FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, March 31, 2006

Worst Tech of 2006?

We've barely cleared the first quarter of this year, and already ZDNet has compiled its choices for the worst technologies of 2006, so far. Styling, functionality and originality (or lack thereof) are among the criteria considered. If nothing else, it's some fun Friday-afternoon eye candy.

Pervasive Computing's Impact on the Environment

As we move ever steadily toward a pervasive computing environment -- in which a variety of objects contain on-board interactive computers -- this article from the IEEE ponders what effect it could have on a sustainable environment.

From increased energy demands for powering pervasive computers, to disposal issues, to exposure to non-ionizing radiation, to the psychological stress that may result from an "always on" networked environment, pervasive computing (if improperly developed and managed) is fraught with unintended consequences for the environment, personal health and emotional well-being.

Source: Buckminster Fuller Institute

Web 2.0 = Hype 2.0?

Facebook, a social networking tool aimed at high school and college students, has made waves by demanding a $2 billion selling price. That's a price tag that's too rich for News Corp, which recently bought the similarly-themed MySpace and is still shopping for Web 2.0 technologies.

Said Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, "We're certainly not paying $2 billion for Facebook... If the price was right I'd be interested in it. It's a great site and I know the guys there well. But I don't know if they're up for sale." Indeed, there have been conflicting stories about Facebook's status. One report stated that Facebook turned down a $750 million buyout offer as too low, while others deny the company is for sale at all.

Such reports are eerily reminiscent of those circulated during the heyday of the Web 1.0 bubble, when anyone with a bit ot tech savvy and a shred of a business plan was commanding epic prices for startups. Granted, Web 2.0 companies are more grounded in reality, but if Facebook is any indication, they seem to be falling prey to the same hype that ultimately doomed their predecessors. Question is, will the bubble burst or gently deflate? Perhaps the best scenario is for investors like Levinsohn to hold the line, willing to invest in promising technologies while not letting valuations climb out of control.

Sources: Techdirt, Reuters

Text the Vote

Election Day in the US is 7 months away, but already an experimental venture called TXTVoter is ramping up, with the goal of registering young voters at concerts and other events attracting teens and young adults this summer. The initiative is funded by grants from Pew, coordinated by Young Voter Strategies, and supported by Music for America.

The idea is simple: At these venues, attendees will be given instructions for requesting voter registration materials via SMS. The materials will then be (quaintly) mailed to their homes. Come Election Day, participants will receive text-message reminders to vote. Several prominent bands, including Green Day and Death Cab for Cutie, have signed on to promote TXTVoter.

It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, TXTVoter has on youth voter registration, or if the concept is dismissed as a gimmick using technology for technology's sake. Also, since many of the groups behind TXTVoter are pointedly liberal, will this alienate more conservative youth, and might conservative organizations see an opening for a competing initiative of their own?

Sources: Smart Mobs, Personal Democracy Forum

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Millenials are Grounded, Family-Focused

Today's teens ("Millenials") are not the "slackers" that their Gen X elders were accused of being. Nor are they workaholics who worship the almighty dollar. Instead, their priorities revolve around family, security and enjoying life.

The GenWorld Teen Study found that young people surveyed globally chose the following as their top values:

  1. Protecting family and loved ones
  2. Freedom in action and thought
  3. Enjoying life
  4. Stable personal relationships
  5. Having fun

Their top five life expectations were to:

  1. Make my family proud
  2. Be financially secure ("Be rich" was much farther down on the scale)
  3. Travel the world
  4. Lead a stable life
  5. Get married

Millenials seem to be taking the long view in life, foregoing immediate material rewards in search of stability and meaning. For this group, family and friends come first, before career success. As they enter the workforce, this group may well prefer employers who offer such benefits as liberal vacations and flexible working arrangements rather than large salaries.

Source: VisibilityPR

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Will Your Town Be Flooded When the Ice Caps Melt?

A mashup of Google Maps and elevation data from NASA illustrates how land masses around the world will flood if sea levels rise. The amount of sea level rise is adjustable.

Using New Jersey as a starting point, if sea levels were to rise 10 meters, all of the state's coastal regions would be under water. At 12 meters, most of the southern part of the state (along with most of the Delmarva Peninsula) are swampland. At 14 meters (the highest level on the map), most of South and Northeast Philadelphia, as well as Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn, Newark, and large sections of Baltimore and Washington DC (including the Mall, the White House area, and Potomac Park) are inundated.

These levels are not necessarily exaggerated, as some global warming models show sea levels rising as high as 20 feet.

Web Clips are the New Reality TV

Increasingly, web video clips of the type found on iFilm and Channel101.com are turning up on TV. Aside from being slipped in on "wacky news" segments on network and cable news shows, funny, viral clips are now the stars of their own TV shows, like Bravo's Outrageous and Contagious and VH1's Web Junk 20. NBC is reportedly developing a similar prime time show hosted by Carson Daly, and Saturday Night Live is developing its own web content with its Digital Shorts, which are available via iTunes.

Like reality TV, shows based on web clips are appealing to TV programmers because they're cheap to acquire and produce. Many are homemade, but others are (frequently embarrassing) outtakes of other TV shows and commercials -- either way, they are grainy, raw and honest. In a sense, putting web clips on TV is the logical extension of shows like America's Funniest Home Video and Real TV, which were innovations when they first appeared in the early '90s. Web clips, though, are different in that, instead of being originally vetted by the TV networks, they have made the rounds on the Internet, where the clips with the most edge and weirdness become the most viral. Instead of TV being the starting point for these clips, it is the end point.

That said, can TV really make a go out of shows based on web clips? Although many of the clips are irresistible, will people (especially young people) watch them and simply say, "I've seen these before..." and change the channel?

RELATED: MediaShift has an interview with Chad Hurley, CEO of YouTube, who says that his video-sharing site represents "the next-generation platform for serving media worldwide."

Sources: Boston.com, unmediated

Meteorologists Say Northeast Could See "Whopper" Hurricane

Meteorologists, who were spot-on in forecasting last year's harsh Atlantic hurricane season, are predicting that the 2006 season could deliver a "whopper" of a storm to the Northeastern US.

Weather experts note that warmer temperatures in the Atlantic and cooler temperatures in the Pacific make conditions ripe for a hurricane to track more northward than usual. The patterns are similar to those present during the devastating "Long Island Express" of 1938, the region's worst recorded hurricane. That Category 5 storm (before today's storm-naming convention was established) produced wind gusts of 183 MPH and left 600 dead along the Long Island and New England coasts.

