Image: Stew Dean, Flickr.

Here are five indicators, observations or articles that caught the eye of FA futurists today.

  1. Richard Fernandez assesses the potential for a rapid proliferation of nuclear weapons in East Asia, and makes the observation that one consequence of declining US hegemony could be a global race to build or acquire nuclear weapons.
  2. Jane McAdam at the Brookings Institution examines how the international system may deal with the problem of states that disappear entirely due to rising sea levels.
  3. Basel Kayyali, David Knott, and Steve Van Kuiken of McKinsey & Company argue that if the healthcare sector is to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by big data it must use the technology not only to reduce costs but also to improve healthcare outcomes. They identify five paths forward, which they briefly title “right living, right care, right provider, right value, and right innovation.”
  4. The BBC compiled a group of forecasts covering the next century and had Ladbrokes calculate the odds of the forecast occurring. Uber-tech analyst Brian Wang then tweaked several of the forecasts and offered his own predictions and timeframes.
  5. Get ready for iRadio.  Apple and Universal Music have signed an agreement for streaming radio. Moving in to areas that were dominated by newcomers, like Pandora, expect to see a major shift in radio entertainment and devices.

Image: GoXunuReviews, Flickr.

Amazon sent out a news release this morning announcing that sales of digital books for their Kindle digital book format/reader had eclipsed sales of printed books. All printed books, not just hardbacks. (That milestone was reached in July 2010.) This news about digital book sales edging printed sales is apparently a big deal as many of the people on my Twitter feed have sent around the link to the news release.

But what does it mean? There are those who decry the rise of the e-book, claiming it is the end of books. But this is not the case. It may be the winding down of printed books, but the healthy growth of e-book sales does not indicate books are going away. In fact, in the news release, Amazon states that 2011’s strong digital copy sales, along with growth in printed book sales, has “resulted in the fastest year-over-year growth rate for Amazon’s U.S. books business.” Clearly the book is not going away. Had there been mass communication tools 500 years ago, no doubt there would have been hue-and-cry over printed books edging out hand-copied versions. (“What are the monks to do?” “Is this the end of scribes?”) But books flourished because of the printing press, and they will continue to flourish as e-books.

Internet retailer Amazon announced today that it is starting a program that would allow library patrons to check out books using their Kindle. This sounds like a great idea. I am surprised no one has considered this before. Way to go, Amazon!

Image: GoXunuReviews

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