The NCSL Blog


By Mark Wolf

John Feland told a packed ballroom at the NCSL Capitol Forum that he wanted to "make each of you a futurist."

John FelandSo I opened my flip phone, tapped out a message and sent it straight to my Palm Pilot so I could post it to my MySpace page. And then I realized maybe I should pay attention to Feland's presentation on "The Next Ten Years: What You Need to Know."

Feland, who is CEO of Argus Insight, Inc., offers advice for being a futurist:

  • Understand what will not change over the next 10 years.
  • Identify what technologies are maturing today enough to impact markets tomorrow.
  • Look at the impact of demographics on all assumptions.
  • Bet on the consistency of human behavior over the chaos of innovation.
  • Foster strong opinions, held weakly./li>

The future is creeping up quickly: Everyone that will be working in 10 years has already completed third grade, everyone that will be driving in 10 years has already completed kindergarten and every piece of technology we will be using in 10 years has already been invented. A few of the things that won't change in 10 years: We will still eat on a regular basis, have a safe place to sleep at night, watch the Super Bowl, attempt to start running on Jan. 1 and stop five days later.

Urban population, he said, will continue to grow as rural population shrinks.

The costs of data storage is bottoming out and the number of microprocessors we can put on a chip doubles every year.

"There is more computing power in this room than the whole nation had in 1980," he said.

Data are exploding: 90 percent of the world's data were created in the last two years: "All those tweets, all those videos of first steps, those pictures of the same event we're sharing with each other."

Artificial intelligence, he said, "both delights and terrifies."

Current automobile features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-change warnings "are gateway drugs to autonomous vehicles," he said.

"We will see more and more autonomous mass transit. Make sure our city is ready for that," he advised.

Editing genes has become like editing software, he said, allowing for improving organ transplant acceptance, editing genes to remove damage and even editing mosquitos so >they no longer carry malaria.

The U.S. will face demographic pressure in eldercare, he said, as the aging population is set to rise by 36 percent in the next 10 years while the working age population rises by only 1 percent.

He predicted that in 10 years, everyone in the audience will have a home communication device such as Alexa. "Remember when small was so cool? Now phones are getting huge," he said.

And a trick question: "Anybody pay for Facebook?" We all do, Feland said, we pay with our data.

Mark Wolf is the editor of the NCSL Blog. 

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.