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FTI Annual Letter
2021 Signals Inventory + 2022 Look Ahead

This year we grappled with a global pandemic and the avalanche of change reshaped entire landscapes. Artificial intelligence is being applied to speed the discovery of new medicines. Facebook and Squarespace changed their names to Meta and Block, signaling a digital land grab in the emerging Web 3.0. Cryptocurrencies and meme stocks confused both markets and regulators. Consumers embraced smart homes and connected appliances. The biggest streamers––Netflix, Disney+, AppleTV, Hulu––discovered a formidable set of competitors in social-retail-video networks like Shein. Speaking of avalanches, it's now been 229 days since it last snowed in Denver, and new data reveal that the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a crucial water resource in Western states, could disappear in two decades.

This change––all these signals––offer insights about our 2022 horizon.

Signals help us see inflection points early. In 2009, I created an end-of-year inventory of signals to methodically reflect on the prevailing forces that are likely to influence the world ahead. It proved to be an invaluable catalogue months later, as I worked on client engagements, researched our trend report, modeled scenarios, and collaborated with writers and directors on creative projects. Tracking signals is paramount to our work at FTI, and to do it we use a deceptively simple tool –– the wheel you see below. It lists the 11 primary sources of macro change impacting business, government and society. Signals indicate small change or disruptions. They can be weak or strong. A trend describes the direction of a development or change over time. We use this framework to force new perspectives. If Amazon launches a new pair of connected glasses, we start hunting for related signals in infrastructure and government. This helps us to see forces of disruption over time. The 11 sources of macro change might seem onerous at first, but consider the benefit of a broader viewpoint: those who have first insights tend to have more options. 

Cataloging signals is a practice I've refined and honed for the past decade. Far from being a nostalgic look back at what was or might have been, or a list of predictions that might not be any more accurate than the local weather forecast, my annual inventory is something entirely different: a way to think about the evolution of technology, science and humanity as part of a long continuum.

What follows is a curated selection of signals from my annual inventory. I'm sharing them with you, as I do every year, to stimulate your own thinking for 2022.

This is our last FTI Tech Trends newsletter of the year, and a warning in advance: this is a very long email. Keep this annual letter in your inbox or bookmark and access it online throughout the year. And as always, there is a note of gratitude and thanks at the very end. We'll see you again in the new year!

