“I think science has begun to demonstrate that aging is a disease. If it is, it can be cured.”–Tom Robbins
“I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”–Woody Allen
Our time is limited. Or is it?
It seems as if many of the biggest players in science and digital industry are obsessed with slowing, stopping, or even reversing aging. New stories appear every day, it seems. And of course, David Wood’s comprehensive study of the issue,The Abolition of Aging, was the subject of the first two episodes of Seeking Delphi. But an editorial in Wired Magazine suggests that the moguls of silicon valley are trying to solve the wrong problem. It asserts that they should be working to improve the quality of life, not the quantity. There are good arguments both ways–reversing aging could greatly improve human health and cut costs drastically–the lions share of healthcare spending treats the diseases of aging. What do you think? The big stories this week:
A pair of breakthroughs, one from The University Ulm in Germany, the other from the University of Ulster in the UK, suggest means of using young blood cells to provide anti-aging properties. The two studies are summarized in this article by Next Big Future.
Writing in Wired Magazine, Emily Dreyfus argued that huge investments in anti-aging research by major silicon valley entrepreneurs is barking up the wrong biological tree. She thinks they should be investing in better quality of life rather than increased quantity.
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
“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.
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…