my friend and colleague Mark Anderson, of Strategic News Service (I serve on the advisory board for his annual conference, Future in Review), published the following Special Alert about the landing. In Mark’s classic and hard-hitting way he tackles what the accomplishment should mean for science, and politics.

Here is Mark Anderson…
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To All SNS Members:

Many of you have already written in asking for permission to re-distribute this piece. Please feel free to distribute to as many people and publications as you wish, with the caveat that it be complete, and have attribution. I hope it does good in larger circles – and thank you for your willingness to do so. – mra.

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To Our Members:

As you are no doubt aware, at 1:38 a.m. this morning, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech succeeded in landing a one-ton rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars. This effort required years of scientific, technical and engineering preparation, resulting in a novel multi-stage process for getting heavy equipment onto the red planet, rife with steps which, if any failed, would likely cause mission failure.

The landing occurred without a single problem, including minutes during the critical last phases of the flight when the spacecraft was out of communications with Earth and ran autonomously.

While this effort will no doubt have a great impact in improving our knowledge of the Mars geology and surface, including habitability for future human missions, and perhaps information on past life in the targeted crater, there is a deeper meaning to this effort:

Science is reality.

At a time when a large and increasing fraction of the U.S. population does not “believe in” science (i.e., objectively provable reality) – or, worse, has bought into the idea that science is just one choice on the reality menu – NASA has again given concrete reason to understand that science works, and that science is not an option, not a theory, not a menu item, but instead represents the finest efforts of human minds in understanding, and addressing, objective reality.

Those on Earth who currently think that science is a political football should take note: not only are you endangering your own reputation, you are endangering the welfare of your constituents, and today, of the planet itself.

Any person or party which mocks science should be considered for what he or it is: a threat to the welfare and future of us all. Under the influence of political propagandists, misled religious zealots, and truly dangerous television and radio empires (such as Fox (Not) News and Rush Limbaugh), too many people today have been led to believe that science is in some way an option to opinion.

Science is as optional as gravity. Ignorance is the only real option.

It is time for the U.S. to catch back up to the world in this matter, and recognize the value of scientific study and theory, the use of scientific consensus in guiding public policy, and the wonders that we can achieve when we abandon self-aggrandizing political fantasy in favor of objective scientific knowledge.

We should use this marvelous achievement to create a new cultural change in the United States, returning us to the group intelligence of past eras, when no one doubted that an experiment, done with the same result several times, demonstrated an objective truth. Not an opinion, not a religious position, not a political chip, but another addition to human scientific knowledge.

The world owes much to the people of NASA, of JPL, and to the taxpayers of the U.S., who have achieved the most important step in space exploration yet attempted. This was done by a willing and informed government, working with private contractors, paid for with taxes. It stands as one of the greatest of tributes to human intelligence yet achieved, shoulder to shoulder with decoding the human genome.

I highly recommend that you take a moment to watch the scene inside JPL headquarters in Pasadena, as Curiosity makes its way safely to the Martian surface. We owe a great deal to those pictured in their moment of triumph, and citizens of the U.S. owe it to themselves, if they wish to remain a great nation, to put a rapid end to the rise of ignorance in their country which threatens scientific endeavor, and the acceptance of scientific findings.

Our thanks go out to all of the people who, using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, just flew a car-sized laboratory across the solar system, landed it safely at the end of four lines under a crane under a rocket under a parachute, to bring us yet more scientific knowledge about the world.

It is time for all Earth inhabitants to recognize the value of science. In doing so, we will find common ground for agreeing on other important things.

Here is the video

Long live Science.

Sincerely,

Mark Anderson
CEO, Strategic News Service

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Beware the permanent trend.

What would happen if a generation stopped driving cars, or at least stopped dreaming that owning a car and driving everywhere was their defining passage into adulthood? What if each year auto ownership and miles driven declined? It would be the end of a seemingly permanent trend toward ever more miles driven and greater car ownership.