Recent hurricanes have weakened considerably before they reached the Northeast, but experts predict that a storm as powerful as a Category 3 could make landfall anywhere from Northern New Jersey to the coast of Maine.

Source: AP (via Yahoo)

A New Spin on the Video Travelogue

TurnHere is a beta site that provides "tours" of communities via short videos. Explore New York's famous East Village and Hell's Kitchen, party in South Beach, or take a "Sporanos Tour" of Northern New Jersey. Videos are organized by theme (art nouveau, foodie havens, party towns, surf's up) rather than by geography.

What makes TurnHere unique is that its videos are produced by locals who know their communities intimately. Aspiring videographers who have stories to tell about their neighborhoods are encouraged to submit their work (and get paid for it, too!)

Source: unmediated

"Neuro-Chips" Add Silicon to Brain Cells

Enhancing the brain with computer chips is no longer solely in the realm of science fiction. A team of Italian researchers has developed a "neuro-chip" that can be implanted in the brain and interact directly with neurons.

The 1-mm chip contains 16,000 transistors, and can both stimulate and receive information from surrounding brain cells. Currently, the technology is too immature and unstable for use in humans, but it might one day be used to correct neurological disorders such as epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. In the shorter term, the chip could be used to help test the effects of new drugs.

Source: LiveScience.com

The Disruptive Nature of Social Computing

Social networks and software are all the rage these days. But do they really have the potential to disrupt organizations?

Absolutely, says Terry Heaton, citing a Forrester report that confirms what many of those who study social networking have believed for some time: that social computing is shifting innovation and development from top-down to bottom-up, using organic networks and the "wisdom of crowds" to develop opinion and shape product and service demand.

Combining location awareness with social networking could be the next killer app. Nova Spivack suggests several such uses, some of which are already in use, including the ability to physically track those on one's network, tag photos and videos with location data, and get social information about a location (such as recommendations about a restaurant). Of course, these ideas require robust, open ontologies and devices that are (almost) always online for best results.

With models such as the Open Innovation concept in mind, organizations ought to find social computing a powerful tool for idea cultivation and product development. Even less formal innovation approaches such as brainstorming could be enhanced by using social applications to create avatars and alternate identities, giving particiants a level of anonymity that (hopefully) boosts their creativity and level of participation.

The Forrester report notes a downside of the growing social network; that as it grows, we risk suffering from a "pollution of the commons," or the social networking equivalent of spam. To that end, social software will need to build in filtering systems and rely on endorsements through digg- and del.icio.us-style tagging, and other checks and balances.

However, Danah Boyd cautions that the success of social software is not necessarily a given. She compares the current success -- and emerging challenges -- of MySpace with the rise and fall of Friendster. So far, MySpace has been successful when Friendster was not because "MySpace did not try to force people's connecting practices into pre-existing ideas of what should be. They let the practice evolve as users saw fit, without criticism, without restriction. As it evolved, people did new things with it. They used it to flirt, to advertise bands and activities, to offer cultural kudos." Friendster, by contrast, suffered from technical problems, but also because many people joined at once based on powerful media buzz, and then "they couldn't see anything or anyone. It was also not where all of their friends were and often they got bored before their friends arrived; there was never enough of a tipping point for many mainstream clusters."

MySpace is also succeeding, Boyd writes, because it is organic and chaotic, whereas Friendster tried to micromanage a process that is inherently unmanageable:

People were hanging out on Friendster before they hung out on MySpace. But hanging out on Friendster is like hanging out in a super clean police state where you can't chew gum let alone goof around and you're told exactly how to speak to others. Hanging out on MySpace is more like hanging out in a graffiti park with fellow goofballs while your favorite band is playing. That said, there are plenty of folks who don't want to be hanging out in a graffiti park and they are not sticking around on MySpace as a result.

The biggest threat to MySpace, according to Boyd, is "moral panic," or the growing backlash against it under the auspices of security and safety. Free speech, privacy and a degree of anonymity, she says, are key to the success of MySpace, and by extension, any social network. "I think we're seeing a huge shift in social life - negotiating super publics," she concludes. "I kinda suspect that MySpace teens are going to lead the way in figuring this out, just as teens in the 60s and 70s paved the way to figuring out globalized life with TV. I just hope law doesn't try to stop culture."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Permanent Moon Base By 2020?

NASA is planning to develop a Moon base by 2020 to serve as a way-station for missions to Mars... though with competing priorities and limited budgets, that timetable may be optimistic.

Building a permanent base will be an enormous undertaking, considering not only the hostile lunar environment, but the need to develop whole new technologies to build and power the colony, establish a supply chain, and learn how to deal with the health and psychological implications of life on the Moon.

Some observers believe that the impetus for a Moon colony goes beyond the scientific. Just as the Apollo missions to the Moon were part of a space race between the US and the Soviet Union, a driving force in future lunar missions will be similarly political. "The new thing is China, and they've announced they're going to the moon. The Europeans want to go; the Russians want to go; and if we don't go, maybe they'll go with the Chinese," Mars Institute Chairman Pascal Lee said in an interview. "Could we bypass the moon and go to Mars while India and China are going to the moon? I don't think so."

A strong candidate for the first lunar colony is the Moon's south pole, which has virtually permanent sunlight and possible ice reserves from impacted comets.

Source: MSNBC

Internet, Country Style

Getting a high-speed Internet connection in a major metropolitan area is hardly a problem these days. But outside the big cities, it's another story. Cable and DSL connectivity is not available to as many as 15 million households in rural communities in the US. And there, Hughes Communications sees a business opportunity.

Hughes, which primarily manages corporate satellite networks, will initially focus its Internet offerings on small businesses in rural communities that need Internet connectivity, and extend its service to residential consumers. However, Hughes' service will only appeal to those without any other broadband options, as it will be more expensive than cable or DSL ($60/month vs. $15-40/month).

Source: Washington Post

"Talkative" Smart Items

Call it "RFID 2.0" if you will, but even as RFID remains an emerging technology, the European Union is forging ahead with a service-oriented architecture that will allow "smart items" to communicate not just with a central reader, but with each other.

