10 trends to look for in 2004

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1 What A Family Is Isn't The Same

The definition of a traditional home and family will become the most discussed -and unique-platform issue for political candidates in this election year. The idea of what a parent is- the sperm donor, egg donor, adoptive parent, surrogate parent, etc. The definition of who controls the family unit will be the most powerful "grab" of the year.

2 Celebrity-obsessed culture

As author Christopher Buckley says, "We build these people up to a sort of God-like status so we need some kind of concomitant reassurance." Today's fame comes from succeeding for doing nothing (Hilton!) and that is just not enough. Oscar Wilde said, "Nothing succeeds like success," but failure-as-success means your star rises when you go down (Hammer!).

3 taking scientists to task

The skewing of results to conform to theories goes under the microscope. Says the Exploration Network (Canada's Discovery Channel): "Routinely putting their names on papers that scientists know their juniors did is wrong." Then, the system of awarding grants to the most-known scientists will scandalously indicate science is not moving as fast as it can on discoveries for our health and well being.

4 Fridge Is In the House

Appliances will become self-sufficient with many new devices monitoring their own service needs and contacting service centers, saving you an e-mail to send. All you need to do is, er, open the door when the technician comes. Your mobile rings, and a dishwasher tells you: "I blew a hose so the water pressure is off. But I'll get help!"

5 Everything's A Drama

Entertainment marketers will find that it gets harder and harder to wow people unless it's an event. Anyone "going out" with a product will need huger gimmicks than ever to get anyone off (or on) their butts. Says NBC's Jeff Zucker, "It is so hard in this day and age." He says the amount of clutter is monstrous and quietly adds, "The competition is much more brutal."

6 Acute Angles Wake Up Masses

Non-media junkies will become adept at comprehending the shoddy ways in which our news media covers stories, thanks to Web-based services like Google News. When USA Today and the Times run contradictory stories on "mobile phone switching" stats, doubting them will become an Olympic-sized water cooler sport.

7 People At Home: A Habit

We will rely more than ever on Internet experiences over personal ones as the 'Net finishes what TV started. Home movie theaters next year will be for the not-so-rich and will become a more intense experience for movie theater-quality viewing (microwave popcorn is much better). Consequence: you will leave your house so much less. Ah well, not so bad.

8 E-mail abuse Becomes anathema

Rather than "socially responsible" corporations (circa '97) now companies will be required to prove they aren't taking advantage of our e-mail addresses. Lists will be published to reward the ones who don't play games with privacy. Oh and those who do will be punished and chided for not paying heed to those tired of hitting the delete key.

9 Volunteering Gives Us Reason

Something in the air gets people thinking I got to get involved. Volunteering gets a smack-in-the-eye comeback, sponsored and encouraged by people's employers. People find it easier and more personally fulfilling to be a part of their communities. Maybe the war had something to do with it - it woke us up. Also, grassroots movements become a driving force in politics.

10 Documentaries Leave The Dark

After a year where "Friedmans" and "Columbine" were talked about like real movies (and a spelling-bee flick was more frightening than "Scary Movie 3"), the TV-watching audience begins, for the first time, to put aside time to make appointment for real-life dramas that are not (scripted) reality TV. And the makers of "Freshman Diary" finally keep a show on the air for more than a half-season.

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