The Future This Week: May 22, 2017

“Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”–Carrie Snow

Or, as the saying goes, technology is great when it works.  Will artificial intelligence make it work smarter? Faster? More reliably?  Or might it just give us more headaches?  We’ll find out soon enough, as we careen towards an AI-dominated future.

Artificial Intelligence– Not to be left out of any technology category, Elon Musk, via his OpenAI non-profit, has revealed an AI robotic system that can learn a task after viewing just one demonstration.  The system uses two different neural networks, one for vision and one for imitation.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivered a mostly A.I. oriented keynote address at the company’s annual I/O event.  This included the revelation that it has developed an AI that is better at creating new AI systems than Google’s own software engineers.  Forbes article on the talk here.  Futurism.com article, including embedded YouTube video of the entire 2 hours speech, here.

Digital Images–A joint team of Chinese and Australian researchers has developed what is being called the world’s thinnest hologram.  It holds out the possibility of 3D images on tablet and smartphone screens.

Socioeconomic Fast Company reports that it’s not just millennials struggling with college debt.   Increasingly, their baby boomer parents and grandparents are also saddled with crushing payments in support of their progeny. The long-term effect on the economy is unclear; but it can’t be good for consumer spending or the real estate market.

Internet/Social Media— The combination of virtual reality and social media might not be a good thing for ex-lovers.  The New Zealand Times reports a growing concern that increasingly realistic virtual reality porn could be used for revenge by spurned exes.

Renewable Energy–Swiss voters have struck a blow for clean energy.  They overwhelmingly backed a binding referendum to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy,  while banning the construction of new nuclear plants.

Cindy Frewen

Urban Futures–Architect and urban futurist Cindy Frewen joins me in the next Seeking Delphi™ podcast for a discussion of the urban landscape of the future.  Look for it soon.

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM and , and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.

Podcast #8: Inventing The Local Future

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”–Abraham Lincoln

“Think globally, act locally.”–Variously attributed

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.

 

 

 

Episode #8: Inventing The Local Future 28:50

 

 

 

(YouTube slideshow)

Preparing For A World That Doesn’t Exist–Yet, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Emergent Action

Communities of The Future

European biocomputing project

India, China and Japan to increase coal usage through the 2020’s.

Facebook anti-suicide project

 

 

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Short Fiction: A Life Pod at Riverton

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

Kiteba: A Futurist Blog and Resource

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.

“So too all the networks dependent on…

View original post 652 more words

R.I.P.–Alvin Toffler

“The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.”–Alvin Toffler

Alvin Toffler

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.

For (mostly) lighter fare,  visit my other blog,  The Millennium Conjectures.

 

Forethought or Foresight?

“Forethought we may have, undoubtedly, but not foresight.”–Napoleon Bonaparte

Is it foresight or forethought that is required to navigate forward? www.cartoonstock.com

Is it foresight or forethought that is required to navigate forward?
http://www.cartoonstock.com

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.

 

 

Welcome

“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…

sackler review F31 April 1999

 

 

 

Welcome

“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…

sackler review F31 April 1999