Community Foresight

This week's community foresight challenge

The next-order impacts of next-generation transportation. Challenge ends Monday, October 5 at midnight ET.

Signals to consider: Better batteries, Covid-19, climate crisis and the Anthropocene, biases in AI, computer vision systems, electrical grid technology, interoperability, transportation-as-a-service.

Timeframe: between 2 - 5 years


🚨Win a free registration to EmTech MIT! The Future Today Institute is a proud strategic partner of this year's EmTech MIT Conference. If you're already reading our newsletter on emerging tech trends, we know you'd benefit from attending the MIT Tech Review's premier annual event. (In fact, we're EmTech regulars, and we're longtime MIT Tech Review subscribers!) We will select one or more scenarios from each community foresight challenge. Winners will receive a free pass to EmTech in October. 

Write a short, descriptive title for your forecast.
Give us a range of years that apply to this scenario. Example: 2020 - 2022, 2033 - 2035
Write 3 or more sentences describing next-order implications. This isn't a prediction. It is a description of possible outcomes, given what we know to be true today.
Only required if you want attribution.
Not required
Only required if you want attribution.


Last week's community foresight challenge: the futures of digital fashion

Space as the 5th industrial RevolutionOptimistic2030The Space race has intensified and increased the stakes even more. With this competition, we could see another boom in innovation and technology like in the cold war. We now have more players in the race and more collaboration with NASAs public-private partnerships spawning new private players such as SpaceX and Blue OriginKeorapetse MogajaneJohannesburg, South Africa@keorapetsemogajaneZimele Technologies
Digilante JournalismOptimistic2025Deep collaboration between cyber-sleuths and AI accelerated investigational capabilities. Learning how groups of people collectively thought about and collaborated to solve problems augmented the AI’s ability to recommend possible connections across disparate data sources and build supporting data trails. These enhanced capabilities have become a critical lifeline for watchdog efforts where local journalism has declined. Potential evidence of questionable meetings or transactions involving local government officials are uncovered and pushed to an open data repository. There, community members up-vote the evidence as credible or can question its validity. Community members themselves earn credibility over time based on the value of their contributions while errors and disinformation dock their rankings. When established credibility thresholds are met for a set of evidence, an OpenAI language model is cleared to write a story that can be published by any news outlet or shared across social platforms. The system is far from perfect, but it is slowing down false accusations while augmenting a very real need for credible, local journalism.Jennifer Karppinen@atlrun
Justice 4.0Catastrophic5Thanks to social networks today, information reaches everywhere faster than ever and people no longer tend to notice if that information is real or not. In the new justice 4.0, people no longer go to court to solve their crimes, but instead denounce people through their social networks, uploading their name and photo. This causes hordes of incenced people who begin to spread throughout the internet who this guy is and what he did. Of course, this person never went through a fair trial, much less was granted his right to the principle of innocence. Welcome to justice 4.0Juliano QueralRosario,Argentina@JulianoQueral (Twitter)Argentina foresight group
Justice 4.0Catastrophic5Thanks to social networks today, information reaches everywhere faster than ever and people no longer tend to notice if that information is real or not. In the new justice 4.0, people no longer go to court to solve their crimes, but instead denounce people through their social networks, uploading their name and photo. This causes hordes of incenced people who begin to spread throughout the internet who this guy is and what he did. Of course, this person never went through a fair trial, much less was granted his right to the principle of innocence. Welcome to justice 4.0Juliano QueralRosario,Argentina@JulianoQueral (Twitter)Argentina foresight group
Digital AdditionNeutral2030While the 2020s were spent worrying about the effects of digital addiction, the digitally native Gen Zs never saw the issue. For them, digital environments were and are an extension, not an escape from reality. Many never learned to drive given the ubiquity of autonomous vehicles, which gave them even more time to immerse themselves in a digital world that had been tightly shaped to their preferences. Life is easier when not having to think about the “mundane” aspects of life like shopping for household staples, picking out the perfect outfit; more enjoyable when everything is curated. For this generation, there are very few problems that they don’t look to the digital world to solve; so it’s not a surprise when they rely on AI to guide their entry into the workforce as well. The line between virtual and reality has virtually disappeared, but then, none of them have really ever looked for it.Jennifer Karppinen@atlrun
Computer-assisted trainingPessimistic2025Due to lockdowns and extreme climatic events, people tend to spend longer period at home. To help you train indoor, a new kind of devices appears. On top of virtual race activities, those devices monitor your body and understand your specific physical needs. Based on your data and AI, they will develop dedicated training programs which will make you stronger and will help you avoid injuries and body aches. What is good for your body, isn't necessarily good for your mind and people's addiction to screen and technology increases dramatically. People prefer to practice golf, cycling and running indoor instead of the fresh air version of the activity.GĂ©raud de LAVALLausanne CHhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/gerauddelaval/
