Last year was dizzying, with exciting moments that were both good (the Central Park duck! Lena Dunham’s comeuppance!) and bad (tiny sunglasses! market volatility!). But if the experts who track social change are to be believed, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Next year promises even bigger surprises both in real life and online…
1. Mushroom-infused cocktails will be all the rage
Nearly 70 percent of bartenders are experimenting with mushroom-infused spirits, according to a recent trend forecast from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. At Ghost Donkey, the New York tequila bar that sells a huitlacoche-infused mezcal called the Mushroom Margarita, head bartender Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez says that the mushroom mixology trend “is a product of bartenders and bar teams becoming more knowledgeable and curious about ingredients, flavors, and how to get the best from each and every product. There is definitely a trend toward more savory ingredients in cocktails, with a big emphasis on vegetables and vegetal notes.”
2. Flip phones will make a comeback
By this time next year, an old school flip phone with smartphone technology will be the hottest tech of 2019. But the return of this once antiquated design isn’t about nostalgia — it’s about being practical. “Every person I know has broken the glass in their phone at least once,” says Brett Newman, co-founder of product design firm Daylight Design. “A folding phone that can protect its face and be half the size is responding to a real need and will be successful.” Royole’s FlexPai (above) launched its first foldable phone in China last month, while Samsung’s so-called Galaxy X is rumored to be the first coming to the US market in March. But Motorola and Huawei could beat them to the punch — both are reportedly working on foldable phones.
3. More companies will try the 30-hour work week
2019 could be the year when a four-day work week becomes the norm. For one thing, millennials want it. Several recent studies have found that younger workers prioritize “work-life balance” over career advancement. And a recent experiment in shorter hours at a New Zealand firm found that a four-day work week made employees more productive, so much that management is trying to make the change permanent. “Business conditions are ripe for experiments in good quality jobs with reduced hours,” says Ellen Galinsky, the president of Families and Work Institute and chief science officer at the Bezos Family Foundation. “It’s a solution that fits the times.”
4. Bite-sized travel will be the new big vacation
Over half of global travelers — 53 percent — plan on taking smaller weekend trips in 2019 instead of big, extravagant vacations that last for a week or more, according to a recent Booking.com survey. Just getting out of town for a night is enough, and the short jaunts have partly been fueled by social media. “People like to brag about what they do rather than what they have,” says Pepijn Rijvers, the chief marketing officer at Booking.com. “Micro-trips allow travelers to have multiple experiences throughout the year,” giving them lots to brag about year-round, instead one large expensive trip that fails to generate Instagrammable moments after spring break.
5. Your stressed-out pet will be getting some cannabis relief
CBD — a cannabis extract minus the chemical THC, which gets you high — has exploded as a treatment for conditions like chronic pain and anxiety this year, being sold everywhere from bodegas to beauty salons. Now dogs and cats are getting in on the act. Though veterinarians aren’t legally allowed to prescribe CBD for pets in most states and research on the effects of CBD on animals is scarce at best, two-thirds of pet owners ask their veterinarians about the treatment anyway, according to a Veterinary Information Network survey. In March, New York-based BarkShop became the first online retailer to offer CBD treats, and they completely sold out of (what they thought was) a two-month supply on day one. Expect the trend to only continue as “many people are looking to more holistic and natural approaches to healing,” says Christina O’Reilly, co-owner of Rowley’s Good Stuff in San Francisco, which sells CBD-infused peanut butter for dogs. “It only makes sense that they would want the same for their pets.”
6. Space tourism will have its Wright Brothers’ moment
Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, ended the year with a successful test flight, reaching 50 miles above the Earth’s surface, the FAA’s definition of space. And they’re just getting warmed up. “Space tourism is coming into its Wright Brothers’ moment,” says Phil Larson, a former senior advisor for space policy in the Obama administration. “The idea for regularly taking paying passengers to space has … always been ‘just around the corner’. In 2019, we might turn that corner.” Virgin Galactic already has an estimated 700 customers who’ve each paid more than $250,000 for a seat on the company’s as-yet-unscheduled first commercial flight. Rob Meyerson, a VP for the Blue Origin space company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, revealed last summer that there are plans for test flights with passengers this year and they “expect to start selling tickets in 2019,” with prices (rumored) to range from $200,000 to $300,000. Even NASA, which hasn’t allowed private citizens on their rockets since the Challenger explosion of 1986, is seriously considering getting into the space tourism business soon. “The reality is, we’re in a new era now,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in November.
