Recently in Economic Category

Over at one of the Well’s public conference topics, Bruce Sterling is doing his annual discussion on the State of the World. It’s a long read — currently three very long tediously mono-spaced pages — but worth it if you have the time.

After the credit crunch

On Newsnight on Friday Mark Urban had a segment looking ahead to what the aftermath of the current financial crisis could mean for international relations. With everything so volatile it’s a perilous time to make predictions but that also makes it more exciting to do so. It feels like anything could happen. Here’s a summary of what he said:

Science fiction writer Charlie Stross has written about how the world today is so interesting and so volatile that it’s currently impossible to write about the near future. Anything one might forecast for, say, 15 years ahead is, he suggests, more unlikely to occur than at any other time in our recent past.

Gaming in 2043

Bruce Sterling recently gave the keynote address at the Game Developers Conference in Austin, Texas, on the subject of computer games thirty five years from now. It’s fairly long, and here’s a summary of a few of the more concrete bits:

Branded products

In my erratic rush to clear up a backlog of links I've missed an opportunity to tie Things Magazine's post about "celebrity brand presence" in with my earlier post about designer contact lenses. Habitat have launched a range of products in the UK, each one designed or influenced to some degree by a famous person. The Habitat website makes it impossible to link to the products, but there's more about them (in French) at Marie Claire Maison. Over to Things Magazine:

Designer branded contact lenses

Ten days ago, the Guardian had a report about Christian Dior planning to release designer contact lenses:

This post concerns the past rather than the future, but I thought it was still relevant. I've posted previously about alternative currencies, and I've just come across a passage in Liza Picard's Restoration London describing the currency of the time:

More on alternative currencies

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Following on from a recent post, here's the International Journal of Community Currency Research. While there's not a huge amount in the journal, they also have a Yahoo Group which could prove interesting.

More on online gaming economies

Another economics interview, this time with Edward Castronova, the economist who wrote a much discussed paper suggesting online game EverQuest contained the world's 77th richest country. He's currently looking at gender discrimination in online gaming which I've no doubt has been examined at exhaustive length already, but perhaps not from an economics perspective. Anyway, this is all interesting stuff, particularly next to the previous post about complementary currencies. There are plenty of links to follow in there too. (via Julian Dibbell)

A long but interesting interview with economist Bernard Lietaer who discusses complementary currency systems around the world. Everything from being able to buy food with Air Miles to the Japanese time bank system of caring for the elderly. I've been aware of LETS schemes for years but Lietaer certainly makes it sound like non-monetary currencies are more widespread than I imagined. He also discusses the different "flavour" such currencies have and how they can help alter society for the better.

Rem Koolhaas' future

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I finally got round to reading the June issue of Wired, a large chunk of which is edited by architect Rem Koolhaas. There are some interesting, but extremely short, articles about global trends, all shoehorned into the vague theme of "space."

Clay Shirky's latest essay contains an interesting "what-if" following the USA FCC's decision to raise ownership limitations on TV networks. TV and radio broadcasting is regulated, has limited outlets and high barriers to entry... how else could they work?

Customised billboards

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Some billboards in California, USA, are going to have the advertisements they display determined by the radio stations car drivers are listening to, according to this San Francisco Chronicle article. A device picks up signals from car radio aerials and works out how many people are listening to which stations. The video-screen billboards can then display adverts chosen to fit the consumer profile of the most popular station(s). If only this kind of ingenuity was put to good use.

Health insurance from eBay

I always thought it interesting that there are people who make their living selling things on eBay. Something about the Internet enabling a new kind of person-to-person commerce that was stable enough to provide people with a livelihood. Now, eBay are hoping to offer health insurance to their biggest sellers. It seems like the next step in a less-formalised economy, one in which relationships neglected by the disintegrating life-long-employer--employee relationship are fulfilled by other means. (via Plastic)

The next hot jobs

An article at suggests some jobs that may see higher demand over the next decade and the reasons for this change. If you're planning ahead they also suggest what qualifications you need to get one of these "hot jobs" -- from various technical masters degrees (bioinformatician or wireless engineer) to, well, not a lot (adventure travel guide).

Spotting the next Enron

Half a dozen signs that a company may be heading for a fall. Perhaps a little more short-term than most things here, and some points are a little obvious ("Watch stock sales by top company executives") but they're handy pointers to keep in mind all the same.

