The scientific term spatial autocorrelation describes Tobler’s first law of geography: everything is related to everything else, but nearby things are more related than distant things. Spatial autocorrelation has a:
- past characterized by scientists’ non-verbal awareness of it, followed by its formalization;
- present typified by its dissemination across numerous disciplines, its explication, its visualization, and its extension to non-normal data; and
- an anticipated future in which it becomes a standard in data analytic computer software packages, as well as a routinely considered feature of space-time data and in spatial optimization practice.
Positive spatial autocorrelation constitutes the focal point of its past and present; one expectation is that negative spatial autocorrelation will become a focal point of its future.