Don’t even think about using the words “bleisure”, “experiential” or “millennial” in the year ahead. These buzzwords are tired – they are for the laggards. It goes without saying that people combine work with holiday, we’ve been doing it for years. Activity-based trips and “living like a local” are here to stay but consumers will be more interested in “transformational” travel in 2018. Millennials have come of age – Generation Z is the demographic you really need to understand.
If you have a dog or a cat, chances are you have had it microchipped so that if it goes missing, a vet can scan its information and return it. The same kind of RFID tags, the size of a grain of rice, are also being embedded in humans. Over in Stockholm, dozens of members of co-working space Epicentre have volunteered to have chips permanently inserted into their hands so they don’t have to carry cash, keys, transport tickets, credit cards, business cards or identity passes. A simple swipe of the wrist will unlock doors and activate vending machines. Earlier this year, a tech company called Three Square Market in Wisconsin, USA, followed suit. It won’t be long until biohacking goes mainstream, with a single per-person microchip replacing everything from driving licenses to hotel door room keys.
Most of us take the internet for granted. Now and then you might come up against a pay wall, but no one is stopping you arriving at that website and all sites are treated equally when it comes to how fast pages load. This is called “net neutrality” – no broadband supplier or mobile carrier has the right to deliberately speed up, slow down or block specific apps or websites such as YouTube, Netflix or Skype, for example. However, under the Trump administration in the US, the Federal Communications Commissions is threatening to remove this protection (originally put in place by Obama in 2015), meaning one day soon, you may have to pay extra to use the sites you want.
A great podcast from Mozilla Firefox, called IRL, has an episode called The Neutral Zone: The Future of Net Neutrality, which illustrates the implications of this brilliantly.
Internet provider: “Thank you for calling Generic Internet, how can I upsell you today?”
Customer: “Oh hi there, I would like to get home internet.”
Internet provider: “Which internet package would you like? Unlimited Freedom or Infinite Elite?”
Customer: “Whatever gets me the entire internet.”
Internet provider: “How adorable – that hasn’t been possible since net neutrality regulations were lifted in 2017. How about the Unlimited Freedom package? For $59.95 a month you get 199 websites including Wikipedia, Facebook and Craig’s List.”
What would you be willing to pay for access to the whole internet?
From virtual assistants to robot butlers, artificial intelligence has many applications but facial recognition is going to be one of the hottest topics of the year ahead. The new iPhone X has Face ID for device unlocking and payments, while Facebook has announced it is trialling facial recognition for users as an added layer of security. Google may also add “Visual ID” to Android Pay. The death of passwords (and possibly passports – airports have been using biometrics at immigration for some time) sounds convenient but the implications of corporations and governments being able to identify and define you visually is alarming.
A study by Stanford University recently revealed that it now has software that can correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81 per cent of the time, and 74 per cent for women, when analysing nothing more than their faces. This is a terrifying prospect for people in countries where LGBT+ rights are not upheld. At the end of September, CCTV cameras across Moscow were hooked up to a massive face recognition system designed to spot criminals – it wouldn’t take much for them to integrate “gay cams” as well. Civil liberties are already being undermined – the end of privacy is nigh.
In April 2017, it was revealed that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is selling US$1 billion of stock a year to fund his own personal space rocket company, Blue Origin. His dream is to bring space tourism to the masses – and he’s not the only one. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will charge $250,000 to board one of its 85-mile-high suborbital flights and, after numerous delays and set-backs, looks on course to launch his inaugural flight into the stratosphere next summer. Branson was recently quoted as saying: “We will never be able to build enough spaceships. The demand is enormous.”
The arrival of commercial space travel is imminent. Next year, California’s SpaceX will be taking two wealthy citizens on a week-long trip to the fringes of Outer Space. By 2024, the company’s founder Elon Musk wants to transport humans further than they have ever been before – to Mars – and has been advertising for would-be colonists. He says: “There is a huge amount of risk. It is going to cost a lot. There is a good chance we will not succeed, but we are going to do our best and try to make as much progress as possible.” Not to be outdone, Dutch company Mars One has a mission to begin establishing a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet by 2031. It sounds extraordinary and implausible but next year could be the one that changes everything – and everyone will want a piece of it.
Evidence indicates that by 2020, half of people working in the UK and US will be self-employed or freelance. A rise in flexible working, gig economy jobs and digital nomads (where people are able to work with a laptop from anywhere in the world), indicate an ability to take extended periods of time off overseas. We Roam, for example, is already taking advantage of this, offering a travel-while-working programme whereby you can base yourself in a different city every month.
Combine this with a deluge of cheap accommodation on the market from Airbnb and new co-living outposts such as WeLive, Roam and Commonspace, and you have the perfect recipe for the city sabbatical. Instead of rushing around sightseeing, an increasing number of professionals are temporarily relocating to cities abroad to get to know them in depth, and explore what it is like to manage their lives, friendships and business endeavours from more cosmopolitan locales.
PC Magazine has described blockchain as an “invisible technology that is changing the world”. As more and more aspects of our lives are managed via the web, there is an increasing volume of data produced from the searches and transactions we make, the messages we send and the articles we read. Every interaction leaves timestamped digital footprints that make up the history of our online existence – these records, or “blocks”, can be encrypted and then “chained” together to create an untouchable, chronological, public database or “ledger”.
However, it’s not stored in one centralised place – it exists across a network of countless computers all across the world so everyone can see it. It is the underlying technology on which cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin exist – in fact blockchain was specifically designed for it – but its potential extends far further.
According to the Harvard Business Review: “With blockchain, we can imagine a world in which contracts are embedded in digital code and stored in transparent, shared databases, where they are protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organisations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction.” In times of increased cybercrime and hacking, blockchain could prove the ultimate defence.