The Collaborative Business Items (CoBIs) project has been in development since 2004, and combines sensing and short-range wireless technologies to create a peer-to-peer network to observe subtle changes in the items' environment, and feed that information back to a central system.

The result would be to transform inventory items into individual nodes. The resulting self-aware network could detect unsafe conditions such as overloads or the presence of dangerous substances, prevent theft and loss, and be incorporated into smart clothing -- all presumably more effectively than conventional RFID technology.

Although those involved with CoBIs are confident that the technology will soon be ready for commercial deployment, a timetable has not yet been announced, and the number of potential users is unknown.

Source: ZDNet

Worms + Pigs = Heart-Healthy Pork

Imagine a meat that's not only low in fat, but that is actually good for your heart. That's what geneticists may have created by adding DNA from the roundworm C. elegans to pigs. The genetically modified pigs yield meat containing omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to prevent heart disease, depression and Alzheimer's disease.

This is not the first effort to genetically alter the fat content of animal meat, and it's a long way from appearing in your local grocer or deli. “We understand that this research is in the very early stages,” FDA spokeswoman Rae Jones said. “This technology will not likely reach meat counters for many years.” Even if the technology were market-ready today, FDA approval alone could take a decade or longer. Plus, consumers would have to get past the idea of pork modified with worms...

Source: MSNBC

Coffee is Hotter than Ever

Over the past decade, sales of coffee worldwide have more than doubled, from $30 billion in 1996 to $70 billion today. Give credit to the marketing power of Starbucks... as well as our hectic lifestyles that deprive us of sleep and require constant caffeine fixes. Recent research documenting health benefits of coffee haven't hurt either.

Now, beverage giant Coca-Cola is getting in on the act, with an array of patents and registered trademarks for to-be-released coffee products as well as a coffee-flavored cola called "Coca-Cola Blak." McDonald's is likewise trying to attract discriminating coffee drinkers with premium roasts.

Growing along with coffee is the popularity of coffee houses -- so great that coffee houses have begun to replace the legendary pubs along London's Fleet Street. Although this is something of a chicken-and-egg phenomenon (does coffee beget coffee houses, or vice versa?), coffee houses have gained popularity as meeting places and secondary workplaces with Internet connectivity -- indeed, usurping the role of the local bar in many communities.

SORTA KINDA RELATED: Downing java by the gallon just to stay awake? You might want to "Take Back Your Time" during Sleep Awareness Week, March 27 - April 2.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"MIT Technology Review" 10 Emerging Technologies

This special report on top emerging techologies from MIT Technology Review is not your average list. Sure, it contains some familiar technologies (nanomedicine, universal ID), but it also boasts what might be some new terms, including:

  • Epigenetics, or early cancer detection through measuring subtle changes in DNA
  • Diffusion tensor imaging, a new way to image and understand brain disorders
  • Comparative interactomics, or developing new medicines based on the body's molecular interactions
  • Cognitive radio, a technique allowing wireless devices to negotiate for space on the crowded radio spectrum

"Microsatellites" May Point to NASA's Future

Early this morning, NASA launched three 55-pound "microsatellites" into orbit using not a traditional ground-based rocket, but a Pegasus missile strapped to the belly of a Lockheed L-1011 jet airplane. At 39,000 feet, the missile was released from the plane's belly and fired its engine to fly 10 miles into Earth orbit.

The microsatellites are part of NASA's New Millenium Program, designed to test new technologies for future space missions; these particular satellites will measure the Earth's magnetic field from different points.

Part of the project's outcome may be that this type of a launch -- taking a page out of the playbook of private space entrepreneurs -- will prove far more economical than traditional rocket launches or the Shuttle, making Earth orbit accessible to businesses as well as countries that cannot currently afford their own space programs. As a result, NASA's focus may ultimately shift to that of a high-tech think tank and science advocate, leaving actual space flights to the private sector.

Source: CNN.com

40 Pct. of Amazon Rainforest Could Vanish by 2050

Ranching, logging and farming, while profitable ventures for the South American economy, have been eroding the Amazon rainforest for years. A report in Nature estimates that up to 40% of the rainforest could disappear within 45 years if development goes unchecked.

Britaldo Soares-Filho, of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, ran computer models simulating the effects of agricultural and industrial encroachment on virgin forests in three different scenarios. In the worst case, up to 777,000 square miles of forest could be lost by 2050, threatening the continent's ecosystem and endangering 100 native plant and animal species. Best-case scenarios, though, show that reduction could be minimized through land preservation and controlled growth.

The Amazon rainforest is important not just to South America, but the entire planet, as it absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Without the rainforest, carbon emissions would go unchecked, thereby accellerating global warming.

Faced with this, South American countries have a dilemma: how to protect the rainforests without harming desperately needed jobs and economic growth. Scientists taking the long view would invariably argue that the rainforest is the greater priority, though protecting it will be politically treacherous if means lost jobs and incomes.

Source: Reuters

Turning Urinals into Video Games

In today's entertainment-driven society, everything can be made into a form of recreation. And I do mean everything...

Consider the video game urinal developed by Marcel Neundörfer. While a man is using a rest room, he can play a game by, uh, taking care of business:

Recessed into a urinal is a pressure-sensitive display screen. When the guest uses it, he triggers an interactive game, producing images and sound.

Hey, what the heck... most guys would get a kick out of it! But the device arguably has some practical advantages as well:

The reduced size of the “target” improves restroom hygiene and saves on cleanings costs (like the “fly in the urinal” at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport). It also makes a trip to the urinal “fun and games” – more than just a necessary nuisance.

The design also has some "critical-ironic" artistic aesthetics evocative of Duchamp. And Lord knows that typical public men's rooms need all the artistic help they can get...

Now, of course, comes the next obvious challenge -- a version for the ladies!

Source: Boing Boing

Acceptance of Gay/Lesbian Lifestyle Increasing

Americans are increasingly accepting of homosexuality, according to recent findings by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Opposition to such divisive issues as gay marriage has fallen considerably in the past couple of years, and a majority (60%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military. Support for gay and lesbian couples adopting children is now split evenly, whereas a clear majority opposed it in 1999.

The trend toward greater acceptance cuts across most all major demographic groups, with white evangelical Protestants being the primary exception.

Bacteria-Powered Nanotech

What better power source for nano-scale robots than something microscopic? Researchers at Rice University and the University of Southern California are experimenting with a strain of bacteria that, like a miniscule electric eel, generates its own electricity.