My cold dead handsPessimistic2025What do car batteries have in common with their drivers? They’re both polarized! Battery technology advances creating cheaper, longer-lasting batteries. The algorithms are tested and work flawlessly in the labs. AVs are technologically ready to go. There’s just one problem: People. All of the forecasts (financial and otherwise) failed to account for gridlock, and not the traffic kind. AVs need a massive public investment and regulatory lift to get approved for general use. They also need massive infrastructure upgrades to operate at scale. All of this runs into the same problem that so many other needed techno-socio advancement does. American politics. While China pushes forward, as does Europe, AVs stall in America due to a partisan divide. Ipsos data shows that while positive views of self-driving cars have declined significantly (59% to 37%) in the last couple of years (troubling!) a partisan divide (~10pts) is persistent. Since many states have republican state leadership they refuse to fund or allow something seen as only benefiting democratic cities. Think Chicago in Illinois, or Atlanta in Georgia. And after COVID-19 ravaged the economy in general but state and local governments in particular, there frankly isn’t much money even if there were unified desire. The US falls further and further behind as political bickering slams the breaks on progress.Matt CarmichaelChicago@mcarmichael
Eyes on the Road, Eyes on YouPessimistic2022When auto insurers learned that drivers of autonomous vehicles could be held liable for accidents during autopilot operation, they moved to adjust coverage requirements. For Level 2 and Level 3 vehicles, drivers are now required to install sensors in the passenger cabin that monitor attention levels. If algorithms detect that the driver’s attention falls below set levels or the driver doesn’t intervene quickly enough when required, additional risk premiums are assessed. All data is recorded and has become a key part of accident investigations. Drivers learned that even when they weren’t using autonomous features, algorithms were still scoring attention and response and recommending premium changes. Insurance premiums are rising and coverage limits for “at-fault” autopilot accidents are falling. For AV owners, autonomous is starting to mean you’re on your own.Jennifer Karppinen
The City Cloud connects people, robo-cars, machines & objectsOptimistic2035In the wake of The Great Pandemic, many cities started to re-design urban spaces to accommodate people’s changed needs, for example equipping public infrastructure with sensors & smart technologies. With the rise of the robo-car in the late 20s, cities jumped at the chance to enhance their CX (citizen experience) and create highly individualized mobility offerings. The extreme weather conditions of the 2030s (think snowstorms, sandstorms, hurricanes) were increasingly difficult to handle for robo-cars with their old-tech LIDAR equipment. But luckily, most buildings, bridges and lamp posts were already “smart” and communicating with each other. Cities and fleet providers partnered to create the CITY CLOUD, enabling free communication between robo-cars, bridges, buildings, your smartphone and/or your implant. Because machines, people and objects constantly exchange data about their positions, there hasn’t been one single traffic accident since the adoption of the CITY CLOUD in 2033.Helena GrabarevicMannheim, Germanyhttps://de.linkedin.com/in/helena-grabarevic
Human Chameleons: They Come and Go, They Come and GoOptimistic2030Digital “second skin” is a technological boon to those individuals who express a desire to blend in based on their environment and/or situations. Does not owning a formal attire detract from your next high-profile job interview? Are you unsure what the prevailing sartorial customs are during your world travels? Are you worried that you might be targeted as a “outsider” when traveling through unfamiliar neighborhoods? Allay those fears and worries, as digital skins allow you to seamlessly (pun intended) blend into your situation/surrounding. Gone are the days of fashion faux pas and looking like an easy mark for predators. But these modern conveniences can also be used for questionable intents. How do you know that a nondescript face in the crowd at a political rally/demonstration isn’t an individual with violent and/or destructive intent? What if that unremarkable civilian in a war zone is someone who is capable of triggering devastating destruction? And the biggest worry of all—what if data servers which store second skin data all fail? Will the sudden lack of access to our skins collection put us in real-life harm’s way?Mo NishiyamaPortland, Oregon, United States@synthcat
The Look of SuccessNeutral2030When tech firms entered the industry, digital clothing became much more accessible and competition grew. Partnerships with designers offer exclusive designs or the option to co-create something more personal with the designer’s digital twin. Tech players give considerable discounts for those enrolled in their health subscription programs, but require that the digital designs be linked to daily activity and health goals. Too many days of missing targets means you may be stuck wearing your failure.Jennifer Karppinen
