The geopolitical order has been shifting in 2015: Middle-Eastern refugees are flooding into Europe, and the seasonal cycles of nature show signs of disruption and change that is unpredictable and threatening everywhere in the world. Radical ideologies fight for influence, nationalist sentiments are on the rise in Russia, China, and Europe. The stock market has not done very well, and antibiotics are beginning to loose their effectiveness. In many regards, more research and technology seems to be our only hope. The world population reached 7.4 billion people in 2015. What are some of the trends for 2016?

Refugees

2015 was the year of the refuges. Syria’s civil war started in 2011, and has been the main driver of mass displacement. More than 4.2 million Syrian refugees fled the country, and 7.6 million are uprooted within Syria. The countries bordering conflict zones host the lion’s share of the refugees, like Jordan or Turkey. This leads to growing resentment and the politicization of refugees.

The four year old Syrian conflict now extends to Europe, and Germany alone absorbed  1.1 million refugees in  2015. This poses a major problem. With a total population of 81 million, there is now a one-to-eight ratio of foreigners, and the migration has not yet reached an end. The people who came are not other Europeans: They are mostly Muslims, coming from a war-torn country, they don’t speak German, and they don’t understand how the German society works. The task of integrating them is enormous.

The 28 European Union countries together currently have a population of 503 million people. The total foreign-born population residing in the EU in 2014 is 33 million people, which is 7% of the EU population. 1 By comparison, the foreign-born population in Japan is 1.63% of the total population, and the number of people living in the USA who were born outside of the country reached 13.7% in 2015, and is projected to hit 14.9% in 2025. I think it is fair to say that the European turmoil about refugees is somewhat exaggerated. An influx of young people will be beneficial for Germany, and from an economic viewpoint, the arrival of the refugees has a strong stimulating effect with excellent long-term benefits for a country with declining population numbers.

Worldwide, the refuge problem is bigger than it ever was since World War II. The number of people fleeing their homes has surpassed 60 million, mainly driven by the Syrian war and other protracted conflicts, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Today, 1 in every 122 humans is fleeing from their homes, The total figure at the end of 2014 was 59.5 million. An estimated 34 million people were internally displaced as of mid-2015, about 2 million more than the same time in 2014. A civil war in Jemen erupted in March 2015, and created a refuge wave of close to a million people. Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement: “Never has there been a greater need for tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people who have lost everything,”

Acceleration of change?

It is not hard to predict that 2016 will be a transformative year. But does change really accelerate? Ray Kurzweil claims in his classic book The Singularity is near(2006) that social and political systems will change fast under the influence of even faster rollouts of technological innovations. The confluence of computer science, robotics, and nanotechnology will lead to cascading effects that impact everything from food production to airline design, and especially to warfare. He even claims that the rate of change is exponential, because systems will begin to learn from their own adaption process, and their advances can be passed on to the next generation of machines. In contrast, humans mostly take their capabilities and insights with them when they die, so human progress is much slower. Voice recognition or self-driving cars are examples of machine progress, and self-driving cars will transform traffic as well as city planning. The key question is still: how do we measure change, and what are our criteria? What do we consider to be progress? And how will humans use the rapidly growing technological possibilities? The change in human culture and international order is still uneven and unpredictable. We will get richer and poorer at the same time, and in 2015 we also moved backwards in several ways, and we witnessed more tragedies of historic proportions.

The end of smartphones

The arrival of Amazon Echo in late 2015 made it clear that AI is now beginning to take over the household. I bought a model early in 2015, and it is a truly amazing little machine. Its natural language interface understands how to do many common activities, such as searching the net, getting weather and travel guidance, setting reminders, or operating wifi-enabled appliances like light switches, heaters, etc. These devices work as voice-enabled personal assistants and they sound like human beings.

Artificial intelligence (AI) interfaces will appear everywhere, and smartphones will begin to be phased out in five years from now. 2 Smartphones will disappear because they are impractical, and they are just a screen in your hand that takes you away from your environment. The emergence of cloud-based intelligence and holographic technology will make them obsolete. 3

Network technology everywhere

The Ericsson report predicts the following ten trends for 2016 and beyond:

