The Future awaits: black holes, butlers and… basureros?

I normally don’t like to make predictions but I was inspired. Be warned – I have seen the future and it can be described in 3 phrases – black holes, butlers, and… basureros?

Black Holes

Data are everywhere. People, places and things are wired and sending out signals all the time. Think Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative. We are covered in lamina (bonus points to anyone who can correctly guess this science fiction reference. Here’s a hint-it’s from a book).

In the future we will seek ways to have all that data sucked away, like light into a black hole. For example, diners will go to restaurants that take away their cell phones so they’re forced to engage with those physically present. Exclusive events will occur guerrilla-style; a party that doesn’t have a permanent location, where attendance is driven exclusively through a single communication channel that’s narrow in scope, say, word-of-mouth or paper invitation. We now get upset when hotels or residential buildings don’t come with free wi-fi. One day we’ll pay a premium for the opposite – a place where you can disappear (or at least not be on full display), if only for a short while. On a related note, creative “data destruction services” like and KickNotes will become more commonplace.


Batman is an amazing and iconic character. One of his defining characteristics is that he doesn’t have any superpowers. He does have plenty of money, drive, specialized training, and the most amazing and iconic personal assistant ever. Alfred is amazing for two important reasons:

  • He can take care of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s explicit and implicit needs across a variety of different fronts.
  • More importantly, he can anticipate his needs and prepare for them in advance. He knows Batman as well as anyone; there’s a high level of trust which is necessary for Alfred to do his job effectively. I mean, who else gets to touch all his cool toys?

In the future people will pay others to manage their online presence across a variety of different mediums. This goes beyond having ghost writers tweet for you. It will mean having people and systems connect you across divergent platforms, leveraging them for maximum benefit. And through a deep understanding of your data profile (as well as being able to acquire and maintain your deep trust) these “data butlers” will effectively anticipate your wants, needs, and desires. The Support Economy, by Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin, is a great book that describes this type of future in great detail.


In another blog post I talked about data as crap. Its creation, storage, analysis, and destruction are going to increasingly occupy enterprise resources. Think business intelligence. Think green initiatives, as data produces waste just like its physical counterparts. More and more people will realize that just because you can save it doesn’t mean that you should. In essence, we must begin to deal with this new form of garbage named data. Enter the basureros.

In the future those with the know-how to create and execute effective data management programs will be in high demand. It will be a cross-department effort, with IT, HR, and legal being the obvious choices. Increasingly, the ability to transform huge amounts of data into meaningful information will become a critical skill. Expect to see statisticians and graphic designers skilled in data visualization play a larger role in organizations.

So there you have it – Black holes. Butlers. Basureros. You heard it hear first!

Is this the future you imagined? Leave a comment and let me know!

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