FUTURIST UPDATE: Unemployed Teens May Have Better Things to Do Than Work

Jay Owen Trendspotting


March 2014 • Volume 15, No. 3

In this issue:

Sharks and Stingrays Are in Hot Water


Rare sighting of a pair of angel sharks.
Credit: Dan Meineck via Flickr

As many as a quarter of the world’s shark and ray species could disappear in the next two decades, warns a forum of 302 ecologists with the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The sudden absence of these species could throw marine ecosystems out of balance everywhere, including those that we rely on for seafood.

The ecologists assessed 1,041 species and found 249, or 23%, to merit the designations “threatened,” “endangered,” or the most severe category, “critically endangered.” Only 23% were at healthy enough population numbers to be deemed safe. Sawfishes and angel sharks were the most-threatened shark species, while wedgefishes, sleeper rays, and whiptail stingrays were the ray species most in danger.

Overfishing for shark fins, shark and ray meat, and shark- or ray-derived liver oil are major contributors to the problem, according to the report. It also identified high fatalities from accidental ensnarement of the predators in fishnets. Not helping matters is the fear that these creatures inspire among the public. Many human beachgoers would be glad to see fewer of them.

But the truth is that we need them. Ecologists ascribe these predators a prominent role in keeping the oceans’ food chains in balance. Whole fisheries and coral reefs might collapse if these species were not around. —Rick Docksai

Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature

Unemployed Teens May Have Better Things to Do Than Work

About three in five working-age American adults are currently employed or looking for work—the lowest U.S. workforce participation rate since 1978. According to conventional wisdom, the rest are so discouraged by the anemic economy that they’re no longer seeking employment. New analysis from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc, a Chicago-based outplacement firm, says that this explanation is misleading.

What’s skewing the data? Teenagers are, according to the report. The participation rate has declined among other age groups, but it’s the 16- to 19-year-olds who are really throwing off the numbers. Labor participation among teenagers has fallen from 54% in 2006 to 30% last January. 

The reason may be surprising: While it’s easy to write them off as victims of a poor economy, many teenagers aren’t seeking work simply because they do not want jobs. Of those who aren’t currently working, only 8.3% of teenagers say that they would like to be employed.

“It is important to realize that over the last twenty years, there has been a dramatic change in how teens prioritize their lives, and employment no longer plays as important a role,” explains John A. Challenger, the CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “It is easy to understand how a young person weighing his or her options would conclude that sports, clubs and summer school are more likely to pay better dividends over the long run, compared to a minimum wage job in fast food.” —Keturah Hetrick

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Harnessing the Power of Humidity

Whenever water evaporates, it takes energy with it. A team of researchers has found a way to tap into this energy, using humidity-sensitive bacteria. Their method could lead to large-scale generators that create abundant energy from moisture in the air above sun-warmed ponds and harbors.

The researchers coated a latex rubber sheet with a strain of bacteria called Bacillus subtilis, which shrivel into hard spores when their surroundings run dry and swell back up to their original sizes when moisture returns. The bacteria’s expansions and contractions added to the rubber’s own expansions and contractions as the surrounding air grew alternately drier or more humid, and this propelled an adjacent magnet to power an actuator and generate electricity.

Evaporation is “the largest power source in nature,” says lead researcher Ozgur Sahin, associate professor of biological sciences and physics at Columbia University. Even tiny bacteria are powerful when they wield it. In his first experiments, Sahin placed spores on a silicon plank. As soon as he breathed near it, the plank began bending back and forth with a thousand times as much force as a human muscle and 10 times as much force as many industrial-grade materials. By his calculations, moistening a pound of dry spores would create enough thrust to lift a car off the ground. Even more force generation might be possible with genetically engineered bacteria, he adds. —Rick Docksai

Sources: Wyss Institute at Harvard University. The paper, “Bacillus spores as building blocks for stimuli-responsive materials and nanogenerators,” by Xi Chen, L. Mahadevan, Adam Driks, and Ozgur Sahin, was published in Nature Nanotechnology 9, 137–141 (2014).

WorldFuture 2014 Conference

The Annual Conference of the World Future Society
July 11-13, 2014 * Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

WorldFuture 2014 Speaker Bookshelf

Many of the speakers participating at WorldFuture 2014: What If (July 11-13 in Orlando) are also authors. We’ll be featuring selected titles in the next few issues of FUTURIST UPDATE. To view the list, visit our conference bookstore.