  1. The Lifestyle Network Effect. Four out of five people now experience an effect where the benefits gained from online services increases as more people use them. Globally, one in three consumers already participates in various forms of the sharing economy.
  2. Streaming Natives. Teenagers watch more YouTube video content daily than other age groups. Forty-six percent of 16-19 year-olds spend an hour or more on YouTube every day.
  3. AI Ends The Screen Age. Artificial intelligence will enable interaction with objects without the need for a smartphone screen. One in two smartphone users already thinks that smartphones will be a thing of the past within the next five years.
  4. Virtual Gets Real. Consumers want virtual technology for everyday activities such as watching sports and making video calls. Forty-four percent even want to print their own food.
  5. Sensing Homes. Fifty-five percent of smartphone owners believe bricks used to build homes could include sensors that monitor mold, leakage and electricity issues within the next five years. As a result, the concept of smart homes may need to be rethought from the ground up.
  6. Smart Commuters. Commuters want to use their time meaningfully and not feel like passive objects in transit. Eighty-six percent would use personalized commuting services if they were available.
  7. Emergency Chat. Social networks may become the preferred way to contact emergency services. Six out of 10 consumers are also interested in a disaster information app.
  8. Internables. Internal sensors that measure well-being in our bodies may become the new wearables. Eight out of 10 consumers would like to use technology to enhance sensory perceptions and cognitive abilities such as vision, memory and hearing.
  9. Everything Gets Hacked. Most smartphone users believe hacking and viruses will continue to be an issue. As a positive side-effect, one in five say they have greater trust in an organization that was hacked but then solved the problem.
  10. Netizen Journalists. Consumers share more information than ever and believe it increases their influence on society. More than a third believe blowing the whistle on a corrupt company online has greater impact than going to the police.

Source:  10 Hot Consumer Trends 2016. Ericsson ConsumerLab, Information Sharing, 2015.

Statistics for this website

This website continues to grow rapidly. Here are the numbers for 2015: 4

  • 76,269 unique visitors, with 1.44 visits per visitor. (measured by unique IP numbers). This is an increase of more than 20,000 visitors compared to 2014.
  • 121,889 total visits, 1,305,064 number of pages called, and 3,8 million total hits.
  • I created 23 posts in 2015, which brings the total number to 81 posts today. This was my most productive year so far in terms of this website. Here is a sitemap page.
  • I also added 19 pages (pages are different from posts, which are only written by me. Pages contain quotes from various authors as well as longer texts). Now the website has a total of 408 pages.
  • The search phrase that brought the most traffic to Trialectics.com is “characteristics of human rights,” which lands visitors on a post from January 2015 about Human Rights.
  • I did not make any changes to the layout or the structure of this website, other than the regular updates. It is running on WordPress version 4.4.

My year in review.

2015 has been a good year for me, with several trips and many diverse interests and activities. A year-end review always leaves me wishing I had done more in various areas. My curiosities change before I ever get to the bottom of my book list. The authors who will get more of my attention in the upcoming year are Leo Strauss, Walter Kaufmann, Emmanuel Levinas, Carl Schmitt, Hans Blumenberg, and Bruno Latour. Also on the horizon are Timothy Morton, Judith Butler, and Jeffrey Sachs. I still don’t have a strong interest in returning to the field of psychotherapy and Lacan, because the world affairs are so captivating, and witnessing the historic changes through the lens of political philosophy remains my focus.

Notes:

  1. “European migrant crisis” on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_migrant_crisis?wprov=sfia1.
  2. This estimate is supported by a survey of more than 5000 smartphone customers in nine countries by Ericsson ConsumerLab. You can find it in the fifth edition of Ericsson’s annual trend report, 10 Hot Consumer Trends 2016 (and beyond).
  3. Here are some attitudes and trends that influence the direction of technological change:

    • 44% of smartphone users think an AI system would be as good as a teacher.
    • 30% would like an AI interface to keep them company.
    • 30% would rather trust the fidelity of an AI interface than a human for sensitive matters;
    • 29% agree they would feel more comfortable discussing their medical condition with an AI system.
    • Smartphones are Impractical. Constantly having a screen in the palm of your hand is not always a practical solution, such as in driving or cooking.
    • Battery capacity limits. One in 3 smartphone user wants a 7−8 inch screen, creating a battery drain vs. size and weight issue.
    • Not wearable. 85 percent of smartphone users think intelligent wearable electronic assistants will be commonplace within 5 years, reducing the need to always touch a screen. And one in two users believes they will be able to talk directly to household appliances.
    • Virtual reality and 3D technology is better. The smartphone users want movies that play virtually around the viewer, with virtual tech support, and VR headsets, especially for sports.
    • More than 50 percent of consumers think holographic screens will be mainstream within 5 years — capabilities currently not available in small handheld devices.
    • I am using AWstats software to track the statistics.