One of the things that struck me as interesting while travelling for Thanksgiving is that I saw kids (from youth to teens) with shoes with built-in rollerblades in all three of the airports I visited. When I first started seeing it, I imagined it might just be a short-lived fad - given that it seems not to be, it's a neat development - one of the few pieces of technology that's nonobtrusive, enhances a basic function of our body (getting around), has a minimal interface, can be worn/available all day without requiring use or being awkward, and isn't too expensive. It effectively blends into the body and enhances it when called for. I can't think of many other pieces of technology like that (although it's neat to dream of other things that might fit the bill).
I recently had a conversation with someone who dreams about eventually entering the American political system and climbing to high position. Matter: What changes can we expect of the electorate (presuming no radical shifts in the state here that would eliminate democracy-as-a-system-as-we-know-it-here)
Trends that strike me as significant:
- Changing composition of media, drastic lowering of barriers to entry into mimetic production, a la Youtube/Google Video and other popular-technology driven content hosting/creation - This won't lead, necessarily, to an increase in quality (although it will probably make for more gems), but it will lead to less artificial constraint on public debate. This may benefit a number of groups - we've seen Christian Fundamentalists creating alternate media at a reasonable/growing scale since the 80s via print and radio, which may have fueled their rapid growth - if other subcultures can create such institutions, they may compete and similarly benefit. This is a general trend that seems to have grown large enough to have begun to affect mainstream politics - I imagine that will continue and it may eventually sweep aside much traditional media (again, for better and for worse)
- Increased access to interactive media and social movements from a young age - Tied to the first, sites like Facebook and similar may get people interested in politics and elementary forms of political philosophy at younger ages. This may be harmful on some level if we imagine political opinions requiring some time (and exposure to the real-world) to mature - if there's a youth population bubble, we easily might imagine dire effects as involved, dedicated, and naïve/overidealistic youth vote en masse towards things that experience and "buying-in to society" would give second thought toward. Still, the younger people start thinking about these matters, the more time we might imagine they'd have to reach more careful conclusions (if you're inclined to dismiss my political analyses as more naïve optimism, you may get a chuckle out of me saying this)
- Radical Individualism - Seems to be increasingly common, is embedded into many movements and individual attitudes:
- "fuck the man" Livestyle anarchism
- more contractarian - libertarian movements
- more paranoid -- survivalist movements
- See also christian flavours of the above
- Hypersocialisation - The cellphone is transforming our society, some of the younger generations of youth are following the footsteps of Japanese urban youth culture in their level and style of texting. I'm not sure what adults who were part of that will look like
- Changes in the nature of generation gaps - Forii, online games, things of that sort that are online (and offline, in some cases) are ageless, partly because involvement in a community cannot be pre-evaluated easily based on average age. The various ages probably will rub shoulders more, and while some self-segmentation is to be expected (presumably most strongly on grounds of maturity), there may be more of a flow of opinions/perspectives in multiple directions. We can expect differences in the world people were raised to preserve some amount of generation gap, of course (I grew up on BBS's and before cellphones, as an example, and generations before and after mine have their own permutations of similar factors).
- Possibly increased ties between nations - This I'm not sure about - the internet and similar technologies make it more possible, but will it happen on a large scale? Some subcultures may see this more than others - when there's a reason for community (MMORPGs and things "close enough" to them like Second Life?), we might expect this, but will more than technocratic fringes do that?
- Increased lifespan - Longer lives stretch the electorate and would push it towards less homogeneity
- Possibly increased technical and scientific sophistication - I am unsure about either of these or their political ramifications, although it may be that technical and scientific issues may become more informed and possibly more interesting to the public (e.g. IP law)
- Changes in the nature of our economic relations - As second-world manufacturing plants become less available for production of American goods (think India and China, which are developing native industry and a native middle class, as well as Brasil, which did so in the 80s/90s), and as some of these countries begin to do their own outsourcing (exploited becomes exploiter..), our economics needs of that sort may come back home. Labour relations influence politics in many significant ways..
- Struggle over water and oil - Believed by some to be increasingly important in the reasonably near-term
- Pollution/Global Warming - We should expect to be feeling significant effects of it within the next 20 years or so - this may force ideas of environmental responsibility into all parts of the political sphere and leave bad associations for political factions that inherit the mantle of today's industrialist factions (which they will of course attempt to disclaim ties to)
- Shifting racial and linguistic democraphics - most projections I've seen suggest that those of plain European stock won't be the majority in the United States after about 30 years. It's also possible that English will no longer be as dominant as it is now
- Continued progress in Women's libration and Gay Rights movements - If we project this forward, some political and social groups that exist now may become increasingly marginal (Gay Rights will be tougher for religious groups to swallow than Women's Lib, I suspect)
- Continued aging of Christianity, growth of Islam and other religions in the Unitd States - Hard to predict but important to watch