Thursday, July 17, 2008

The future is here's just unevenly distributed. So said sci-fi writer William Gibson in 1999.

But what does a sci-fi novelist have in common with the world's most deliberative body, the UN? A keen interest in looking forward for one. And so comes, unleashed on the world, the UN's massive tome: 2008 State of the Future. For only $49.95, the UN's millenium project offers it's 6000-pages of paperback insight into, well, the future.

And what does that future look like?

Aside from recognizing that the future isn't what it used to be, the report (which also contains the past 12 year's of self-referencing research on the future) acknowledges many aspects of the future that, for many people, are right here, right now.

The Internet, which, unlike the UN's report is no longer available on CDROM, gets a special shout out:

The internet, the report observes is "already the most powerful force for globalization, democratization, economic growth and education in history.

"The internet allows self-organization around common ideals, independent of conventional institutional controls and regardless of nationalities or languages. Injustices in different parts of the world become the concern of thousands or millions of people who then pressure local, regional or international governing systems to find solutions.

"This unparalleled social power is reinventing citizens' roles in the political process and changing institutions, policy-making and governance."

Though not nearly as lofty as politics, social justice and policy-making, the economic changes wrought by the 'Net are certainly applicable to marketers and PR minions: consumer control, self-organization, and education are impacts from the future that are here today.

For a look at what some people think the Future of the Internet looks like, check out the 2006 report "The Future of the Internet II" produced by Elon University. It's free to download. (full disclosue: I participated in this survey).

For one musical take on yesterday's future, see...

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