2016 has been a controversial year for predictions. One that has raised questions about whether we can, and should, try to predict the future. At Nesta, we make predictions, not primarily to be right about them, but to provoke thinking, to introduce new ideas and to question the status quo - you can read more on this in a blog from Louise Marston. Presented below are updates on 2016’s forecasts.
It’s continued to be a hot topic and this year has seen Universal Basic Income (UBI) move into beta with an increase in pilots as we predicted. Soon after our prediction Holland joined Finland in committing to a trial. And this year we’ve seen trials confirmed in Ontario and Prince Edward Island in Canada, Kenya, Oakland in California and Uganda. A trial is already underway in the Italian city of Livorno, which plans to roll it out further in January 2017.
In June, Switzerland became the first country to hold a referendum on UBI, which was rejected by a majority of 77 per cent of voters. Meanwhile in the UK, September saw Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn announce that the party would research and test the idea.
Uber and Airbnb continued to dominate the headlines this year but did the titans of the sharing economy meet their match? Just after we published this prediction rumblings began in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as transport regulations made Uber illegal. Arcade City, a token-based ride-sharing app, which sidesteps the middleman by using blockchain began soon after.
At Nesta we continued the discussion at our ShareLab event, which brought together over 200 policymakers, entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers to discuss developing and harnessing collaborative platforms for good. And next year we’ll be working with European partners on alternatives to the centralised web, which you can read more about in our 2017 prediction on blockchain and personal data.
In summer the Pokémon Go phenomenon hit, and you couldn’t move for people playing it in streets, parks and at tourist attractions. The interactive game has been praised for its physical and social benefits, which leads neatly into our prediction that doctors will start prescribing computer games to heal you.
Although games didn’t make it onto doctors’ prescriptions yet, we have seen a virtual reality experience used to treat patients suffering with paranoia, and May saw the launch of Sea Quest Hero, a 3D game which collects data on spatial navigation to help dementia research. Roll forward to November and we’re delighted to see that the data collected from 2.4 million players has led to a breakthrough that could lead to the first ever test for dementia.
Here at Nesta we have also been working to make one of our related predictions a reality by helping patients to become citizen scientists. In August we launched a pilot of our Dementia Citizens project, which trialled two apps based on music and reminiscence. Look out for insights from the programme early next year.
We were pleased to hear from startup Hubbub, a service delivering food from independent stores, following our prediction that small food will get big and take on the supermarkets. Hubbub raised £2 million in VC funding and has acquired more customers than ever, reported Management Today in August. However, a fall in European VC funding and the impact of Brexit on food regulation and trade create a challenging environment for new startups in this area.
We also predicted in 2016 that food-hacking - eating meal replacements such as Soylent - would reach mainstream mouths. It was a difficult year for Soylent, which in October withdrew products following reports of nausea, resulting in the product - popular with programmers - making CNN Tech’s list 5 tech gifts you should definitely avoid this holiday season. However, this style of nutrition-packed compact bars are now being developed by NASA so may yet take off as a food trend...in space.
We predicted challenge-driven universities would start to move from the margins to the mainstream in 2016 and in July The Guardian reported on how universities could help heal deep rifts in Brexit Britain. July also saw MIT’s former dean of graduate education, Christine Ortiz, leave to set up her own non-traditional university and the New Model in Technology & Engineering (NMITE) university, offering “a new approach to learning – based on real-world problem solving” will open in England in 2017.
This year we celebrated the 400-year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and this was the inspiration when Selfridges collaborated with Faction theatre company to stage Much Ado About Nothing in a pop-up in-store theatre. This followed our prediction that the high street and arts sector would collaborate to take experiential retail centre stage.
And September saw Nesta’s FutureFest arrive at Tobacco Dock, London, which nodded to our prediction on audio tech making more than music when festival-goers experienced Coming Out, a site-specific audio installation which took people on an audio date around the venue.
As the smart home becomes a reality, the security implications are becoming clear. We predicted that 2016 would be the year that locking the cyber backdoor would become a household concern. In October, the “something bad” we predicted did happen, in the form of a huge denial of service (DDoS) attack, which disrupted internet service across Europe and the US and was powered by insecure connected devices. This has prompted experts to deliver a warning to congress and certainly brought the issue to the fore.
As with all our predictions lists, not all of last year’s forecasts were likely to play out in full in the space of 12 months, but we’re confident we’ll see further progress on many of our 2016 forecasts in the years to come. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to 2017. Find out what we’ve predicted this year!