“All cities are mad, but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful, but the beauty is grim.”–Christopher Morley
A Jetsons future?
Where will you live in 2050? What will the cities of the future look like? Tomorrowland? The Jetsons? Waterworld? Maybe they will look pretty much the same, but feel very much different. To sort out some of the possible scenarios, I sought out an expert on the urban landscape of the future. Cindy Frewen, Ph. D., is an architect and an adjunct professor in the University of Houston’s graduate foresight program. She designs near-term urban futures, and constructs scenarios for possible longer term futures.
Links to relevant stories appear after the audio file and embedded YouTube video below. A reminder that Seeking Delphi is available on iTunesand PlayerFM, and has a channel on YouTube. You can also follow us onFacebook.
If you’ve never heard the phrase, “think globally, act locally,” you’ve probably been living under a rock. It’s origin is murky, but the concept is best attributed to Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes, and his 1915 book, Cities in Evolution. 100 years later, Neil Richardson and Rick Smyre have written the 21st century blueprint for Communities of the Future, in their 2016 volume, Preparing for a World That Doesn’t Exist–Yet. In my Seeking Delphi podcast interview with Neil Richardson, we discuss many of the bold ideas in the book, including the authors’ call for enabling what they call a “second enlightenment.” We also discuss three key points in the book–terms the authors coined–master capacity builder, polycentric democracy and creative molecular economy. Previous podcast episodes of Seeking Delphi have showcased technological quantum leaps that have the potential to cause radical upheaval of civilization. Authors Richardson and Smyre point the way for small to medium organizations and communities to deal with it–to embrace, use, and grow with it. A means to invent the local future.
Links to relevant stories and organizations appear after the audio file and embedded YouTube video below. A reminder that Seeking Delphi is available on iTunes, and has a channel on YouTube. You can also follow us on Facebook. The YouTube video of Robot’s Delight is embedded below.
Here is a fascinating question for those who fear the apocalypse. Can there be a post-collapse world that might not be so bad? In this short piece of fiction, my University of Houston foresight colleague, Eric Kingsbury, suggests a future transformation that might not be so bad. It’s re-blogged from his site, http://www.kiteba.com
Speculative fiction has always been a great way to imagine the future. The following is a short climate-related piece I wrote.
A Life Pod at Riverton
“When we look at biological analogues,” Jane began, lifting the cover off the evap system and dropping to one knee, “we see the many ways in which large organisms are vulnerable when climate push comes to climate shove.”
The sun hovered in an infinite sky, bright, blanching out any atmospheric color. It was spring, and the air was warming, with a sweet sugar breeze.
Jane lifted a hand to shadow her eyes.
“Elephants, lions, cows, all the big mammals,” she said, then gestured in the direction of several grassy mounds that rose from the prairie. “Too big, too slow, too pack-oriented. Vulnerable.”
Then, she reached into the evap unit and pulled out a length of rotten rubber hose.
“Tell me and I will forget, teach me and I will remember, involve me and I will learn.”–Benjamin Franklin
“Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”–Woody Allen
My apologies to all you educators out there. I just had to get that Woody Allen line in. It makes sense, though, that teaching something as fluid, changing and uncertain as the future requires creative tools to involve the student and develop the appropriate mindset. In episode #5 I talk with two individuals who are taking different approaches to the task.
The first interview is with career futurist educator, Peter Bishop, founder of Teach the Future.™ His aim is nothing less than to make future-think modules a standard in education. I then talk with game developer Robert Mattox about his old school approach to involvement–a board game. Appropriate links to all the subjects in this program can be found below the audio and YouTube files that follow. A reminder that Seeking Delphi is available on iTunes, and has a channel on YouTube. You can also follow us on Facebook.
Podcast #5: Teaching And Learning The Future, 26:50
It’s not likely that Thomas Jefferson meant to disparage study of the past, it’s just, like Albert Einstein’s missive that imagination is more important than knowledge, he meant that it is our dreams of the future that enable us to build a better world.
I’ve been dreaming about the future since I was a kid. Daydreaming, my parents would have said, and my wife certainly would say. But that’s OK. Somebody has to do it. If humankind is going to survive the the challenges that lie ahead, somebody needs to be thinking further ahead than the next pay check, the next quarter’s profit, and the next election. Let’s do it together.
On Seeking Delphi, the podcast, I’ll address many of the myriad uncertainties that lie ahead, some of them with existential consequences. Some of them just for fun. But all of them the stuff that imagination–and dreams–are made of.
“The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.”–Alvin Toffler
The world lost its foremost futurist in the past week, a man who was one of my heroes. Alvin Toffler taught the world how to think about the future some 45 years ago. It’s a lesson the world should relearn. I read Future Shock way back in 1973–and have been thinking about it–and the future–ever since.
The quote above describes the cause of the disease–the human psychological malady–he calls future shock. He made me think about the implications of a future that comes too fast and too hard for most people to comprehend or tolerate. It made me think about the dangers of thinking improperly about the future–or avoiding the thought of it at all. I’ll go into detail on these issues–and the potential remedies thereof–in future posts. In the meantime, I take off my virtual digital hat to the man who just may have been the foremost futurist of all time.
Writing in the New York Times on July 6, Farhad Manjoo lays out clearly and concisely why Toffler’s ideas are so relevant today. I highly urge you to read this piece, and to read Future Shock if you’ve never done so. I intend to reread it now. We have never needed foresight more than we do today.
Note: This is the second part of an article originally posted in 2012 on my first blog, The Millennium Conjectures™. Now, it’s time to invent a future in which I figure out what to post next.
I Conjecture: Every Possible Future Exists
Part Two: Quantum Mechanics and The Future
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”–Alan Kay
Note: In case you had not surmised it, the most literal title for this conjecture would be “Every Physically Possible Future of Our Universe Exists.” There is probably not a future in our universe where the laws of physics will change to allow Harry Potter to cast a patronus spell on demontors.
Inventing the quantum future at NASA
Alan Kay’s proposition suggests a philosophical viewpoint that emerges from this conjecture. But for a better quote to describing its why and wherefore, I harken back to the E.B. White words from Conjecture #2. Everything that is not forbidden is mandatory. It all boils down to Quantum Mechanics. Many physicists have latched on to this notion; given enough time, every physically possible combination of matter and energy is bound to occur. It’s all just a matter of probability. That said, there are clearly at least two distinct ways of looking at it, depending on which interpretation of quantum mechanics you ascribe to: Copenhagen or Many Worlds. Although there are other interpretations, these two have garnered the lions share of advocates in the scientific community, and the notion that every possible future exists can emerge from either one of them. (See Quantum Weirdness102 and 103 in The Millennium Conjectures™ for an explanation of both ideas.)
The difference between the two as pertains to the future can easily be stated as virtual vs. actual. The Many Worlds interpretation asserts that every physical possibility will become an actual reality in an infinitely expanding sea of parallel universes. Every possible future is, or at least becomes, physically real. On the other hand, Copenhagen implies that there is no absolute physical reality until the quantum wave function breaks down, that there is only probability on the sub-atomic level until we observe it. From this we can infer that every possible future exists only as a statistical probability, and only the one we ultimately experience will actually exist.
So what’s the difference? There isn’t any. It makes no difference, from the practical experience of entities conscious in a single one of them, whether the futures are real or virtual; we can’t tell the difference. Every one of those physical realities is still a real possibility. The good news? There most certainly is a future out there where you win the lottery! The bad news? The only sure way to “invent” that future is to buy every possible number combination. I don’t recommend quitting your day job. 😦