Shewanella oneidensis eats metal (mmmm...), and excretes electrons stripped from the metal in the form of electricity. Theoretically, these organisms could be built into a battery to provide a long-lasting charge, powering a device that is either extremely small, requires an exceptionally long-lasting power source, or both.

Using organisms as an energy source is a burgeoning field. Indeed, no less a figure than Dr. Craig Venter, the scientist who first mapped the human genome, is behind a startup in this area.

Source: CNET

Windows Vista Delayed Until 2007

If you were planning to ask Santa for a new Windows Vista-powered PC this coming Christmas, you'll have to take a raincheck. Microsoft is delaying the release of its next-generation operating system until January 2007.

Some Vista versions for business will be released this year, but the consumer flavors won't make their appearance until after the 2006 holiday season -- a serious problem for PC manufacturers counting on a boost from holiday sales. However, the delay might be beneficial in the long run, as Microsoft will reportedly use the extra time to tighten security features.

Source: CNN.com

Computing 2020

Nature has posted a series of essays on the future of computing, covering such possibilities as quantum computing, pervasive environment and computing ecosystems, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Essays are available in both HTML and PDF formats.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blogging Computers in Libraries 2006

This week I'm in Washington, DC attending and speaking at the annual Computers in Libraries conference. What's this have to do with futurism and emerging technology, you might ask? Plenty!

The three-day conference is entirely focused on advanced digital technology. Although it's designed for those involved in library sciences, almost anyone can find something useful here and learn something new.

This morning saw excellent presentations by the keynote speaker, Chris Sherman of SearchEngineWatch, as well as a talk about innovation and Millenials by Jill Hurst-Wahl of Hurst Associates, Ltd. (who is also blogging the conference and will post info on her presentation). I also attended a presentation about Ajax and open source web tools. Afternoon presentations included an overview of the Grokker visual search tool, and an approach to setting up and managing an emerging technology program. An evening panel discussion of Web 2.0 was, in my experience, one of the most entertaining in memory.

If you happen to be in the Washington area this week, you might want to stop by the Washington Hilton and get a day pass. Pretty much every session has some angle on emerging technology.

As for me, I'll be presenting Friday afternoon. Until then, I'll make updates on interesting stuff that's going on at CIL (it's all interesting, though!).

Job Market Rapidly Becoming a "Seller's Market"

The Herman Group, a futurist-oriented HR consultancy oft-quoted here, has been forecasting a fundamental change to the global labor market for several years. Now, it believes that the US alone will face an employee deficit of 10 million by 2010.

In 2004, in our Red Alert Paper, we reported that the employment market was shifting from a buyer's market to a seller's market. Now, employee turnover is increasing even faster, as talented employees seek better job opportunities. The phenomenon is not limited to the United States or North America. We see these conditions developing at an alarming pace in developed---and some developing---countries around the world. This global shortage of skilled workers---educated and trained to perform the work of today and tomorrow---will affect everyone.

The group points to trends worldwide that show increased and more aggressive hiring. In Japan, where job growth has been stagnant, many of the top firms plan to hire 1,000 or more recent college graduates this year -- an unprecedented number in that country. In addition to a worker shortfall, Japanese employers are also grappling with a 30% turnover rate among new hires.

UPDATE: Peter Cappelli of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School believes that the situation is not so much a labor gap as a skills gap. In an article published in the Feb. 2006 issue of the ASTD's TD magazine, Cappelli argues that while no shortage of people exists, employers are struggling to get workers up to speed, and don't have good training programs in place. Others, though, insist that the demographics of a labor shortage are very real, and that the labor market faces a shortfall of 7 to 10 million skilled workers with education beyond that of a high school diploma in the coming years. All, however, agree that the US labor market faces a deficit of skills, especially executive, managerial, communications, IT and project management skills.

UPDATE 2: The same article cites a survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants suggesting the US could face a "brain drain" if overseas job opportunities were appealing enough. Half of the US executives surveyed said that they would be willing to relocate to China, and 35% said they would consider moving to Russia or India.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Fast Company" List of "Jetsons Moments"

The technology business magazine Fast Company has a list of what it considers the most interesting and promising emerging technologies, from blimps and gliders used as portable wirless broadband antennas, to washing machines that use negative ions in place of water and detergent, to scented plastics, to "galvanic vestibular stimulation" (delivering a light electrical charge to the small hairs of the inner ear to control equilibrium). A slideshow is also available.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Space Tourism as Early as 2007

As many as a dozen space tourism startup companies are developing space-plane technology that could take paying customers into suborbital space as early as the end of next year.

Outfits such as Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures and PlanetSpace are lining up both craft and ground facilities with the expectation that plenty of civilians will be willing to pay from $100,000 to $250,000 for a two-hour flight and approximately five minutes of weightlessness (a bargain compared to the millions that space tourists currently pay). Rocketplane Kistler, a firm headed by American businessman George French, is aiming to be the first out of the gate, preparing to take commercial passengers into space by the summer of 2007. Most of its competitors are shooting for 2008 or 2009 startup dates.

Source: CNN.com

Friday, March 17, 2006

To Succeed in Business, Goof Off!

Are you working longer hours, giving up weekends and holidays, yet feel like you're less productive than ever? Have you ever agonized over a problem for hours at work, only to have the solution suddenly dawn on you while driving home, in the shower or drifting off to sleep? If so, it's not just your imagination...

Increasingly, management experts are cautioning that overwork is counterproductive, that multitasking and the always-on society are robbing us of the necessary time to unplug, reflect, ponder and play. Such periods of unhurried thinking are what lead to creative insights -- the insights that will give businesses their competitive edge in the coming years.

The late, great Peter Drucker spoke of such need to incubate innovative thinking four decades ago in his seminal work The Effective Executive and subsequent writings. "All one can think and do in a short time is to think what one already knows and to do as one has always done," he wrote. "To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive... needs to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours." Touche!

Today's management gurus are dusting off Drucker's advice and are encouraging organizations to nurture creativity by allowing employees more time for strategic thinking and relaxation. They cite Google, which pampers its workers with stress-reducing amenities, and where innovations have been developed by staff in their off hours. They also note celebrated thinkers such as Archimedes and Isaac Newton, whose great insights were famously triggered during moments of leisure.

