“As an entrepreneur I like to know the next two or three things I might start a company on. For me it was robotics, bio-hacking, and quantum.”–whurley
As one of America’s leading technologists, when whurley speaks, people listen. Lots of them. His SXSW 2018 Intelligent Future keynote, titled The Endless Impossibilities of Quantum Computing, packed the largest ballroom at the Austin Convention Center. Just hours before the launch of his new company, Strangeworks, he provided the culmination of IEEE’s Tech For Humanity series. In between those two events, I was able to sit down in person for an exclusive interview. Special thanks to Interprose and IEEE for arranging this and several other interviews as SXSW. whurley heads IEEE’s working group on quantum computing.
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.
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.”–Woody Allen
In episode one of Seeking Delphi, the podcast, I talk with David Wood, chair of London Futurists, about his book The Abolition of Aging. Relevant links to this weeks’ show below the audio track. This is part 1 of a two part program. This week: can we do it? Next week: Should we do it, and if we do it, what are the implications? These podcasts are now available for subscription on YouTubeand iTunes.
Episode #1: The Abolition of Aging, Part 1; running time 26:9
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.
Foresight? Forethought? What’s the difference? Maybe with better forethought, Napoleon would have had the foresight to avoid Waterloo. Maybe.
But really, the two words are practically synonymous, so we are more in the province of semantics. Just take a look at how Dictionary.com defines them. Its first given definition of foresight is care or provision for the future. The first definition for forethought is thoughtful provision for the future. Practically the same thing, no? But for the purposes of this blog, I’ll come down on the side of none of the above.
Slightly paraphrased, the 4th definition of foresight given by Dictionary.com is knowledge or insight gained by looking forward. This is foresight as I see it, and for that matter, I believe it is how the true professional futurist sees it. We cannot really predict the future, but we can be better prepared for it by adroit use of foresight. This type of insight is the aim of Seeking Delphi.™
Moving forward then (what other direction is there?), posts herein will fall into two broad categories. Posts in the How to Think About the Future category will discuss the theory and practice of forethought–they will cover the basics for the layman. They will also delve into some of my heavier philosophical and scientific views on how we ought to think about the future. Posts in the Seeking Delphi category will delve into the future of various domains of human endeavor, including, when possible, interviews with experts in the fields covered. There will be obvious subjects, such as biotechnology, information technology, education, politics and the like; there will also be less obvious explorations into narrower areas. A podcast is targeted for a July launch.
Up next will be a reprise of two posts from my other blog The Millennium Conjectures,™which provide my rather physics imbued philosophy of the future.
“Never predict anything, especially the future.”–Casey Stengel
The Ol’ Perfessor knew what he was talking about. Well, maybe he didn’t, but the advice is sage nonetheless. It is notoriously difficult to predict anything in the future with consistent accuracy. So why in the world would anyone want to become a futurist? Why bother? Well, to be blunt, that is exactly why! Ignoring the opportunities and dangers of the future is what I like to call The Ostrich Syndrome.Go ahead, hide your head in the sand. The future is not going to go away; it will get here. And if we can’t predict it, there are certainly ways to prepare for it. To prevent bad outcomes, or at least make them less likely. To create good outcomes, or at least make them more likely. And to be better prepared to deal with whatever does come.
The sad fact is, we live in a short-term oriented society with a short attention span. So what is the antidote to this malady? It is more thoughtful foresight. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Kurt Vonnegut compared science fiction writers like himself to the proverbial canary in the mine shaft, warning of weak danger signals before others perceive them. That’s what futurists do, though those weak signals can signal opportunities as well as dangers as the world changes. That’s what I aim to do with the rest of my life. I’ve enrolled in the University of Houston’s Masters in Foresight program. I’m adding a foresight element to a friend’s existing market research business. I’m becoming an advocate for taking a longer view of everything. Economics. Education. Environment. Government. You name it. This my second blog, aptly named Seeking Delphi after the famed Oracle of Delphi. We can’t predict the future, but we can anticipate the possibilities, avoid the catastrophes (or some of them) and create the opportunities.
See the about page for my background, and see the link below for a book review I published in 1999 in the Reed Elsevier journal Futures. It provides a very succinct view of my personal philosophy on how we should view the future. Here goes something. See you tomorrow and beyond…