Big Questions About the Future – Futurists Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its fifth twitter chat   on Thursday, 22 February, 2011 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. hashtag: #futrchat. You can find information about the first four here  . (education, money, work, transportation)  

  • The topic is: What big  questions  do we need to ask about the future?

Do we need to wonder about Big Questions?

Initially, I was not a fan of this question for a twitter chat; it’s too unruly, too vague, too, well, BIG, to be addressed in a twitter chat. I discounted its 140 character potential.

Then I read Australian futurist Maree Conway’sblog post. “We need to go to a sort of future space, where we move beyond our knowledge of what’s happened and what’s happening now to explore what’s possible.”

Maree calls this future space the realm of “what if.” Those possibilities, instead of problems which assume something is missing or wrong. “What if’s” imagine alternative futures and open our minds to transformational change. By inquiring about the future in a curious and exploratory way, we see beyond today’s realities.

That’s an exciting proposition that promises to expand my futures images. Count me in.

Jugular Questions About the Future

Arno Penzias, Nobel prize winning physicist, says, “I went for the jugular question.”


What is a jugular question? Those are the most powerful questions, the why’s and what if’s, not the litanies of everyday life. For example, it’s not what you had for breakfast but


  • in 1930, you had bacon and eggs
  • in 2000 you had whole wheat toast and a banana
  • in 2040 you may eat hydroponic oranges; bananas for breakfast are a distance memory.

The Big Question would be: What values and conditions will shape food in 2040?

Big Questions address how things change, the meaning and purpose, the sweep of social change manifested in our lives. Jugular questions matter; they are systems and values, strategic questions about ethics, choices, and consequences that expose biases and assumptions. Who cares and why? Rather than who’s to blame or what’s wrong.


Big Questions create ripples.

Marilee Goldberg says it’s “when a question is asked inside the current paradigm that can only be answered from outside it.” Big Questions break open our assumptions, and create new sets of ideas, ripples in the water.

Maree details avery clear list of characteristics. Big Questions make us think differently about the future. They stir things up. And they are memorable; they stick with us and haunt us.

We’re not talking about today or even this year. What Big Questions should we ask about 2020, 2030 or 2050? What questions open our minds to future possibilities? Try to imagine you live in 2075, looking back to those years.

  • What Big Questions would we need to ask?
  • What is your jugular question about the future?

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and voice your views about Big Questions. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education, the future of money, the future of work, and the future of transportation. These chats are fast and intense. I always learn enormously, like scanning futurists’ brains.

Maree Conway and I will co-host, asking the formal questions and follow ups. Please ask questions that come to you, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and teach, inform, persuade, thrill, or terrify us.



What do you think are the Big Questions about the future?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #futrchat in your tweets, and the Question #, as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to, you can use tweetdeck and search for #futrchat (as I do). Or here are two sites where you join the chat.

ABC’s of 21st century cities: January series

As an architect, what intrigues me about the future is the fact that we are constantly imagining and shaping it. Other than our own brilliant new buildings (she says modestly), we usually think it will be a lot like today– only more. Architects are project-oriented. Space is our domain; we think in terms of a particular situation.

As a futurist, what intrigues me about the future is the fact that we can freely replace one future with another and fearlessly explore decades, even centuries, ahead. Futurists are large-pattern, context-oriented. Time is our domain; we think in terms of decades more than years.

I marry these two methods to try to understand where our cities are headed. This month, I offer you an alphabet of future cities, twenty-six slices that reveal, explore, and imagine what we might build and how we might live, work, and play in 2020, 2030, or 2050.

Sound like fun?

Tech in the city

If you track urban development, you hear a lot of the same concepts. Walkable, livable, quality of life (QOL), redensify, green/LEED/BREEAM buildings, green cities, smart cities, smart growth, smart grid, new urbanism, mixed use, complete streets, car-free, bike highways, bus rapid transit (BRT), transit oriented design, transect zoning, multi-modal transportation. Rather than being “the future,” these ideas are happening in some cities today, so-called ‘used futures’.