Source: CNN/Money

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Rural Counties Remain America's Fastest Growing Regions

The fastest growing areas in the US are predominantly rural counties... not so much because people want to "get away from it all," but because urban sprawl is pushing cities and suburbs ever outward.

Pennsylvania's Pike County, for instance, is a relatively rural area that's seeing dramatic growth, in large part because of its proximity to New York City and the suburban areas of northern New Jersey. Similarly, many of the nation's fastest-growing areas are within commuting distance of a major metropolitan area and its suburbs.

Migration from urban to rural areas is a 30-year trend, but has undergone explosive growth in recent years. Florida's Flagler County, near Daytona Beach and Orlando, is America's fastest growing county, expanding by a dramatic 10.7% in 2005. Such growth is bound to stress a region's infrastructure and cause friction between pro- and anti-growth elements.

Source: WCAU-TV

How Would a Flu Pandemic Affect Business?

Recent findings suggesting a spread of avian flu (aka bird flu) have raised not only the obvious concerns about public health, but worries about how business infrastructures would continue to function in the event of a pandemic. Mass absenteeism, diversion of resources and even shortages would challenge businesses' day-to-day functioning, on top of added responsibilities for critical industries:

Airlines, for instance, would have to fly health experts around the world and overnight couriers would have to rush medical supplies to the front lines. Banks would need to ensure that computer systems continued to move money internationally and that local customers could get cash. News outlets would have to keep broadcasting so people could get information that might mean the difference between life and death.

"I tell companies to use their imagination to think of all the unintended consequences," said Mark Layton, global leader for enterprise risk services at Deloitte & Touche in New York. "Will suppliers be able to deliver goods? How about services they've outsourced — are they still reliable?"

Asian companies, drawing on their experience with SARS several years ago, are drawing up contingency plans that involve having employees work from home or at multiple sites as much as possible to reduce contamination, replacement of all face-to-face meetings with teleconferencing and web conferencing, and rapid "phone tree" communication via text messaging and cell phones. Companies in the US are likewise considering increased use of automation to keep operations running with minimal personnel.

Preparation for a pandemic -- whether or not one occurs -- could be the tipping point for many new business technologies that facilitate telecommuting and robotics. Just as interest in teleconferencing spiked in the wake of 9/11, so too could the broader adoption of technologies that have been "right around the corner" for years.

Source: New York Times

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

One-to-One Philanthropy Online

Doubtless you are familiar with online efforts to help victims of the southeast Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. But on a much smaller scale, people who want to help others now have tools to reach them and offer assistance.

Kiva is a website connecting potential donors with entrepreneurs and small businesses in developing countries in need of small loans. It is not charity; all funds are considered loans, with an obligation to pay back the lender. Through such "microfinancing," individuals can lend as little as $25 over a six- to 12-month period. Kiva removes middlemen and is a low-overhead operation itself, so it ensures that all lent money goes directly to the recipients and is repaid in full to the lender. Lenders can use their credit cards or PayPal accounts.

Most interesting of all are the success stories of loan recipients posted on the site. The following is an account of one Kiva client, a pharmacist in Uganda:

Mr. Simon Okiror is doing very well with his drug shop and above all the community of where he comes from is enjoying so much in the service of his drug shop and with the progress... in this short period of three month since he received the loan from Kiva Office last year, Mr. Okiror’s drug shop... has improved to the level that it has opened a laboratory where tests for sicknesses like Malaria, Tuberculosis, and Typhoid including Syphilis in his drug shop... [I]t has even drugs that are rarely got from Government Hospitals...

Source: TrendCentral

Can Anybody Market to Kids Today?

I don't know what's wrong with these kids today!
Who can understand anything they say?
You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
But they still just do what they want to do!
Why can't they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What's the matter with kids today?

"Kids" from the musical Bye Bye Birdie

Much has been written about today's teens as being wired, wireless and digitally connected. And, of course, advertisers are starting to take notice -- especially since teens are increasingly resistant to traditional advertising.

Kids today are distracted by their constant connectivity, according to a recent study by the advertising firm Energy BBDO. Add to that a healthy level of cynicism, and advertisers are perplexed at how to reach this demographic, which Energy BBDO terms "SuperConnectors." "What we see is that often, they are [using active and passive media] at the same time, they may be multitasking or doing an activity with friends," said Chip Walker of Energy BBDO. "The days of using technology purely to veg out seem to be gone."

SuperConnectors also have a global outlook, with their ability to network with peers worldwide... and this may also be affecting how teens perceive brands. An article reprinted from Women's Wear Daily posted on the Energy BBDO website says that American brands are hurting in the global marketplace, suffering in part from the increasingly negative image of the US abroad.

Advertisers study products that seem to be making inroads into the teen marketplace... and are noting that often, these products are not supported by traditional advertising. The Energy BBDO report suggests ways of reaching out to SuperConnectors, including leveraging the technologies kids use, and making their messages interactive. Products, moreover, should be customizable and reflect the owner's sense of expression, rather than being status symbols in of themselves.

Such advice, however, is not new, and advertisers' continuing preoccupation with reaching teens reflects their continuing frustration in not being able to do so. Could it be that kids today are so jaded, cynical and preoccupied that all conventional advertising is lost on them? More fundamentally, do kids even have a sense of trusted brands, which are the underpinnings of all advertising?

UPDATE: Miss Rogue of the horsepigcow.com blog offers a solution that could be applied to marketing to today's kids -- "pinko marketing."

Source: ClickZ

"Ransomware" the Newest Computer Security Problem

A "Trojan horse" computer virus called Cryzip currently making the rounds is part of a new breed of malware that encrypts a victim's files, then demands a ransom for the decryption key. If paid, the money ($300 in the case of Cryzip) is transferred via an e-payment account.

Computer security experts believe that, although only a few cases of Cryzip have been reported thus far, ransomware could become a serious problem, especially since they use strong encryption on victims' files that cannot easily be broken. Plus, victims might not receive a workable decryption key even after they've paid -- either because the malware author is truly sadistic or just not skilled enough to write a properly working program.

The experts reiterate their usual warnings and advice about computing in the age of malicious software: use up-to-date antivirus and firewall software, don't open an e-mail attachment sent from anyone you don't know, use strong passwords, and back up your files regularly.

Source: ZDNet

US Government Begins Issuing E-Passports

Uncle Sam has begun issuing passports with embedded RFID tags, piloting the rollout with diplomatic passports, and moving on to passports for the general citizenry later this year. Since January 1, the US Government has issued 300 e-passports.