Rewilded HousingOptimistic2030By the end of 2020, people across the world had been scarred by the realization that they could no longer deny the human impact on the environment and, as a result, personal health and safety. As areas became increasingly dangerous or completely uninhabitable, rewilding accelerated. Efforts widened from former agricultural areas to urban landscapes and eventually directly into people’s homes. Rewilding features like indoor living walls and other natural fixtures were incorporated with the hopes of fostering the promised health benefits. Outside, manicured green lawns slowly transitioned into areas of vegetation that reflected the natural habitat and attracted pollinators and birds. In some cases, people are starting to move to the areas neighboring rewilding projects as these locations tend to be more resilient and less prone to flooding, excessive heat, and wildfires. Some are even offering “certified safe” water sources. Proximity to rewilded areas is becoming the defining characteristic of in-demand neighborhoods.Jennifer Karppinen@atlrun
The New Silicon ForestNeutral2035With widespread annual wildfires along the Cascade Range and Rocky Mountains becoming catastrophic regional events, an interdisciplinary section of industries (including technology, biotech, forest management, and energy) come together to rebuild forests--with intelligent, synthetic trees. Taking inspiration and technologies from the fields of Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, automated drone swarms, self-destroying drones, and synthetic biology, millions of "smart trees" are strategically planted in wildlife areas where landscape is vulnerable to fires. These trees may look like the real thing from a distance and provide the benefits of analog trees (e.g., habitat cover, nesting areas for aerial wildlife, aesthetics for nearby human habitats), but are embedded with smart sensors which can forecast the likelihood of a wildfire spread. The data from the sensors of these smart trees are then compiled into an AI algorithm which models the likelihood of a catastrophic, uncontainable wildfire--and when it exceeds a threshold, these smart trees may trigger a deployment of automated firefighting drones that are managed by nearby forest management agencies. If the aerial drones are ineffective, the smart trees will then self-destruct while emitting a fire retardant chemicals in its wake (thus reducing the potential damage to real trees, and saving human communities and habitats around the affected areas). These smart trees are also outfitted with auditory rewilding capabilities in order to stimulate the regrowth of flora and fauna. Furthermore, these trees are also outfitted with miniature surveillance cameras to offer security to nearby inhabitants and travelers, and to deter potential harm to the forests. But at what cost? Environmental groups become aghast at the resulting consequences of fire retardant chemicals being released into the wild. Cybersecurity experts worry about malicious nation-state actors hijacking the controls of the smart forest system. Privacy advocates and citizen's rights groups become very concerned about surveillance technology used in smart trees.Mo NishiyamaPortland, Oregon, United States@synthcat
Attention: algorithmic awarenessNeutral20Time spent on apps like TikTok will sharply increase as those companies use GANS to automatically generate content for individual users, that traps their attention. But content will be of relatively low quality, as these programs will not be able to tell meaningful stories. Furthermore, not everybody will use these apps, because awareness of algorithms that exploit human behavior will have propagated more widely, possibly even mandated by the state. While popular TV series will be prolonged against the will of the actors with the use of GANS, strong original content by traditional media companies will be as sought out as ever.Andreas FreundVienna@FuturePotFuture Potentialis (www.futurepotentialis.com)
Host your own funeralOptimistic2040In Tibetean esoterism you are believed to have several deaths, with the physical body leaving this life before the "footprint" your deeds have made in the world. This is now becoming more tangible with the service "Host your own funeral". Saying farewell to a loved one is always hard, with the emergence of "Host your own funeral" it might be possible to give your loved ones a last goodbye. Using a agglomerate of data from social and wearables together with AI generated hologram and perhaps a pre-written speech - you can be present at your own funeral. With funeral guests opting in with their data - they might even be able to get a personalized goodbye from you! And for the control freak - make sure you will be remembered for what you think was the "bottom line" of your life.Axel GruvaeusSwedenhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/axel-gruvaeus/Kairos Future
Reanimated Film FestivalsOptimistic2032Digital reanimation opened up a new world of possibilities for human-machine creative collaborations. It took off as a way to generate new scenes for mega franchises when key actors passed. The tech was quickly adopted by independent filmmakers who learned they could now create films without the need for physical sets or even live actors. Fully realistic locations are generated from photographs. GANs supply classic stars or even hybrids of actors chosen from across the ages. Entire scenes can be captured, all with a single “take.” Digital reanimation is enabling anyone to play around with greatness, literally and has sparked a wave of virtual firm festivals featuring this new genre. Streaming platforms are regular attendees given the heated competition to source new content.Jennifer Karppinen