I first began seeing signs of this emerging trend (or better, trend reversal) in 2010, as I was producing a study for the state of Idaho on the 30-year future of transportation and economic development in Idaho. In that study I noted the following, based on a 2010 article in Advertising Age:

The Millennial generation…is not only very large – larger than the Baby Boom generation – but different in an important way. They are first computer and Internet generations, having grown up since infancy with computers, 24/7 network access, cell phones, blue-tooth enabled cars, and so on. They approach most life activities differently, that is, they approach them using the network first.

One critical example for the future is recent research showing, for the first time since the advent of the automobile, a youth generation less likely to own a car, drive a car, or have a drivers license than the previous generation. As reported in Advertising Age,

“In 1978, nearly half of 16-year-olds and three-quarters of 17-year-olds in the U.S. had their driver’s licenses, according to Department of Transportation data. By 2008, the most recent year data was available, only 31% of 16-year-olds and 49% of 17-year-olds had licenses, with the decline accelerating rapidly since 1998. Of course, many states have raised the minimum age for driver’s licenses or tightened restrictions; still, the downward trend holds true for 18- and 19-year-olds as well and those in their 20s.

It’s not just new drivers driving less. The share of automobile miles driven by people aged 21 to 30 in the U.S. fell to 13.7% in 2009 from 18.3% in 2001 and 20.8% in 1995, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Travel Survey released earlier this year.” (Advertising Age, (http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=144155) May 31, 2010)

This dramatic decline in driving behavior by young people occurred in a period when the percentage of the national population aged 21-30 actually increased slightly. The explanation goes well beyond restrictions on driving for 16-18 year olds, into a shift in values and behavior. Interest in cars has waned. They have become more expensive. Interest in digital communications has sky-rocketed. Digital communication has become less expensive. Young people in 2010, and adults in 2030 may find it far easier to text, to do computer-based work, and generally to stay connected while using public transportation rather than when driving a car. Even as legislatures around the nation ramp up bans on digital communication while driving, the desire to conduct work while commuting will continue to increase. All of these factors, combined with technology advances themselves, may make driving behavior in 2030 not at all like behavior prior to 2010.

Now comes more recent evidence supporting this trend. In a piece entitled “Goodbye James Dean,” Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, observes that Americans drove a billion fewer miles in April 2012 than they did in 2011, despite a somewhat better economy. Moreover, in a reversal of a six-decade trend to ever-increasing miles driven, Americans were already driving 6 percent less in 2011 than they were in 2004. Baxandall noted,

…the decline is particularly strong among young people. Americans between 16 to 34 years of age drove a whopping 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than in 2001. These same youth increased their bicycle riding by 24 percent and increased their miles on public transit by 40 percent.

In addition to driving fewer miles, young people are leading the way to a declining percentage with driver’s licenses. The decline has been especially dramatic for men ages 20 to 34, falling from nearly 95 percent with a license to under 80 percent with a license, depending on the age cohort.

How much of this due to unemployment making it too difficult to own a car, versus the trend representing a true values shift, we will have to wait and see following a more robust economic recovery. But the love affair with cars may be wearing out as people opt for a less car-dependent life style. So concerned with a possible shift in consumer behavior are Ford and GM that they have both initiated research and marketing efforts aimed even more specifically at Millennials.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist, author, speaker, consultant, Founder of Futurist.com, and founder and Curator of DoTheFuture.com. To arrange for a speech, workshop or consultation contact Futurist.com.

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I recently read a novelette by Bruce Sterling called Black Swan (A Cyberpunk Story). I was intrigued by what Sterling referred to as a “Memrister”. Within the context of the story, it was only clear that memristors were theoretical electronic devices with a lot of potential applications. After doing some research, I found out that Memristors are, in fact, real, and that they may profoundly impact the future of computing.

According to Wikipedia, “Memristor theory was formulated and named by Leon Chua in a 1971 paper.[4] In 2008, a team at HP Labs announced the development of a switching memristor based on a thin film of titanium dioxide.[5] These devices are being developed for application in nanoelectronic memories, computer logic, and neuromorphic computer architectures. In October 2011, the same team announced the commercial availability of memristor technology within 18 months, as a replacement for Flash, SSD, DRAM and SRAM. [7]”

Apparently memristors have the capacity to start up and shut down computers as if you were flicking a light switch on and off. And one unique characteristic of this technology is that, “Memristance of a material become more and more strong as its size reduces,” which means it may be most valuable in nanotechnology.