The RFID tags contain the name, gender, birth date, place of birth, and a digitized photo of the passport holder. Because they contain such personal information, e-passports are controversial because critics contend that the tags can be cracked and their information read surreptitiously. However, according to the US State Department's website outlining the US Electronic Passport, the e-passports are "protected from alteration by the latest digital signature technology" and that they "will not issue passports incorporating integrated circuits until privacy-related concerns have been addressed." The State Department "will share more information about these measures once testing is completed."

Source: RFID Update

What are Telecommuters REALLY Up To?

As telecommuting becomes more accepted and popular, those back at the office are surely wondering what their co-workers at home are really doing. A new survey by security firm SonicWall provides some insights:

  • Two thirds of men and over half of women surveyed don't bother to bathe when telecommuting

  • Nearly 90% store passwords in unsafe locations when at home

  • 28% watch TV while working

  • 18% squeeze in household tasks

Perhaps most curious of all (or perhaps not), one in eight men and one in 14 women who telecommute do so in the nude. So much for the corporate dress code...

In light of all this, the vast majority of telecommuters surveyed believe that working from home makes them more productive, with over 60% saying their managers would agree. Plus, telecommuters are saving big bucks on soap, housekeepers and career wardrobes!

RELATED: According to a survey by the Hudson Highland Group, a professional staffing firm, one quarter of workers surveyed said that they used their employer's PCs to search for new jobs on company time. However, the surveyors chalked it up to a work-life balance issue. Says Robert Morgan, chief operating officer at Hudson Talent Management, one of the company's divisions. "Because we're spending so much time at work, that's the only time we have to schedule some of those appointments."

Sources: Network World, Techdirt

Friday, March 10, 2006

[BREAKING NEWS] Mars Orbiter Enters Mars Orbit

NASA received yet another bit of good news this afternoon when its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) successfully entered Mars orbit. The news is significant because during "orbit insertion" of Mars, two NASA spacecraft have been lost.

MRO will spend two years orbiting the Red Planet, observing the surface and atmosphere over a Martian year. At the end of its primary mission, MRO will remain in orbit to serve as a relay between Earth and other visiting spacecraft.

Water on Saturn Moon Raises Possibility of Life

The Cassini space probe currently orbiting Saturn made a surprise discovery when it photographed an erupting water geyser on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The unexpected presence of liquid water there makes the tiny moon a candidate for hosting extraterrestrial life.

Liquid water and a heat source are two key ingredients for life. Despite its distance from the Sun, Enceladus clearly has an internal heat source -- likely caused by Saturn's gravitational pull -- that warms water enough to produce the geysers.

Of course, any life on that moon would likely be in the form of extremophilic primitive organisms. But considering the frustrating lack of evidence of life in our Solar System outside of Earth, the newly discovered conditions on Enceladus have scientists excited.

The discovery is somewhat ironic and bittersweet for NASA, considering that it is facing a 50% cut in its astrobiology program -- the program that is meant to help answer the question of whether life exists on other worlds. Revelations such as Enceladus' geysers, however, may help NASA make a case for future increases in funding.

RELATED: Speaking of extremophiles, a little critter who might feel right at home on Enceladus is the tartigrade, a microscopic invertebrate also known as a "water bear" because of its peculiar resemblance to a bear. Tartigrades can survive in boiling water, freezing tempearatures close to absolute zero, near vacuums, extreme pressure and 1,000 times more radiation than a human could withstand. On Earth, they are found pretty much everywhere.

Source: AP (via Yahoo)

Blogger Hiccupping

Those of you who view Blogger blogs, including FutureWire, via a web browser may encounter "Access denied" error messages. According to Blogger Status, this has been going on intermittently since Monday, and their techs are on the case. If this happens to you, please be patient and reload the page. If it happens a lot, clear your browser's cache. This problem is not affecting RSS feeds.

These Cell Phones Open Doors

Add house keys to the list of objects your cell phone can replace. Japan's NTT Business Associates Ltd. is piloting a system called MoCaCa (Mobile Communication and Control for Comfortable Areas), a security infrastructure that uses RFID chips embedded in cell phones and wallets to activate electronic door locks. The oft-predicted capability will be initially deployed in two new apartment complexes in Tokyo.

Sources: RFID in Japan, Smart Mobs

Web 2.0 for Virtual Terror

Just as teenagers, families and co-workers can connect with each other online, so can terrorists. For the past several years, al Qaeda has been using web-based tools, social networking sites, online bulletin boards, free e-mail accounts, Internet conference calling and even web-enabled cell phones to plan their mayhem.

To avoid detection, members of a terrorist cell share a common web-based e-mail account that serves as a virtual drop-box, posting messages to each other by saving them in draft mode but not sending them. They can also upload documents to share training information and plans (written in code, to appear perfectly innocent). According to terror experts, al Qaeda used such techniques to coordinate the 2002 Bali bombing and last summer's London attacks.

Most recently, terrorists have figured out how to use web-enabled cell phones as remote bomb detonators, allowing them to be triggered from anywhere in the world via a website.

Fueling this phenomenon is the proliferation of Internet access in terrorist hotbed regions that are otherwise very remote. Cybercafes operate in even the most isolated villages in northern Pakistan, for instance -- easily accessible by foot from al Qaeda's presumed hideouts. Al Qaeda also operate servers in "safe" regions of Pakistan and Iraq so they cannot easily be shut down by Western authorities.

Al Qaeda's use of online technology is nothing new; in fact, they were among its earliest adopters. Terror experts believe the group began coordinating online as early as 1993... when few Americans knew about the Web, and when proprietary services such as AOL were just starting to take off.

Source: ABC News

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Resource Wars

Climate change and greater competition for natural resources will inevitably lead to "resource wars," according to British Defense Secretary John Reid.

In a recent London address, Secretary Reid said that such conflict is already upon us in the developing world. "The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur... We should see this as a warning sign."

Reid's perspective is borne out of the growing belief that climate change will cause disruptive, rather than incremental, changes in weather and climate patterns, such as sudden changes in sea level, increased storm activity, and rapid appearance of "dust bowls." With their resources already stressed, developing regions of the world will be the first to feel these effects.