Amy Webb
CEO, Future Today Institute 

10 Big Themes for 2022

  1. Decentralization. You're going to hear this a lot in the next year as the evolution of the Internet and digital system continues. Whether it's decentralized finance, social networks, investment vehicles, identity management, art, commerce or content distribution, new decentralized systems offer varying degrees of group participation, regulation and oversight. Some intermediaries will be displaced. If you weren't following the ConstitutionDAO disaster, read this for some color on what the future could look like. (A bunch of people who met on social media launched a decentralized organization, raised $44 million from individual investors, and tried to buy an original copy of the U.S. constitution at auction.)
  2. Metaverse. Yes, I know the metaverse hype cycle is approaching the peak of inflated expectations. Stories about Facebook's name change to Meta and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's vision for the metaverse and a flexible WFH future are inescapable. If you can put aside cartoon avatars for a moment, what actually matters is the melding of physical and digital spaces. For example, getting a digital twin of your home when you buy it, which you could use (rather than architectural drawings alone) to remodel your kitchen. If you focus on infrastructure rather than shiny objects you'll see lots of credible opportunities, a new business ecosystem emerging, and of course, lots of potential risk. Privacy? Security? Just wait until your metaverse space gets hacked with you trapped inside it.
  3. Synthetic Biology. What if the miracle that created mRNA vaccines is less a once-in-a-lifetime event and more the harbinger of an emerging Biology Age? Very soon, we will program living, biological structures as though they are tiny computers. The future of reality will be virtual, yes, but also synthetic. Starting with components from the natural world—DNA, more basic molecules, cells–scientists are already altering biology, performing a kind of alchemy that allows these materials to serve a new or better purpose. You're about to see synthetic biology applications for vaccines, food and beverages, packaging, industrial materials, agriculture, prescription medication and to manage climate change. The bioeconomy is ramping up fast, and you'll hear a lot about this in 2022.
  4. Techlash. Next year, China will continue to pursue crackdowns on its largest tech companies in an effort to align private sector strategy with Beijing's geopolitical plans. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, collectively know as the BAT, are leaders in e-commerce and gaming. Now, President Xi Jinping wants to direct that collective power for economic, diplomatic and militaristic advantage over the U.S. Meanwhile, we're going to see renewed efforts Washington and the E.U. to break up some members of the G-MAFIA.
  5. Space Race. Next year will see an unprecedented number of launches. For the first time, more paying tourists travel off-planet than government employees. There are a staggering number of satellite constellations set for launch, including from Amazon and SpaceX. It's time for the telecommunications ecosystem (read: ISPs) to ask an uncomfortable question: what if Big Tech offers space-based internet for free? China will explore Mars and finish its own space station. Russia is likely to ramp up its activity on the Moon. NASA will land on asteroids. And, perhaps most importantly, the James Webb telescope will begin to send back data––and could literally reshape our conception of reality. 
  6. Work From... We're still sorting out what the future of work will look like. There seems to be consensus that the 9-5 cubicle office culture that became ubiquitous was a constraint, and companies have embraced flexible work plans. With Delta and the new omicron variant spreading, it will be months before new hybrid work patterns are firmly established. The Great Resignation is likely to continue in some form in 2022.
  7. Biological Chipsets. Engineers are designing new computer systems for biology, and startups are selling printers capable of turning computer code into living organisms. Network architects are using DNA as hard drives. Researchers are growing body-on-a-chip systems: picture a translucent domino embedded with nanoscale human organs that live and grow outside a human body. New brain-machine interface technology, which will be introduced next year, isn't something out of The Matrix––you won't wire in and know Kung Fu. Instead, it will help people recover from spinal cord injuries and paralysis. 
  8. News Media. In the U.S., hundreds of newspapers will fight Google and Facebook in court over antitrust issues. Initial lawsuits filed this year claim that Big Tech monopolized revenue that would have gone to local news. Revenue is especially important, because hedge funds like Alden Global Capital have been on buying sprees, scooping up vulnerable local news organizations and dismantling them, leaving news deserts behind. For the biggest players, it might have been a banner year for subscriptions––but what will it take to maintain wallet share in 2022?
  9. Artificial Intelligence. You'll see below that I'm keenly interested in multi-modal systems. Search and discovery are now officially on an improved path, which will have enormous implications for just about every business. There's a lot of opportunity here, and I'm excited by some of the research I've been seeing. But legacy problems––transparency, bias, inclusion––still aren't being addressed in any meaningful way by the biggest players. Also of note: synthetic media, which straddles decentralization, metaverse and AI.
  10. Geoengineering. China successfully used cloud-seeding to create artificial rain to temporarily reduce air pollution dramatically. This wasn't an experiment––it was an effort to control the weather ahead of a major political celebration in Beijing. China has spent billions of dollars on weather manipulation. We ought to ask question: is it ok for one country to hack its local weather, when the downstream effects could impact its neighbors? On the other hand, it's clear after COP26 that we need creative alternatives to cutting CO2 emissions alone. Cloud seeding isn't the only technology available to us now.

2021 Retrospective: Tech + Science Signals

Below is a curated list of signals from 2021 that are likely to shape the year ahead.

