Seven Horizons

Description of
the Horizons


Descriptions of the Horizons

This project is in part a response to frustrations experienced by the researchers who created it. We got tired of people murkying the discourse by comingling the wildest predictions with technologies already on the market. The present and near future is challenging enough without confusing it with science fiction.

We got equally tired of being b.s.-ed by people with impressive titles who swore to us that their product was much more imminent that it really was.

Finally, it got old, being told by the ignorant that technological developments that actually existed were unlikely.

Thus, this website attempts to list a broad range of emerging technologies, explain what they are, and then give readers our best understanding of where they are in the pipeline, complete with notes on where our information comes from.

Each technology is placed in one of seven horizons, indicating how close they might be to actually entering our lives. These are:

The First Horizon:
"Available, But Not Ubiquitious": This is the horizon that honors novelist William Gibson’s observation, "The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed." In this horizon, the technology is already on the market, but many people are still unaware of it. The Mattel Corporation’s mind-machine interface toys, for example, or modafinil, the prescription pharmaceutical that shuts off the human trigger to sleep while enhancing cognition. ·

Second Horizon:
"Commercial": This is the stage where the MBA’s usually live. The stuff has been demonstrated to work, the business model is thought to be in place, the crank up process to commercial delivery is in full swing. The stuff has cleared stage three clinical trials, for example. We’re just waiting for the factory and the advertising campaign and the company organization to be finished. It’s real and near. DNA Factory, for example. Typically 1-3 years to reaching the public, barring some implosion.

Third Horizon:
"Engineering." This is the stage where the venture capitalists usually live. The stuff seems to work, and they’re figuring out if they can ramp it up for major production in a fashion that makes economic sense. Lots of money changing hands. Vaccines against addiction, such as to cigarettes, for example. Aging-reversal drugs. Typically 2-6 years to reaching the public unless some deal-killer emerges. ·

Fourth Horizon:
"Scientific." This is the stage where researchers are demonstrating the innovation is possible. They have proof of concept. But it is not guaranteed yet that it can be safely and economically brought to market, or when. Organ and limb regeneration probably belongs in this category. Brain implant chips. Memory pills. Transforming skin cells into brain cells. Typically 4-10 years to reaching the public if everything goes right. ·

Fifth Horizon:
"Informed Speculation." This is where you will typically find organizations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In this horizon, it is not clear whether the technology will work, but a lot of money is being thrown at it. Synthetic Telepathy helmets that allow mind to mind communication via a computerized helmet, for example.

Sixth Horizon:
"Blue Sky." Essentially, credible science fiction. This is the situation where, e.g., we know for a fact that plant genes can be spliced into mammals, and serious people are thinking about humans who can generate energy from the sun via photosynthesis, but who know what that means. Typical time to consumer, 10-20 years, if ever.

Seventh Horizon:
"Questionable." Stuff we really have our doubts about within our twenty-year timeline.