  •     Our most advanced, high performing cities are technology-intense. In these gazelle cities, people believe innovation is part of their DNA. They aim to show the rest of the world how to build, more specifically, how to live. New transportation, environmental, and communication methods take root. Hi-tech companies and creative people flock to these Meccas.
  •     On the other end of the spectrum in African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cities, people wish for indoor plumbing, clean water, fresh air. The same enemies that London and New York conquered in the 1800s strangle the people of Lagos and New Delhi today but at a mind-boggling scale.
What happens is a massive urban divide. The greater our technological advances, the greater the gap. Somewhere, some city will still be fighting to supply basic services with primitive solutions while cities with the highest levels of tech reach further and further, stretching the extremes.

It’s not all about resources and technology.

The urban divide occurs inside of countries too. Portland, Oregon began a green revolution in the late 1970s resulting in a dense, mixed use, transit oriented city. Dallas continues to bank on more highways and low density perimeter sprawl. The varied approaches reflect different priorities and offer radically different lifestyles. Over time, these bets will pay off or they will cost the cities and their residents dearly.

Paradoxically primitive sometimes works better than intensive technology. The current generation may be the first to employ just-right-tech or even un-tech. As a new form of intelligence, future gens will know when to switch off. Similarly for cities, high-rise, high-speed tech is not always the most livable, functional, beautiful, or viable response.

What will we do?

In the next forty years, the world population is likely to grow by two billion people. Nearly all of those people will live in

the cities of emerging economies, half in slums and nearly all in poverty. In contrast, western countries are faced with aging infrastructure and older populations. America is expected to grow by as much as one hundred million people, one-third as immigrants.

It’s said that this is the century of urbanization. In 2007, for the first time in history, the majority of people live in cities. We built American cities according to what we knew in 1950, just as Europe built cities with technologies and lifestyles of prior centuries. Now we know more.

  •     Unlike any other time in history, cities and buildings are ready to be more than a roof and four walls. They can expand our quality of life or destroy it. Beyond shelter, buildings and cities can feed our spirits and replenish the environment. Or they can be a curse, a deathtrap, a monstrous albatross.
26 significant, provocative, intriguing ideas

In ten, twenty, thirty years, how will you build, work or live differently? What will it mean to your children or to their children? Will your city, your neighborhood, your home feed your soul or anger you?

Imagine if you were suddenly transported to 1950. Would you support the Federal Highway Act? The Urban Renewal Act? Removal of trolleys and cable car systems? All of these decisions shaped how we live today. In hindsight, what would you do?

Standing in 2011, we have equally momentous choices. Maybe even bigger. January 1, let’s begin: A is for Artificial Intelligence.

Images: Urbanization on TriasWiki, Portland Street Cafe, Singapore kids, Urban Population chart.

Future of Work – Futurists’ Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #futureofwork

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its thirdtwitter chat on Thursday, December 9, 2010 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. Use these hashtags: #apf #futrchat. You can find information about the first two futrchatshere.

How do you see the future of work?


An organization called

The Future of Work is composed of HR, IT, and facilities professionals. On their website, they make several provocative claims.

  • Work is no longer a place you go; it’s what you do.
  • The future of work will be radically different than anything we know today, or can even imagine. In the economy of the future people will get their work done where and when they need to-or want to.
  • Managing work and talent in today’s dynamic, distributed, mobile economy is incredibly challenging-but highly rewarding. We offer guidance and advice on how to succeed in a world that’s being turned upside down by technology, globalization, demographics, and environmental concerns.

Questions about the future of work

As we were planning this chat, Jennifer Jarratt and I wondered about the future of professions. Our respective fields, journalism and architecture, are both traditional professions that are not sure of their futures, or if they will even remain professions per se.

