Trend Watch

 

Economics:
The future of globalization:
Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World
Report from the National Intelligence Councilclick here to download (8 MB)
click here for brief summary
 

A “Generational Crash”: Baby Boomers are rounding into the final laps of their careers largely untested and unprepared for what could be the worst economic crisis in their lifetimes. The sluggish 1970s and early 1980s overshadowed the college years and early work lives of the bulk of the Boom generation. But with a few mild hiccups, it’s been easy riding since then.  But some economists and demographers say the Baby Boomers themselves are driving the current turmoil. As Boomers send their kids out into the world, they are entering the phase of life when income starts to fall, spending slows and houses get sold. The same generational heft that Boomers used to create fads for hula hoops, sport-utility vehicles and Harleys will now work against them as all of them rush to cash out and slow down at once. That puts more houses up for sale to far fewer buyers: a younger generation that is also less able to afford them.  “This is like winter coming,” adds Harry S. Dent, an author and consultant who says the U.S. is headed for a slump that will last until 2020. It will take that long for the financial wreckage from this boom-bust cycle to be cleared away, he says, and for the 79.4 million strong “Millennial Generation” — most of whom are still in high school or college — to enter adulthood and start buying homes, cars and gadgets of their own. “It happens once every 80 years,” Mr. Dent

says of this sort of demographics-driven economic cycle. “It’s going to be difficult.” (Wall Street Journal)

Too big to save?  The Financial Times has recently asked “Are European banks too big to fail?”  They point to studies that “shows the size of major European banks as a proportion – or multiple – of their home countries’ GDP.”  Fourteen of these banks have assets which exceed their country’s entire gross domestic product.  An additional fourteen have assets above fifty percent GDP.  The report suggests that some of these banks may have gone beyond “too big to fail” into, as the Center for American Progress puts it, “too big to save.”  That is, beyond the capacity of their host government to bail them out and likely to lead them to “cast their eyes toward Brussels.” 
American human capital in decline? According to a recent study by Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (The Accelerating Decline in America’s High-Skilled Workforce: Implications for Immigration Policy), The educational quality of the country’s workers is starting to decline – not just relatively (because other countries are catching up and moving ahead) but also, for the first time, in absolute terms. Over the coming years, baby-boomers departing from the labor force will have better educational qualifications than the younger workers replacing them. If the ultimate source of an economy’s ability to grow and prosper is its human capital, the US is in trouble. (Financial Times)
Futuristic Energy Jobs According to U.S. Department of Labor, by 2012 there will be about 10,000 more power jobs available than people willing to fill them. The average age at utilities is about 50. The matter is compounded because younger people view utilities as part of the industrial age and less thriving than other technical fields such as nanotechnology. People will be needed to fill everything from engineering jobs to those in environmental sciences and in the field servicing customers and stringing wire from pole to pole. (EnergyBIzInsider)
Reverse outsourcing: Because of the increasing price of oil and the associated costs associated with managing offshore production with shipping goods across the world, there is an emerging trend of overseas outsourced jobs coming back to the US. With this trend is a parallel trend beginning which is called “reverse outsourcing”. This phenomenon involves foreign companies moving jobs to the US in order to serve their customer better. While these trends are unlikely to bring back all of the manufacturing jobs lost in recent years, there is some evidence to suggest that any future plans for outsourcing will be curtailed, and that more manufacturing jobs will remain in the U.S.
Prediction: global depression: The global economy is trending into a depression of a proportion that will be equal to or, probably, larger in depth and duration than the depression of the 1930s. While the timing for this trend cannot be forecast, the general time estimates (guesses) , using cycle and Elliott Wave theories, are that we reach the bottom of the depression between 2014 and 2016, with the best estimate being the first half of 2016, and come out of it 4 or 5 years later.
Society:

Millenials enter the work force:  If there is one overriding perception of the millennial generation, it’s that these young people have great — and sometimes outlandish — expectations. Employers realize the millennials are their future work force, but they are concerned about this generation’s desire to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace. Although members of other generations were considered somewhat spoiled in their youth, millennials feel an unusually strong sense of entitlement. Older adults criticize the high-maintenance rookies for demanding too much too soon. “They want to be CEO tomorrow,” is a common refrain from corporate recruiters.  More than 85% of hiring managers and human-resource executives said they feel that millennials have a stronger sense of entitlement than older workers,  The generation’s greatest expectations: higher pay (74% of respondents); flexible work schedules (61%); a promotion within a year (56%); and more vacation or personal time (50%).  (Wall Street Journal) 

“Bailout” for adult children?  Many young adults are heavily leveraged. Average student loans among the two-thirds of college undergraduates who have borrowed rose an estimated 5% in the past year alone, to $22,000. As the economy weakens, starting salaries aren’t keeping pace, and a growing number of recent grads aren’t likely to find jobs at all.  As a result, “we’ll see some rise in defaults” among recent grads, Mr. Shireman says. That means more moms and dads will face tough questions about whether to bail out their kids, and how to structure the aid if they do.  The stakes are high, including the risk of default, ruined credit, lost opportunities to attend graduate school or buy a home, or even wage garnishment. Parents, too, are on the hook if they’ve co-signed for loans, as lenders increasingly require. (Wall Street Journal)

