A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

The Shape of Things to Come

I love reading predictions. Not of the astrological type of course, but rather, of trend-watchers trying to scientifically and intuitionally predict change, by reading the runes of business and consumer trends. I love reading them and thinking about what I agree with and what I find absolutely absurd, only to look back in 13 months to see how expert expert-opinions really are.

After all, Einstein himself once said, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Of course, in this internet-age no one will ever go to say something as absurd as “everything that can be invented has already been invented”, but here are some futurologist snippets for 2008:

The rise of N11: The term N11 was coined in a recent report by Goldman Sachs, and refers to the up-and-coming “Next 11” countries who are snapping at the heels of India, China, Russia and Brazil as investment opportunities – Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam. And where the money goes, there is a good chance that cultural fascination will follow.
My verdict: Ehh… let’s first see India and China really reach the hype before we stick 11 more countries into the equation!

Peer-to-peer lending: One of the key financial trends of 2008 will be the growth of person-to-person lending exchanges in which borrowers and lenders come together directly on the web and cut out the banks.
My verdict: Although I haven’t heard of such an initiative directly, I sort of feel like this is old news. I mean, in the world where people find apartments in Amman on Facebook, and teenagers spend so many hours and so much money in virtual reality like Second Life, isn’t there already such a thing? Perhaps in an informal way, but I’m 100% sure it’s already been done.

Social networking grows up: Next year will see online social networking cease to be the preserve of the young.
My verdict: Ok, this is seriously old news. I mean, both my parents have Facebook accounts, as do a lot of their friends and a lot of my friend’s parents.

Reverse knowledge migration as well as bright and well-educated workers coming from the developing world to the west, people will start to move in the opposite direction. This new global class of “cyber-gypsies”, says Saffo, will not only include American and European Asians returning “home”, but also highly educated, non-Asian Americans and Europeans going off to make their fortunes in places such as China. Companies, universities and thinktanks in Europe and America, he warns, who often smugly assumed that they would be a magnet for the world’s talent, are going to discover that this is no longer the case.
My verdict: I suppose I can see this happening. But not in 2008. Not even in 2015.

Handmade on the net One staple of futurological speculation has been the quest for authenticity in what seems like an anonymous and artificial world. A new twist on all this, says Reinier Evers of the Amsterdam firm, is the sprouting of internet-based ventures that purvey handmade and highly traditional fare.
My verdict: Have you heard of eBay? The beauty of the internet is that it can beautifully cater to niche markets. You can find more vintage Palestinian dresses on eBay than you can in Amman. eBay has been there since 1995. And counting.

Clubbing together Sharing the costs, Salzman points out, is becoming increasingly popular in many different retail sectors. The inexorable rise of “fractional luxury”, for example, is giving not-quite-wealthy-enough people the opportunity to buy a time-share in anything from a racehorse to a jumbo jet.
My verdict: Ok, this is getting boring. I remember a time-share scamming attempt at Safeway in the middle of Amman four years ago.

The new vicarious consumption Just as book reviews have become a substitute among many of us for reading books, Evers says, our enthusiasm for endless product reviews is becoming a way through which we can vicariously experience almost anything through the eyes (and sometimes ears) of people who have already been there.
My verdict:I agree on this one, but I’ve also been doing it for years. I discovered years ago that I would rather skip watching the movie or reading the novel, opting for the much quicker and easier paths to stay updated seems more efficient- Wikipedia, Amazon, and imdb. Instant knowledge. I love it. It’s addictive.

DIY education The rise of blogging and self-broadcasting sites such as YouTube as an alternative to TV, says Gutsche, has brought with it a burgeoning demand among people to learn new skills, not from professional educators but from their peers.
My verdict:Man, I learned Photoshop from web tutorials back in 2002. Come on.

Digital housecleaning While there is a much greater acceptance among young people of living life in the glare of the net, says Salzman, the lust for digital exhibitionism will soon wither when they come to start looking for a job.
My verdict: Perhaps I’m just lucky, but my digital self has been key to forming my post college life, in all aspects. I think people are worrying about privacy issues too much, just like they used to worry about how the world will end with the millennium bug.