  1. Will we continue with disciplinary silos? Do specialty fields still serve a purpose or are they a thing of the past?
  2. How will aging affect work?
  3. How do knowledge migration, crowdsourcing, co-creating, social media, and communication technology change the ways we work?  Are trades or professions more affected?
  4. How does globalization of manufacturing and services affect work? And the corresponding notion of localization?
  5. What is the connection between the current lackluster job market and the future of work? Is a weak job market a temporary anomaly or the shape of things to come?

How will we work in 2020, 2030, or even 2050 differently than today? Here is aTED video by Jason Fried, author of Rework, about the future of work, featured on CNN last week. He proposes non-talk times to enable creative work without distractions. I love that idea. Is it realistic?

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I bookmarked a few links on the future of workhere.

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat to share your ideas about the future of work. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education and thefuture of money. Both were exhilarating experiences. I think people learned and shared at a pace you cannot find. If I had to say one word, it’s intense.

Jennifer Jarratt will pitch provocative questions and I will add color commentary. You can add your own colors, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and reveal your ideas about the future of work. Together, we will make some sense about future possibilities.

After all, we all care deeply about the future of work. Its what we do, how we spend a great deal of time, an identity, and how we create, produce, and build wealth. Are you working in a new paradigm, or are you supporting a current or past way of work?


What do you think will be the future of work?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #apf #futrchat in your tweets and the Question # such as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to, here are two sites where you join the chat.

Images:hate my job andwork and unity on flickr creative commons

Trends Shaping 21st Century Cities: Whole Cities, Living Buildings



Last week, I covered a list of 20 items from The Futurist magazine’s Outlook 2010 (Nov-Dec 09 issue that will shape 21st c cities.×84 Now I am adding other trends, ideas, and forecasts beyond their list. I addressed megacities, water, and robotics in the first three. This article considers the city as a whole system.

The Whole City

We see the modern, industrial city in parts. One segment is for houses, another for industrial, and entirely other areas for shops and offices. Consequently, we drive or take public transit from place to place. In the mid 21st century city, we will use and create whole cities and buildings differently than we did industrial cities.

Several forces are causing cities to change shape. First of all, commutes in cars are expensive, dangerous, and time consuming. No one likes to sit in congestion for hours every week but they do because their jobs and their families are separated by miles. In the past twenty years, new ideas such as New Urbanism and walkability emerged to change that, which will become evident in the next few decades (see Living Cities below). Second, women in the workplace increased reasons to have home and work closer. In addition, higher energy costs, aging population, and environmental problems influence new urban patterns, as will virtual and augmented reality. 

Perhaps most significantly, cities are now seen not just as machines for moving people and produce but as places for living. The Project for Public Spaces looks at how to create engaging public spaces that focuses on distinct places (see diagram). People seek higher quality, diverse urban experiences and engaged communities.  

I consider how looking at whole cities shapes 21st century built environments: the Living Building Challenge and Living Cities.

1.      The Living Building

The Living Building Challenge by Jason McLennan pushes the idea of sustainable building beyond energy efficiency; instead, structures or districts generate more energy than they use. They return energy to the grid to be used by others and are measured on six performance areas: Site, Energy, Materials, Water, Indoor Quality, and Beauty and Inspiration.

An earlier model called the triple bottom line also accounts for the quality of life in terms of: people, planet, and prosperity; or sometimes referred to as: social equity, ecology, and economics.  I worked on a 3,000 acre adaptive reuse of a former naval base in North Charleston SC called Noisette with BNIM and Burt Hill architects that used the triple bottom line approach. The developer, John Knott, went to great effort to incorporate a whole system approach to build a community, not simply bricks and mortar, and subsequently was recognized by ULI and ASLA for urban design excellence. Ecology, heritage, and arts as well as economics drove decisions.

Clearly, the push to consider social equity, wellness, experience, education, social justice, etc in measuring the impact of building choices will reshape future cities. We are beginning to frame questions about cities not in single terms such as congestion or real estate values. Instead, the city is seen as a place of distinct experiences for building communities.