Artificial Intelligence
  • Multi-modal systems. OpenAI's CLIP and Dall-E models showed impressive progress in combining NLP and computer vision modeling. Feed a text prompt into Dall-E, like "a carrot wearing a tutu and walking a dog," and the system will generate a trove of images that interpret the prompt's meaning. It's incredibly impressive and signals a sweeping change in search and discovery. A multi-modal model like this could enable conversational/ visual interactions, which would be game-changing for e-commerce, streaming platforms and news, not to mention product design teams. More here, here and here.
  • DeepMind. The team at DeepMind certainly had a good year. From protein folding to predicting gene expression, it's clear now that AI will supercharge what we know about biology. In what's likely a bid to monetize DeepMind's research –– which, to be clear, should be considered foundational, long-horizon work –– Alphabet launched Isomorphic Labs and installed DeepMind's CEO Demis Hassabis to simultaneously serve as its CEO. The plan is to develop new drugs using DeepMind's AI. Here are some more DeepMind papers I found interesting this year: Collaborating with Humans without Human DataHow to transfer algorithmic reasoning knowledge to learn new algorithms?Entropy-based adaptive Hamiltonian Monte Carlo.
  • IP and ownership rights. We saw a bunch of very convincing Tom Cruise deepfakes this year. What we didn't see was any new caselaw defining IP rights in an era of AI. If someone trains an AI system to deepfake new music –– such as a novel Rolling Stones song –– could artists claim rights to royalty?
  • M&A. The FTC is suing Nvidia to block its deal with ARM, which could have a heating or chilling effect on the industry, depending on your perspective.
  • Policy shifts. The European Union moved forward on regulating AI, in a direct challenge to Silicon Valley. This new regulation isn't yet in force, but it is a clear signal about what the future of AI regulation could look like. Meanwhile US government agencies are planing to increase their use of facial recognition technology. Here's a massive GAO report showing how (PDF).
  • Civil rights. Facial recognition systems were in and out of court this year, while ClearviewAI repeatedly made headlines. New lawsuits reveal how courts could weigh facial recognition as a civil rights issue. More here and here.
  • Oops GANs. So it turns out that AI fake-face generators can be rewound to reveal the real faces they trained on.
  • BiasWell-respected AI ethics researcher and computer scientist Timnit Gebru launched DAIR (Distributed AI Research) which will work on the technology “free from Big Tech’s pervasive influence” and probe ways to weed out the harms that are often deeply embedded.    
NeurIPS just kicked off its annual meeting this week, so I anticipate adding loads of signals here once all the papers have been presented.

Biotech + Synthetic Biology 
  • Synthetic biology. 2021 was another record-breaking year for the synthetic biology startup community. Lots of companies are developing new bio-based systems to clean up "forever chemicals," such as PFAS and other toxins found in our water systems. Applications from this bio revolution could have a direct global impact of up to $4 trillion per year over the next 10-20 years, enabling production of 60% physical inputs to the global economy, and addressing 45% of the world’s current disease burden.
  • Related: I wrote a new book about the future of synthetic biology and the bioeconomy, and it launches in February. 
  • Synthetic meat and booze. Reactor-grown nuggets, human-edited genetic code, and new mRNA technology could change our relationship with life itself. Read more here.
  • Messenger RNA. Well before Covid, mRNA was being studied for a host of therapies. With successful use cases in market, now there's growing attention in using mRNA to mitigate everything from the flu to malaria to cancer
  • CRISPR. Preliminary results from a landmark clinical trial suggest that CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing can be deployed directly into the body to treat disease. CRISPR could also be used to help manage our climate emergency. CRISPR has been playing a role in Covid-related diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • Batteries and storage. DNA is already being used to store information –– think of it as nature's hard drive. This is an area where an unlikely player –– Microsoft –– is already producing interesting work
  • Patents. A patent pooling licensing company, MPEG LA, has gone another route. The company is in the process of accumulating several patents from different companies, giving it potential access to a broad range of CRISPR intellectual property. There are 262 patents or patent applications listing CRISPR-Cas9 and more than 5,000 general CRISPR patents. And these are only the patent applications for Cas9.
  • Misinformation. It turns out that a lot of people forgot what they learned in high school bio. Misinformation about the mRNA vaccines spread fast. Scientists, government officials and community leaders are going to need to sort out how to talk about synthetic biology, CRISPR and complex ideas––and tech platforms will need to sort out how to curb the spread of intentionally false information.
  • Sustainability. The two main networks, Bitcoin and Ethereum, publish "proof of work" verification to reward miners for their work. Millions of miners compete to create solutions to puzzles, and they're rewarded with cryptocurrency if other miners agree it works. Much of this is automated, and since the space has exploded, the puzzles are becoming increasingly time and labor-intensive. This is leading to record electricity usage. It also means that centralized mining operations have a strategic advantage over folks mining in their spare time at home. Ethereum is adopting a "proof of stake" system to resolve some of these issues, which is a consensus protocol used to validate transactions. This would speed up transactions and could drastically reduce energy use.
  • ETH v SOL. There was explosive growth in transactions on the Ethereum and Solana networks this year, in part because people went nuts buying up NFTs.