Beyond the sound bite: Americans dissatisfied with political sound bites are turning to the Internet for a more complete picture, a new study finds.  In a report, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said that nearly 30 percent of adults have used the Internet to read or watch unfiltered campaign material — footage of debates, position papers, announcements and transcripts of speeches. (Technology Review)

Government:
Obama and African-American politics: Black leaders who rose to political power in the years after the civil rights marches came almost entirely from the pulpit and the movement, and they have always defined leadership, in broad terms, as speaking for black Americans. They saw their job, principally, as confronting an inherently racist white establishment, which in terms of sheer career advancement was their only real option anyway. For almost every one of the talented black politicians who came of age in the postwar years, like James Clyburn and Charles Rangel, the pinnacle of power, if you did everything right, lay in one of two offices: City Hall or the House of Representatives. That was as far as you could travel in politics with a mostly black constituency.A newly emerging class of black politicians, however, men (and a few women) closer in age to Obama and Jesse Jr., seek a broader political brief. Comfortable inside the establishment, bred at universities rather than seminaries, they are just as likely to see themselves as ambassadors to the black community as they are to see themselves as spokesmen for it, which often means extolling middle-class values in urban neighborhoods. Their ambitions range well beyond safely black seats.(New York Times)

Technology:

No Nukes: Download essay by Robert A. Letcher, PhD

Natural gas cars:  An unusual alliance of energy tycoons and environmentalists is trying — with limited success — to persuade skeptical Americans to start running their cars on natural gas instead of gasoline. But in many developing countries, the switch is already on, driven by the volatile price of gasoline, the accessibility of natural gas, hefty consumer subsidies and concern about the environment.  In Thailand, drivers have converted or purchased more than 40,000 natural-gas-burning cars and trucks in the past six months. Local energy officials say they expect the number of natural-gas cars — which in many cases are able to run on gasoline as well as natural gas — to nearly triple by 2012 to 330,000. (Wall Street Journal)

Brain scans as evidence in court:  India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from a brain scanner that produces images of the human mind in action and is said to reveal signs that a suspect remembers details of the crime in question.  The technologies, generally regarded as promising but unproved, have yet to be widely accepted as evidence — except in India, where in recent years judges have begun to admit brain scans. But it was only in June, in a murder case in Pune, in Maharashtra State, that a judge explicitly cited a scan as proof that the suspect’s brain held “experiential knowledge” about the crime that only the killer could possess, sentencing her to life in prison.Psychologists and neuroscientists in the United States, which has been at the forefront of brain-based lie detection, variously called India’s application of the technology to legal cases “fascinating,” “ridiculous,” “chilling” and “unconscionable.” While attempts have been made in the United States to introduce findings of similar tests into court cases, these generally have been by defense lawyers trying to show the mental impairment of the accused, not by prosecutors trying to convict. (New York Times) 
Screening the toxicity of nanomaterials: In light of mounting concerns regarding the potential toxicity of some nanomaterials, scientists have designed a rapid screening tool to help predict which ones are likely to be harmful. Hundreds of nanotechnology-based products are already on the market–in everything from sunscreens and cosmetics to paints and car bumpers–and many more are in the pipeline. However, studies assessing the safety of nanomaterials are limited. As a result, scientists and policy makers have been calling for more systematic reviews of the risks that these nanoscale materials might pose to human health. (Technology Review)
Cybercrime: Estonia’s defense minister says international cooperation is key to fighting cybercrime. Jaak Aaviksoo says that actions aimed at crippling the Internet should be condemned globally, and all countries should support international agreements, such as the European Council’s Convention on Cybercrime. Aaviksoo also said in a speech Wednesday at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that efforts should be made to demystify cyberspace. He suggests nations could learn about cyber security from the private sector. Estonia has led the fight against cybercrime since attacks last year that it blamed on Russia seriously affected its economy because so much of it was dependent upon the Internet. (Technology Review)
Demography:
Married couples spend more time apart: In one of the most comprehensive studies of marriage, Penn State sociology professor Paul Amato and others compared two separate random samples of more than 2,000 married people each in 1980 and in 2000. They found that the likelihood of couples spending lots of time together visiting friends, pursuing recreational activities, dining or shopping together, or teaming up on projects around the house, fell 28%. Spouses also are less likely to get along well with their partners’ friends. “People may be bowling alone these days,” the study says, referring to a bestselling book about the breakdown of social ties, “but married couples are also eating alone.” (Wall Street Journal)
Teen sex: New data from a large government survey show that the decade-long decline in sexual activity among high-school students leveled off between 2001 and 2007 and the increase in condom use by teens flattened out in 2003. Moreover, the survey found disturbing hints that teen sexual activity might have begun creeping up and that condom use among high-school students might be edging down, though those trend lines have not yet reached a point where statisticians can be sure, officials said. (Columbus Dispatch)