2.      Living Cities, New Urbanism, Smart Growth

Larger questions concern the shape of the city. How will peak oil affect cities? How do we attract growth, jobs, and new residents? Do we continue to invest in new infrastructure and abandoning existing districts? Boulder and Portland have zoning regulations to control growth at the perimeter. Brookings Institute is one of the major proponents of contained development, called Smart Growth.

A number of models and theories support various cures for industrialized, car-based cities, and clearly I shouldn’t even try to summarize it too briefly. My point is simple (and hopefully not overly simplified): these ideas have certain commonalities and compatibilities, although not always creating precisely the same impact on cities.

The New Urbanist movement promoted the first major concept for post-industrial cities in terms of public spaces, pedestrian-oriented, and mixed uses so that major services were within walking distances.  Related patterns emerged as walkability, density, green cities, compact cities, traffic calming, and even slow cities, which are based on the idea of slow food and a less frenetic pace. All of them address anti-dotes for industrial cities, and have by and large compatible intentions.

Each concept relates to the idea of the quality of life, the experience of the city, and reconnecting life and cities.

Furthermore, the idea of the agile, resilient city, the adaptable city is emerging. In other words, while modern cities traditionally are planned, infrastructure built, and development begins, new cities may emerge in a more flexible way. Any city that relies chiefly on cars as transportation will continue to be dominated by transportation systems, an extremely costly, rigid form. Similarly, fixed rail system creates a very obdurate infrastructure.

In reverse, if some elements become more transient or mobile, others may become increasingly durable. For instance memorials and cultural institutions may represent the citys heritage, thus making gps devices even more necessary for wayfinding. Every change creates a counter movement. In this case, some buildings may be assembled, and easily moved, while others may be built to last. (see posts on augmented reality


Looking Ahead

To create completely new urban shapes, many elements come into play: technology, demographics, sustainability, economics, and attitudes. Furthermore, while these trends address positive actions, cities are also places of decline and sometimes complete societal collapse. 

While I previously said I would write about geo-engineering and infrastructure in this post, I saw that to think of those topics comprehensively, whole cities came first. Technology including geo-engineering will be next.

Three Ideas That Will Shape 21st Century Cities: Urban Divide, Megacities, and Poly-Centric Regions


The past two days, I covered a list of 20 items from The Futurist magazine’s Outlook 2010 (Nov-Dec 09 issue that will shape 21st c cities. Now I am adding other trends, ideas, and forecasts beyond their list. First, a bit of context.

The Urban Century

As of 2007, more of us live in cities than not, which is an historic first. Furthermore, during the next four decades, the world population is predicted to add 3 billion more people and nearly all of that growth will be in cities.

In other words, during the past 10,000 years of civilization, we grew to the point that 3 billion people live in cities. Now we will add that many again by 2058.

Think about it: Are our cities prepared to deal with doubling size in the next forty years?

Cities In Crisis and Opportunity

Urban change will not be entirely incremental, just more and more of the same; cities will fundamentally transform, in many parts beyond recognition.

The reason I say this with such sureness is by looking backward. To see what lies ahead, futurists become great students of history. We look backward in order to see forward. If you look at 1950, cities are nearly unrecognizable. And 1900, even moreso.

A Very Brief and Recent History

When forecasting, I think about time in blocks or at particular milestones.

  • In 1900, London was the largest city, eight of the top ten largest were in Europe or the US, most people lived without in-door plumbing and many without power, and one of the largest problems was horse manure overwhelming streets.
  • By 1950, New York emerged as the first megacity and power and plumbing were solved in developed countries. However, cities beyond the industrialized west began to fall behind in their technology. The societies remained primarily agricultural.
    • You might say that’s the period when the urban divide emerged. Before industrialization, all cities were primitive – that is, they employed basic construction technology - and societies were primarily rural. Now cities diverged into two distinct paths. Power, transportation, and increasingly complex infrastructure arrived in some cities, and lagged in others. For those cities who industrialized, life changed immeasurably during the first half of the 20th century; it was a transformational change, not just more of the same.   
  • By 2000, Tokyo was the world’s largest and a sea change hit the rest of the top ten list. Only London and New York remained from prior lists. The other largest cities are entirely in developing countries. By 2015, London falls out of the top ten. Furthermore, Tokyo and New York hold their spots by retaining, not adding, people. They are barely growing.