Additionist HistoryPessimistic2030How we think about history has completely changed. When neural networks perfected the generation of 3D models from photographs, we entered a new age. Historical events are being recreated, tweaked, and new images created from multiple perspectives to illustrate a “credible” past that never happened. GANs are generating speeches and writings that never existed. This revisionist and “additionist” history is starting to appear in political ads and commentary. The past has never been fully written in stone but this is making us wonder how far we are willing to go and how we can accurately preserve a past that has become digitally vulnerable.Jennifer Karppinen
The Crisis of the Art Sector – 2035Pessimistic2035In 2035, artworks are essentially worthless. These days, everyone and their dog can pretend to be a very skilled artist using generative adversarial networks (GAN). Every now and then, a new “Rembrandt” is discovered – but due to sophisticated GAN systems and 3D printing systems, no one can even really tell with absolute certainty whether this is a real Rembrandt, Picasso, Cezanne… or not. Collecting art is a thing of the past – Christie’s, a reminder of a simpler time, just recently closed its doors for good. Philanthropists essentially stopped their involvement in the arts – there really is no point in supporting the arts if it’s produced that easily with the help of algorithms and 3D printers. As a result, many museums had to close down or find other sources of funding – such as NVIDIart, a nonprofit which was started by NVIDIA back in the 2020’s as a nod to their biggest commercial success to date, GauGAN. At its peak in 2020 the arts sector in the US was valued at almost 900 billion Dollars, or 5% of the gross domestic product. Over the last 15 years, this number has dropped to 0.5% of the American GDP. In the early 2030s, wealthy individuals tried to auction off their collected artworks, artists tried to find new ways of working with AI, dealers and auctioneers (unsuccessfully) scrambled to find a way on how to preserve the value of art. But in 2035, historians already speak of a huge re-distribution of wealth due to the crisis of the art sector – something that no one saw coming back in 2020.Helena GrabarevicMannheim, Germanyhttps://de.linkedin.com/in/helena-grabarevic
Pirates, foodies, and the latest front on inequality: real-lifePessimistic17The set-up: Trump is reelected in 2020 and further reshapes the federal – and increasingly state – government in his image. Retaking the house (election fraud claims abound) in the 2022 midterms, he removes Vice President Pence and nominates his son as VP. He is confirmed on party lines. The pandemic persists, as does widespread civil unrest, occasionally quashed by federal “show of force” tactics in our largest cities. Unemployment lingers, bail-outs cease and inequality, especially along racial and ethnic lines, skyrockets. People are increasingly staying inside to avoid the vigilantes and protests and still aren’t allowed to congregate leading to a bifurcation of real vs. virtual experiences. Most forms of travel and entertainment become so prohibitively expensive that in-person experiences become reserved for the haves and everyone else must settle for virtual experiences. Sport: eSports and virtual sporting leagues (think Fantasy teams but with virtual athletes) take hold for most. For the wealthy sports leagues become more boutique with bio-hacked athletes becoming more and more tailored for their sports. Traditional leagues fall by the wayside, replaced by lab-based clubs. Instead of rooting for your city, or your sponsor’s team, you wind up rooting for the biosynth firm who hacks the best athletes. New stats have to be invented. X-men like schools become a real thing as those who can afford to enhance their kids. But long-term demographic trends are exacerbated as the wealthy find ways to live longer, and have fewer kids, stretching out their generations. The age pyramid, which already had flattened, reverses. The department of defense, of course, leads in research developing enhanced soldiers, but also new fronts of virus-based warfare on both a wide and super-targeted scale. Big Pharma, now essentially free of regulation and oversight, creates custom cocktails for the haves which helps offset the inability to draw much money from the have-nots as employment-related insurance craters along with the job market itself. The same lack of regulation also leads to an efflorescence in homebrewed everything: drugs, booze, meats, meat alternatives – you name it – and foodie culture, which took a major hit in the great pandemic restaurant collapse, revives in a very individualized, small-group sort of way. DNA (now owned by the government, after it seized control of/licensed Blackstone’s ancestry.com repository) is used for surveillance but pirates and activists alike learn to make changes to their DNA to avoid detection. This new form of cat-and-mouse, has consequences.Matt CarmichaelChicago@mcarmichael
Anti-Surveillance WearNeutral2030In the early 20s we learned how easily identifiable people truly were, even if they managed to hide their faces from surveillance cameras. Individuals’ gaits and their unique cardiac signatures (“heartprints”) provided telltale identifiers for recognition algorithms. Activists and protestors needed to be able to covertly cloak these biometrics from increasingly authoritarian governments. They turned to biohacking clothing— experimenting with coding different “security features” into synbio fibers. These specialized biofibers were 4D-printed into wearable designs that manipulated light and sound waves and subtly shifted shape as a person walked, obscuring algorithmic recognition. The clothing’s biodegradable nature made it easy to destroy without a trace, if needed. Today, in less authoritarian countries, anti-surveillance wear has started to expand to the tech-savvy, who are tired of being targeted with virtual ads that follow them throughout their day. People are discovering that what you wear can now help “un-define” who you in the eyes of surveillance tech.Jennifer Karppinen@atlrun