Cryptocurrencies, DAOs, Tokens & NFTs
  • Bubble? The cryptocurrency market is now worth over $3 trillion. Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value under bitcoin, hit a new all-time high above $4,700 in December. Solana’s token, SOL, was up nearly 12,000%, and SOL hit an all-time high of nearly $259.96 early December. Bitcoin was also nearing a record high of above $66,900 and as of this writing was trading at around $66,006. Related: the Staples Center is now officially the Center, which only sports announcers will actually say aloud. 
  • Warnings. ConstitutionDAO attempted to buy an original copy of the U.S. constitution at auction, raised $44 million, and lost. Now, investors are trying to get their money back and finding that cashing out tokens involves hefty fees. A crypto called SQUID, inspired by the wildly popular series "Squid Game," shot up to $2,800+ before crashing back down to zero. Users weren't able to sell their tokens on decentralized exchange Pancakeswap, but the SQIUD's creators still made off with $3.4 million.
  • Citycoins. Hopefully less dangerous than Citibikes. The city of Miami announced its own currency, MiamiCoin, now trading as MIA and sits on the Stacks blockchain. Stacks uses bitcoin as a settlement and reserve asset, just like how commercial banks use reserves held at the Fed. The city gets a 30% cut of mined coins. Similar projects are underway in Austin and New York City. What does it mean for a city to manufacture money and earn a profit––without having control over that currency? Meanwhile, the mayors of New York and Miami said they'd take their salaries in crypto.
  • Coinbase. Coinbase made history as the biggest digital asset listing in history, coming to market at twice the valuation of Nasdaq and nearly the size of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Very centralized. Most of the gains on NFTs are being realized by a tiny group of insiders who understand how the ecosystem actually works.

Decentralized Finance
  • Currency. El Salvador recognized Bitcoin as legal tender. China is pushing fast to get its digital eyuan system adopted nationwide. 
  • Enablers. In 2021, PayPal, Venmo, Mastercard and Twitter began allowing customers to transact in Bitcoin. For a hot minute, you could buy a Tesla using Dogecoin.
  • Regulation. Regulators are increasingly concerned about DeFi platforms and whether they're truly "decentralized." The Bank for International Settlements, an umbrella group for central banks, wants transparency and regulation.

