Trip into not-so-distant past helps us prepare for future

Touch screens are keeping us in touch with our data, our future and our loved ones.
Touch screens are keeping us in touch with our data, our future and our loved ones.

WHAT does the future look like? And what products and services that we love now will be gone?

The Futures Foundation is a Melbourne-based organisation that provides tools to help individuals and businesses prepare a more ideal tomorrow.

Charles Brass of the Futures Foundation says the sheer number of people who now inhabit the planet and the collective brainpower means things are changing faster than ever before.

And, as we think of bigger and better things, we're discarding devices or services we used to consider part of our daily life.

Think about fax machines. They've pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur.

Or landlines. Yes, many people still have one but mobile phones have slowly taken over.

Other victims of our progress - cameras that use film, leaded petrol and common old cash. Yes, cash.

How often do you actually get some of it out rather than use your debit or credit card at EFTPOS or buy online?

According to Charles, the physical process of shopping is also diminishing all over the place.

"There is still a role for stores, especially those who offer great guidance or service," he says.

"But if it's just about picking up a product, online shopping is taking over."

The message for stores: make sure you woo customers with terrific staff and service, and know what customers want.

Part of that, according to, includes brands that pro-actively show they have a conscience, products from emerging markets, products that can be given back to nature to grow or make something new and products that are made domestically.

Even though more and more of us are downloading content, Charles believes that just as there is a place for great boutiques there's a place for DVD stores too.

"Services like Netflix will send you a video in a format your computer can read and, increasingly, that computer is connected to your TV," he says.

"But there is still a market for DVDs with special features and the older generation also likes to pick up a physical product."

As for record stores - "again they are diminishing, but specialist stores for collectors and those who cater to the retro market are also springing up".

So what about TV? Charles says it's still here because of the advent of digital channels.

"If you aggregate the numbers, the audience is reasonably healthy."

As for newspapers, they are increasingly offering stories that have multiple elements that are easier to digest and growing their audience online.

So what about exciting new products and developments for the future?

According to The Futurist magazine, some of the things we can expect include stem cell and genetic breakthroughs (2010s), robots making life easier (2020s), driverless cars (2030s), a merger of human and machine extending lifespan (2040-2060) and off-world communities on the moon and Mars (2070).

Of course futurists don't get everything right.

Remember in the 1990s everyone was predicting we'd telecommute and only occasionally check in to a central hub with our colleagues.

"Twenty years later that hasn't happened for two reasons:

"More and more people live in the CBD and futurists underestimated the fact that we are social animals not technology animals."

Ironically, we have no machine to predict the future, we still rely on the crystal ball.


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Topics:  editors picks future lifestyle shopping society technology trends

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