Once HP finishes its work on the commercial availability of memristor technology, it will be exciting to learn more about the useful applications that memristors can provide all of us.

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Recently some clients have asked me to think about marketing, brands, consumers, the new media, technology, and how the new relationships among these elements are changing old enterprise/customer relationships. Fundamentally I think the deepest shift that is going to happen can be captured by asking one important question. Traditionally, one might ask which brands you like, and why? But a more powerful question for the future is, I think, which brands like you and how do you know?

I don’t think there is any question that future buying activity will be driven heavily by economics, that is, who can offer the most affordable quality. But when there is a decision point between brand options, and price is not the key driver, then consumers will increasingly ask whether the brand demonstrates that it cares about its customers. A couple of examples. Starbucks versus local and smaller coffee houses is a choice that many consumers make. Starbucks attempts, mostly with good success, to overcome its gigantic size with a genuine emphasis on being a local third place. Their reputation for good treatment of employees, for providing health insurance for part-time workers, for frequent promotions and giveaways, like their provision of a free drink for every 15 purchases, the free music download cards on the checkout counter, the constant stream of responses to customer concerns on their Facebook and Twitter feeds, all say that, as a brand, we care about you.

For a subset of coffee customers this is not enough. They will choose a local brand, because the very fact of being local and small says to them, this is a brand that can know us and that cares about us (and, they will usually say, tastes better). It is a built-in feature, really, of the whole localization movement applying to local foods, local book stores, and so on. Local should equal caring and if it does not, something is wrong.

Facilitating such shifts in attitudes about brands are all the tools and new assumptions about marketing. Chief among these is the shift of power to consumers – the Net means that customers own the brand and are the primary marketers. The Net is a megaphone for individual customers and their connected devices are all publishing tools now. Probably the most interesting, and even amazing thing about the Web in the past five years has been its metamorphosis from an information-consuming medium to an information-publishing medium for the average user. I think we are just now beginning to grasp what this means, from consumer interactions to revolutions in the public square.

Of course everyone concerned with marketing and brands is wondering where this is all going. Recently Business 2 Community published The Future of Marketing: 46 Experts Share their Predictions for 2012. Here are a few highlights.

“Cross-department and channel collaboration will become more prevalent as marketing coordinates its research, analysis, activities and reporting with other parts of the business.” -Alexis Kingsbury, Global Marketing Director at Spidergap

“Referrals will also be a much higher percentage of successful business marketing because it’s much easier to either recommend or knock companies online using social media and have your message shared.” -Andrew Baird, Chief Freedom Officer at Amazing Business

“Customer data will become more important than ever. Tapping into Facebook’s social graph will allow businesses to access an incredible amount of information…This will be used to take marketing personalization to a whole new level.” -Chris Wise, Director of Marketing at Guideline Central

“Webinars as an educational and marketing platform saw a huge rise in popularity in 2011, and will continue to grow in popularity in 2012.” -Jeremy Gregg, Executive Director at The PLAN Fund

“The importance of viral and shareable content will drive companies and brands to become more creative with their content, replacing the predictable sales pitch with more informative or entertaining material, making the 2012 browsing experience less like opening pages, and more like changing channels.”- Stephen Powers, President and Founder of Rightlook Creative

In Marketing 2020: Shifting the balance between consumers and brands, the blog Nice to be Seen muses about the new skill sets that the future marketing world demands. Based on a gathering of the AMA Atlanta, the author suggests that technology skills, whether in social media or in newer and proprietary means for reaching individual customers will become a basic requirement.

Finally, Laughlin Constable has created a wonderful video that sums up most of the contemporary assumptions about where marketing is going.


The Future of Marketing from Laughlin Constable on Vimeo.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist, author, speaker, consultant, and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech, workshop or consultation contact Futurist.com.

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