  • Cold War(s). China and the U.S. have entered a new area of conflict along multiple tech and science fronts. Competition with China is a multi-dimensional challenge along economic, tech, science, diplomatic and militaristic lines. Of particular note to us at FTI: artificial intelligence, hypersonic technology, synthetic biology, CRISPR and other biotechnologies.
  • Five-Year Plan. Synthetic biolgy and biotech, AI, advanced manufacturing, energy conservation and environmental protection are all key components of China's 14th Five-Year Plan.
  • 5G. The number of 5G mobile users in China spiked 576% in the past year as the government rolls out its national network upgrade.
  • Anti-trust. China's big tech players –– Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (known as the BAT) –– now reach >90% of the market. The CCP made a big production launching anti-monopoly probes and launching a host of new regulations. 
  • Entertainment. Two powerful Chinese government agencies, the Central Propaganda Department and the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), met with television stations in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Hunan to address what they called the “problem of excessive entertainment in satellite television programs.” Basically, the Chinese government is cracking down on Western-style shows.
  • New shopping festivals. New records were hit in November during Double Eleven (11/11), which is China's annual online shopping event. smashed its previous record with >$49 billion in sales. Now, there are provincial shopping festivals, too. Double Five will now take place on 5/5 in Shanghai. The shopping events require people to gain fan points ahead of sales––which can be acquired through relentless interactions, demonstrated good behavior, and high social credit scores. If this is all new to you, read this great essay on the absolute insanity of Single's Day.
  • EVs. China is quickly becoming a global force in the global auto industry. Electric cars are surging in popularity, and Chinese manufacturers are now exporting cars to Western Europe, competing with the likes of Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen.
  • Socials. Chinese social networks and e-commerce platforms, such as Shein, TikTok and Kuaishou, emerged as powerful, global streaming platforms in 2021. Shein is technically an e-commerce platform, but some analysis we recently did at FTI revealed that people are now binging Shein videos as they do videos from traditional streamers like Hulu and Netflix. The metrics are comparable –– but streamers still don't see platforms like Shein as emerging competitive threats.
  • GrowthChina could overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest economy by 2028. 
  • Africa. China's massive Belt and Road Initiative is moving steadily into Africa, influencing the future of telecommunications there. And the CCP is establishing its first military base on Africa's Atlantic Coast. 


  • Regulation. Last year, Nvidia announced its plan to acquire British chipmaker Arm for $40 billion, shocking the semiconductor industry. Arm had been a staunchly neutral provider of chip designs. Now, the FTC is suing to block the merger.


  • Mandates. Cities, countries, companies, schools, public officials––there were a bunch of different approaches to vaccine mandates. One place the argument landed was in school boards. I found this two part series from The Daily podcast fascinating and recommend you listen. 
  • Patents. In a historic move, the U.S. government announced that it supports waiving patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Wild West. In an effort to reopen the economy, hundreds of companies and technology groups developed smartphone apps or systems –– or simply used Typeform or a Google form –– for individuals to upload details of their Covid-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries. Most weren't secure.


  • COP26. Unsurprisingly, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference concluded with India and China weakening language to phase out fossil fuels, and they refused to accept liability for extreme weather events.
  • Cloud SeedingChina modified its weather to make sure that Communist Party celebrations weren't sullied by smog. The government laced clouds with chemicals to bring on rainfall for a few hours––this artificial rain reduced pollutants by more than two-thirds and improved air quality for the celebration in Beijing. The government has been experimenting with this technology to deal with drought.
  • Records. Severe precipitation shortages resulted in the Hoover Dam reservoir hitting a record low, while Denver hit a new record for the most consecutive days without any snow. 
  • Mars. The Today Show broadcast a pretty cool (and real!) weather report from Mars.
  • It's Hot. New data revealed that the world could hit a worrying climate change milestone. There is now a 40% chance that we will hit the watershed global warming mark –– of the global temperature temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C –– by 2025.


  • Languages. It turns out that most ransomware is designed not to install on computers that have Russian or Ukrainian language keyboards. 
  • Fuel. Colonial Pipeline, which carries 45% of the East Coast’s supply of petroleum, diesel and jet fuel, was compromised by a hacking organization called DarkSide. The group stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data, threatening to release it to the internet unless a ransom was paid. As a result, U.S. gas prices rose some six cents per gallon, and many gas stations faced shortages fueled by panic buying and supply disruptions.
  • Social networks. 214 million records were breached on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. A Chinese social media management company leaked PIIs, which would allow bad actors to piece together names, phone numbers and other personal information.
  • Parler. The right-wing platform Parler had 70 terabytes of data scraped by hactivists. The devastating breach exposed nearly all of the platforms data. which included messages, posts, and metadata (poster locations, dates, times). The leak was then used to power websites like Faces of The Riot.
  • Microsoft Exchange. A massive zero-day attack, which initially began as a targeted attack on government agencies, turned into something much more sinister. This piece offers a good summary, then read this one.
  • Ransomware. There was a surge of ransomware attacks in 2021––an alarming number, with no end in sight. CNA Financial (a big insurance company), Kia Motors, Acer, the Washington DC Police Department, and my local city health department (literally this morning) all fell victim to ransomware attacks. 