  • Small Doses of the Future: A Collection of Medical Science Fiction Stories(Springer, 2014) by Brad Aiken, science fiction writer and Baptist Hospital Miami’s director of rehabilitative medicine. As a career physician, Aiken is steeped in the present-day realities of medicine. He makes informed yet imaginative guesses on what medicine and health may look like in the far future in this collection of nine stories. Individual stories bring to life such themes as telemedicine, nanomedicine, cloning, euthanasia, bionics, and many more. Note that while the stories are fictional, the technologies are not—current research-and-development is working to bring every one of them to life, as Aiken notes in a closing essay. Aiken will speak on Advances in Neurological Rehabilitation at WorldFuture 2014.
  • The Naked Future: What Happens in a World that Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014) by Patrick Tucker, technology editor at Defense One and editor at large for THE FUTURIST. The future is more predictable than ever, due to the rise of big data and predictive analytics. Tucker shows how human behavioral trends ranging from who will commit a crime to what new movie will be a blockbuster might all be discernable through computer models and Web-based smartphone apps that integrate myriad streams of information to make stunningly accurate predictions of what will happen next. Tucker assesses the potential benefits and harms that these data-crunching tools could bring about. He will join Brenda Cooper on the faculty of the preconference Master Course, Futurist Writers Workshop: Futurism and Science-Fiction Synergy.
  • The Diamond Deep by Brenda Cooper, science-fiction author and chief information officer of the city of Kirkland, Washington. In this sequel to The Creative Fire, the multigeneration starship returns to Earth after centuries in space, and the ship’s inhabitants find themselves cast adrift and relegated to social underclass status on a planet whose technologies and lifestyles have transformed beyond their wildest dreams. Ruby Martin and her partner, Joel North, must summon all of the resourcefulness and courage that they can to lead their people to a better future life. Cooper’s session at WorldFuture 2014 is entitled Backing into Eden, Part 2: Playing God with Plants and Animals.

To learn more about WorldFuture 2014: What If or to register, click here.

What’s Hot in THE FUTURIST Magazine

If you’re only receiving Futurist Update, you’re missing out on the wealth of information you’d be receiving each year as a FUTURIST magazine reader. Subscription is free with World Future Society membership. Join Now!

Here is what’s in the March-April 2014 issue:

Robotic Technology to Preserve Wildlife: A Scenario

By Princess Aliyah Pandolfi

A new flying robotics challenge takes aim at the armed groups that are hunting the black rhino and other animals out of existence. Read more.


A World without Waste?

By Rick Docksai

If current trends continue, we’ll be dealing with three times as much waste by the end of this century as we are now, warns the World Bank. One solution is to treat waste as a resource—a solution that could also cut global pollution, stave off looming resource crises, and lower manufacturing costs, among other benefits.Read more.

The Information Revolution’s Broken Promises

By Karl Albrecht

When revolutionary euphoria sets in, we may be tempted to set aside our critical judgments and enroll ourselves in the dream. Only later, after experience, might we get a more sober perspective on what we were promised and what we got. Here are eight of the “grand promises” of the digital information technology revolution, with reality checks and revised visions of what lies ahead. Read more.

Blundering to Success? Learning from Failure

By Irving H. Buchen

Organizational missteps may be signs of coming catastrophes that we have time to avert. Read more.

When Do I Get My RoboCop? Power before Superpowers

By Patrick Tucker

A new remake of the sci-fi classic RoboCop imagines a future where humanity and machinery merge, to awesome result. Is it a realistic vision? Somewhat, neuroscientist Charles Higgins tells us. Read more.


More Talk, Fewer Languages: Communicating in a Connected World

By John F. Copper

Will the “language of the future” be Chinese or English or both? An international studies researcher looks at how modernization and globalization challenge linguistic diversity. Read more.

Learning without Schools: A Contrarian Future

By Patrick Tucker

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab and One Laptop per Child, shared his views on the future of learning at the World Future Society’s annual conference.Read more.

World Trends & Forecasts

Plus: Tomorrow in Brief, Future Scope, Reviews, and more!