1.      The Great Urban Divide

Growth in Asian cities is exploding. Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai, Calcutta, and Jakarta lead the world through a combination of rural-urban migration and population increases (not true for China of course that has low fertility rate). Each country has its own problems. While China has organized massive long-term development plans, they build sub-standard buildings and their cities’ air is the most polluted in the world. India struggles with squatters villages, infrastructure, transportation, education, and jobs.

Cities in developing countries grow at a rapid clip of 3 percent annually yes, those cities will gain the lions share of the next 3 billion people – while developed countries that have long been urbanized are maintaining existing population. Therefore, developing countries’ concerns are with massive amounts of new infrastructure, institutions and services while developed countries are repairing, renovating, and re-inventing. The Great Urban Divide looks to continue until the world population balances in mid- 21st century.

2.      The Rise of Megacities

Defined as cities with populations over 10 million people, 20-25 mega-cities will exist by 2015 (depending on how you define the circumference).  While 6.9% lived in mega-cities in 1990, over 12% will be in the 23 largest cities by 2015. That represents an increase urban population from 98 million to 378 million people.

Imagine, in this 25-year period, 23 cities are adding 12 million new people each! Just the housing and infrastructure required is mind- boggling, much less jobs, education, health care, banks, shops, and so on. Look at your city and think about that magnitude of change. 

Moreover, almost all of that growth is occurring not in Toyko, New York, or London, but in India, China, and Indonesia. Even mega-cities are experiencing an urban divide. There are two forms: those more or less built by now, and those that are still building. They have one thing in common: all are scrambling for resources.

3.      Polycentric Cities

While developing countries are squeezing enormous numbers of people into incredibly dense megacities, developed countries are sprawling and eventually converging in what Sir Peter Hall dubbed the polyopolis, or poly-centric regions. The distinction between mega-cities and poly-centric cities is due to transportation and historic growth. Polycentric regions emerge with multiple cities and urban cores, linked by networks in economically beneficial collaborations. Hall identified eight European areas as mega-city regions and three or four in North America.

Polycentric regions tend to be areas of highly developed technology and with historic social and political patterns. The problems are split governance and enabling a division of resources. In effect, with regional relationships paramount yet without centralized government, a new field of urban diplomacy and legal negotiations is emerging. 

Looking Ahead

While it may seem like this tale of divided problems means we don’t need to worry about urban troubles half way around the globe, that is folly. Two things are shared and deeply linked: the environment and the world economy. Collaboration, risk, opportunity all converge.

No one has yet to build the perfect city. We can learn from each other.

Next I focus on some technological ventures: floating cities, robotics, and geo-engineering.


What’s Next for 21st Century Cities? Part 2


Yesterday, I posted ten trends from The Futurist magazine Outlook 2010, which I selected from approximately 80 topics and modified them to apply to cities. The trends were organized into ten domains. I covered five of them in Part I: Environmental, Government, Habitats, Health and Medicine, and Information Society.


Today, I look at the other four domains. (One area in Outlook 2010, “Business”, didn’t cover any issues with distinct implications for cities, as strange as that may seem.)


Lifting ideas from The Futurists’ prognostications and modifying them for 21st century communities, here are ten forecasts that will shape cities. I added comments in italics.


Lifestyles and Values

1.      Transit Oriented Cities. While 7 out of 8 Americans own cars today, only two-thirds will own cars in coming decades. We already see car sharing, more bikes and a strong push for public transit. The biggest change over time will be in denser, mixed used communities, based on infill and adaptive reuse to retrofit areas and for new developments.

