Big data, algae fuel, job automation, and more predictions made in 2013.

The 10 Most Interesting Things People Said About the Future in 2013

The 10 Most Interesting Things People Said About the Future in 2013

The citizen’s guide to the future.
Dec. 22 2013 11:52 PM

To 2014 and Beyond

The 10 most interesting things people said about the future in 2013.

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8. Movies and television shows will converge into a new type of episodic, data-driven art form, accessible at all times, across all platforms.

Who made it: Kevin Spacey in his MacTaggart lecture at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival:

I predict that in the next decade or two, any differentiation between these two platforms [film and television] will fall away. … The device and the length are irrelevant. The labels are useless except for agencies, managers and lawyers who use these labels to conduct business deals. But for kids, there’s no difference. It’s all content. It’s just story.


Why it’s a strong prediction: He knows what he’s talking about. The original Netflix series House of Cards, which stars Spacey, represents the next phase of entertainment, the creation of content on the basis of data collected constantly and consistently from users or interactive devices.

In a piece for Salon, Andrew Leonard gave a great rundown of how this worked for Netflix: “Netflix’s data indicated that the same subscribers who loved the original BBC production also gobbled down movies starring Kevin Spacey or directed by David Fincher. Therefore, concluded Netflix executives, a remake of the BBC drama with Spacey and Fincher attached was a no-brainer, to the point that the company committed $100 million for two 13-episode seasons.”

Unlike movie or television studios, Netflix has a lot of data, with 30 million streaming subscribers in the United States alone. Tim Wu pointed out in the New Republic that Americans reportedly spend more time watching television than French people do working (1,800 hours per year). What you watch, when, and on what device now creates data. You can expect more of that data to start showing up in the form of content.

BUT: The value of the data that Netflix is gathering on its users extends beyond just commissioning the production of new dramatic works. Your viewing habits, your every viewing decision, recorded and analyzed, will help marketers much more effectively target goods to you. Not everyone is or will be happy to simply give that information away. “I’m guessing this will be good for Netflix’s bottom line,” writes Leonard, “but at what point do we go from being happy subscribers, to mindless puppets?”

My bottom line: Television is going to get better. It’s now watching you back. Relatedly …

9. By 2020, commercials and ads that interrupt your content experience will be gone, and you will be able to pay for things with your data.

Who made it: Media futurist Gerd Leonhard speaking to Harvard Business Review reporter Dana Rousmaniere in May.

Why it’s a strong prediction: It is the past, present, and future all at once. Leonhard isn’t the first person to come up with this idea. Back in June of 2011, Neal Mohan, vice president of display advertising at Google, took the stage at the Innovation Days Internet Week to show that his company was working feverishly to improve ad features. He described a “user-focused revolution, where people connect and respond to display ads in ways we’ve never seen before.” In his most recent book, Who Owns the Future?, Jaron Lanier makes a powerful argument for why we should demand compensation for the data we give away to marketers. Don’t be bought off the promise of an “improved customer experience,” he says.

Bottom line: Your data is yours first because you created it. Don’t sell it cheap.

By 2028, your eyes and pulse will tell your teacher if you are learning.
By 2028, your eyes and pulse will tell your teacher whether you are learning.

Illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker

10. By 2028, your eyes and pulse will tell your teacher whether you are learning.

Who made it: Terry Heick, former teacher and director of He believes that educators (or education systems) will measure their students’ biological responses, including pulse, sweat, and eye position, for a real-time understanding of how their students are mentally interacting with material.

Why it’s a strong prediction: Educational institutions are not always eager to embrace the opportunities of technological change, yet no field is going to feel the influence of this change more in the next 10 years than is education. First, he says, in 2015, adaptive computer-based testing will replace those terrible No. 2 pencil tests and game-based learning will truly catch on. Next, in 2018, open-sourced learning models will replace standard curriculums as we know them today.

BUT: The field of education has seen a number of fads come and go over the years. In decades past, some claimed that at-home correspondence-based education would close the schools; then it was the advent of at-home lectures and classes on VHS; then, computers for every student; today, MOOCs, which are facing a backlash already. All of these innovations are important, but they never succeeded in replacing the classroom model as we understand it today.

Bottom line: The world will always need educators, but the definition of education could change significantly, hopefully for the better, in the coming decade.

Many of these predictions won’t come true, and we certainly don’t want all of them to. But they tell us something about the hopes and dreads we will leave behind in 2013.

This article is part of Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and SlateFuture Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, visit the Future Tense blog and the Future Tense home page. You can also follow us on Twitter