7. Deepfake political ads will get more sophisticated
As we get closer to the 2020 election, not everything we see in political attack ads should be believed. “We will continue to see advances in AI-based technologies that can generate increasingly sophisticated fake images, video, and audio,” says Hany Farid, a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College. Very realistic face-swaps, in which a computer overlays two similar faces, will make a person appear as though they’re saying something they never actually said. In May, a Belgian political party created a deepfake video of President Trump calling on the country to exit the Paris climate agreement, which he never did. But anyone associated with a candidate is a potential target. The Atlantic recently claimed that deepfake tools could “make the current era of ‘fake news’ seem quaint.”
8. Super-short episodes, or “Quick Bites,” will be the new Must See TV
We are watching less TV while sitting on our couches, says Daniel Pink, bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Instead, we’re watching our favorite shows “while waiting in a grocery store line, sitting in the back of an Uber, or standing on the sidelines of a kid’s soccer practice.” Producers are noticing, and in 2019 they’ll start creating short episodic television, between two and seven minutes, “that we can watch during the spaces of our daily lives,” says Pink. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snap are all moving in this direction, and Dreamworks mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg has launched a new venture, called QuiBi — short for “Quick Bites” — to produce this sort of programming. “Mark my words,” says Pink. “Someone will win an Emmy for a TV series whose ‘episodes’ are only 5 minutes long.”
9. Meat-centric diets will go vegan
From keto to paleo, meat-heavy diets will go in the totally opposite direction next year. Vegan versions of the popular meat-based diets — or “Pegan” as it’s sometimes called, a combo of the words “vegan” and “Paleo” — are set to be “one of the go-to healthy fat weight loss plans of 2019,” says Rick Hay, the nutritional director at online health magazine Healthista. Concerns over meat’s lack of eco-friendliness, and the long-term health effects of a meat-based diet, have spawned “a new breed of eco-conscious consumers adopting the same high-fat, high protein principles that work for those on keto and paleo, just without animal products,” says Hay. This means an emphasis on nuts, seeds, beans, and other plant-based protein foods. According to Pinterest, searches for “eating pegan” have increased 337 percent over the last year.
10. … and lab-created meat will finally have its moment
Synthetic meat created using actual animal stem cells, harvested via biopsy and grown in a laboratory, will start appearing on menus. Companies like New Age Meats and the Bill Gates-backed Memphis Meats made big strides in meat replication this year, but so far none of it is being sold in grocery stores or to restaurants. That will likely change in 2019. Earlier this month, Israeli startup Aleph Farms unveiled the first cell-grown steak, and JUST, the San Francisco “alternative protein” company formerly known as Hampton Creek, has developed faux chicken nuggets, made from cells in a bioreactor, that they hope to make commercially available next year. “We believe consumers will embrace the meat we’re making if it’s delicious, makes them feel good and they understand how it is created,” says JUST spokesperson Andrew Noyes.
11. Wearable tech will finally get fashionable
Prince Harry caused a stir in October when he was spotted wearing an Oura ring, a stylish “wellness computer” that tracks body temperature and “measures your blood volume pulse,” among other features. It also looks nothing like the usual clunky wearable tech, and it’s only the first wave in chic fitness trackers. “People are vigorously embracing this new movement,” says Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador for Barneys New York. “Wearable tech is a massive trend and I’m a big fan, but only because I find it so amusing.” There’s plenty coming down the pike that’s both bizarre and ground-breaking, like Samsung’s upcoming WELT, or “wellness belt,” with sensors in the buckle that track waist circumference, posture, and gait analysis.
12. Instagram will become Amazon’s biggest competitor (at least with fashion)
Instagram has been inching into e-commerce for the past year, most recently introducing a “Shopping Collection” feature that lets users bookmark items they might want to buy. Their most aggressive move yet will happen mid-next year, when Instagram is projected to introduce a “buy” feature — which takes users to a seller’s website to complete a purchase — but only in India, which also happens to be the site’s second-largest user market. This is no accident, says Ashwin Ramasamy, a co-founder of PipeCandy, a predictive sales platform that tracks online retailers. “When payments get integrated into platforms like Instagram, they become full-fledged shopping websites, directly chipping away shoppers from Amazon,” he says. Clothing may be where Instagram decides to focus. “The shoppers exposed to brands on social — which is over 105 million people the US — are more than the shoppers buying apparel on Amazon, which is around 40 million,” Ramasamy says. Online shopping comprises just 20 percent of total apparel sales, and “the winner has yet to be announced … it’s not Amazon by default.”