Join Now!

The Futurist Magazine

Login for Online Member Access!

As a WFS Member, you get free online access to THE FUTURIST and more. This email address[email protected] is associated with your membership and can be used in the “Request new password” box if you didn’t receive or can’t find your login credentials.

Recent Blog Standouts from THE FUTURIST Magazine

Join today!

Learning in the 22nd Century: New Blog Introduction

By Renée Cherow-O’Leary

Hello and welcome! This blog has been created to take you on a journey in time, to help you imagine what kinds of learning lives our children and grandchildren will have as they encounter and inherit the world we are creating now. What sort of education could possibly prepare them for this world? Read more.

Fact Checking the Nuclear Energy File

By Len Rosen

After Fukushima it would seem that nuclear power has no future even in a world combating anthropogenic (human caused) climate change because of the burning of fossil fuels for electricity. But that belies the truth. Read more.

Get Yourself in Design-Thinking Mode To Build a Better Future

By Freija van Duijne

The work of strategy experts should ideally be focused on analytic, conceptual thinking, before stepping into operational planning. But often, the pressure to present a hands-on and actionable plan stands in the way of studying situations from a wider angle. Read more.

National Disunity on Full Display in Ukraine

By Rick Docksai

Protestors in the eastern Ukrainian port city Sevastopol uttered contempt for the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych—but not for the reasons that you might think. They didn’t denounce his corruption, his curtailing of media, his flagrant human-rights violations, or his retreat from potentially lucrative new pacts with the West. Read more.

“Trust Me on This One—I’m from the Future!” Confessions of an Accidental Futurist

By George Friedman

There’s a scene in the movie Loopers where Joe, a character from the present time, announces that he is studying French for use later in life. Another character, Abe, who has traveled back in time from the future, suggests that Joe go to China instead. Read more.

Could Technology Mean the End of Romance?

By Keturah Hetrick

A recent Pew poll found that a quarter of Americans in serious relationships say that their significant other is sometimes “distracted” by cell phone use when they’re together. That number rises to 42% among young adults (18-29 years old) who are in relationships.Read more.

Investing in the Future: Finding a Fit with Wearable Devices

By James Lee

Can you train like an Olympic athlete, see through the back of your head, and remember everything you did today? These things are completely unrealistic for most of us, but we are getting closer with breakthroughs in wearable devices. Read more.

How Big Data Could Predict the Next Snowden

By Patrick Tucker

National Intelligence Director James Clapper, at Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, asserted (again) that malevolent insiders with access to top secret material, like Edward Snowden, constituted a top threat to our nation’s national security. The lawmakers agreed and pressed Clapper to explain how he was changing the practices within his office and across the intelligence community to prevent another Snowden-scale data breach. Read more.

Will the 21st Century Actually Begin in 2014?

By David Brin

As if you didn’t already have enough to be nervous about, here’s something creepy to ponder as the year 2014 gets under way. Read more.

Three Strikes and We’re Out (of the Open Internet)

By Brenda Cooper

Someone interviewing me for a magazine asked me what current technology tomorrow’s children would find obsolete. I almost answered “The Internet.” Then I decided to think about that answer a little bit because it’s pretty scary. Then I decided it’s true. Shortly, humans may find today’s wide open Internet as archaic as we now find phones that are wired to walls.Read more.

The Future of Multigenerational Leadership

By Karen Sands

Business is becoming more and more multigenerational, especially as Boomers plan to work longer, out of necessity for some but also as a result of longer, healthier life spans. None of this is news to anyone, much less to futurists. Read more.

FUTURIST UPDATE: News & Previews from the World Future Society is an e-mail newsletter published monthly as a supplement to THE FUTURIST magazine.
©2014 World Future Society • 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814 • Voice: 301-656-8274 • Fax: 301-951-0394 • Email: [email protected] • Web site: www.wfs.org • Contributing Editors: Cynthia G. WagnerRick Docksai, andKeturah Hetrick • Publisher: Jeff Cornish

Like the World Future Society on Facebook

Like THE FUTURIST magazine on Facebook

Follow WorldFutureSoc on TwitterFollow @WorldFutureSoc on Twitter

Follow @WFSFuturist_Mag on TwitterFollow @WFSFuturist_Mag on Twitter