2.      Active Older Population. The oldest segment, Centenarians, is also the fastest growing and will double. Furthermore, this group along with people over 70 is healthier, more active and has more resources. They will demand buildings and public spaces that accommodate older bodies and activities and experiences that cater to their needs.

3.      Virtual Reality as Testing Platform. While The Futurist listed VR as an area to expand research on ethics and moral dilemmas, I think that that we will also see the AEC professions, government agencies and private developers test development ideas via virtual environments. Primitive technology at this time, it may soon be a mandatory means of sharing development plans. Design professionals always wanted more public participation – be careful what you wish for! It could be a tidal wave.

Science and Technology

4.      Brain-to-Brain Telepathy. Or brain-to-thing messages. For example, we can think our house warm, lights on, windows closed, or oven cooking. Particularly useful for people with health problems such as dementia or physical disabilities. The twitter house experiment demonstrates the possibilities.

5.      3D Prototype Printing. These printers which are now used for fabricating manufactured parts and making architectural models will enable people to print objects ranging from building parts to containers to furniture. Distribution, shopping patterns and object design will change as a result.

Work and Careers

6.      Growing Workforce; Shrinking Talent Pool. Financial concerns and healthy aging may add to the workforce with delayed or partial retirement. Yet a shortage of technology workers is looming. Workplaces would need to accommodate an older workforce, and public transit and nearby services become even more important. A countertrend is increased robotics which could reduce available jobs. Furthermore, education needs a full re-vamping, integrated into all levels of activity from personal finance to upgrading our employment potential.

7.      Terrorism Thwarted. Jihadist rehabilitations programs sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and others may shrink global terrorism. To me, that sounds as amazing as a cure for cancer! However, perceived problems can still change behavior and people may seek protection with gated communities, secure buildings, and fortified corporate and government facilities.

8.      China Largest Economy by 2025. China will shift to consumer driven while the US slips from the top 20 countries in GDP per capita. In addition to being a location for possible development projects, China will exert cultural influence in design, innovation, and education that will influence cities and architecture globally.

World Affairs

9.      Post-Peak Oil Era. While developed countries will shift to alternative energy sources, nations such as Saudi Arabia will be faced with high unemployment, increased poverty, and slums. These countries may become more open or more insular.

10.     Information Warfare. Security of infrastructure from energy to transportation will become increasingly troublesome. We may find centralized solutions and ubiquitous rfid “smart” technologies can create too many weaknesses. In fact, data security could cause more “off-grid” behavior unless absolutely necessary, which would change internet dependent entertainment, communications, education, and work habits. A walk in the park may find a new generation of enthusiasts.

Adding yesterday’s list, that’s twenty images of the future that will change the way we use and build cities:

Colorful Solar Energy                      Transit Oriented Cities

Flooded Coastal Cities                   Active Older Population

Local Fragmentation                       Virtual Reality as Testing Platform

China’s Ascent                                  Brain-to-Brain Telepathy

Healthy Cities                                   3D Prototype Printing

Car-Free Cities                                  Growing Workforce; Shrinking Talent Pool

Suburban Woes                               Terrorism Thwarted

Sensors and Nano-technology     China Largest Economy by 2025

Augmented Reality                          Post Peak Oil Era

Telecommuting                                Information Warfare


However, the list is far from complete in defining tomorrow’s cities – not that The Futurist made any bones about it being a comprehensive survey, and they did not focus on cities in particular.

In fact, the lack of attention to the built environment struck me as a complete oversight, and inspired me to write these two articles. Cities are ascending, we are an urbanized planet for the first time in history. Surely that deserves our attention in 2010.

What’s missing? Off the top of my head: megacities, slums, robotics, geo-engineering, smart infrastructure, diffused energy sources, tribal communities, prefabrication, nanotech, and urban farming, just to name a few.

Many other critical trends will shape 21st century cities, which warrants another post – big ideas looming outside the scope of Outlook 2010.