Reid's speech also suggest a fundamental shift in policy, at least in Britain. In the US, the Pentagon commissioned a report in 2003, titled An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security and co-authored by renowned futurist Peter Schwartz, that echoed these themes:

"As famine, disease, and weather-related disasters strike due to abrupt climate change," the Pentagon report notes, "many countries' needs will exceed their carrying capacity" -- that is, their ability to provide the minimum requirements for human survival. This "will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression" against countries with a greater stock of vital resources.

"Imagine eastern European countries, struggling to feed their populations with a falling supply of food, water, and energy, eyeing Russia, whose population is already in decline, for access to its grain, minerals, and energy supply."

Such conflict could manifest itself in many ways, including regional warfare, terrorism, religious fanaticism and attempts to hijack increasingly scarce resources. Ultimately, even affluent countries in the developed world would be drawn into conflicts, either as peacekeepers or to protect their own supply lines.

Sources: Institute for Global Communications , The Independent, TomDispatch.com

Frank Moss on MIT Media Lab

Frank Moss, who recently took the helm at MIT Media Lab from the legendary Nicholas Negroponte, discusses his visions of the future in an interview for Newsweek. Among his key projects for the Media Lab:

  • "Biomechatronic" prostheses that interact with the brain just like natural limbs, and "neural prostheses that will amplify and repair our memories."
  • Smart cars whose engines and transmissions are contained in the wheels, lessening weight and providing better use of space.
  • Sociable robots that can read humans' emotions and serve as caretakers.
  • New ways of balancing technology and information privacy.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Taking the Long View in Healthcare Technology

One reason behind the explosive growth in the cost of healthcare in America is our reliance on -- and expectation of -- the latest technological solutions to solve every conceivable health problem. According to a recent article in Newsweek:

An international survey conducted by the European Union and the U.S. National Science Foundation found that two thirds of Americans were "very interested in news about medical discoveries" compared with 44 percent of Europeans. Among seniors, the difference was even more striking: 79 percent of Americans were "very interested," versus only 42 percent of Europeans. A third of Americans thought that modern medicine could "cure almost any illness for people who have access to the most advanced technology and treatment." Germans, by contrast, had an iron grip on reality: only 11 percent had such faith in medicine...

Americans seek technological fixes for problems that might once have been the province of a priest, bartender or grandmother. They think it's only a matter of time before medicine cures obesity, menopause, baldness, rowdiness, shyness, sexual dysfunction, cancer, aging and even death.

Such confidence in technology drives much futurist theory, especially in the realms of transhumanism and extreme longevity. But taken in the short-term, reliance on technology at the expense of careful analysis and even common sense can have detrimental results. Witness the Vioxx debacle, fad diets and extremely expensive surgical procedures whose results may not justify their cost.

However, Americans think this way only because our healthcare system has been spectacularly successful at using technology to better our health, from vaccines to antibiotics to transplants to minimally invasive surgery. The problems arise when not enough attention is paid to the long view, or when money and profit rather than science or health become the driving forces. To that end, healthcare professionals would be well served to use foresight principles in examining how technology choices made today could affect patients decades down the road, and the unintended consequences of those decisions.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Childhood Obesity to Soar Within Five Years

According to a study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, rates of childhood obesity are expected to skyrocket in the coming years, with half of the children in North and South America obese by 2010.

Europe doesn't fare much better, with 38% of kids there expected to be overweight within five years. Even China will see its population of obese children increase to 20% in that period.

As in the US, the combination of junk food, poor overall eating habits and less exercise is to blame for the problem worldwide. The trend has crucial implications on the future health of the young generation -- most notably, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A generation of chronically ill people will not only tax healthcare systems worldwide, but will be less productive overall, and more dependent on others (Their parents? Their children?), taking far more resources from the economy than they will put in. Yet this may not be a lengthy phenomenon. "This is going to be the first generation that’s going to have a lower life expectancy than their parents," said UK surgeon Dr. Phillip Thomas. "It’s like the plague is in town and no one is interested."

To fight the epidemic, radical steps need to be taken, says Dr. Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force. Dr. James believes that all marketing aimed at children -- especially for food -- should be banned.

RELATED: Two additional studies claim that sodas are the leading factor in weigh gain. While this might seem to be stating the obvious, given that a single serving of non-diet soda contains about 130 calories and little nutritional value, the soft drink industry is already decrying the studies as "junk science." Those who think these studies are on to something believe that making this formal connection could be as important -- and as difficult -- as the link between smoking and cancer, which took decades to prove conclusively.

ALSO RELATED: For the first time in over 20 years, sales of cases of soda in the US have declined, down 0.7% in 2005. Industry experts cite the explosive popularity of non-carbonated beverages such as sports drinks and bottled water as a reason behind soda's decline in market share. It's also possible that a health-related backlash against sugary soft drinks is in the works.

Source: MSNBC

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Which are the Top Broadband Countries?

According to a survey cited in the IFTF's Future Now blog, Hong Kong boasts the highest level of residential broadband Internet connectivity (73% in Q3 2005). In addition to Hong Kong, the top five broadband countries are (in order) South Korea, Israel, Taiwan and the Netherlands. The US is #19 (33%), just ahead of Slovenia.

Nineteen of the top 20 countries posted positive quarterly growth in broadband between Q2 and Q3 2005, ranging from 0.8% (Israel) to 5.6% (Singapore). The sole country to post a decline in that period was South Korea (-1.42%); no reason for the decline was given.

Tracking Kids Through Mobile Devices

Japanese parents have a new way to keep tabs on their children thanks to a new service called ima doko ("where are you now?") The service works with 3G mobile devices from NTT Docomo, and lets parents use a website to pinpoint their child's location on a map.

RELATED: Ima doko is emblematic of the trend toward parents being an ever greater presence in their children's lives -- a trend that author Sam Schulman bemoans, rightly or wrongly.

Source: International Telecommunication Union

What is Origami?

Over the past week, those who follow the development of tech gadgets have been puzzling over Microsoft's Origami Project. The project is supposedly developing a small wireless "mini tablet" device that supports Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and 3G cellular. It will supposedly run Windows XP, include a camera and MP3 player, and will be larger than a PDA but smaller than a typical laptop. The most current suggested retail price is $600.