13. dApps will go mainstream
“Fresh from the data scandals of 2018, such as Cambridge Analytica” — the consulting firm that harvested personal data from millions of Facebook users — “we are likely to see further scrutiny from consumers around their digital privacy,” says Dan Cotton, a software engineer with technology consulting company Capgemini. “2019 could be the year that decentralised apps, or dApps, truly enter the mainstream.” DApps, unlike traditional apps, are hosted on blockchains, decentralized networks not owned or controlled by a single entity, like Apple or Google. It gets rid of the middleman and connects users and providers directly. One of the most popular dApps of the year was CryptoKitties, which involves breeding and trading digital cats. It’s like Pokémon GO, but without users needing to go through Google Play.
14. The stock market will get scary, but not 2009 scary
Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of the 2009 global financial crisis, and the longest economic expansion since the ’90s Internet boom. It might feel like we’re due for a crash, but Mark Spitznagel, the so-called “doomsday” investor and founder of hedge fund Universa Investments, which made millions in the 2009 crash, thinks everyone should relax. “Stock markets will likely experience even greater swings next year,” he says. “And investors will ruinously overreact to these swings. In fact, that’s exactly what causes the swings. Don’t overreact to them. No knee-jerk trades based on moment to moment news. That’s always a loser.”
15. More people than ever will be cutting the cord
The end is nigh for traditional cable TV. Nearly half of American adults between the age of 22 and 45 didn’t watch broadcast or cable TV in 2017, according to a Hearts & Science study. And next year offers even more tantalizing incentives to cut the cord, like new streaming services from Disney, Apple, and WarnerMedia. “The tipping point is coming,” says Tim Goodman, the chief TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter. “More and better options that feel ‘must have’ in the streaming universe will speed cord-cutting. The future is streaming. It can’t be stopped.”
16. Workouts will slow down and become low-intensity
Punishing, high-intensity workouts that promise instant results are falling out of fashion in favor of slower, more concentrated and conscious training, says David Higgins, a London-based trainer who helped actress Gal Gadot get into Wonder Woman shape. “It’s no longer about simply getting your heart rate up,” says Higgins, whose book, The Hollywood Body Plan, comes out in early January. “What matters is targeting specific areas of the body and the specific muscles in that area and making them work in exactly the way your body was designed to work.”
He’s seen more clients, movie actors and otherwise, move away from the quick fix back to “a slower, more measured, although not necessarily less difficult form of fitness.” With a 21-day “reset program” which demands a “full awareness of the physical mechanisms at work,” Higgins says the results aren’t just more strength and mobility, but quicker recovery times.
17. Women of color will become an (even bigger) political force
The midterm elections gave us the first Muslim and Native American women in Congress, and several states, from Connecticut to New Mexico to Massachusetts to Texas, elected their first congresswomen of color. Alaa Murabit, a doctor and UN High-Level Commissioner on Health, Employment and Economic Growth, says it’s just the beginning. Women of color among nominees for Congress in 2018 were up 75% from 2012, and the midterm turnouts were “ignited by the desire of minority women for authentic and genuine representation,” Murabit says. She believes we’ll see more candidates of color vying for attention next year. “They’ll shape the path for unifying and progressive campaign strategies that can outcompete the big money that has for too long determined the outcome of election races.”
18. Drone taxis will become the Ubers of 2019
Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, predicts that the first commercial personal drone transportation flight will be introduced next year. “There have been big headlines about the problems of self-driving cars, but self-flying drones have it easier in some ways,” he says. For one, “there are no pedestrians or bicycles to detect.” Companies like Astro Aerospace, Volocopter (who plan test flights in Singapore next year), UberAIR — yes, Uber — has been teaming up with NASA engineers to develop a drone taxi — and Ehang Corp, a Chinese drone maker whose Ehang 184 flying taxis have completed thousands of successful test flights, including delivering Dutch Prince Pieter Christiaan to Amsterdam, are poised to make a big splash in 2019.
19. Restaurant kitchens will be increasingly robotic
Spyce, a Boston-based restaurant with a kitchen staff of robotic cooking pots, may not seem destined for a Michelin star, but it could be coming to a neighborhood near you. The founders, all MIT graduates, recently received over $21 million in funding to open new locations across the East Coast. Here’s how it works: Guests order with a touch-screen kiosk, one of seven vegetable-heavy bowls, and the automated system takes care of the rest, dispensing ingredients through tubes into rotating pots which heat, shake and pour each meal into a serving bowl. In San Francisco, eateries like Cafe X and Creator have menus created entirely by robots, and business is booming. Alex Vardakostas, the co-founder and visionary behind Creator’s robotic chef capable of making 120 burgers an hour, thinks robot-made meals in 2019 “will change the world’s relationship with food.” He adds that robot kitchen staffs will “expand the range of culinary techniques beyond what is possible by hand.”
Via NY Post