  • Ready, New Player? Netflix entered the gaming space, which is a pretty big deal.
  • Delays. There were a ton of delays in 2021––consoles didn't ship (ohai, Xbox) and new titles got pushed back weeks (or years, in some cases). Blame chip shortages and supply chain issues. 
  • Stadia, sort of. Google's Stadia had a rocky launch and games weren't added as frequently as promised. Google shut down all internal game development teams
  • Collabs. We started to see unlikely pairings––Xbox's blue cheese to PlayStation's grapefruit juice––which sounds pretty strange until you try it. PlayStation's MLB The Show 21 was released for both Xbox One and launched on Game Pass. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft are busy acquiring studios (Sony: Nixxes Software, Bluepoint Games; Microsoft: Bethesda was the big get).
  • Harassment. Since 2020, there have been several reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, as well as sexism, discrimination, general harassment in the industry. Activision Blizzard is now working with regulators.
  • Equal Pay. There are increased calls for equal pay in women's professional esports leagues

5G + Space Internet

  • Spectrum. It turns out that interference from 5G C-brand spectrum could cause pilots problems when landing, prompting flight diversions.
  • Space Internet. There are tens of thousands of cubesats destined for launch this year. These new satellite constellations will create global, space-based broadband. Rapid expansion is being led by Starlink, Amazon and a bevy of startups. But not every country is excited about this development. India told Starlink it must stop offering satellite internet services without a license to operate in that country. Meanwhile, all these satellite constellations will face space debris. Space junk was already a problem even before Russia's dangerous anti-satellite missile test.

Meme Stock Craze

  • Rivian. What, you haven't been talking incessantly about Rivian, the new EV truck that also has a kitchen fit for elaborate tailgating? The company's IPO will net $12 billion on an $80 billion valuation––and again, I'll highlight that this is an automobile company that is making a truck. It's an EV, yes––and yes, the kitchen is pretty neat. But it's a car company. Tesla––a battery and AI company that happens to make cars––has legions of fans. So when Rivian showed up, these two meme stocks caught fire. 
  • The Fed. The Federal Reserve thinks meme stocks threaten the stability of the financial system, to which retail investors say that’s kind of the point.
  • Trump's SPAC. Kind of a weird one, driven by social media posts. Worth your time. Read more here and here.


  • Metaspace race. There's a new rush to claim digital territory, forge new alliances, and set up camp in the metaverse. The usual suspects––Facebook, Microsoft––are pushing ideas into the enterprise on business applications for the metaverse, while gaming companies are working on platform plays. Nvidia's Omniverse launched in beta this month to connect “engineers, designers, and even autonomous machines to create digital twins and industrial metaverses.”
  • Digital real estate. It felt this year as though the digital world is being divvied up again, but this time rather than scooping up domain names, people are building and selling actual digital homes. And also mega-yachts. Mars House, a trippy, somewhat Minecrafty-looking digital property, went for $500,000. But that was a screaming deal compared to the $650,000 (149 ETH) someone paid for the Metaflower Super Mega Yacht.
  • Virtual goods. The Fabricant, a digital-only fashion house, sold a digital dress in 2019 for $9,500 and has partnerships with big brands like Puma and Tommy Hilfiger. In August, Ralph Lauren launched a 50-piece direct-to-avatar clothing collection, which could be purchased in the social networking app Zepeto. Gucci launched a line of digital sneakers that can only be worn in AR. If you have teenagers at home, Godspeed. 
  • Digital twins. Covid kept us all away from an in-person South By Southwest event this past year, but the SX team created an amazing digital experience––a virtual Austin that allowed you to wander around from parties to film screenings to happy hours and keynotes. 
  • Liminal spaces. The space between virtual reality and, well, regular reality is XR––extended reality. I got to experience this a few years ago playing with some experimental tech out of Sony's CSL research group. Wearing a pair of special glasses, I could use physical objects to interact with digital overlays, which responded to my movements. Another group in Japan, TeamLab, built a digital art museum in Tokyo that responds and reacts to people in the space.
  • Infinite yous. In the metaverse, people can launch infinite versions of themselves. Limitless fictional digital aliases will be fun to play around with, sure––but as transactions are increasingly conducted in metaspaces, we'll need new forms of digital authentication.