In the meantime, what do you think of the 20 trends from The Futurist? Are any more critical, exciting, or terrifying? And what do you think might be missing?


Image: Buckminster Fuller: Dome over Manhattan, 1960, Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller


What’s Next for 21st Century Cities? Part 1



The Futurist magazine published their Outlook 2010 this month with forecasts in ten domains. Somehow none of the areas focus exclusively on cities or architecture, despite the fact that the world for the first time in history is now more urban than rural.

In fact, I would call this the urban century. One of the most critical issues we are facing is how to live in and create great cities.

No doubt, historically there are times when cities were truly spectacular – Athens, Rome, Rome again, Florence to name a few. They pulsed with culture, commerce, and a sense of community.

Then technology aided industrialization and automobiles, and now globalization and social networking. Cities are simply more complicated now. Actually that’s true about life all the way around.

Yet, even now, sometimes we build something brilliant. New York City’s Central Park, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sydney Opera House, Beijing Olympics. At a particular moment, communities create genius in built form. Even with all the forces that tear us in multiple directions, it’s possible.

Lifting ideas from The Futurists’ prognostications and modifying them for 21st century communities, here are ten forecasts that will shape cities. I added comments in italics.


1.      Colorful Solar Energy: MIT devised thin solar film that amounts to paint so translucent it can do double-duty as tinted windows.

2.      Flooded Coastal Cities: If we see 14 degrees centigrade warming, the oceans would rise 75 meters, which puts every coastal city at risk. Actually, I would modify this to far lower figures, say 2-6 meters, based on research, but still with devastating possibilities.  Heavier storm patterns will also increase damage, including risks to river cities.


3.      Local Fragmentation. Local governments will exert more influence than national governments. Brookings Institute notes that fragmented metropolitan regions with multiple small municipalities damage the area’s ability to collaborate and attract jobs.

4.      China’s Ascent. China, maybe Russia, will join the US as leading world powers by 2025. As the EU gains a unified voice, it will become a member of this group.


5.      Healthy Cities. Cliff Moughtin, Urban Design, cites urban gardens and walkability as improvements to quality of life. Example: Freiburg, Germany. I would add the slow city and new urbanist movements.

6.      Car-Free Cities. Electronic sensors in Singapore charge cars as they enter the city. Paris aims to cut auto traffic by 40% by 2020, replaced with bikes.

7.      Suburban Woes. As energy costs soar, districts with spread-out services will spend more in transportation. That is, unless they build public transit and infill to create density, and address problems of aging infrastructure and next-generation residents as urban cores have learned.

Health and Medicine

8.      Sensors and Nano-technology. Health monitoring and even minor diagnosis and procedures will be done virtually, placing an additional duty on houses, especially bathrooms and kitchens. Furthermore, hospitals will be modified accordingly, shrinking examination rooms and beds while adding clinics.

Information Society

9.      Augmented Reality. Sensors, digital maps, and real-time data combine with social media to enrich our experience of cities.

10.     Telecommuting. US jobs filled by telecommuters could increase four-fold to 19 million by 2012. That many folks may have partial telecommuting in two years. Reduced road infrastructure could save $5 billion and wed recapture 1.5 billion commute hours. Changes to cities without rush-hour commuting would be enormous. Residences become base-camps for work and living, and neighborhoods – urban or suburban – become 24/7 communities.

That’s ten changes that apply to cities from the first five areas that The Futurist covered. They had many other points under these headings; I selected based on relevancy to cities.

Tomorrow I will add items from the second portion of their 2010 forecast. That post will cover: Lifestyles and Values, Science and Technology, Work and Careers, and World Affairs.

And looking at the list – where are robotics, geo-engineering, smart infrastructure, diffused energy, public space, public art, sacred places, tribal communities, local/global connections, prefabrication, mega-cities, slums, security issues, and urban farming to name a few?

Really, how could 21st century communities not be at the top of their list??