What's the best way to anticipate the future? Invent it yourself, said conference keynote speaker Joel Garreau, author of "Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing our Minds, Our Bodies?and What it Means to be Human." And he is doing just that. He predicts the digital age will have an enormous impact on the future of real estate and smart developers ought to take note.

"We are going through a revolution as big -and faster- than the one caused by the [invention] of jet planes and trains," said Garreau, principal of The Garreau Group. Thanks to today's era of constant connectivity, people are choosing to move outside of big metropolitan areas and even past edge cities to urbane places such as Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Cape Cod, Mass., where they can work from home and enjoy the lifestyle they want. Garreau dubs this geographic shift as "The Santa-Fe-ing of the World."

Garreau predicts there will be some winners and losers in this "brave new world." Cities with big cultural draws such as Chicago will make the cut, but he fears that less attractive urban locales like Camden, N.J, Winchester, Mass., and even the Wall Street area of Lower Manhattan will be less fortunate. "Not all cities will survive," Garreau said.

While the digital age is transforming the world, don't discount the importance of face-to-face contact, he stressed. Offices, malls, and universities-to name a few-are in no danger of extinction. "The future of urban areas is based on face-to-face contact; [it's] the one thing we can't digitize," Garreau said.