  • Design. Engineers made a critical advance in quantum computer design.
  • Time Crystals. Google's quantum computer generated a new phase of matter.
  • Scale. Researchers at Japan’s Riken Center for Emergent Matter Science achieved a major step forward in increasing the scalability of quantum computers. Instead of simply incrementing the total qubits in a system, the researchers demonstrated a triple-qubit, silicon-based quantum computing mechanism.

Silicon Valley

  • Names. Facebook became Meta, Square became Block. Big companies tend not to change their names without a reason, like they need a brand refresh or they're changing the organizational structure or governance. What we're seeing is more of a digital ecosystem land grab.


  • To boldly go...  The era of space tourism is officially here. Shatner went up with Bezos, which––as a longtime Trekkie––actually choked me up just a little. Former football player Michael Strahan is headed up in December, along with a bunch of other tourists. 
  • Mars + Moon. China, the UAE and the U.S. all have missions to Mars now. Meanwhile Russia is headed back to the Moon.
  • James Webb telescope. At long, long, loooong last, the James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch this month. Soon, the data it sends back will literally change our reality. The James Webb Space Telescope has been designed to answer many of the core questions that have animated astronomers over the past half-century. With a $10 billion price tag, it is one of the most ambitious engineering initiatives ever attempted. But for it to achieve its potential, a lot of things have to work just right. Quanta has great coverage (and is an exceptional publication, especially for signal research). More here
  • China. China began construction of its Tiangong space station with the launch of the Tianhe core module.  
  • Cleanup. The End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan in a bid to deal with the growing problem of space junk in orbit.


  • South African students are forced to sell their school Wi-Fi passwords for lunch money. This is an awful story––and a signal reminding us of the continued and sharp digital divide. More here.
  • In 2021, the world’s second most popular electric car (after the Tesla Model 3) was the Wuling HongGuang Mini, which costs $5,000 and outsells vehicles from Renault, Hyundai, VW and Nissan. More here.
  • The remains of Mexican architect Luis Barragán were unearthed  and converted into a two-carat diamond by a conceptual artist. Mined diamonds are typically between one and three billion years old, but this one had been created in six months from Barragán’s ashes by a company that specializes in compressing cremated human remains so that they can be worn as jewelry. The diamond was offered to his family in return for access to his privately-owned archive. Read here.
  • It turns out that last year's mystery seeds weren't an elaborate bioweapon after all.
  • Patents: For those tracking, IBM is leading in patents filed this year, followed by Samsung, LG, Huawei, Microsoft, Sony and Apple.

Questions For Your Team

After reading our annual letter, your team should engage in a strategic conversation about the 10 Big Themes and Signals Inventory. You can discuss the following questions to gain new insights and set you priorities for 2022:
  • What is your team/ executive leadership/ company's point of view on these signals?
  • How do these signals connect to your organization's longer-term vision? (If your organization has not articulated its vision, why not? Failing to connect signals > trends > strategic planning > vision will make you vulnerable to disruption.)
  • Does this signal represent an organizational, operational or strategic gap? If so, what should be done in 2022 to resolve the gap?
  • Is your organization appropriately invested in a strategic area represented by these signals? If you are underinvested, how could that become a liability in 2022 - 2023?
  • What roles might your organization play in the areas represented by these signals? 
  • Do you currently have the right partnerships in place?
  • How will you prioritize these signals for further investigation and action? (Use FTI's ADM framework, pronounced "Adam," below.)