Although the cryptic Origami website claims that more information will be revealed today, the latest speculation is that Microsoft will formally unveil Origami at the CeBit show in Hanover, Germany (March 9-15). In April 2005, Bill Gates showed off a 6-inch tablet computer that many believe was an Origami prototype. Observers are wondering how Origami might tie in to a flash-based effort from Intel called Ultra Mobile PC -- perhaps this is the hardware running Microsoft's Origami software.

Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome cautions against too much excitement. Having actually seen Origami (and having signed a NDA), Pirillo says, "[I]t's not going to live up to the hype. There are far too many wild-eyed speculations - ranging from the sublime to the grandiose." However, Dennis Rice of GottaBeMobile.com, who has also seen Origami, says, "I can tell you that what I have seen, I like. Alot. I WILL own one, and I will then proceed to take it apart (at least figuratively, possibly physically) and comment on what I think."

UPDATE: The Origami website now says that more information will be available March 9.

UPDATE 2: The latest word from Engadget is that Origami will run XP Tablet PC Edition, and is classified as a "Mobile PC running Windows XP." In other words, it will be a miniature Tablet PC. And, instead of looking like the device shown on the Origami website (shown above), the actual device will look like the one demo'd by Bill Gates last year, with few if any hardware controls:

UPDATE 3: Microsoft formally unveiled Origami today (3/9); the Intel-based device is billed as an "ultra mobile PC" (UMPC) and runs Windows XP Tablet PC edition. Samsung is one of the device's early manufacturers; "Samsung positions the UMPC as a handheld organizer, an MP3 portable music player, a mobile television receiver, a games device and a notebook PC..."

UPDATE 4: Last Thursday (3/2), Topix.net picked up this post as a lead story, and drove FutureWire's traffic to an all-time high. Thanks, Topix!

Sources: CNET, GottaBeMobile.com, Engadget

Generation M, Knowledge Centers and Personal Space

Russell Buckley of MobHappy explores the differences between how the older and younger generations view mobile technology:

To this [over-40] generation, the mobile is a phone first and foremost, though they may have embraced sms.

To the first true mobile generation (let’s loosely say that they’re under 40, although in practice they’re a little younger), the mobile is something else entirely. It’s the very engine of their social lives and centre of their attention most of the time. Without their mobile, they’d be no more capable of dating and maintaining a relationship or arranging to spend time with friends and actually managing to meet up with them on the day, than a Boeing 777 is of crossing the Atlantic without any engines...

These people will adopt all the social functionality of their seniors, but the mobile will take over from the PC as the single most important digital device for accessing the web, as well their personal entertainment hub for music and gameplay, not to mention the recorder and archivist of their lives and proof of identity.

To "Generation M," the mobile device is a way of life, serving as both communicator and knowledge center ("knowledge" encompassing all forms of information, from business to recreational). One comment on Buckley's post provides an amusing anecdote: "When my 4 year old son first saw a cordless phone at his grandparent’s house, he picked it up and asked where the games were on it." Of course, Grandma and Grandpa were old enough to remember when cordless phones were themselves the stuff of science fiction.

But what's more important is the way that mobile devices govern young people's interaction with others. With a cell phone, friends and family are never more than a phone call or text message away -- a level of immersion that can be a mixed blessing. When people not only expect but demand constant interaction, any break in that connection causes worry and stress. Why won't she call or text? Is she OK? Is she mad at me? Someone may start to ask these questions even when not hearing from a friend for as little as a few minutes. Even PCs and the Internet give us the chance to walk away and shut them down occasionally; mobile devices never give us that break. It's little wonder, then, that Generation M has no problem using online tools such as MySpace to share their most personal information with the entire wired world.

The human psyche wasn't designed to be "plugged in" at all times, so we are going to have to learn to adapt to the power of our devices and redefine personal space. Today's teens -- the first generation too young to remember life without cell phones -- will lead the way, if only by necessity. And like all pioneers, they will get all the scrapes and bruises that go with blazing new trails.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"House Churches" as the New Congregation

In spite of -- or perhaps in reaction to -- the trend toward evangelical Christian "megachurches" over the past decade, a movement toward small, intimate "house churches" is emerging among Christians.

Unlike traditional churches, house churches (also called "simple churches") have no dedicated facility, no staff, no allegiance to any denomination, and in some cases, no ordained pastor. Instead, as their name implies, they are simply small groups of like-minded worshippers (fewer than 40, according to one definition) who meet in members' houses and tailor their worship to their particular needs. House church have precedence reaching back to the earliest days of Christianity, before church hierarchies had been established. Worldwide, house churches are often the only means through which the faithful can gather in countries where Christianity is suppressed.

Evangelical strategist, researcher and futurist George Barna believes that house churches are a phenomenon to be reckoned with. Providing a service to Christians who are alienated from or simply don't care for traditional churches and megachurches, house churches may, according to Barna, become the spiritual home for a majority of US Christians -- perhaps two-thirds of them by 2025.

The past few years have seen more home-based trends in realms such as education, weddings and even funerals. Growing cynicism concerning large institutions is partly to blame, while the Internet makes it easy for ad hoc groups to organize and attract new members.

Those interested in starting, maintaining or joining house churches can find plenty of helpful resources online. Support websites include House Church Central, Housechurch.org, Religioustolerance.org, and the House Church Blog. Also, read articles critical of the house church movement here and here.

RELATED: Andrew Jones blogs about the pros and cons of house churches, providing some useful links in the process.

Source: TIME

What's Driving the Pending Labor Shortage?

We all know that retiring Baby Boomers are going to have an effect on the labor market in the coming years. But according to the Herman Group, an HR think tank, Boomer retirement isn't behind the labor shortage that's already upon us and will keep growing for at least the next decade. In fact, many Boomers will remain in the workforce well after reaching traditional retirement age.

Instead, factors in the tightening labor market include:

  • The decline of the annual US birthrate increase to 1.1% during the 1990s (versus 2.6% during the "baby bust" of the 1970s)... meaning fewer new entrants into the workforce in 2010 and beyond.
  • The increasing tendency of women to leave the workforce permanently to stay home and raise their children.
  • College graduates who prefer to start their own businesses rather than apply for open positions at existing enterprises.
  • The overall strong economy, which keeps the pool of available labor low and offsets any relief from immigrant labor and outsourcing.

Citing a RAND Corporation study, Herman believes that "[t]he annual growth rate of the nation's workforce is expected to slow to a nearly static 0.4 percent by 2010."” Good news for job seekers, of course. But a challenge for an economy that looks to keep growing.