Each year, The Futurist, the magazine of the World Future Society, rounds up the forecasts of its members and attempts to predict the, uh, well, future.
The November-December issue looks to "2008 and Beyond," and already there's good news because implicit in that title is the assumption that there will be a 2008 and beyond.
The titles of some of the articles are not what you would call lighthearted. There's "On Dark Ages. Is Western civilization in the midst of a historic decline, or are we merely hypochondriacs?" And there's this "plus" feature: "Is the United States Bound for Collapse?"
Looking ahead on a more micro level, The Futurist foresees:
"Petroleum-free clothing." These will be synthetic fabrics from such sources as corn, rice, sugar-cane residue and grass, meaning for modesty's sake you might want to stay away from the more aggressive herbivores. The clothes would be biodegradable, but a better idea might be that when they wear out or go out of style to use them to power your car.
"Dissolvable dresses." The dresses would be made from a fabric that dissolves quickly when dropped into hot water. The idea is to save room in the landfills, but this sounds like a better deal for guys than girls. Do not wear these to high school or college or work or any other place with hot running water.
"Virtual immortality may soon be achieved." Sophisticated new information-storage and processing techniques combined with breakthroughs in virtual-reality graphics will allow your appearance, mannerisms, voice, knowledge and experience to be preserved but, alas, not you personally.
"Unrealistic expectations will lead many members of generation X and Y down the wrong career path." And this makes them different from their parents how?
"The power to make things invisible may soon be at hand." Far-off invisibility is right around the corner, The Futurist says, but close-up invisibility is still a decade or so away. If generations X and Y can't do anything with invisibility, they deserve to go down the wrong path.
If the invisibility thing doesn't work out, engineers are working on privacy-protection devices such as a "light-absorbing capacitor that blocks the signals of digital cameras" so even if people can see you they can't take your picture.
"The Middle East could face all-out war for the next three decades after withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from the region. But peace could reign elsewhere: Many jihadist terrorists might turn their attention away from Western enemies and toward battling each other." And the bad news is?
A further prediction: "Terrorists are also likely to rise to power in governments as they buy loyalty to their cause through improved services." If they go from blowing up buses and trains to making them run on time, what's not to like?
Some of the predictions read like a good news/bad news joke when paired. "The world will have a billion millionaires by 2025." Yes, but it may not matter because "we are headed toward a cashless society."
The futurists have many earnest predictions about population, energy and the environment "The Earth is on the verge of a significant species extinction event" because futurists by nature seem to be very earnest people. But not entirely.
"More people could find temporary happiness in 'Free Zones,' much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio." But The Futurist can't quite shake that last little bit of earnestness. It envisions self-indulgence at bars, strip clubs, casinos and amusement parks "where patrons could use mind-altering drugs or engage in other risky activities while carefully monitored."That "carefully monitored" is kind of worrisome, but The Futurists' seers also predicted the disappearance of personal privacy, so the monitoring will be no big thing.