Previous community foresight scenarios

Scoring for public spaces, Ideal Future, 2030
by Betty Zhang, Digital Strategist at Versett, Canada

As wearables and gadgets to collect biomarkers became more common for personal use in the early 2020's software supporting it also was able to become more granular and better at predicting. Building on use cases of diabetics and athletes using wearables to monitor glands and nervous systems. In 2025 it had come so far that using a bundle of self measurments at home accurately where able to monitor and prescribe treatment for specific glands and some larger organs for people waiting for operations or donations. Treatments vary from taking a personalized drug to using brain stimulation and breathing techniques to stimulate different organs. In this way we have created synthetic software based external organs available in the cloud to support the physical ones.


Betrayed by your bladder, Pessimistic, 2030
Frédéric-Gérard Leveque, Digital Transformation independant consultant, Paris, France.
Twitter: @digitalizer

Continuous Health monitoring + iOT + Insurance.
The thing about quantifying human activity is that it always come with the promise of improving our lives. Especially when it comes to our health.

And COVID-19 will accelerate our need for better health monitoring. Insurers are particularly aware of it, hence they have already started to offer sports trackers in exchange of rebates (like John Hancock Vitality program). smart toothbrush based offers (like the SmartPremiums from Beam dental), connected watches (like Aetna subsidizing Apple Watches), and soon ... smart toilets (like the one under development by radiology professor Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir) that will analyse your feces and give you advices about how to improve your diet). All these datas will inevitably impact your scoring (but you won't know how of course, nor how much the algorythm is biased). So, when you'll receive a raise in your insurance fees because you had a few too many drinks at a party and have been double-crossed by your connected loo, you'll think twice about joining your friends at your favorite bar.