FTI: Review + Preview

It's been an incredible year. FTI was named to the Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest-growing companies, an honor we've worked hard to achieve. We ranked in the top quintile with three-year revenue growth of 377%. We expanded our team to include a new director of consulting, new associates, affiliates and writers. In the coming weeks, we will post several additional positions, and we're preparing to move into a more spacious office.

In addition, we...
  • Advised 57 companies, partnering with executive management teams across banking and finance, insurance, fund management, technology, consumer electronics, biotechnology, telecommunications, retail, food and beverage, commercial real estate, media, e-commerce and transportation.
  • Collaborated on 2 movie scripts.
  • Produced 14 public workshops on signals, trends and futures scenarios.
  • Counted 821k downloads of our annual Tech Trends Report (March - December).
  • Taught 80 MBA students the fundamentals of strategic foresight at NYU Stern, and taught an additional 100 students admitted to Stern in a class for prospective MBAs. 

We also celebrated individual accomplishments.
The year ahead...
  • Our 15th annual Tech Trends Report launches in March, and we're tracking 500+ trends across technology and science. As a newsletter subscriber, you'll receive a link to download a copy of the reports during launch weekend. The theme for 2022 is "Reperception," and wait until you see the report's new features. This year, we're producing visual scenarios. Here's a sneak peak...
  • Join us at SXSW in March! In honor of our Trend Report's 15th anniversary, we have some incredible activities and surprises planned for our SX community. Registration is open now, and we encourage you to sign up asap! Don't forget to book hotel, airfare and car if you're renting one.
  • New FTI programming will launch early next year. In 2022 we will send out invitations to foresight meetups and activities we'll host each month. We hope to bring back our popular in-person events as soon as Covid protocols allow. 
  • Stay tuned for thought leadership. We've been hunkered down during our expansion, and we'll be back in 2022 with new articles––like this popular Harvard Business Review piece on our Time Cone framework––to stimulate your futures thinking and strategic foresight practices. 

Top 10 Most Popular Tech Trends Newsletter Issues of 2021

In the past year, we've sent you newsletters on tech trends ranging from robotic pets to virtual fashion. We also sent you a Halloween edition, with spooky future scenarios written by members of the FTI community. Here are the newsletters you opened and shared the most:
  1. Spooky Futures
  2. How Much Are You Worth?
  3. Our Multi-Parent Futures
  4. Robot Pets
  5. Grey Wave
  6. Digital IDs
  7. Indoor Farming
  8. Climate Scenarios
  9. Privacy is Dead
  10. A Smarter Supply Chain

Many (many) thanks...

At the end of every year, we also like to take a personal inventory of the people and organizations who support and elevate our work at FTI. First and foremost, we are grateful to Stern Strategy Group, and especially Danny Stern and Mel Blake, who are wonderful business partners and have been the primary drivers of FTI's growth these past few years. We are thankful for their strategic guidance, their support, and the wealth of experience and knowledge they share with us. 

We've thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with our FTI foresight community who afford us the ability to think strategically and across a wide array of disciplines. Alexandra Levit, Alexandra Whittington, Brian Alapatt, Cathy Hackl, Ian Forrester, Jake Sotiriadis, Jennifer Garbos, Joana Lenkova, Julia Mossbridge, Leslie Shannon, Lori Melichar, Matt Carmichael, Pam Sydelko, Paul Blacklock, Paul Tarini and Sara Kaufman, it's been an honor to stretch our futures thinking with you. 

To all of them, and to you our readers, we would like to offer our deepest appreciation. Here's to a well-remembered past, a healthy and joyful present, and optimal futures. 
You are receiving this message because you downloaded our Emerging Tech Trends Report, because you are a Future Today Institute Client, or because you attended a Future Today Institute event.

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