The changing structure of markets over time

Not specifically future-oriented, but full of useful rules-of-thumb about how new business markets change over time. (24K PDF.) Looks at how markets move from fragmentation, through companies growing larger, to the biggest survivors consolidating their positions, and finally onto mergers and alliances. I don't know enough economics to evaluate its accuracy, but it's interesting nonetheless. (via Nettime)

I love this, whether its statistics are meaningful or not. Players of Sony's online game EverQuest spend a lot of real world money on transactions such as selling game assets via eBay. Edward Castronova at Cal State Fullerton University, USA, has written a report on the value of this world, placing it somewhere around Bulgaria in the list of the world's rich list. (via FUTUREdition)

Napster fabbing

An interesting look at the future fusion of "fabbing" (using a machine to create an 3D object using digital instructions) and peer-to-peer concepts as popularised by Napster. (via Haddock)

The USA's National Center for Environmental Research is looking for grant applications for futures-related work. Lots of money for educational and non-profits apparently available for futures research in Natural Sciences and Socio-Economics. (via Haddock)

Some are claiming that the concentration of gays in a city (or, more broadly perhaps, the level of acceptance of alternative cultures) could be a leading indicator of future economic booms. Cities with the highest concentrations of gays are currently experiencing tech booms. Tenuous, but possible. (via Telecom-Cities)

Supplies of fresh water are, of course, disappearing rapidly. Canada has 40 per cent of the world's supply and this article looks at the position the country will be in when it controls so much of a scarce commodity. (via Harvard World Health News)

Demand for power has risen dramatically throughout the USA, leading some firms to source their own supplies. New electronic systems use a surprising amount of power, and according to this Risks List posting the costs of power are rising dramatically. (via Risks Digest)

Four scenarios from a report called 'Work in the Knowledge Driven Economy' produced by the Department of Trade and Industry. However, of the four, only the most optimistic two were presented to ministers and these are almost polar opposites: one where the economy has a large number of small companies and self-employed workers, the other where large companies dominate.

1999 saw a large increase in the use of industrial robots around the world. The increase is attributed to the decreased cost of robots (40 per cent cheaper than 1990), and higher labour costs and labour shortages in the developed world. Significant automation of sectors other than the car industry (which was a major driver of the current increase) is expected. (via Moreover)

Perhaps an oversimplistic comparison of the state of the Internet in the world's largest countries, but interesting nonetheless. The Chinese government has closed 127 Internet cafes in Shanghai, in the same week the Delhi government launches its first cybercafe, undercutting the prices of local private enterprises. (via Moreover)

UK building societies converting to banks tend to close branches in the poorest areas. This leaves many people without access to financial services and other businesses often begin to leave the area. People "become social lepers excluded from mainstream society."

Monsanto's future water business

A description of Monsanto's plans to expand its business providing water in a world where safe water is becoming increasingly scarce. Looks ahead to 2025 "when the supply of water in India will be 700 cubic kilometres per year while the demand is expected to rise to 1050 units." (via EurekAlert)

Financial planning ahead

So-so roundup of personal finance in the UK into the next century.

Common market and currency for East Asia

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, Japan and South Korea have said these are "distinct possibilities". Import duties on most goods will be eliminated by 2010.

Canada to restrict water exports

"The Canadian government yesterday introduced legislation to ban the export of water from the Great Lakes and other boundary waters ... The move is a response to growing domestic fears that Canadian fresh water may be turned into commercial goods subject to international trade agreements." (From, article no longer available.)

Japanese to drill for methane

The Japanese are beginning a project to drill for methane beneath the ocean floor. Estimates of when commercial use will occur vary from 18 months to 10 years. Mistakes when drilling can be catastrophic with the methane expanding to 160 times its size on release.

Call centres boom

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In the UK "call centres employ over 400,000 people, a figure predicted to rise to over a million by 2004."

China to join WTO

A deal has been signed which sets China on course to join the World Trade Organisation subject to member agreement. Easier access to China for foreign companies and to foreign markets for China whose state industries will face increased competition.

Vat-grown meat

Three Dutch scientists are developing a method of mass producing meat without animal suffering. Samples of animal cells are cultivated on a matrix of collagen.

Report on a United Nations Population Fund report saying the world's population will be about 8.9 billion in 2050. This is down from an earlier prediction of 9.4 billion; a third of this gap is due to HIV/Aids which is spreading faster than expected. "In Botswana, where one of every four adults is infected, life expectancy has fallen from 61 years in the late 1980s to 47 today, and is expected to plunge to 38 by 2005-2010. Nevertheless, the population is still expected to nearly double by 2050." "Of the 4.8 bn people in developing countries, nearly three-fifths lack basic sanitation. Almost a third have no access to clean water."

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