Virtual identity managers Another consequence of the public display of ourselves on the net is that many of us are going to end up hiring professional stand-ins.
My verdict: That’s hilarious. I can see it happening, I mean, it sort of did already happen with hoaxes, but I really don’t see it happening as a norm. Or maybe I can. I’m neutral on this one.

[Courtesy of The Guardian]

What do you agree with? Personally, I think most of these predictions are rather funny, because most of them are old news. It would have been awesome if they were published in 2004, rather for 2008, when most online people have already gone through these things. Most of them are very precise I think, because they have already happened. Or maybe I’m just too geeky… a web-geek living in a web-bubble where my web-intertwined world makes me feel like everyone lives in this bubble with me.

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  1. I agree that most of these are old news!
    the N11 have been there long before CIRB. We all had shoes and Jeans made in turkey, Mexico is practically the US’s industrial city, Bangladesh and Pakistan have been big in the Textile industry for a long time…

    PtoP lending is sooooo old.

    social networking?!

    Reverse knowledge migration is already happening. I keep hearing of stories of even Arab scientists go back to Arabia to take charge of investments of petrodollars. Jihad Kiwan is a Lebanese in charge of Dubai Silicon Oasis after spending many years in California’s Silicon Valley

    the same goes for the rest…

  2. I agree. Most of these things are old news. I usually take these predictions (made by main stream media organizations) with a grain of salt. Specially in technical matters because they usually appear to have been prepared by people who have been absent from the world for the past 5 years :-).

    Anyway, i am not too sure what you mean about India and China “reaching the hype”. There has been an enormous amount of outsourcing and investment in these two countries. Both homegrown, and foreign.

  3. Rob

    N11 is true and it is happening *much* faster than you think.

    Intel’s latest server chip (code named Dunnington) was designed in Bangalore, India. Intel’s Bangalore design center has over 3500 engineers.

    Same thing with Microsoft. They have a huge development centers in China and India, but recently they opened a world class research facility that is second to none in Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research India has many ex researchers from the US that have migrated to India.

    Sure, there are plenty of low paying jobs that were outsourced to China, but as a chip designer, I see increasing “architect/managerial” positions being outsourced to China/India. These are not entry level positions.

    Also, keep in mind that as these economies take on these jobs, the “new wealth” creates a western economy in these countries. It means that these young engineers and investment bankers invest in local markets, real estate and infrastructure very much like any western economy fueling growth and development.

    China has 1.2 billion people. If you actually travel to Shanghai, you will not believe the scale of the transformation. It is like they have been hungry for change and progress for a 1000 years. There is so much construction, positive energy, and a youthful “can do” spirit, that, there is no doubt in my mind that China is going to be the worlds next super power. China is also sitting on a trillion dollar surplus. It can use that money to buy airplans, heavy machinery, satellites, computer chips ..etc.

    The same is true of India. Most of my retirement money is now invested in “international stocks” which have done much better than bread-and-mortar US stocks in the last few years.

    Last but not the least, there is a hunger to succeed in my chinese team that is absent in my north american team. These young chinese designers are aggressive, polite, disciplined, work longer hours than my american reports.

    I am a little less skeptical of Islamic countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh) embracing the western lifestyle /jobs like China and India have done in the last few years. The chinese people dont have a religion which one of the reasons for them to be more accepting of a western culture.

    The same is true of India – they are not as religious as people in Pakistan.

  4. Well, most of your arguments are very valid BUT your judging the validity through the eyes of someone that has a life that isn’t representative of all the people on the globe. Well, believe it or not, some people in the “1st world” don’t know what a social network like Facebook is yet. And educated ones, mind you.

  5. valid, but judging on the whole global population to live a life like yours and thus see these predictions through the lens of such an eye is invalid. Believe it or not, some people in the “developed” world don’t know what some network like Facebook is.

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