Environment:

First U.S. Town Powered Completely By Wind:  Four turbines supply electricity to the small town of Rock Port, Mo., (1,300 residents), making it the first community in the United States to operate solely on wind power. (Live Science)
Green revolution in business:  There is a green revolution under way in business. After years of scepticism, big companies are starting to see the need for change. They are acting to cut waste, cut carbon emissions, find sources of renewable energy and develop sustainable business models. So, at least, argues Peter Senge in his latest book, The Necessary Revolution.
New fuels: 2008 will be the year when fuel prices will continue to be unattainable for many people driving causing a reaction to what I call “Forward to the Past”. There is a resurgence of utilizing agrarian based fuels as well as new mainstream technology of PHEV (Plug In Electric Hybrids). But the real innovations will bring about wind and solar to generate not only electricity but the production of hydrogen through electrolysis. (Jerry Hutton)
Wind power: Norwegian oil and gas producer StatoilHydro and Germany’s Siemens will install what could be the world’s first commercial-scale wind turbine located offshore in deep water. StatoilHydro has allocated 400 million NOK ($78 million) to floating a Siemens turbine in more than 200 meters of water–10 times the depth that conventional offshore wind-turbine foundations can handle–atop a conventional oil and gas platform. (Technology Review)
Clean energy:  According to Clean Edge research:
  • Biofuels (global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel) reached $25.4 billion in 2007 and are projected to grow to $81.1 billion by 2017. In 2007 the global biofuels market consisted of more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol and 2 billion gallons of biodiesel production worldwide.
  • Wind power (new installation capital costs) is projected to expand from $30.1 billion in 2007 to $83.4 billion in 2017. Last year’s global wind power installations reached a record 20,000 MW, equivalent to 20 large-size 1 GW conventional power plants.
  • Solar photovoltaics (including modules, system components, and installation) will grow from a $20.3 billion industry in 2007 to $74 billion by 2017. Annual installations were just shy of 3 GW worldwide, up nearly 500 percent from just four years earlier.
  • The fuel cell and distributed hydrogen market will grow from a $1.5 billion industry (primarily for research contracts and demonstration and test units) to $16 billion over the next decade.
  • Together, we project these four benchmark technologies, which equaled $55.4 billion in 2006 and expanded 40 percent to $77.3 billion in 2007, to grow to $254.5 billion within a decade.

Click here for a report

Education:
Trends among high school seniors:  Members of the current generation of high-school seniors are more likely than their parents to be taking mathematics, heading off to a four-year college, and contemplating graduate school, according to a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics.  According to the report, the number of seniors planning to attend a four-year college increased from 34 to 61 percent (the survey covered the years between 1972-2004). Meanwhile, the proportion who expected to get graduate or professional degrees also increased, from 13 percent to 38 percent. The share planning to work full time in the year after college shrank, from 32 percent to 19 percent.The report also reviews changes in the expectations of men and women. In 1972, 16 percent of men expected to receive graduate degrees, compared with 9 percent of women. Nowadays, 45 percent of women expect to earn graduate degrees, compared with 32 percent of men. Participation in math and science has also changed, with more students taking advanced courses like calculus, and fewer taking no math or science in their senior year.The 2004 crop of seniors was also more diverse than its 1972 counterparts. In 1972, 86 percent of seniors were white, compared with 62 percent in 2004. The largest net change was among Hispanic students, whose share of the high-school senior population went from 4 percent to 15 percent. The report also details the students’ ethnicity and socioeconomic status, senior-year courses, extracurricular activities, and plans for the future
The future of peer review:  For centuries, peer review has played a role in science. It has become increasingly important in recent years as a means of rationing grants and publications in the face of a proliferation of academic research. But the process is under assault from critics who say it is ineffective at filtering out poor research, while it perpetuates predictable work at the expense of more imaginative thinking. In the long run we all suffer because economic growth depends on unpredictable scientific advances. In response to the perceived constraints of the process, researchers are using the internet to open up new ways of publishing that streamline peer review – or do away with it altogether – while several of the world’s biggest science funding bodies are making radical changes in the way they assess research proposals. (Financial Times, June 12 2008)
Columbus and Central Ohio: 
Trends in the Mid-Ohio Region:  Presentation by Chester Jourdan, Executive Director Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORP-C) click here for presenation
The Columbus Renaissance Coalition:  The CRC has a unique vision for the future of Columbus, a vision to transform the city into a 21st century international metropolis. click here for website
Top 10 Ideas to Revitalize Ohio:  click here
Prosperous cities and young adults: Communities with large concentrations of young adults are more likely to prosper, according to a new Bizjournals study. Having a high percentage of young adults age 18-34 can be an indicator of economic success, in that it tells marketers where to concentrate their efforts, entreprenuers where to start businesses and college graduates where to look for work.  The top 5 cities offering the best job opportunities for young adults are: Raleigh, Austin, Washington, D.C., Las vegas, and Phoenix.  Columbus ranked 33rd out of the 67 metro regions surveyed. (Columbus Business First)
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